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Tuesday, 26 June 1906

Mr WILKS (Dalley) .- This Bill has caused at least a very interesting debate, extending over nearly a week. What strikes me most is the faint-hearted manner in which the measure has been supported. Beyond the Minister himself, whose bantling this Bill is, and the AttorneyGeneral, the only approval of the Bill has been that expressed bv the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and the honorable member for Moira. Both these honorable members defend the Bill because it gives, as they say, full force to protection.

Mr Mauger - We say that this Bill is wanted, plus protection.

Mr WILKS - Those honorable members say that the Bill will give full effect to the system of protection, and, on that ground, they give it their support. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, who is an ardent supporter of the Government, and a capable lawyer, tore the Bill to tatters to-day, when he said that, from a constitutional stand-point, he questioned very much whether the provisions dealing with monopolies could be carried out.

Mr Mauger - But the honorable member for Northern Melbourne is going to vote for the Bill all the same.

Mr WILKS - Member after member addresses the House and the country, admitting that the Bill is faulty - that the draftsmanship is not complete - and, still, in the words of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, they are "going to vote for the Bill all the same." That is evidence of absolute make-believe to the public.

Mr Mauger - Nonsense !

Mr Watkins - That applies all round the House.

Mr WILKS - It does not. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has said that, although it has been pointed out that what is proposed to be done by this Bill is constitutionally impossible of achievement, lie will vote for the measure. Is he prepared to tell the country later on that he voted' for a measure which was really only so much waste paper?

Mr Watkins - Every member of the Opposition has said the same thing.

Mr WILKS - No. No member of the Opposition has said that he is satisfied with the Bill.

Mr Mauger - Then why do they not fight it, anc! vote against it? They have not the pluck.

Mr WILKS - I- shall answer the honorable member's question presently. The Bill has had a most interesting history. Last session it was introduced under a much less attractive title than it now possesses. Today, this is the placard at the head of it -

A Bill for an Act for the Preservation of Australian Industries and for the Repression of Destructive Monopolies.

The Minister of Trade and Customs has obeyed his instructions, and altered the original title. The Bill introduced last session dealt with all combines and trusts. But, as the honorable member for Newcastle knows, there are combines which are beneficial, and, in his electorate, there is a combination of colliery-owners which has had the effect 'of increasing the wages of the coal miners. The objection that the Bill introduced last session would apply to all combinations, was pressed so insistently by the members of the Opposition, that the Minister has now introduced a Bill to deal with " destructive monopolies " only. That is one gain which has resulted from the attitude of the Opposition, and we shall teach the Minister the advisability of making other alterations before we have finished.

Mr Watkins - This is very thin.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member would not vote against the combination 'n the Newcastle district to which I have referred.

Mr Watkins - Neither this Bill nor the last would affect it.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member is a trade unionist, and he, therefore, would not apply the provisions of a Bill such as this to a combination which has had the effect of increasing wages- I shall not deal exhaustively with the trust legislation of America, because honorable members are very well acquainted with the various works on the subject which have been issued within the last two or three years, lt is well known that the American trusts owe their existence largely to the protective policy of that country. The leader of the Labour Party, however, has stampeded from his official declaration in 'regard to the proper treatment of monopolies. Speaking from the public platform as the mouthpiece of the Labour Party of Australia, he said, less than four months ago, that he believed, not in the regulation and control of monopolies, but in the State ownership or nationalization of Ohern'. I took an opportunity, when in another State, to answer his arguments, and to point out that the party to which I belong is in favour of applying State regulation and control to monopolies which are inimical to the public interest. But although the honorable member for Bland said that the Labour Party would be satisfied only with the nationalization of monopolies, and instanced the shipping combine and the sugar trust as two with which he would deal, he said the other night that he is prepared^ to support this Bill, notwithstanding that it provides only for the control and regulation of certain monopolies. But, while lie promised to vote for it, he gave it the faintest of praise, and said he believed that it would not be effective. Was not his, speech so much make-believe? The honorable member for' Melbourne Ports says that honorable members on this side are prepared to vote for the Bill, although they know that it will be inoperative ; but the honorable member for Bland has specifically stated that he will do so. Personally, I believe in State interference for the crushing of monopolies. But the present Bill seems to be altogether too drastic. I could understand a protectionist openly supporting it, on the ground that it would further the protectionist, or rather, the prohibitionist, policy. Its object cannot be described as an attempt to sneak in protection, because it aims at much more than that, and if successfully administered by a protectionist would mean the deluging of the Commonwealth with protection. If the Bill is carried into force as it stands, the Minister of Trade and Customs will be able to do everything that he has been trying to accomplish for years past. There will be no need for an alteration of the Tariff, because he will, by his own act, be able to increase the protection given to local manufacturers as much as he likes. Even the honorable member for Perth, who is a member of the Labour Party, a supporter of the Government, and a member of the Tariff Commission, has stated openly that the Bill is an instance of protection run stark, staring mad.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member for Perth is a free-trader run mad.

