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Wednesday, 29 August 1906

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - Senator Mulcahy has asked for information in regard to the effect of paragraph c of sub-clause 2 of clause 18. That point will come up for consideration after the present amendment is disposed of.

Senator Mulcahy - It has a bearing on this amendment, though.

Senator KEATING - According to the paragraph, the competition shall be, deemed unfair unless the contrary is proved -

If the imported goods have been purchased abroad by or for the importer, from the manufacturer or some person acting for or in combination with him or accountingto him, at prices greatly below their ordinary cost of production where produced or market price where purchased.

By passing the provision, we should not be making that an offence, nor should we be making it the sole test for determining whether or not he was committing an offence in the way of an illegal dumping. We should be declaring that that fact in itself should be deemed unfair unless the con trary were proved. Let me state the procedure which would follow in regard to an individual whom it was desired to bring under the operation of the penal provisions of this part of the Act. The ComptrollerGeneral would have to receive a complaint in writing, that an importer was dumping goods with intent to destroy an Australian industry, and thereupon he would issue a certificate. It would contain the particulars stated in sub-clause 2 of clause 19, namely -

(d)   the grounds of unfairness in the competition ;

(e)   the name, address, and occupation of any person (not being an officer of the public service) upon whose information he may have acted.

But before issuing that certificate to the Minister, the Comptroller-General would have to give the importer an opportunity of showing cause against its issue. It might be that the Comptroller-General would put before the importer the fact that he had bought the goods abroad at a, ridiculously low price. And at that stage, as between the Comptroller-General and importer that would be primâ facie evidence of unfair competition or intended unfair competition. If the importer could satisfy the ComptrollerGeneral that, notwithstanding that fact, it was not his intention to enter unfairly into competition with an Australian industry, the certificate need not go on. But if he failed to satisfy, or did satisfy, the Comptroller-General, and the latter still forwarded the certificate on to the Minister, then the matter would not be determined, but would, by order in writing, be referred by him to the Justice. What he would refer would not be the mere fact whether the man had bought cheaply abroad, but the investigation and determination of the question whether the imported goods were being imported with the intent to destroy anAustralian industry. Of course, the Justice would also take into consideration the fact if it were established before him, that the goods were bought cheaply abroad, and give to the importer the opportunity of disproving that he had the intent alleged against him.

Senator Mulcahy - Suppose that a man had made at Home a very large purchase of a particular article, say ladies' mantles, quite innocently, and with intent to carry on. his business in the ordinary way, could that be construed into an intent, if it actually had no such effect?

Senator KEATING - Undoubtedly. The Justice could, perhaps in error, draw an inference from certain circumstances, which my honorable friend would not. But it would all depend first upon the evidence which would be furnished to the ComptrollerGeneral, and secondly upon, the evidence which would be furnished to His Honour, and the effect which it would have upon his mind. We are anticipating the discussion of the provisions to some extent. I think my honorable friend will see that the fact of buying cheaply abroad would not end the matter, so far as the importer was concerned. A procedure of a somewhat lengthy character would then have to be followed, and that would necessitate a considerable amount of investigation, during the course of which the importer would have every opportunity to display his bona fides. As one who has spoken in favour of preferential trade with Great Britain, not merely at the last election, but at the first election. I am extremely gratified to find so many adherents to that principle during the course of this discussion.

Senator Dobson - Yes ; but we do not mean to raise the duties against the foreigner, and to leave them as they are against Great Britain.

Senator KEATING - I do not know what my honorable friend means ; but when the opportunity comes to put this question to a practical test I shall certainly welcome his support. This part of the Bill deals with what we might call illegitimate competition with Australian industry. If my honorable friends say, " Very good, let this provision stand so far as illegitimate competition comes from abroad, but let us exempt English trade," does not that postulate the possibility of illegitimate competition coming from England? If, however, no reference were made to any country we should stand in a far better position. Under no circumstances should we welcome illegitimate competition from any quarter. If it is bad it is bad wherever it comes from.

Senator Dobson - Because of the illegitimate trading of the United States it is proposed to penalize the mother country.

Senator KEATING - The honorable senator told us a few moments ago that it is impossible to expect illegitimate competition from the old country. If we do not, then we are not penalizing her. If, how ever, we expressly exempted English traders from the penalties of illegitimate competition, we should at once practically put in the forefront of the Bill that we believe that our manufacturers were going to be competed against unfairly by them.

Senator Dobson - The whole of my honorable friend's argument depends upon illegitimate competition. Suppose that at the end of a London season a man were to buy a very large quantity of goods at a very low price?

Senator KEATING - That has no bearing upon my argument at present. I am not discussing what is illegitimate trade in every instance. So far as we do agree with this part of the Bill, we agree that a certain class of trade, which we can only designate in general terms, is illegitimate and unwarrantable competition with our own industries, whether it comes from Great' Britain, or elsewhere, and to which those of us who are opposed to it will object. If we set out in the Bill that if the competition comes from Great Britain it shall Tie exempted from the ordinary treatment meted out to the others, it will be an indication to the people -of that country that we are inclined to believe that we may expect illegitimate competition to come from that quarter. I am sure that if Senator Dobson will only look at the matter in that way he will see that this is not an attempt to establish preferential trade, although it may be the. preferential treatment in respect of a certain class of trade.

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