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Thursday, 27 October 1904

Mr WATSON (Bland) - I can quite sympathize, as I am sure every honorable member must, with the anxiety of the Government to g,et into recess within a reasonable time. I do not say that in any party spirit, because it must be recognised that an immense strain is imposed on honorable members who have to leave their homes and travel to and from Melbourne, as we have been asked to do for a considerable time past, in order to transact the business of the country.

Sir Langdon Bonython - We are all included in the Melbourne Directory as residents of Melbourne.

Mr WATSON - It would be very difficult to decide where I am residing at the present time. I think that there is a matter even' more important than the question of our getting into recess. With all our anxiety to conclude the work of the session, we ought to have some regard to the amount of work of an urgent character that is to be transacted, and, so far as I am concerned, T am prepared to suffer all the inconveni ence involved in staying in Melbourne a little longer if we can pass a few of the more urgent measures that are awaiting our decision. The suggested programme for the balance of the session put forward by the Prime Minister, does not seem to me to be quite complete. So far as the Estimates are concerned, I do not anticipate that any great length of time will be consumed in their discussion. No doubt there are some items to which exception will be taken, but I can assure the Prime Minister that there will be nothing like obstruction. There remains then the Papua Bill, which, as the Prime Minister has said, is nearly complete, and can be disposed of, I think, in a portion of an evening. I know that upon one. question some difficulty may arise, but even with regard to that I do not think that any lengthy discussion will ensue. The Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Survey Bill has been almost disposed of, so far as this House is concerned, and will not take up much more .of our time. With regard to the proposed amendment of the Defence Act, if the course proposed by the Minister is that which we have reason to anticipate from something that was published in this morning's newspapers-

Mr McCay - I do not say whether the statement published bv the newspapers is right or wrong. The information did not come from official sources.

Mr WATSON - As I say, if we have any justification for assuming that the intentions of the Government have been correctly represented, it does not seem to me that the proposed amendment of the Defence Act will take up a very large amount of time. The Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill is a measure that we should endeavour to pass. No doubt, great. evils exist which the Bill will tend largely to remedy. We cannot meet all the existing conditions-

Mr Fisher - More is the pity

Mr WATSON - But we can go a long way in that direction. I quite agree with the honorable member for Wide Bay that it is a pity the Federal authority is not clothed with greater powers in this regard ; but as far as our powers allow us to act. I think that Bill is of a verv important character. Then again, the Bills of Lading Bill is a measure which the Opposition can welcome. It is quite in consonance with the policy of the party upon this side of the House that the operations of the producers of the community should be facilitated to the utmost extent, consistently of course with a due regard for justice to other people. So far as I am able to glean, there is an urgent necessity for some reform in that direction in the interests of our producers. We have been informed by the Prime Minister that further time will be afforded for the consideration of the Manufactures Encouragement Bill. So far as I am concerned, there is one omission from the statement of the Prime Minister which is even more important than is even that measure. I refer to the Trade Marks Bill.

Mr Reid - We have not yet received it from the Senate.

Mr WATSON - It is almost, if not quite, through the other Chamber.

Mr Reid - I am informed that the contrary is the case. I understand that there is a prospect of some debate taking place there.

Mr WATSON - I have been informed by some senators that the other Chamber is practically agreed upon that Bill. I urge that there is a grave necessity for the passing of a measure of that description. All the machinery necessary for its working is already in. existence. Its passage will involve no greater expenditure than is involved to-day in the working of the Patents Act, and in the absence of a Federal Trade Marks Act, a state of things which is altogether inconsistent with the Federal idea will be perpetuated. That is a very undesirable condition of affairs. To-day it is impossible for a man by one registration to secure protection for a trade mark throughout Australia. Further, it is possible - as it was in pre-Federal times - to register the same trade mark in different States on behalf of different persons. That practice has a very confusing effect upon the transport of manufactured goods from one State to another. It is a Bill upon which no great controversy can arise. T notice that some objection has been taken to one feature of that Bill, but only to one feature, and a vote of this House could decide its acquiescence or otherwise in that principle. The objection on the part of some persons to a provision which was recently inserted in that Bill by the Senate, does not seem to me a sufficient cause for delaying its passage. It is a measure of a non-controversial character-

Mr Knox - It is supported by all commercial men.

Mr WATSON - Undoubtedly. Every commercial man realizes the necessity of remedying, at as early a date as possible, the evils which it as designed to correct. It is the natural corollary oof the Patents Act.

Some time ago I expressed surprise that the previous Ministry had not seen its way to submit the two measures simultaneously, and to pass them almost concurrently, because the one is merely the complement of the other. I think that the Government will be well advised if they make an effort to pass that measure in the interests of the commercial community, and I can assure them that I will use my best endeavours to limit the discussion upon it in every possible way, so as to secure its earlypassage through the House.

Mr Mcwilliams - There is only one clause upon which there is any division of opinion.

Mr WATSON - That is so. Those honorable members who are associated with me will not hamper its passing on that account. We entertain certain opinions, b".t expression can be given to them without delaying the taking of a vote. So far as the other matter mentioned by the Prime Minister is concerned, I must express regret that the Government cannot see their way clear to allow the House an opportunity to express its opinion upon the question of preferential trade during this session. It is true that the matter was put before the electors upon the occasion of the appeal to them in December last, and for a considerable time I was of opinion that there was no necessity to take further action owing to the fact that a clear expression of their views had then been obtained. But since I formed that, view it has been shown that a considerable difference of opinion exists in the motherland as to the desire of Australia in this connexion. In the interests of those who are engaged in the controversy in England - irrespective of the side which they may take - I think it is desirable that this confusion should be cleared up at the earliest possible moment. If it is a fact that the people of Australia do not desire to enter into a scheme of preferential trade, the sooner that view is expressed-

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What confusion exists in England?

Mr WATSON - Speaking in England a few weeks ago, Lord Rosebery said it was altogether a mistake to affirm that Australia desired preferential trade.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We cannot help what he says..

Mr WATSON - The honorable member asks me what confusion exists in the mother country, aand when I give him an instance of the different opinions which are entertained there as to the position which Australia occupies in this connexion, he replies, "We cannot help what a gentleman there may think."

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no confusion in "his statement.

Mr WATSON - I am quite willing to allow the honorable member to express his bpinion.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I cannot; I wish that I could.

Mr WATSON - The honorable member may be precluded from doing so by the Standing Orders, but he generally manages to evade them. No honorable member of this House does that more effectively than does the honorable member. His interjections are almost interminable, and are equivalent to many speeches.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would it not be more correct to say that some Australians wish to enter into a scheme of preferential trade, but not Australia ?

Mr WATSON - In my view, Australia desires to ratify such a scheme. Whatever views we may hold in this connexion, I contend that it is highly desirable that we should give expression to them now, and not after the lapse of six or nine months, or more.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let us all send a note to Mr. Chamberlain.

Mr WATSON - I do not think that the adoption of that course would achieve the result I desire. I do think that some opportunity should be afforded this House to register its opinion upon the question. I shall be surprised indeed to learn that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat acquiesces in the suggestion that we should defer our decision upon it.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He is acquiescing in his election pledges - that is all.

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