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Thursday, 14 December 1905

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Every honorable member who has looked carefully into the Bill, that is, as carefully as the very brief opportunity which has been given to us has allowed, must recognise that, however good its object, its provisions extend into the channels of commerce to a degree which we cannot yet appreciate. Its effects upon, not only importers, but some of our manufacturing industries, and, consequently, upon the workers, are likely to be so great, and, in some cases, so evil, that we should give the matter our fullest attention, and allow the full light of public opinion, and of expert opinion, to be brought to bear upon it, before we come to a decision. The Bill seems one of those measures which we have been recently called upon to consider, possessing one or two very bacl features. We have been attempting by legislation to exercise by a side wind, powers which were deliberately withheld from us bv those who framed the Constitution, and we have created enormous instruments for the purpose of effecting comparatively small purposes. It is now proposed to use a steamhammer in order to straighten a pin. The only case of importance, so far as imported goods are concerned, which has suggested the desirability of dealing with trusts, is one which affects a single manufacturer in our midst, and I ask whether we are to allow one firm to dominate Parliament to the extent of inducing us to rush through, after only a few hours' consideration, a measure affecting, not only a particular enterprise, but all the industries of the Commonwealth? I would rather see a measure introduced providing merely that no harvesters shall be imported into Australia. We are being asked to create an enormous instrument, which may have influences the results of which we cannot conceive, and which may be used in a manner which we cannot anticipate, in order to effect one comparatively small result. I would also point out that we have appointed a Royal Commission, which is doing its work with extreme care, for the very purpose sf considering what should be done in connexion with those of our industries which are affected by the operation of the Tariff. That Commission could have this matter referred to it, and, indeed, it has power to consider this question without any special authority from us. We are ignoring the Commission altogether, and I think that we are thereby paying a. very poor compliment to gentlemen who were induced to undertake a very difficult task. We are proposing to take out of their hands a matter upon which we need the very fullest information, and we are, in effect, saying that we have not sufficient confidence in them to permit them to inquire into it. The Minister seems to be very confident with regard to the measure and its probable effects. I know something about trade, commerce, and manufactures, and I confess that it is very difficult for me, with my knowledge and experience, to form a conclusion as to the probable effects of the measure, and as to the injuries it may inflict, not merely upon importers, but upon the industries of the Commonwealth. The Minister quoted certain legislation in other countries as affording him warrant for the introduction of the Bill. I would ask, however, whether he can point to any laws of other countries which contain provisions similar to those embodied in the first portion of the Bill ?

Sir William Lyne - Not altogether.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sure that the Minister can find no precedent for the. most dangerous provisions of this measure. In quoting the United States and Canadian laws as his authorities, the Minister overlooked the fact that he has departed from those laws, and has reversed the very principles upon, which they are based. The United States law is intended to prevent restraint of trade, and to debar trusts from exercising control of the markets, and levying excessive prices upon the consumers.

Mr Poynton - And a fat lol of good it has done.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It has not achieved much good so far, but the object is to prevent trusts from improperly controlling the market, in other words, to take out of their hands the power which they are exercising - a power which properly belongs to the Government of the country - of taxing the people for their own benefit. The money raised by taxes levied by the Government is spent in the interests of the whole people, whereas the profits derived by the trusts are devoted to the advantage of a few persons. The United States Government are not concerned as to whether the trusts are making a profit or as to whether the people who distribute the goods are making a profit. Their object is to prevent the consumer from being excessively taxed. I am thoroughly in agreement with legislation which effectually brings about such a result. Then the Canadian law is, in one important respect, different entirely from the measure before us. One portion of that law was adopted for the declared purpose of preventing the excess output of manufactures elsewhere from being dumped upon the Canadian market, and sold at cost, or a shade under cost. That law may be put in force whenever the Ministry thinks fit. It has been acknowledged by some of the Canadian statesmen that the principal effect of that law has been to act as a warning against such importations into Canada.

