Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Senator BEST (Victoria) .- I quite agree with Senator Symon that if this clause is susceptible of making some act unintentionally done a crime, undoubtedly we should do all we can to prevent such a contingency. But with great respect to him, I find it difficult to attach any retrospective meaning to the clause. As I read it, the intentionis, first of all, to deal with the making or entering into a contract. That is one' definite act which is specifically dealt with. The apprehension has been expressed that contracts entered into by various boot manufacturers in regard to Goodyear machines would be affected. Of course it would have to be shown that the contracts were entered into with intent to injure Australian trade or were detrimental to the public. If they were, this Bill would apply to them. The next offence relates to any person who is, or continues to be, a member of, or engages in, any combination. It is considered possible that that may be retrospective. First of all, we must ascertain what the offence is. If a combination has for its deliberate intent the restraint of trade or the injury of an Australian industry the preservation of which is advantageous to the public, an offence is committed. We will assume that at the passing of this measure there is a person who is a member of a combination which is desirous of crushing out an Australian industry, or of doing something detrimental to the public. This Bill provides that such a person shall be liable to punishment. Continuation of membership of such a body amounts to precisely the same as committing a new offence. It is the duty of the person concerned to at once relieve himself from membership of the combination. If he does so, he will be, of course, free from liability. If he continues to be a member of the combination, surely that is an act with which we can have no sympathy. The duty of Parliament would, I should say, be to put an end to such a state of affairs with the least possible delay. I am disposed to think that if any person were so unfair as to commence proceedings within a few hours of the passing of such a measure, and without allowing reasonable time for a man to get out of. an illegal com- . bination, the Court itself would say that the person proceeded against was entitled to a reasonable time to allow him to get out of the combination.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - We do not want him to have to admit that his combination is one with intent to destroy or injure Australian industries. That is the question to be tried; and as to which he may be put on his trial.

Senator BEST - So may the most innocent indivdual be put on his trial tomorrow.Somewickedcrimemightbe alleged against any one of us, although we might be perfectly innocent.

Senator Mulcahy - Not unless there was a prima facie case.

Senator BEST - Undoubtedly. A charge might be made against any honorable senator to-morrow. He might be dragged before the Court, and have to relieve himself from the stigma. If the combination is such an one as I have referred to, we cannot be too expeditious in compelling persons to relieve themselves of membership. When the prosecution takes place, undoubtedly the persons who are proceeding will do so at their own. risk, and be liable to be penalized if theyfail in what they attempt. If the intent of the combination is to do wrong, that, of course, must be proved in order to secure a conviction. What is meant is not something that is retrospectively done, but something that is done and continues to be done after the passing of this Bill, and I do not think that our Courts would give any sympathy whatever to a man who in a reckless manner, and with a view to injure a rival trader, took proceedings against him, before he had time to clear out of an illegal combination. I think that the clause is clear and expressive in its present terms.

Suggest corrections