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Tuesday, 28 August 1906


Senator TRENWITH (Victoria) . - Senator Drake has urged that we should adopt a different course in this connexion than is adopted in reference to regulating the proceedings of individuals. He said that the principle that the Court should hold a person to be innocent unless proved to be guilty has been departed from in some instances. That is, where the persons charged are the only persons possessed of the facts, and clearly that is a case in point. Persons would be engaged in competition. We have to prove undoubtedly that the competition entered into is prejudicial to an Australian industry. Suppose we go no further than a trust which is likely to disorganize and injure a trade. This being a commercial trust, it is assumed that the competition is unfair unless the contrary is proved. That is very much further than the clause goes. But, suppose we go that far ; in such a case, who is in a better position to prove the contrary as to the unfairness of the competition than the persons who have the control and the knowledge of all the factors in connexion with the business? Let us turn for an illustration: to the harvester industry. It is declared that the competition in that industry is unfair, and is, in fact, destroying the Australian harvester trade. Let us assume we have proof to that effect.


Senator Drake - But that is what has not to be proved under the clause.


Senator TRENWITH - There must be proof to the effect that the competition is disorganizing an Australian industry, and then the commercial trust has to prove that the competition is not unfair.


Senator Drake - Does the honorable senator not think that the Crown will have all the facts necessary to prove the unfairness of the competition?


Senator TRENWITH - No. The honorable senator is aware that there are many things about which we feel perfectly confident, but inregard to which it is difficult, if not impossible, to produce what is called legal evidence. Only the parties concerned, who know all the details of cost and so forth, are in a position to supply the necessary proof.


Senator Clemons - Could a private individual not do so as well ?


Senator TRENWITH - We are now dealing with commercial trusts - with institutions which we have a right to assume are baneful until they are proved to be beneficent, or not harmful. The general history of trusts is that they are baneful ; and that supplies a reason for this clause. A trust would be in possession of legal evidence to prove the cost of construction and so forth, and would, therefore, be able to show, if the fact were so, that the price at which it was selling, although much lower than that at which Australian manufacturers could produce, was a fair price, having in view the circumstances of the production. If that proof were forthcoming, then no evil consequences could accrue under the Bill.


Senator Clemons - An individual proprietor would surely know his business just as well?


Senator TRENWITH - Quite so, but we are not dealing with individuals. We are dealing with institutions, which, I may almost say, are invariably calculated to be baneful in their operations.


Senator Millen - The honorable senator says the same thing about individuals when they are importers.


Senator TRENWITH - I donot; I would take steps to prevent individuals importing, but importers are decent fellows all the same, whereas commercial trusts are combinations for the purpose of securing the control of trade to the detriment of the public generally. There are instances that can be cited where tentatively - and, I venture to say, only tentatively - trusts axe beneficent or unobjectionable for a time ; but the invariable tendency is for trusts, as they acquire strength, to use their power to the prejudice of the general public. It is because we are dealing with a special kind of danger that we have to adopt a special method of procedure.


Senator Drake - That is a very unsound reason for changing the onus of proof.


Senator TRENWITH - At any rate, I think we have discussed the matter sufficiently.


Senator Guthrie - Will the honorable senator give us instances in which trusts have been detrimental?


Senator TRENWITH - I have already given one instance.


Senator Guthrie - Give us two or three others?


Senator TRENWITH - One instance is sufficient for my purpose. If Senator

Guthrie is not convinced by the arguments adduced, he will vote according to his convictions, and if he is aware of more instances, he will doubtless cite them.


Senator Drake - Senator Trenwith's reason for shifting the onus of proof is that trusts are generally baneful to the general public ?


Senator TRENWITH - Exactly. We have innumerable instances, and particularly the one I have quoted, of the baneful effects of commercial trusts. The American Harvester Trust is said, with very great justification, to be only a branch of the Standard Oil Trust, the Beef Trust, the Steel Trust - the trust which, under a hundred and one aliases, monopolizes and controls, as far as it can, the trade of the world. In connexion with oil, the trade of the world is absolutely controlled by one of the combines, which, in its early stages, was undoubtedly beneficent. That trust merged all the separate and costly managements under one head, and thereby reduced the cost of production, and was enabled to sell cheaply. But it is notorious that that trust can raise the price whenever it chooses ; and the probability is that, when one of the branches of the trust is working to destroy an industry, it secures the funds to do so by slightly raising the price of some commodity controlled by another branch - public money is used for the destruction of the industry. I have no doubt that in the harvester industry-


Senator Clemons - Surely it is a little too soon to go into the harvester question.


Senator TRENWITH - That is a very important consideration which has led to the introduction of this question now.


Senator Millen - Is it not the prime moving factor?


Senator TRENWITH - I think it is one very important factor - possiblythe prime moving factor. If Senator Millen desires, there can be no objection to his holding the opinion that, if it had not been for that specially violent, vigorous attack by the foreign trusts, we should not, perhaps, have had this measure at this juncture.


Senator Pulsford - The attack does not exist.


Senator TRENWITH - That must only be a matter of opinion.


Senator Clemons - The victim of the attack is making £20,000 a year !


Senator Pulsford - It is said to be £30,000 a year.


Senator TRENWITH - I do not know that it is an offence to make £20,000 a year, if at the same time an advantage is conferred on the community. To some honorable senators it would appear to be an offence for an Australian to make a decent living, while it is meritorious for an exploiter abroad to realize large sums of money.


Senator Guthrie - Why not confine the Bill to the anti-dumping clauses?


Senator TRENWITH - Because it is just as possible for a baneful combination to be formed inside Australia as outside Australia. While we are dealing with one phase of the question, it seems to me only wise and proper to deal with, the whole question.


Senator Guthrie - Does the honorable senator know of any baneful combination in Australia?


Senator TRENWITH - Honorable senators are drawing me into what is really a second-reading speech, and my desire is to deal with the clause before us. I have pointed out what I consider to be very strong reasons for throwing the onus of proof on the suspected parties. Under the Bill, the Crown has to prove several important facts ; but in regard to the question on which the defendant must have the fullest possible knowledge, the onus is thrown upon him, as the representative of institutions, which, in the main, have been found to be baneful and dangerous.







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