Sir William Lyne - And very likely this Bill would have the same effect.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Canadian Act has been enforced in very few, if any, cases, and it is very difficult for the Canadian Government to give effect to it. The other portion of the Canadian law provides that where trusts are levying excessive prices and making excessive profits, the Government shall be able to declare that the protection given to their" industry by means of Customs duties shall be removed. That is entirely opposed to the principle adopted in the Bill. The Government propose that the protection shall remain, and that an additional and extraordinary power shall be conferred upon them. If there is any interference with an Austaliantrust - or it may be a State trust with which this Bill could not interfere

Sir William Lyne - That is because the Constitution would not permit us to interfere.

Mr McDonald - Could we interfere with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Under present conditions, we could, but I could indicate a way in which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company could place itself beyond the scope of the Bill.

Mr Isaacs - We shall safeguard ourselves against any such possibility.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The matter requires time for consideration. Trusts which confine their operations to one State cannot be affected by this legislation. The Canadian system of dealing with such a case would be to remove the protection afforded to the industry by means of the Customs duties. Nothing of that kind is proposed here. What is aimed at? There may be importations which affect the output of a State trust, the representatives of which may represent to the Minister that if he allows the competition to continue, they will be compelled to reduce the wages of their workmen. Under such circumstances, a Board wouldbe appointed to enable that trust to maintain its position by imposing a prohibition on the imports of its opponents. . That is an entirely opposite method to that which is adopted in the Canadian Act, quoted by the Minister. No parallel can be found in any legislation in the world for many of the provisions contained in the first part of the Bill. In clause 3 a most audacious attempt is made to establish the claim that the Bill has been introduced to benefit the workers, producers, and consumers. That is a very good placard. How the measure will affect the interests of manufacturers and their employes we cannot tell; but I know that it may affect them very detrimentally. We are all aware that in the various channels of trade and manufacture the finished product of one industry is very frequently the raw material of another. All products can be dealt with under this Bill. How will it affect some of our industries if their raw materials are so raised in price that it is difficult for them to supply even the markets of Australia, and impossible for them to enter into competition with the outside world ? That is a possibility with which we are confronted in connexion with this Bill. There are some provisions in paragraph a of sub-clause 1 of clause 4. and in paragraphs b and c in subclause 2 of the same clause, which show how this measure is intended to be applied, and how very injurious its operation may be. Paragraph a of sub-clause 1 says: -

Competition shall be deemed to be unfair if under ordinary circumstances of trade it would probably lead to the Australian goods being either withdrawn from the market, or sold at a loss unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.

The remaining paragraphs to which I have directed attention, provide -

In the following cases, the competition shall be deemed unfair, until the contrary is proved -

(b)   If the competition would probably or does in fact result in lowering the remuneration of labour ;

(c)   If the competition would probably or does in fact result in greatly disorganizing Australian industry, or throwing workers out of employment.

I cannot conceive how even a protectionist can support some of these provisions. In the previous Parliament the theories of free-trade and protection were argued threadbare. I am not going to repeat the operation, so that honorable members need not be alarmed by my reference to the subjects. The protectionists have always claimed that they do not wish to establish in Australia industries which, for a variety of reasons, are unstated to our conditions.

Mr Mauger - What are they?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member himself claimed, in respect of a number of his votes on the Tariff, that certain articles should be upon the free list, because they could not be produced in Australia.

Mr Mauger - On account of the patent laws.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - On account! of a good many other things as well. He has held that certain articles should be upon the free list, because they could not be produced in Australia, and were used in local industries.

