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Thursday, 30 August 1906

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) . - I am very glad that the discussion, has drawn attention to the real character of the Bill. I wish I could have directed the same attention to it when we were discussing clause 17, because it is connected with the clause under discussion to a large extent. I do not think that Senator Stewart will be able to achieve all that he desires by striking out the provision to which he objects, because it will still be optional, in putting the Bill into operation, to give the benefit of it - whatever that may be - to the big industry, and not to the small one. But the important thing about this sub-clause is that it does showclearly what the intention of the Bill is. It is a most important provision ; and, as I have pointed out before, it is capable of two diametrically opposite readings. The interpretation given to it by the Government and accepted by most honorable senators is that the benefit of this measure will not be given to any industry unless the management, processes, plant, and machinery are efficient and up-to-date. No matter how strongly inclined the ComptrollerGeneral might be to give assistance to an industry he could not do it unless the industry had arrived at that stage when it was employing the most efficient plant, machinery, and processes, and when the: management was everything that could be desired. What does that mean?' It means an industry that is fully equipped, anc' that probably has, after years of operation and years of experience on the part of the management, put itself in such a position that it is possibly able to crush out smaller industries, and to compete for the whole of the trade of Australia.

Senator Playford - We have heard all this, two or three times.

Senator DRAKE - And it is very interesting. The last occasion when I directed attention to the point was when I was speaking on clause 17. Unfortunately, at that time a considerable number of honorable senators were out of the chamber, and did not hear the argument. It is quite clear that no help is to be given under this Bill to an industry until it has arrived at that stage when it is perfectly equipped. That is what I object to. I said, when speaking on the second reading, that I objected to the Bill because it means protection by prohibition, and I hold that that is contrary to the ordinary practices and beliefs of protectionists.

Senator Findley - In what worse posi'.. would the small' manufacturers be under this Bill than if there were no such Bill?

Senator DRAKE - Their position would not be improved.

Senator Findley - They would be no worse off anyhow.

Senator DRAKE - They would be in competition with the highly equipped factories in the capital and also in competition, with the importers. They would be subject to that double competition. They might go down under it, and the big industry in the city would go ahead, and get more and more of the trade. Then, when presumably it was in a positionto stand alone - because it had adopted all the recent improvements in plant, machinery, and processes - the big industry would go to the Government and ask for still further assistance by absolutely, prohibiting the introduction of goods that could compete with it.. It is, I contend, no part of the doctrine of protection to shut out an article entirely. By destroying competition - the wholesome competition between imported goods and goods produced locally - the consumer is placed absolutely at the mercy of the local producer. Senator Findley knows that very well, and he would not, I think, at the present time assent to this measure if it were not for the provisions in it with regard to the remuneration of the workers. Special care is takento see that in all these cases part of the benefit of the Bill is given to the workers, that they shall receive due remuneration, and that their conditions shall be what they ought to be. I quite approve of that; and that is what I say has induced many honorable senators to accept the Bill. It is, however, clearly a capitalistic Bill. It is a Bill ostensibly to put down monopolies but which tends to create monopolies. It constitutes in itself a conspiracy between a certain section of workers and capitalists to fleece the consumers. That is the meaning of it ; and the usefulness of the clause under discussion is that it tells us exactly what is meant. Because, if you put the interpretation upon the clause that is, put upon it by the Government, the aid of this Bill cannot be given to any industry unless it has established itself in such a position that it is prepared to undertake the production of an article to supply the whole of Australia, and has therefore become a monopoly. This is a Bill which is supposed to put down monopolies, but it is perfectly clear that the object of it is to assist monopoly. I have not mentioned the odious name myself, but it has been mentioned by honorable senators opposite repeatedly. I refer to a gentleman who is engaged in the industry here, and who is known to be a strong supporter of the Bill. There is a case of an industry which for a long time has been competing with smallerlocal concerns. It has established itself in such a position that it is prepared to supply the wants of all Australia, but, under this measure, it could come and ask, not for protection by means of a higher Tariff which would apply all round, but for prohibition, which would give it a special advantage, and enable it to capture and retain the whole of the trade of Australia. That is not a thing which protectionists should desire - it is a departure from the true doctrine of protection. Scientific protection, as understood in Victoria so far, has been protection by means of a Tariff, and that Tariff was designed to particularly protect all the industries within that State. In asking for prohibition under this Bill, however, protectionists are taking a step which I think they will live to regret. This sub-clause is capable of two diametrically opposite readings. Surely in that case it is desirable to draft a clause which would state exactly what was meant ! The amendment which was first drafted by Senator Pearce seems to carry out that idea. It states distinctly in what way this consideration shalloperate. The peculiar feature of the sub-clause is that it says that consideration shall be had to the condition of the management, processes, plant, and machinery ; but it does not say whether that consideration is to sway the Court in a certain way or in exactly the opposite way. It would toe possible for the Court to come to the conclusion that the protection of the measure was not to be given to the factory which had all the up-to-date appliances, and which probably could stand without that aid, but was to be given to the other factories. Surely the English language is capable of framing a provision which would not be open to the possibility of such diametrically opposite reasons. We seem to be stuck. Senator Pearce tabled an amendment which would show what was meant, but he ran away from it and proposed another which would leave the sub-clause just as ambiguous as it is. and which, if adopted, would only have the effect of weakening the expressions used before in the clause. It is very weak on the part of the Committee to slum its work in the expectation that it will be corrected elsewhere. It should be able to frame any Bill in a form to which it would be prepared to stand.

Senator Playford - If the honorable senator objects to the provision, why does he not suggest a proper amendment?

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