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Wednesday, 22 August 1906

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia) . - What I understand Senator Symon to argue is that it would be unfair to make the clause apply to contracts already entered into. If that be so, would the honorable senator desire to extend immunity for all time to any combination or trust that is at present in existence in. Australia simply because it was in existence before this measure was passed? That point has not beensatisfactorily cleared up. If there are in Australia monopolies that are injurious, it seems tome that it would accentuate the evil to provide that no other similar trust should grow up to compete with it. Take theColonial Sugar Refining Company. That may or may not be a monopoly; and. if it is a monopoly, itmay or may not be injurious. When legislationaffectingthe Colonial Sugar Refining Company wasimminent some time ago, thecompany refused to supply its clients withsugar to the amount of theirordinary requirement.

Senator Macfarlane - I do not think so.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I have this information from storekeepers, who have assured me it was so. Thereply that they received from the company was that it could not supply them with the full amount of sugar which they required.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I do not know that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a combination. It may be said to be a monopoly because it is a large, rich corporation. But it would not come under this clause at all.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - I am not sure that it would not.

Senator Best - It would come under clause 7.

Senator STANIFORTHSMITH.The company, at the time to which I refer, had accumulated large stocks of sugar, and when the duties of £6 and £10 per ton - according to whether the sugar was made from cane or beet - -were imposed, the price of sugar for consumption within the Commonwealth was immediately raised. Then the company wrote to the 'storekeepers to say that it- could supply them with the full" quantity that they required at an increased price. It seems to me, therefore, to be a combination with intent to restrain trade and to the detriment of the public.

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - It is not a combination at all within the meaning of this Bill.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - It has a monopoly of a commodity produced in Australia. It is a monopolistic institution, which, if what I have heard be correct, operates to the detriment of the public.

Senator Macfarlane - That statement has been contradicted.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Because a- statement has been contradicted it is not proved to 'be wrong.

Senator Millen - Because it is repeated it is not proved to be right.

Senator STANIFORTH SMITH - Not necessarily, but storekeepers have told me what I have related - that they could not get their usual supplies of sugar until the duties were imposed by the Commonwealth, and the price was increased. If the effect of leaving out the words quoted in Senator Symon 's amendment would be to allow to continue any possible monopoly which may exist in Australia, it would be a mistake to agree to it. We should put existing monopolies on exactly the same footing as monopolies that may arise after the passing of the Bill. If Senator Symon can show that anything in this Bill will unfairly curtail the legitimate rights of trusts and combines-, I am quite prepared to vote with him, but it would not be well to put existing combinations on a distinctly better footing than combinations that may afterwards arise.

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