Mr Mauger - Patented machinery, for 2 n st n. ncc

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - People will enter into industries which for various reasons are not suited to Australia. What will follow? 'Finding that they cannot compete successfully without lowering the wages of their employes, they will point out that fact to the Minister, and' thereupon the matter will be referred to. a Board. If the spirit of the Bill be given effect to, that Board will declare that the importation of ' the goods competing with that industry should7" be prohibited. We have also to remember that some firms might not be able to carry on successfully because of the lack of ability which characterizes their business management. If such firms were allowed to approach the Minister, and!, exhibiting their balance-sheets, to say, " Look at the losses which we are sustaining. Our only resort is a reduction in the wages of our employes, if we are to balance our profit and loss account," the Minister - who cannot possibly enter into the question of whether or not their management is good - might remit the question to a Board, which would inquire into it. with the result that the goods manufactured by firms in foreign parts might be excluded. I can give a specific instance of what may happen in New South Wales if this measure becomes law. Honorable members will recollect that when there was a duty of d. per gallon upon kerosene in that State, the local kerosene shale, of which there were large quantities, was used for the extraction of oil. At two places in that State large refineries were established for the purpose of turning out considerable quantities of kerosene oil. Naturally, it is impossible for a company which has to produce oil from shale by means of a costly process of retorting to compete with oil which nature sends forth from wells. When the duty was reduced, and finally abolished, these companies had to abandon their refining operations, and to limit themselves to the mining of their shale for various purposes, such as gas-making.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They make crude oils still.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They make crude oils principally for lubricating purposes, but they have ceased to produce refined! oil. This Parliament, with the approval of the Labour Party, has decided that, in the interests of the public,, and especially of the poorer classes, it is undesirable to impose a tax upon kerosene, notwithstanding that it would be -productive of a large revenue. If the companies to which I have referred resume refining operations when this Bill be passed, I can easily imagine that the next step taken by -them will be to form a deputation to wait upon the Minister, with a view to pointing out that, in the absence of the exclusion of oils from oversea, they cannot carry on the industry successfully unless they pay beggarly wages. Thus this Bill will afford an opportunity for the Minister, through the Board, to act in absolute opposition to the express decision of Parliament, and, by excluding the cheaper foreign article, to impose a tax upon the people of Australia, not one penny of which will find its way into the Commonwealth Treasury. Then let me take another case. Let us suppose that a machine is. being made in Australia, and that a similar machine is being imported. An improvement might be effected in the implement which would reduce its cost, and" at the same time confer a great saving upon the user of it. That might exclude the imported article, which would be quite right.

Mr Mauger - It might be pirated.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If it were patented it could not be pirated. Let us. assume that there is some article of that character being imported, and that a patented improvement is. made in it by the manufacturers elsewhere, by which its cost is reduced and by which the users could reduce the cost of their products.

Mr Mauger - Or a slight alteration which evades the patent.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The manufacturer, here would at once raise the cry that these machines were being introduced and sold at a price lower than he could afford to manufacture his for, if he were to continue to pay proper wages to his employes. Under such circumstances, there would be. a danger of the Minister concluding that he should exclude the foreignmade article, and thus our producers would be denied the advantage of securing a lessening of the cost of production, which would be of assistance to them in their competition with the world. In fact, in a variety of ways, this Bill proposes to increase the cost of articles, to the producer and also to the consumer. It may affect the cost of living in every household, and especially in those which can least afford to bear an increase. Then, it is_ provided in paragraph d of sub-clause 2, that - if the imported goods have been purchased abroad at prices greatly below their ordinary cost of production, where produced, or market price where purchased.

This power would need to be exercised with extreme care. The whole of this part of the Bill would apply to every trader and every individual who chose to buy goods outside Australia. It would even prevent a manufacturer obtaining his raw material at a low price.

Mr Mauger - Surely that is purely hypothetical ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - One of my objections to the whole Bill is that it is purely hypothetical.

Mr Watson - That statement would suggest- that there is no case to be met by this Bill.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not say that. I have already said that I am in favour of preventing trusts obtaining huge profits out of the community by means of the power they secure over certain commodities. But I would say, with President Roosevelt, that we should be very careful in dealing with beneficial combinations which result in the production of goods at a much lower cost, to the advantage of the public.

Mr Watson - I heard the honorable member say that he was opposed to trusts, but his declaration that the whole Bill was hypothetical argued that' there was no ease to meet.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not say that the evils in question are hypothetical, but I hold that the provisions of the Bill, may be so described since they do not - and possibly could not - distinctly declare what is to be done to cope with the evil. It is to be left largely to the ComptrollerGeneral, or the Minister, to decide what action shall be taken, and to that extent the provisions of the Bill are hypothetical.

Mr Wilks - Would this Bill prevent Mr. McKay from forming a local trust?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not if he confined his business to this State, and established other firms in other States. But I do not wish to deal with this matter from the stand-point of one firm.

Mr Lonsdale - The Bill has been introduced simply because of the representations of one firm.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Too much stress has already been laid on one point.

