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Thursday, 14 December 1905

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill does more than that. It practically says to these trusts : " You are unfair ; we pronounce you guilty before you are tried. Prove 3'our innocence."

Mr Watson - The Bill provides for an inquiry in regard to imports.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am quite aware of that. But I would point out to the honorable member that before an inquiry can take place, there must be allegations. The Comptroller-General of Customs must certify that in his opinion unfair competition is going on. In other words, he is to declare that in his opinion these people are guilty, and must be brought before a Board to establish their innocence.

Mr Higgins - His certification is a mere allegation, which', must be proved.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under this Bill a trust is required to prove that it is not engaging in unfair competition. That, I venture to say, is entirely anti-British, and absolutely foreign to every instinct of fair play. I maintain tha* a trust should be treated fairly by the supreme Legislature of Australia, just as should the humblest individual. These firms say - " Before you pronounce us guilty of unfairness in our -trade relations, hear us before the Royal Commission which you yourselves have appointed to take evidence upon this point. We are willing to be judged after we have been heard." As the Tariff Commission meets in Melbourne in the middle of January to still further pursue its inquiries, the least we can do is to defer the consideration of this Bill until a thorough investigation of the facts has been made, and until we ascertain, upon authenticated and sworn evidence, whether the peril really exists which the measure is intended to meet.

Mr Deakin - This Bill deals with much more than Tariff matters.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am quite aware of that. Nevertheless, it deals with Tariff matters to a very considerable degree.

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