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Wednesday, 19 May 1915

Mr JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) . - I wish to put myself straight m this matter. In controverting some statements of mine before the adjournment, the Attorney-General said that inasmuch as after the war some profit or interest or money would be accruing to the Germans, the public interests of Australia would suffer disadvantage. That may or may not be so, but whether it will be so will depend on quite other considerations. My position can be put in a nutshell. If we can eliminate all German capital, and substitute British capital for it, and yet achieve the same end that we are achieving now, and do it without any German capital, good luck to us. Nobody will be more pleased than I will be. But what will the Attorney-General be doing by eliminat ing every atom of German capital, and not guaranteeing the miners of Broken Hill their weekly wage and weekly work? They are the persons about whom I am chiefly concerned. I know nothing about the magnates in the city; I am not concerned with them. They may be left to look after themselves, as I have no doubt they are well able to do. But I am concerned in seeing that nothing occurs which will deprive the great body of miners in these industries of their employment. Therefore the only question is : by eliminating all this German capital, irrespective of any control on their part or of any other consideration, by simply pushing the capital out, even when we control it, can we do the best for the interests of the country? If the AttorneyGeneral is satisfied that British capital can be found, and that we can arrange these matters equally satisfactorily for Australia, I have nothing more to say; but I have yet to learn, as an economic proposition, how anybody's capital which I control under my own terms and conditions can injure me. It can only do so if I permit it to do so. However, I pass by that point. But I do sincerely urge the Attorney-General not to take upon his shoulders this responsibility. He recently quoted the case in South Australia of The King v. Snow. I understand that, after a long legal argument extending over months and costing many thousands of pounds, it has been decided that there has been no trading with the enemy within the meaning of our penal sections. The Attorney-General says that a Judge here may differ from a Judge in Adelaide. Apparently this legislation is, after all, not so simple a matter as the Attorney-General would have us believe. He says, " Judges differ, but I, William Hughes, will cut the Gordian knot and solve the whole thing with my simple dictum." His attitude reminds one of that other proposal of his with regard to monopolies in the Refer.enda Bill. He told us in one breath that the legal talent of the world had never been able to define what a monopoly was; then he added, " I will satisfy the world; I will declare in this Parliament what a monopoly is, and a monopoly it shall bc."

Mr Archibald - The Judges would never settle that question till the Day of Judgment.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The honorable member knows the old adage that certain persons rush in where angels fear to tread. What Judges could not do in a thousand years the Attorney-General would do in one minute by a simple declaration in Parliament. The honorable gentleman has only shown how complex these questions are, and how difficult it is to deal fairly and justly with them. The very fact that the Judges disagree as to whether wrong has been done is offered as a reason why the AttorneyGeneral, sitting in his office, shall settle all these matters and be done with themonce and for all. I would remind the honorable gentleman that if Judges differ, so will the traders, and so will the public. If two men apply to the AttorneyGeneral's office, and one gets his contract licensed and declared to be aboveboard, and the other man's contract is declared to be otherwise, we know what will happen. It is better for the Judges to differ in the open Court than for men outside to be saying that they have not had a fair deal in the Attorney-General's chamber.

Mr Hughes - Let the commercial people say what they think ought to be done and I will do it. I cannot say anything fairer.

Mr JOSEPH COOK - The proposal now made is infinitely better than what the Attorney-General previously suggested; but, in my judgment, the honorable gentleman would be doing himself justice and relieving himself of a load of responsibility if he removed this matter from his jurisdiction altogether.

Mr Hughes - If I consulted my own inclination, I would strike the provision out, but the Bill has been public for some time. I have invited the commercial people to express an opinion, and I have not been able to get one opinion adverse to the proposal.

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