I wish to deal with what will be the effect of the Bill, not in one particular case, but upon importations and on the workers and the community generally. Paragraph d of clause 4 will apply to a manufacturer or any individual who buys something at what is considered to be below cost price. Even if the goods in question are to be used to make a local industry profitable, such a transaction may be prohibited.

Sir William Lyne - But it would not be.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall deal later on with that point. Paragraph e of sub-clause 2 contains another extraordinary provision. It is to be deemed unfair competition -

If (lie imported goods are being sold in Australia at a price which is less than gives the importer or seller a fair profit upon their fair foreign market value, or their cost of production, together with all charges after shipment from the place whence the goods are exported directly to Australia (including Customs duty) r

This is a provision in favour of the importer making profits. Under it an officer may go to an importer and say, " Look here, my dear fellow, you are not making enough out of the people. You are not making sufficient profit, and must raise your prices."

Mr Mauger - That is hypothetical.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill provides for it. The officer may go on to say to the importer, " You must raise your prices, and so increase the cost of your goods to the public." Here we have an evidence of grandmotherly care for the poor importer, who cannot look after his own interests ! The Customs Department is presumed to be better able than he is to say what is a sufficient profit for him to earn.

Mr Mauger - I had no idea that the honorable member .possessed such a' vivid imagination.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I never dreamt of any one having the vivid imagination necessary to lead to the introduction of such a provision. Indeed, the whole clause is the result of a vivid imagination. It requires a stretch of the imagination -to believe that we can benefit the consumer by telling a man who is selling goods lo raise his prices. The course I have outlined may be followed, even if no local industry be affected.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member has forgotten the provisions of .another clause.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -- The clause itself is a complete one. It begins. by providing that " competition shall be deemed to be unfair." That might be competition between importers.

Mr Glynn - The lowering of prices affects the importers; it is the raising of prices that affects the internal trade.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) --Quite so. We have still another extraordinary provision in paragraph /, which provides that the competition is to be deemed unfair -

If the importer or seller of the imported goods directly or indirectly gives to agents or intermediaries disproportionately large reward or remuneration foi selling or recommending the goods.

What is the object of this?

Mr Isaacs - In view of his business knowledge, the honorable gentleman must surely know the reason of it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is difficult to arrive at the meaning of some of the clauses; we need to be enlightened as to the meaning, as well as in regard to the effect, of the Bill. Can ihe Minister of Trade and Customs tell me the meaning of paragraph /?

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member will be given an explanation presently. I cannot offer an explanation by way of interjection.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member is very ready to interject when no one desires him to do so.

Sir William Lyne - I wish the honorable member to bring his speech to a close as soon as possible.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not intend to speak at undue length. After providing that the importer shall get a good profit, which must result in the price to the consumer being increased, the clause goes on to declare that the importer shall not pay too much to his agents, and consequently reduce the price of the goods. That is an extraordinary position. I wonder what department of life will be free from our legislation very soon. The Government propose to see that no traveller or representative of a firm gets too much salary.

Mr Wilson - They are proposing a wages board for the reduction of salaries.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. They would not dream of proposing such a thing if the individuals affected were not comparatively few in number. If there were many of them, they would try to secure their votes, by proposing to increase, rather than to decrease, their salaries.

Mr Mauger - Does the honorable member think that there is such a provision in the Bill ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sure of it. We are asked to deal with this Bill as if the words .used in its clauses mean something other than the meaning which they express.

Mr Salmon - The honorable member knows how a high salary is often used by a traveller.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That interjection gives an explanation of the provision which we did not receive from the Minister. Is this an indirect method of preventing the payment of commissions to buyers? We have already passed a law to prohibit practices of that sort, and now, apparently, the Ministry wishes to pass another law to do exactly the same thing. Agents, however, could pay commissions to buyers which would not come out of their salary, but would be paid by their principals; the Bill would not prevent that. All that it provides is that the Government shall see that travellers and representatives of firms are not paid salaries which are too high.

Mr Mauger - Sometimes the honorable member argues that the Bill is too strong, and at other times that it is not strong enough.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -.It is quite strong enough, but it is ineffective, with all its strength,.

Mr Mauger - What is the use of it, if it is ineffective?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is what I should like to know . from those who are supporting it. But a Bill may be ineffective . for the purposes for which it was framed, and yet effective and destructive in a variety of other ways.

