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Thursday, 30 August 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - The more I look at the clause the less I like it. Senator Playford has said that we have had ample time in which to prepare an amendment. Now, for an ample time Ave have had in print an amendment which admirably meets my idea, and that is the original amendment of Senator Pearce.

Senator Pearce - I gave the honorable senator a type-written copy of my amendment at the table three or four days ago.

Senator MILLEN - I assure the honorable senator that I did not look at the document until this evening. Being type- written. I apparently did not notice it, as I noticed his printed amendment on my file Avith others. As it is not too late to move his admirable amendment, because in either case the words-" efficiency of" would have to come out, I wish to point out ' why it should commend itself to the Committee as an alternative to the words which he proposes to add. By his original amendment he proposed to add to the sub-clause these words - being reasonably efficient and effective, and no competition shall be deemed unfair if the Australian industry is ineffective and inefficient in its management, processes, and machinery.

At first sic-fit, it appeared to me that those words Went perhaps a little too far, but on reflection I am not at all certain whether thev do not present :the best form of amendment which has yet been offered. I gather, from interjections and other signs, that honorable senators quite accept the proposition that the Bill is not designed to foster or help negligent business men, obsolete plant, slovenly or inefficient methods of any kind, but is intended to insure that Australian industry, when properly carried on under good management and Avith good plant and appliances, shall be shielded from the unfair competition of unscrupulous persons outside. If that be the purport of the Bill, I can see no reasonable objection to the amendment of Senator Pearce, as originally drafted. On the other hand, to resist the view set out in the amendment is, unless, of course, Ave have an equivalent clause, to ask us to place the public of Australia - the great body of the consumers - entirely at the mercy of an industry which might be a generation behind the times, under incompetent management, and altogether without the spur necessary to keep it up to modern requirements. I am quite sure that honorable senators do not wish to do that, or, at any rate, if they do, I feel certain that the great body Of the public do not, and Ave have at least to pay a little consideration to them. I wish to deal now Avith another aspect of the question, which also bears upon the words it is proposed to delete. Senator Drake has just suggested that a case might arise where some factories would be efficient and others inefficient. What would be the determining factor there? Suppose- that in an industry there were twelve businesses Avith the most enterprising managers whom Australia could produce, and the most modern plant and machinery, and twelve businesses Avith inefficient management, obsolete plant, and ineffective machinery. How would the Court determine whether the industry was to receive the protection of the Act or not? In its efforts to determine the point the Court might have to take the number of hands. There might be an equal number in each case, or less hands might be employed Avith the superior machinery, where more capital Avas invested, than with the inferior machinery, where less capital Avas invested. How the Court could balance the capital against the number of hands is more than I can say. Under these circumstances, it appears to me that it would be better to strike out the sub-clause-, not because I do not think that some such provision is necessary, but because if Ave struck it out Ave should throw upon the Government the onus of drafting another that would more adequately express what the Ministers say is in their minds, and what is clearly in the minds of the members of the Committee.

Senator Givens - How would it do to strike out the whole Bill?

Senator MILLEN - If I had my way I should strike out of the Bill all the provisions but those relating to the restraint of trade with which I have indicated that I am in accord. As it is not possible to do that, I think it is incumbent upon us to improve the Bill as far as it is capable of improvement.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator's idea of improvement is to make the Bill ineffective.

Senator MILLEN - No, I do not wish to make it ineffective. We are all agreed as to the object that it is desired to achieve. It is generally admitted that the words proposed by Senator Pearce do not express quite what the Committee means, and my sole object is to secure the adoption of language which will convey what is intended. Therefore I cannot be accused of any desire to destroy the Bill. I have yet to learn that it is an offence against parliamentary decorum for a senator to seek for the best possible words in which to set out the desire of the Committee, One of the obligations resting upon the Legislature is to express itself clearly and lucidly. We have been told that it is sufficient for us to insert any words whatever, and to leave it to some unnamed and irresponsible officer to express his approval or otherwise, and afterwards to throw the measure upon the tender mercies of the other Chamber. I do not believe that any honorable senator would venture to tell his constituents that that is the way in which he discharges his parliamentary duties. When Ministers are so neglectful of their duties a double responsibility is thrown upon those who, like myself, think that the clause is imperfect, and that the amendment is equally so, to devise some means of clearly expressing what is intended.

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