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Tuesday, 21 August 1906

The PRESIDENT - Does the honorable senator think that that has anything to do with this Bill?

Senator DE LARGIE - Certainly .

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator is arguing about rates of wages and hours of labour. Surely that has nothing to do with the Bill ?

Senator DE LARGIE - If I consider that a trust in Australia is unfairly treating its officers, surely I haw a right to urge that we should legislate so as to control it ?

The PRESIDENT - This Bill does not attempt to do that. It does not attempt to affect hours of labour or wages.

Senator DE LARGIE - It may be necessary for me to move amendments to make the Bill do so. I use these arguments to show that there is need to amend the Bill in those respects.

The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator seems to me to be introducing irrelevant arguments.

Senator DE LARGIE - If the argument is out of order, I shall not persist in it, but I think I have sufficiently proved that the snipping ring is of an injurious character, and that wes are justified in passing legislation to control it. Of course, I admit that it will be very difficult for us to get at the responsible people. Legislation of a similar kind in the United States has undoubtedly failed to effect anythink like a radical amendment. The power of the "boss" is very great, and these people have enormous capital at hand. They can undoubtedly make use of their capital to safeguard themselves from the effect of any legislation we mav pass.

Senator Gray - Are not the shipping companies controlled by our laws in regard to wages and hours of labour in Australia?

Senator DE LARGIE - Unfortunately, as far as our Conciliation and Arbitration Act is concerned, our ships' officers have not yet been affected by it. They have applied to the Court to cite' a case, but up to the present have not been able to secure a hearing. I should like to lay before honorable senators the opinion of the President of the United States, only recently expressed, as to the power of the trusts- over lawyers. We know the power. of the trusts in various directions ; we know that they have practically captured the Senate of America, and have such a. controlling effect in Congress that they can defeat or get past almost every kind of law.

Senator Mulcahy - That is a great reflection on the big Republic.

Senator DE LARGIE - What I have stated is the fact. When we find charges of this kind made by the President of the United States, surely I am .justified in repeating them.

Senator Gray - Does the President charge the Senate as a whole?

Senator DE LARGIE - No; he does it according to the article I am about to read. But President Roosevelt charges the Bar of America with being in the pay of trusts for the one purpose of defeating the laws passed by Congress. It is well known that the trusts of America have got such a pull on the Senate that, as I say, they can pass or defeat anylawthey wish. That is so well known to the readers of trust literature that it is scarcely necessary for me to make the statement.

Senator Henderson - It is as natural as daylight.

Senator DE LARGIE - It is quite natural. President Roosevelt's opinion is given in an article in the North American Review, under the heading " Lawyers and Trusts." I am sorry that the legal members of the Senate have taken flight for the time -being, because I think that what I am about to read would be of some interest to them. The article is written by Mr. Frank Gavlord Cook, and commences as follows : -

PresidentRoosevelt, in his address at the Harvard Commencement last year, made a grave charge against members of the legal profession. "We all know that, as things actually are, many of the most influential and most highly remunerated members of the Bar in every centre of wealth," he declared, " make it their special task to work out bold and ingenious schemes by which their wealthy clients, individual or corporate, can evade the laws which were made to regulate, in the interests of the public, the uses of great wealth." Coming, as it does, from such a conspicuous source, on such a prominent occasion, and with such earnest emphasis, this charge should receive the serious attention of the community and of the Bar. It deeply concerns the community, because, if true, it points to a combination of wealth and legal skill - little short of a conspiracy - against the public welfare, a scheme to defraud and despoil the public for private gain, and in defiance and contempt of the law. And it vitally concerns the Bar, because such employment by its members compromises its honour, reputation, and usefulness.

These are very strong statements made on the authority of the President of the "United States, and it does not require me to further labour the point. This all goes to show that the power of capital in the United States is such that it has been able so far to defeat any great alterations being brought about by anti-trust legislation. Whether our experience in Australia will be different or more successful than in America time alone can tell. However, I think that in Australia we have an advantage. Fortunately for this country, the Labour Party has obtained a footing in the various Legislatures, and that is more than can be said for the democracy of the "United States. The consequence is that the power of the trusts is much greater in America than I hope it will ever be in Australia.