Mr Mauger - I want to destroy foreign trusts.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member says that he wants to destroy foreign trade. That is a frank, straight-out, candid admission ; but a Bill of twelve lines would do that. All that would be necessary to secure that object would be to provide that no goods shall be imported into Australia. Clause 5 is a sort of drag-net provision, but, as it really embraces the matters to which I have referred, I shall not deal with it specially. The second portion of the Bill is a measure to deal with trusts or combines. I have already said that I would support an effective measure to deal with trusts or combines injuriously affecting the public, but I do not wish to prevent the beneficial effects of industrial combinations. These combinations are often of benefit to a nation, inasmuch as, by cheapening the cost of production, they enable its producers to reach markets which would otherwise not be available to them. Then they are beneficial when they reduce prices to the public of the country in which they operate. Therefore, a distinct line must be drawn between combinations which are beneficial and those which are injurious to the community. I am ready to support legislation which would be effective for the suppression of injurious trusts and combines, but I do not think that the Bill will be effective for that purpose. Its provisions could be evaded in many ways. The first set of provisions are drastic, and could be made effective largely because there are no exceptions. Although they could never be applied fairly, because they are too drastic and tyrannical ; if they were applied honestly they might be effective, because there are no exemptions. But all traders are exempt from the operation of the second part of the Bill unless they are proved to be combinations or trusts. No sufficient distinction is made between combinations which are harmful and combinations which are beneficial.

Mr Isaacs - The words " to the detriment of the public " are used.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Those words would be interpreted by some Ministers to mean detrimental to a single manufacturer in Australia.

Mr Isaacs - The Court has to decide the question.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister must refer it to the Court.

Mr.Isaacs. - No; the Minister has nothing to do with this part of the measure. Any one can bring a matter before the Court.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill provides that the Attorney-General, or any person, may institute proceedings.

Mr Isaacs - Only for an injunction.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If a Ministry were of opinion that a foreign trust was injuriously interfering with certain local manufacturers, would it not take action of its own motion?

Mr Isaacs - The prosecutions under this part will be initiated like any other prosecutions.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I took the honorable and learned gentleman's interjection to mean that the Minister had no power in the matter.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member suggested that the Minister would have a special or exclusive power.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know that, under clause 14, any person may institute proceedings, but I understood the interjection of the Attorney-General to mean that the Minister would not, under any circumstances, take action.

Mr Isaacs - I thought that the honorable member referred to administrative action.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Could any person, under clause 14, ask for an injunction? Is not that the exclusive power of the Attorney -General ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that the Attorney-General would have to apply for it first. This second part will be, in many cases, ineffective, inasmuch as the Constitution will not enable us to deal with trusts whose operations are confined to any one State. Consequently, it will be difficult for us to reach any trust because, by a process of subdivision, each trust can operate solely within a State, distinct from any similar trust in another State, except that many shareholders may have an interest in two or more of them. These provisions require a great deal of careful consideration. They may do a great deal of harm, and I do not think that they will prove fully effective for the end in view. The provisions of the United States law, which the Minister has described as more drastic than those contained in the Bill, have, so far, proved ineffective, and I think that; in dealing with detrimental trusts, we should require to do something more than has been attempted in America. I do not mean that we should adopt more drastic provisions, but that we should resort to more effective measures. For this reason, the matter requires the fullest consideration. and I think that we should avail ourselves of all the information that can possibly be brought to bear upon it. All wisdom and experience is not represented by Parliament, and we ought to afford those who are most likely to be affected by such a measure to give us the benefit of their knowledge and experience. The Imperial Parliament long ago recognised the necessity for adopting such a course in regard to measures relating to commerce and indus- try.. They refer such Bills to a Grand Committee. They have recognised the danger of hurrying through legislation without the fullest inquiry. Whilst we have 110 Grand Committee here, we should not attempt, in the closing hours of the session, to pass through a Bill which could fittingly occupy our closest attention during the recess. When the Minister was moving the second reading oFthe Bill, I asked him how he would be able to reach persons outside Australia. Clause 12 provides - that the doing of any act outside Australia which would if done within Australia be an offence against either of the two preceding sections - shall be regarded as an offence, and shall be punishable accordingly. There would be no way of punishing any person outside of Australia except by stopping their goods at the Customs House. The Minister said that the Attorney-General would find a way, but he did not seem to know anything about tha matter himself. The honorable member for Parramatta referred to the Board in the first portion of the Bill, the provisions of which apply very arbitrarily and drastically, not merely to combinations, but to every firm in Australia. The Minister can refer any question arising under these provisions of the Bill to a Board, which will convey its decision to the Minister, who can then prohibit the importation of any goods he may chose. He could entirely stop the trade of any firm or individual.

