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Tuesday, 28 August 1906

Senator DOBSON (Tasmania) .- I desire to say a few words in regard to the challenge thrown out by Senator Millen. Why is it that we are engaged in passing anti-trust legislation? Although this Bill has a long, and, in my opinion, very erroneous title, it is really an antitrust Bill - a Bill to regulate and control trusts. While we all admit that there are beneficent trusts, most of us also admit that the great bulk of trusts are formed on selfish grounds in restraint of trade, with the object of doing away with competition, and raising prices to the detriment of the public, and the enrichment of the few. A case has been made out in America, and in England, and, in a degree, in Australia, for, to some slight extent, placing the trusts on a different footing from individuals. I do not think that Senator Drake is quite right when he asks, "Why change the onus of proof?" We do not change the onus of proof except in one particular.

Senator Millen - Why in one particular ?

Senator DOBSON - I take it that Senator Keating laid down correctly what will have to be proved if a case is brought into Court. I think I spoke practically to the same effect in my second-reading speech. It will have to be proved that a defendant has entered into a contract or combination, and, secondly, that he has entered into that contract with the intention to destroy or injure an Australian industry by means of unfair competition. In proof of the intention, some evidence will have to be given, and, I presume, it will be to show that workers have been dismissed, or that a factory has been closed.

Senator Millen - Not if it is a commercial trust.

Senator DOBSON -It is only when proof is required as to whether the competition is unfair that the onus is changed, and the defendant is called upon to show that it is not unfair. Senator Drake admits that the plaintiff, whoever he may be, will have to prove the intent to destroy an industry. How could that be proved without evidence?

Senator Drake - By means of the unfair competition.

Senator DOBSON - The plaintiff has to prove the intent, but the defendant has to prove, if he can, that the competition is not unfair. Let me give a concrete example. The plaintiff may prove that, in consequence of the competition, a factory has been closed, or that some workmen in another factory have had their wages reduced. It might be said that that was not the result of unfair competition, but was due, perhaps, to better machinery and methods in America or England. At this point, the clause would come into operation, and the defendant would be told that, because he was a trust, which the Bill is intended to control and regulate, no time would be wasted, and that the onus was on him to prove that the competition was not unfair. That is my reading of the clause, and, therefore, I must vote for the retention of paragraph a.

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