Senator Mulcahy - We are all in accord with that.

Senator DE LARGIE - I do not think that the Labour Party is any stronger in Australia because of Senator Mulcahy.

Senator Mulcahy - Why discuss me when I agree with the sentiments expressed by the honorable senator?

Senator DE LARGIE - I am afraid that the sarcasm in the tone rather discounts the acquiescence of Senator Mulcahy. I am pleased, however, to hear that the honorable senator agrees with what I say, though the agreement did not appear from the tone adopted.

Senator Mulcahy - It does not matter whether or not the honorable senator is pleased.

Senator DE LARGIE - I might return the compliment. I set myself the task of proving the existence of a shipping trust in Australia, and I think I have done so by the evidence I have quoted. I have proved that the operations of this trust are of a highly injurious character, so far as concerns other sections of the community, and, consequently, we have every right to legislate so as to minimize the evil effects of such a combination as far as possible. We have certainly got rid of the competitive system in the coastal trade, but the benefits so far have only reached the employers. By this combination the ship-owners have managed, up to the present, to reap all the advantages from the concentration of the trade with the Employers' Federation.

Senator Gray - How does the honorable senator propose to affect the actions of the so-called shipping ring by this Bill?

Senator DE LARGIE - I would impose a similar law to that which is in vogue in America - the Elkin Act. We had evidence before the Navigation Commission that the rebate system has, to a great extent, been broken down in America by means of that law, and if we can follow the example thus set, we shall get rid, I hope, of a very injurious system.

Senator Guthrie - There are also the navigation laws of America.

Senator DE LARGIE - I hope that in due course we shall also be able to have proper navigation laws here, and I shall support Senator Guthrie in any action he may take with that object in view. Whilst in place of the old competition we have got the evil of private monopoly, I do not think that even if we get rid of the latter, we shall go back to the former system ; indeed, I feel sure we shall do nothing of the kind. The old, stupid, and wasteful system of competition is a thing of the past.

Senator Gray - Then this Bill would not affect it?

Senator DE LARGIE - I think the Bill would affect the old system to a considerable extent. At all events, I am satisfied that no matter what the result of the Bill may be - no matter whether it affects trusts to the extent of breaking them up or r.ot - we are not likely to revert to the old competitive system of industry. We are too civilized now to suffer the evils of competition.

Senator Gray - I thought this Bill was to bring about fair competition.

Senator DE LARGIE - If the Bill had that effect well and good, but so far as the old competitive system is concerned, with its accompanying waste in every trade, it must be regarded as a thing of the past. My remedy for the whole situation, in order that the benefits of the abolition of competition may be justly distributed, is the nationalization, of trusts, because that is the only remedy which would go to the root of the matter. So long as private companies and capitalists have the controlling power, the united profits of the concentration of capital will undoubtedly accrue to them instead pf to the people at large. Of course, we , naturally expect Senator Gray to dissent from such. a view, but ultimately we shall be forced to nationalize trusts or the trusts will control the whole of us. Trusts are gradually extending their power in the richest country in the world.

Senator Mulcahy - Trusts will not control the whole of us while Australia has its present franchise.

Senator DE LARGIE - I dare say the franchise will prove an obstacle in the way ; but if the power of capital extends in Australia as it has extended in the "United States, we shall either have to nationalize the trusts, or the trusts will possess every interest in the country.

Senator Dobson - We shall have to nationalize the Labour Party, I think.

Senator Guthrie - That is the national party now.

Senator DE LARGIE - I think the Labour Party may fairly and reasonably claim' to be the national party. However,. I agree that there is no course open to us at this stage but to follow the course indicated by the Bill. I quite recognise that Australia is not prepared to go the length of nationalization; and that being so, we must make the best of the present position. This Bill undoubtedly gives us_the power, to some extent, to control the trusts now in existence. I should like, in conclusion, to repeat the words of John Stuart Mill, that no Government can divest itself of the duty to control monopolies for the public good.

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