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Tuesday, 19 June 1906

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) -I should have read paragraph e in conjunction with paragraph d. Paragraph e reads as follows : -

If the imported goods are being sold in Australia at a price which is less than gives the person importing or selling them a fair profit upon their fair foreign market value, or their cost of production, together wilh all charges after shipment from the place whence die goods are exported directly to Australia (including Customs duty) :

I contend that it would be impossible for any Department to follow trade through all ils ramifications.

Mr Page - If an Austalian merchant went to an English warehouse and found that he could purchase at a much reduced price certain goods that had teen in stock for some time, could he bring them out here ?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not if the price were below the fair market value of such goods. If a. merchant went to England or America, his object would be not to buy his goods as cheaply as possible, because they might be shut out of the Commonwealth, -but to see that he paid enough for ll> .'m.

Mr Kelly - And also ta see afterwards that the consumer paid enough.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly. It seems to me that the Bill goes altogether beyond anything that Ave should attempt in a measure ofl this kind. A merchant might incur verv heavy losses through failing to avail himself of an opportunity to sell his goods at less than their cost to him. Is it right that we should interfere with all these operations of trade. Clause 14 contains another astonishing provision. Paragraph / reads-

If the person importing or selling the imported goods directly or indirectly gives to agents or intermediaries disproportionately large reward or remuneration for selling or recommending the goods.

That provision would have the effect of reducing the remuneration of brokers, agents, or travellers I should like to know who is to decide what is a proper remuneration? In some cases \ per cent, might be an excellent remuneration, whereas in other instances 25 per cent, would not be a good return for services. Why should we attempt to reduce the rate of remuneration? Those who hold goods do not pay more than they find it necessary to give in order to sell them.

Mr Mauger - Under certain circumstances they pay more than they need for a specific purpose.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They pay in order to sell. If they find that one man can sell two machines where another can sell only one, thev are satisfied to pay more money to' a tetter salesman.

Mr Mauger - That is not the practice that is aimed at.

Mr. DUGALDTHOMSON.Surely we ought to deal with competition with some honor and reasonableness. Why is no restriction placed upon the Australian competitor? Why should he be allowed to pay what commission he likes?

Mr Mauger - He is an Australian, and he is all right

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then what is improper in the one case is legitimate in the other.

Mr Mauger - I do not OV that.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking of the Bill. The provision as it stands is an absurdity, and I shall te astonished if Ministers persist in retaining it. I need not refer further to the operations nf the Board. I need only say that whilst T would not accuse any member of this Parliament of wilfully doing wrong as a

Minister. I consider that we shall act unwisely if we afford opportunities or inducements to future Ministers, whoever they may be, to allow corruption to enter into their administration. The Less Ministers have to do directly with these drastic powers - powers which may be so severely exercised, and will inflict enormous monetary losses - the better, and the less they have to do with them through boards, which are the creatures of their appointment, the better for themselves, for the Parliament, and for our commerce. If such provisions are to remain - and I hope most of them will not - by all means1 let us have a Judge to deal with these matters. There has been no occasion to introduce special legislation in Australia for what is described as clumping. Some honorable members doubtless hold a different opinion; but if we are to have such legislation it would be better for us to follow the provisions of the Canadian Act, which the Minister cited as one of his authorities, although it seemed to have been regarded by him as a warning rather than an example, a warning judging by the desire on his part to depart altogether from its provisions. The Canadian Act simply provides that where it is considered that goods have been purchased at Ieas than their legitimate market value, duties which to some extent may counterbalance the difference between the purchase price and the market value shall be imposed. I do not think that such a law is necessary, but if a majority of honorable ' members hold that it is, why not let us adopt it? If we follow the Canadian law we shall determine for ourselves what is to be clone in such cases. It will not be left to a Minister, nor to a Board appointed by a Minister, to decide, as a kind of jury, whether the competition is unfair or not. The Minister will not have power subsequently to do what he chooses, and to take action that may interfere with the very provisions of our Tariff. Instead of this, if we adopt the Canadian precedent, we shall in such cases fix a duty that will, to some extent, counterbalance the lower cost of the goods. Surely it will commend . itself to most honorable members that we should retain in our own hands the power that we are now able to exercise when dealing with the Tariff, and determine for ourselves how the difference between the purchase price and the market value of any goods im ported is to be equalized, if it be necessary to equalize it. I do not think that it is, but if the majority of honorable members differ from me, I hold that we should follow the Canadian law rather than confer on a Board to be .appointed by the Minister these enormous powers, which, at some time or other, even if not in the immediate future, will lead to corruption in the Federal sphere. I have nothing more to say with respect to the Bill itself. I would only repeat that, so far as its provisions against destructive trusts are concerned, anything that can be effectively done, without injury to beneficent combines, will be readily undertaken by myself, and, I think, by most honorable members on this side of the House. I regret, however, that, whilst making what I believe is, whether successful or not, a genuine effort to deal with this question, Ministers have burdened the Bill with the most extreme proposals relating to imports that I have ever seen in an Act of Parliament. I trust that this Legislature will not grant the powers that are sought. In some respects, and in so far as it relates to trusts, this is not a party measure, and I therefore hope that Ministers, finding a willingness on the part of honorable members to fairly consider their proposals in connexion with what are recognised on all sides of the House to be laudable objects, will not insist on carrying by the weight of their numbers provisions such as are to be found in Part III. of the Bill, which would not only take out of the hands of Parliament a power dearly achieved, but would create opportunities for wrong-doing, and for inflicting injury, the like of which should never be allowed by any of our Legislatures.

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