Mr WILKS - The Government are very glad' to get his support. The statement which I have quoted was not that of an irresponsible partisan, but of one who believes in the nationalization of certain monopolies, and has spent eighteen months in listening to evidence upon the operation of the existing Tariff. I was elected as a free trader, and shall not allow, so far as I can prevent it, the carrying out of protection such as the Bill seeks to provide for. It is a curious thing that the gigantic monopolies of which we have heard so much all exist in protectionist America, and it has been only with the advent of protection in Australia that the fear of monopolies has arisen here. Monopolies can be based only upon legislative privileges. \\The Government party are responsible for the protective Tariff, which alone can be made the basis of any monopolies that may be established here, and, having created a condition of things which makes the existence of monopolies to foe feared, they now ask for power to regulate and control them. I can understand a protectionist like the AttorneyGeneral, who thinks that openings have been made in the Tariff wall which enable foreign companies to invade Australia, voting for the Bill ; but I cannot understand why other honorable members should vote for a measure whose practical effect will be to provide for prohibition, if a protectionist Minister of Trade and Customs cares to apply its provisions to that end. The Minister, speaking in December last, said that it would* be useless to bring in a Bill for the amendment of the Tariff, because the Opposition would prevent it from becoming la.w. If we are strong enough to prevent the raising of duties, why should we De , a party to the passing of a prohibitive measure such as this? As a free-trader, I am prepared to acknowledge that in the fiscal battle we were defeated, and I am therefore ready to respect the Tariff which Parliament has passed. I wish to see that Tariff properly enforced, and to prevent its evasion by outside corporations ; but I certainly shall not vote for prohibition. One effect of the Bill is that, while it deals with monopolies controlled by associations, it neglects those controlled bv an individual, a co-partnership, or a voluntary association. Moreover, so long as a monopoly confines its operations to any one State, the Commonwealth legislation cannot, apply to it. As an illustration of what I think justifiable State interference with private enterprise, I would refer to the early closing legislation which a short time ago was forced upon many of the States Parliaments. It was never suggested, when that legislation was being advocated, that the Government should run the shops whose employes were appealing for shorter hours; but it was found' necessary, since a voluntary movement! for early closing had failed, to declare by legislation that, after certain hours, no business should foe done in the shops to which it applied. That was an instance of State interference, and we, on this side, stoutly advocate State control and regulation of hurtful monopolies. The honorable member for Bland and his party, however, seem to have forgotten the most important plank of their platform. They had only two planks, namely, the progressive land tax and the nationalization of monopolies. They have given up the latter of these, and have adopted, in its stead, the principle of the regulation and control of monopolies. I would point out that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are not free from competition. I am pleased 'to be able to inform honorable members that land has been purchased, and buildings are in process of erection, in the electorate which I represent, with the object of establishing a rival sugar refinery. Mr. Poolman, who carries on a sugar refinery in Melbourne, is establishing a branch in Svdney. When we asked the Minister of Trade and Customs to point to one example of a destructive or oppressive monopoly in Australia,. he was unable to give us the desired information. We are now being asked to legislate, not against an existing evil, but in anticipation of certain destructive monopolies arising in the future.