Sir William Lyne - I can do that now under the Customs Act.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes ; but the provision as to the prohibition of imports is only intended to meet the case of deleterious goods, or to importations which are not legitimate. This measure, however, proposes to extend the power of the Minister to all classes of goods. If a manufacturer managed to _ purchase abroad some of his raw, material at exceptionally cheap rates, the goods might be stopped at the Customs House, and the importer punished. These powers relate to individuals and firms not acting in combination. Trusts, however, will have the right to appeal to the Courts. It is because they have more money to fight their cases, they will have an opportunity afforded to them to employ leading counsel to subject the law to the most searching test? The trusts are kindly provided for, but the individual or firm which is not in any com bination is to be simply snuffed out at the will of a Board or a Minister.

Sir William Lyne - The action of the Minister has to be supported by Parliament.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes j but in view of the complicated process that may have to be gone through, the manufacturer might be ruined before he saw the end of it. No Board should have a right to decide matters of such importance. In the first place, difficulty would be experienced in securing the services of disinterested men who knew anything about the subject. I would rather have disinterested men who knew nothing, than well-informed men who would be guided by their own interests. Enormous issues would be involved in some cases, and a man might be deprived by the decision of the Board from continuing his business, or from earning his living in the industry to which he had been brought up.

Mr Hutchison - The trusts do not give individuals much chance to earn a living.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Perhaps not. But why should the Government imitate the trusts by crushing manufacturers out of existence? The Minister proposes to establish a Government trust.

Mr Glynn - But the Government will not get the profit.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No, but. they will see that a few other people do. The Board may sometimes be called upon to settle issues involving hundreds of thousands of pounds, and the Government will require to enlist the services of the most unbiased and independent men they can find.

Sir William Lyne - Mr. Seddon must have been a great fool to constitute a Board. .

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He has not created a Board such as the Minister proposes. The New .Zealand Board is representative of many large interests, and is appointed for the purpose only,:6f making inquiries. i.

Sir William Lyne - The Board contemplated under the Bill would be only an inquiry Board - it would merely inquire and report. ' '

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It would recommend what should be done with the goods. The New Zealand Act does hot confer powers such as the Minister proposes to take, arid, moreover, it deals only with trusts and combinations, which, under this measure, ' will have ' the right to appeal to the Courts. The Minister's proposal is a departure from the New Zealand legislation. Now, it has been said that we should trust the Minister and the Administration. Even though, by a wild flight of imagination, we could conceive that we had to-day the ablest and most honest Ministry that ever sat, or ever will sit, upon the Treasury benches, we should have no right to pass legislation of this kind which would place unheard-of powers in the hands of Ministries yet unborn.

Mr Mauger - The honorable member is looking a long way ahead.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Honorable members are supposed to look a long way ahead, and they certainly should not be prepared to surrender to Ministers powers which might be used in such a way as to override the decision of Parliament. Parliament should reserve to itself the power which Ministers seek to exercise under the Bill. The Bill would confer more authority upon Ministers than that which can be exercised under the Tariff. It could be used more effectively to prohibit the importation of goods, to penalize manufacturers, to injure workmen, and to tax the consumer. When Parliament will not give Ministers power to create a Tariff, surely they ought tokeep in their own hands powers such as those which are sought under the Bill. We decided only a few days ago that even duties which had been, as regards their amount, approved of by Parliament should not be imposed without reference 10 the Legislature. Such duties would not exclude, but only to some extent restrict, imports, and yet it is now proproposed that we should give Ministers absolute power to exclude any goods. It has been said that the Bill was introduced in its present form in order to avoid the necessity of raising the fiscal question, but I would point out that this measure opens up every line of the Tariff. Therefore, it becomes the duty of honorable members to consider the duties line by line, and to decide whether they are sufficient for the purpose of restriction, and whether certain goods should not be exempted from the operation of the Bill. Many of the existing duties were avowedly imposed for the special purpose of restricting imports, and assisting local manufacturers. When we are asked to place in the hands of the Minister the power to prohibit the importation of goods, we may have to consider every line of the Tariff, in order to ascertain whe ther any particular article is already sufficiently protected to render the first portion of this Bill unnecessary in regard to it.

