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Friday, 20 July 1906

Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia) (Minister of Defence) . - I move -

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I wish, at the outset, to state, what is already well known to honorable senators, that this Bill has received a considerable amount of attention in another place, where it passed without a division, so far as either the second reading or the third reading was concerned. The Bill deals with trusts, monopolies, and the practice of dumping. In the first place, I propose to say a few words in regard to trusts, and then to refer to similar legislation passed in other parts of the world, concluding with a few general observations. Trusts, combinations, and pools, when they become monopolies, which is always their object, can be carried on either to the advantage or to the disadvantage of the public. Honorable- senators who are well versed in ancient history know that there was once a philosopher of the name of Thales, who was told by the business men of the city of Athens that he was only a dreamer - a poor philosopher - and did not know anything about commerce. Thales, however, succeeded in making a " corner "in olives, which at that time was a necessary and much-used food of the people; and the result was that he , got a monopoly which enabled him to sell at his own price, and make considerable gains. In this way he showed the business men that, although he was a. " poor " philosopher, he still possessed, at all events, some knowledge of the art of acquiring money by means of a monopoly. Then honorable senators who have a knowledge of Biblical history will remember the " corner" in corn and other cereals which was established by Joseph in Egypt.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Surely the Minister does not complain of the object of that " corner " ?

Senator PLAYFORD - The result of that " corner "was that the people of Egypt lost their land, and practically their liberty. The" corner " that Thales established only resulted in the " fleecing " of the public ; but the effects of the action of Joseph can be seen in Egypt even to the present day.

Senator Walker - That was a State monopoly, remember.

Senator PLAYFORD - It ultimately became a State monopoly, but that did not make the conditions any better for the poor people who were made slaves.

Senator Walker - There are honorable senators who desire the State to monopolize everything.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I am afraid the Minister has not chosen a very happy illustration.

Senator PLAYFORD - It is a very proper illustration of the evils which can be accomplished by a monopoly, whether conducted by the State or by private persons. Even a State monopoly, which results eventually in the degradation of the people - in depriving the people of their lands and possessions, and practically making them slaves - is an evil ; and, as I have said, the effects of Joseph's operations may be seen in Egypt to-day. At the outset, honorable senators very naturally askWhat is a trust? On that point I hold in my hand a paper, prepared at the instance of the Premier of New Zealand by Mr. Tregear, Secretary of Labour in that Colony.

Senator McGregor - The Minister should not' quote that paper ; Mr. Tregear is a Socialist !

Senator PLAYFORD - I do not care whether Mr. Tregear is or is not a Socialist ; I only quote his report so far as facts are concerned. Senator McGregor knows that we are all Socialists now.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Plato was a Socialist.

Senator PLAYFORD - No doubt. I remember the late Marquis of Salisbury, at a dinner at which I was present in London, saying, " We are all Socialists now," although he was leader of the Conservative Party. If a man tells me that he is a Socialist I do not know what he means ; but I do know what a man means if he tells me that he is a Communist.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - What does the Minister think the Marquis of Salisbury meant?

Senator PLAYFORD - He meant what he said, that we are all Socialists - it is only a question of degree.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I thought the Minister said he did not know what was meant.

Senator PLAYFORD - I do not know the extent to which Socialism may carry a man, but I know that we are all Socialists. Society is founded on Socialism; every law we pass is socialistic, and the most advanced Conservative or hide-bound Tory will admit that we must pass laws for the government of the people. But the laws are socialistic nevertheless, though some men go to extremes. One man may say that he is a Communist; I know what he means. Another may say that he is an Individualist ; I do not know what he means. But I am satisfied of this : that Individualism carried to extremes leads to Anarchy, and that Socialism carried to extremes leads to Communism.

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