Mr Ronald - Prevention is better than cure.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member is scared by what has taken place in America, where gigantic combinations are rearing their heads and becoming a menace to the whole community- We find that, notwithstanding all the efforts that have been made in the United States to pass effective, legislation, the trusts are able to work their own sweet will, and to go on their way rejoicing. We should not hasten to pass legislation of this kind merely because evils of a certain character have arisen in other countries. As a free-trader, I might point out that large combines and trusts find the most suitable fields for their operations in protectionist countries, where large legislative privileges have been conferred upon local producers by a high Tariff system. I know ot only two combines in Great Britain, where there is free competition so far as the outside world is concerned. Even these monopolies rest upon privileges, in the form of certain patent rights, conferred by legislation. After having looked through the Bill very carefully, and having listened with attention to the debate, I have arrived at the conclusion that the measure provides protection for large business concerns, but affords none to those who are operating in a small way.

Mr Ronald - The honorable member admits that the measure will confer some advantages.

Mr WILKS - It will confer an advantage upon those who are interested in the larger undertakings, because it will remove all competition. Whilst free competition is encouraged, there need be no fear of dangerous monopolies. Last session, Ministers appeared to think that all monopolies were dangerous and detrimental to the public interest, but the present measure is intended to apply only to monopolies that are detrimental to the public. Further consideration has led to a change in the attitude of the Government in this and other respects. The present measure was presented by the Minister of Trade and Customs, in a speech which consisted mainly of a recital of the marginal notes, and it rested with the Attorney-General to explain the principles Qf the measure, and to acknowledge that it would be effective as against corporations, but not as against individuals. The Government have changed their attitude also with regard to another matter. When the former Bill was introduced, the Minister of Trade and Customs stated that he was in favour of the appointment of a permanent Board. When introducing the present measure, he stated that he thought it preferable that Boards should be appointed as required. On the very next day, the Attorney-General expressed the opinion that it would be better to refer all matters to a Judge, instead of to a Board. These changes of front indicate, to mv mind, that Ministers are not agreed upon the best course to pursue.

Mr Isaacs - We have been quite consistent, so far as that is concerned, because from the outset we endeavoured to secure the services of a Judge.

Mr WILKS - I do not know what Ministers have been doing in Cabinet. I only know what has been publicly announced by them. Nothing whatever was said about the appointment of a Judge when the Minister of Trade and Customs introduced the Bill. On the very next day, however, after the honorable member for Bland had suggested that a Judge should be substituted for the proposed Board, the AttorneyGeneral said he thought there would be no difficulty in making the change, and that that would be a better arrangement.

Mr Isaacs - I stated that we had all along endeavoured to secure the services of a Judge.

Sir William Lyne - Last year the first attempt was to secure the services of a Judge.

Mr WILKS - It is a peculiar thing that the difficulty should have disappeared within about five minutes. Immediately after the honorable member for Bland had urged that a Judge should be appointed, the Minister of Trade and Customs said that such an appointment would be provided for.

Sir William Lyne - I did not say that a Judge would be appointed, but that it would be much better if we could secure the services of a Judge.

Mr WILKS - I do not see what is to prevent the Government from appointing a Judge. The provisions of the Bill which relate to dumping partake more of a fiscal character than those aimed at the repression of monopolies, and must be viewed with extreme suspicion by honorable members on this side of the House, because they may be twisted in such a way as to entirely take the control of fiscal matters ^ out of the hands of Parliament. The Minister told us that the principal importations of manufactures of steel and iron came, not from Great Britain!, as I asserted by way of interjection, but from Belgium. I have taken the trouble to look up the statistics, and I find that three-fourths of our importations of steel and iron goods come from Great Britain.

Sir William Lyne - A great proportion of the goods entered as coming from Great Britain are really of Belgian origin.

Mr WILKS - A few days before he made his second-reading speech the Minister of Trade and Customs was beating the drum on behalf of preferential trade in Great Britain, and, on the grounds of loyalty to the Empire, was advocating that we should import British goods upon better terms than those accorded to foreigners. He now tells us that, owing to the extent to which goods - which come mainly from Great Britain - are being dumped upon our markets, legislative action must be taken to restrict such importations. I find that last year the value of the iron and steel goods imported into the Commonwealth from Belgium, was £190,000, whilst the importations of similar goods from Great Britain were valued at £3,480,000.

