Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 23 August 1906

Senator PEARCE - But if the word " hereafter ". be inserted it will place be yond the scope of the clause every combination in restraint of trade now in existence in the Commonwealth. The first part of the clause defines1 the scope, and then states the crime and provides the penalty. Sub-clause 2 thereupon declares that every contract - that is every contract which involves an offence - is illegal ; not only punishable, but illegal.

Senator Clemons - And yet the honorable senator has heard the Minister say that "hereafter" is redundant.

Senator PEARCE - Yes. I do not think that this anti-trust legislation will be veryeffective in any case, but it will be a farce if we recognise existing combinations, which have their force by virtue of contracts. What is the secret of the power of the Standard Oil Company in Australia to-day, but the numerous contracts with grocers, who have bound themselves, in order to get an advantage, to take only the oil of that company for a certain length of time? Are those contracts to be allowed to continue?

Senator Trenwith - They certainly will continue, whether we put in '' hereafter " or not, unless it be proved that they were entered into with a design to destroy an Australian industry.

Senator PEARCE - The contracts I mention have a design to destroy the only industry opposed to the Standard Oil Company. One of the other oil companies import their oil in bulk, and the tinning and casing is an Australian industry, which is fast being destroyed by means of the rebates and contracts of the Standard Oil Company.

Senator Millen - The position which the honorable senator is stating now will not be altered whether " hereafter " is inserted or not.

Senator PEARCE - My reading of the clause is that on the passing of the Bill all contracts in restraint of trade, which come within clause 4, become illegal and void.

Senator Drake - Even if they have been made before the passing of the Bill?

Senator PEARCE - Either before or after. The Bill, in my opinion, is introduced for the purpose of breaking up combinations in restraint of trade. If a combination be a crime, is the Bill not intended to put an end to it, as well as to provide against similar combinations in the future?

Senator Mulcahy - Surely there can be no doubt about that.

Senator PEARCE - But honorable senators opposite are urging that "hereafter" should be inserted in order that those contracts may be allowed to continue.

Senator Mulcahy - The idea is that the Bill shall not be retrospective in regard to punishment.

Senator PEARCE - The punishment is provided for in another part of the clause, which goes on to provide that any such contract shall be null and void. Almost every grocer, I suppose, in Western Australia is trading under a contract with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.

Senator Pulsford - There is no contract.

Senator PEARCE - The honorable senator is speaking without authority, because there is an agreement.

Senator Pulsford - Which can be broken at any moment.

Senator PEARCE - Yes; on the grocer forfeiting the amount of the rebate.

Senator Pulsford - That is very trifling. There is no contract,

Senator PEARCE - It is not trifling, because, in some cases, the rebate amounts to upwards of £100.

Senator Pulsford - There is no contract.

Senator PEARCE - A grocer showed me an agreement, which to me, as a layman, appeared very like a contract ; at any rate, it is an agreement not to take the sugar of any other producer under a penalty of forfeiture of the rebateheld by the company. I hope the Minister will not agree to the amendment.

Suggest corrections