Mr Mauger - Surely the honorable member is not serious.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say again that this question should be referred to the Tariff Commission. From its constitution, from the work which it has already performed, and from the information which it has gained, thatbody is in a position to arrive at an earlier decision in regard to it than is any other tribunal.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member wishes to bury it.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is a nice compliment to pay to the Tariff Commission.

Sir William Lyne - I am not saying a word against that body.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable gentleman think that the Tariff Commission is a cemetery ?

Sir William Lyne - The Commission cannot report upon the questions which have already been remitted to it for investigation, before the close of the present session.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is no reason why this Bill should be rushed through hurriedly.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member has said that of every Bill which has been introduced.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I wonder that the Minister is not more accurate in his statements. During the past few days I have assisted him to pass several important measures, and in return he makes a remark of that character.

Sir William Lyne - What did the honorable member say in regard to the Commerce Bill ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I said a good deal that was true.

Sir William Lyne - And a good deal that was not true.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I quite admit that the Minister may think so. I shall consider that I have got into a very bad state indeed when I think all that the Minister thinks. The Board which it is proposed to appoint under this Bill will consist of three members. It will not even represent the six States.

Sir William Lyne - I am willing to alter the constitution of the Board, so as to make it consist of six members.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That would not meet the difficulty which has been raised by the Minister himself. He stated that if a case occurred under this Bill in Western Australia, a Board would be appointed there, implying that the other States had no interest whatever in the decision given by that body. Need I point out to him that although the particular industry affected may be confined to one State, the whole of Australia may be seriously interested in the result? Take the kerosene industry in New South Wales, to which I have already alluded, as an example. If the companies that were formerly engaged in that industry resume operations, they may raise an objection to the free importation of kerosene upon the ground that it prevents them from paying proper wages. A Board would thereupon be appointed, consisting of three gentlemen representing New South Wales only. Would that be fair to the other States? As a result of the Board's decision, every household throughout the Commonwealth might be taxed, by being called upon to pay a higher price for its kerosene. I say that the people have a right to be heard in this matter through their representatives in Parliament, and consequently Ave should provide that no prohibition should be imposed upon any class of imports until after an address in favour of that step has been adopted by both Houses of the Legislature. I do think that there is vast danger under this Bill, not merely to the importers of Australia, but also to certain manufacturers, and consequently to the men whom they employ, as well as to the poorer class of consumers. The House would not place in the hands of the Minister the imposition of a few duties, and are we to place in his hands the terrible weapon of prohibition? I do think that before that course is unnecessarily entered upon - because .we can deal with trusts and combines without going to such extremes-

Mr Deakin - With their goods?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; under the provisions of the latter part of the Bill.

Mr Deakin - Would the honorable member indorse that principle?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am perfectly willing to deal with trusts and combines, either inside or outside of Australia, if their operations are detrimental to the community, and npt, as some combinations are, beneficial. I recognise the difficulty of doing that, but I am not prepared to adopt a course which will hit at a great deal that is legitimate, and accomplish something which may be detrimental to our producers. Of course, I recognise that a great deal depends upon administration.

Mr Deakin - Everything.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A protectionist or a free-trader could administer this Act in such a way as to favour his particular fiscal belief. I claim that Parliament should not abandon its power to absolutely prohibit imports in favour of the exercise of the mere opinion or whim of a Minister. That is the position which I take up, and I say that this Bill cannot be examined too closely by either its friends or its opponents, because if it is not able to withstand criticism it* should not be placed upon our statute-book. It is one of the most faxreaching measures that the Commonwealth Parliament has been invited to consider. Consequently, opportunity ought to be given for its full consideration, not only by members of this House, but also by those who are interested outside. The light of their opinion should be shed upon it before we finally pass it.

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