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Thursday, 23 August 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - If the statement of Senator Trenwith be correct, it follows that the difficulty foreseen by the Minister will arise. If, as Senator Trenwith affirms, the clause would only be operative in respect of an agreement made after the passing of the Act, then the contention of the Minister that an agreement made prior to the passing of the Act could not continue to run its whole course must fall to the ground. Suppose that twelve months ago an agreement was made for a period of seven years. According to Senator Trenwith, it would not come within the scope of the Act.

Senator Playford - If a man continues to be a member of a combination he would.

Senator MILLEN - Does the Committee desire to have in the Bill a clause which would allow a contract of that kind to run its full term or not, or does it agree with Senator Trenwith that all existing contracts should be allowed to continue, irrespective of the passing of the Bill? Here we have from two laymen two different readings of the clause.Could a stronger argument be required as to the necessity for revising its wording ? Suppose that the clause is passed as it is, and that there is in existence an agreement which was entered into before the Bill became law, and which contains a condition that certain payments shall be made. If, as the Minister contends, an existing agreement would come within the four corners of the Act, then it seems to me that one party to that agreement could decline to make his payments, on the ground that it had been rendered null and void by the passing of the Act. Surely it is not desired to draw a knife across existing business arrangements ? .

Senator Playford - No. That would only happen if he did something with intent to restrain trade or to destroy an Australian industry.

Senator MILLEN - It ought to be made abundantly clear whether the clause will allow existing contracts to continue indefinitely or not. In the circumstances, I think that the clause should be amended in order to remove all doubt on the point, or, failing that, there should be an assurance from the Minister that an opportunity will be given later on, after he has consulted with his colleagues or advisers, to reconsider the point.

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