Sir William Lyne - If the honorable member had followed the history of the bridges erected in New South Wales he would have found that a great part of the iron of which they were constructed came from Belgium, although the bridges were supplied under contract bv Scotch firms.

Mr WILKS - I want to establish the fact that this so-called dumping is being done with goods which come for the most part from Great Britain. We are not told that these goods are being sold at less than cost price, and I think that we should be supplied with some information upon this very important point. Surely it is only right that we should ask for evidence of the necessity for passing such legislation im the interests of the Australian producer. In the United States the Commissioner of the Bureau of Corporations was called upon to report upon the operations of the trusts, and the Hon. W. J. Bryan, one of the ablest of American politicians, and an advanced democrat, introduced what is called the licensing system, which has proved highly effective in connexion with certain monopolies. I believe that the object which it is sought to attain by means of the measure now before us could be partly secured by an amendment of the Companies Act. Whilst I am anxious that Australia should escape from the evils attendant upon the unrestricted' operation of huge foreign monopolies, I am not prepared to assist in making the buttresses of protection stronger, and thus render it possible for internal monopolies to work still greater harm to the community. I should like to know Mr. Poolman, owing to his carrying on a sugar refinery in Sydney, as well as in Melbourne, will be regarded as a monopolist, and as coming within the scope of the measure. .

Sir William Lyne - -He is doing good to the community. It must be proved that he is doing harm before we can interfere with him.

Mr WILKS - The Attorney-General has told us that the Bill does not deal with individuals.

Mr Isaacs - The Bill does not say anything as to that, but the Constitution does.

Mr WILKS - If an individual had branches of his business all over Australia, and was able to bring about a monopoly in a certain line of industry, would he come within the scope of the measure?

Sir William Lyne - If the monopolywere injurious it would be brought within the scope of the Bill.

Mr WILKS - Then the mere fact that Mr. Poolman is an individual will not enable him to escape if he establishes a monopoly.

Sir William Lyne - I do not think so, but the Attorney-General could speak more authoritatively on that point.

Mr WILKS - What I wish to know is whether the Minister would1 have power to suspend a man's business whilst he investigated a complaint against him ?

Mr Isaacs - The Minister would have no power in regard to the repression of monopolies - that is all left to the Court.

Mr Wilson - It is another case of "trust the Court."

Mr WILKS - We have heard that suggested previously, but it is not our duty as a Parliament to trust too much to the Court. We must make our legislation express our intentions as as possible, and. not leave the Court to set matters right by placing its own interpretation on the Statutes. I think it will be most difficult to define what is destructive to industry or detrimental to the community. I know of two monopolies in Victoria which the Attorney-General doubtless considers are of a beneficial character - I refer to the Age newspaper and Mr. " Jack" Wren. The Age has a monopoly of the political thought of Australia, and frightens the very life out of all the Victorian representatives both in this Parliament and in the State Parliament.

Mr Ronald - The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.

Mr WILKS - I have watched the course of events very closely since I have been in this House, and it appears to me that the Age has a monopoly of the political thought of Victoria. Mr. " Jack " Wren enjoys a monopoly of the "tote" business. Both these monopolies are harmful, and yet they would doubtless escape the provisions of the Bill. So successful are the proprietors of both these monopolies that I believe they are struggling to see who shall pay the highest amount of income tax. I am also credibly informed that one of these gentlemen is very much interested in a sugar refinery in New South Wales. That is why I desire to ascertain whether, in the event of that company being held to constitute a monopoly, it would come under the provisions of this measure. I would further point out that in the Bill three distinct terms are used, the first two of which designate the same thing, namely, producer, worker, and consumer. I was under the impression that all producers were workers, and I cannot understand how those terms can be" differentiated. The title of the Bill is a very attractive one. It is a measure " for the preservation of Australian industries, and for the repression of destructive monopolies." What freetrader or protectionist is not pleased to see Australian industries preserved? It does not follow, because a man is a free-trader, that he does not wish to see a single industry established within the Commonwealth. It does follow, however, that he wants to see only those industries established which are natural to the soil, and which can stand without any adventitious aids. I am not prepared to see industries established at the expense of the general public.

