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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) . - There are reasons why paragraph a should be retained in connexion with trusts. It is fallacious to reason with reference to commercial trusts, whichhave become a world's menace, on the same lines as we should with reference to individuals. However, if we require a reason for the retention of paragraph a,Senator Pulsford has supplied one. The honorable senator has shown the existence of an undoubted trust in c'onnexion with the cocoa trade. He has also shown that that is not a baneful trust ; and it would, therefore, not be affected, except to the extent of being called upon to prove its innocence, as could easily be done.

Senator Millen - But, being a trust, it would be held to be guilty of unfair competition.

Senator TRENWITH - Being a trust it is assumed for the purpose of the Bill that its competition is unfair until proved to be otherwise. The reason for so dealing with trusts is that, unlike individuals, thev are generally extremely powerful, and created for the purpose of exploiting the public. While it is admitted that occasionally, and, generally, only tentatively trusts may be non-injurious or may even be beneficent, their general tendency is to be baneful, and, therefore, they are treated differently from individuals whose characteristic is not to be prejudicial to the public well-being.

Senator Best - This clause applies only to a trust whose deliberate intention it is to injure an industry.

Senator TRENWITH - I think the honorable senator is wrong. This clause applies to any commercial trust.

Senator Best - It applies only to a trust whose intent it is to destroy or injure, by means of unfair competition, an Australian industry.

Senator TRENWITH - I am putting the worst case ; and it seems to me that, if there be a trust, the authorities may, if they choose, call upon it to prove that its operations are not baneful to the public, or likely to create disorganization in an industry. But, assuming Senator Best to be right, I contend that there is justification for dealing with trusts differently from individuals. According to Senator Pulsford's own showing, the trust to which he has referred is designed to maintain just and reasonable profit. But, assuming for argument sake that it could be shown - or that the trust was unable to show that it was not so - that the minimum pride was fixed in order to permit the manufacturer, even though the distributors only made a profit of1d. per lb., to charge twice, or any amount, over, what ought to be a proper charge for manufacturing. Under such circumstances, the trust would be onebaneful in its character. As showing from current history the necessity for treating trusts differently from individuals, honorable senators have only to remember the recent proceedings against the fountain head of American trusts, J. B. Rockefeller, who was summoned before a Court to give evidence. I assume that the object of summoning Mr. Rockefeller as a witness was to prove by his evidence that the trust with which he was connected was baneful ; but, as he simply kept out of the way, and would not fulfil his duties as a citizen, he was not called upon to prove his innocence, with the result that the intention of the Court to prove him guiltv was frustrated. If Mr. Rockefeller had been called upon by law to prove his innocence, it would have been no use his running away, and he would have come forward. That seems to be a strong reason why we should deal differently with these institutions as compared with the ordinary institutions of civilization.

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