Mr Mauger - Nor is anybody else.

Mr Lonsdale - That is what the honorable member is after all the time, and he knows it.

Mr WILKS - I believe that what the honorable member for New England has interjected is correct.

Mr Ronald - What about the foreigner?

Mr WILKS - He can very well look after himself. In the course of the discussion upon this measure, repeated refer- «ences have been made to the operations of the Standard Oil Trust.' That company enjoys a monopoly not only in America, but in most European countries. Where it does not enjoy a monopoly in European countries, there are free ports. It is estimated' that the earnings of the Oil Trust aggregate from $50,000,000 to $75,000,000 annually. But in their advocacy of this Bill, most honorable members have admitted that the reason underlying the strength of that combination is that it has captured the means of transport in America, and has thus secured enormous rebates. That condition of affairs cannot be realized in Australia, because here the railways are State owned. The Minister has said that the shipping combine grants certain rebates to individuals who ship exclusively by its vessels. We have had no evidence to that effect, so far..

Mr Carpenter - The honorable member had better read the report of the Navigation Commission.

Sir William Lyne - He should peruse the reports of two Roval Commissions.

Mr WILKS - That is exactly what I wish to do. The reports of these Commissions should be laid upon the table of the House, before the measure is passed. The report of tha Shipping Commission ought to show whether the shipping; companies are exercising the power of making rebates, and of discriminating.

Mr Mauger - The honorable member desires delay.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member's own leader - I refer to the honorable member for Bland - said that the Bill is scarcely worth the paper upon which it is printed.

Mr Maloney - The honorable member does not understand what he said.

Mr WILKS - He certainly said that it will not be effective. If the honorable member for Melbourne believes in the nationalization of industries, he ought to pray that it will be ineffective.

Mr Maloney - We want to do something.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member wishes to carry a placard - a headline; - to the people. The Minister, in an inspired paragraph, has told us that he will amend the Bill in certain directions. I venture to say that if it should ever emerge from Committee, nobody will recognise it. Of course, its title will remain unchanged, and' that will satisfy the Minister. I think that the Opposition are performing a great service in pointing out the deficiencies of the measure. Before it is passed I should like to be afforded an opportunity to peruse the report of the Tariff Commission, so far as metals and machinery are concerned. The Minister will not care a fig for that report when once the measure has been passed.

Sir William Lyne - Yes, I will. I want an improved Tariff.

Mr WILKS - The Tariff Commission, which consists of an equal number of freetraders and protectionists, has been sifting continuously for eighteen months. It has conducted a most exhaustive investigation, which has cost the country £10,000. Here is a Bill presented for our consideration, which the report of that body may cut right into, and the Minister will not delay its passage to allow of the Commission's recommendations being placed before us. The honorable member for Perth regard's the measure as a sham.

Mr Mauger - He is a free-trader.

Mr WILKS - He is the representative of the Labour Party upon the Tariff Commission.

Mr Maloney - Oh, no.

Mr Mauger - He is the representative of the free-traders, but not of the Labour Part v.

Mr WILKS - The free-traders entertain respect for the honorable member for Perth, even if the honorable member for Melbourne Ports does not.

Mr Mauger - I did not say that I did not respect him.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member for Perth, as a labour representative, declares that the provisions of this Bill are a sham. The Tariff Commission has been inquiring into certain matters, with a view to demonstrating whether monopolies exist in Australia, whether the Tariff has been over-ridden, and whether there has been dumping. The Minister has refused' to give us an illustration of the existence of any destructive monopoly, or of dumping operations. As the Tariff Commission has been unable to present the official report of the evidence which it has taken upon these matters, I can only rely upon the news paper reports of that evidence. Those reports, so far as I can recollect," do not disclose a single case, either of the existence of a monopoly or of dumping operations in Australia.

Mr Mauger - If I show the honorable member one, will he support the Bill?

Mr WILKS - The mere fact of the honorable member showing me one would not suffice. During the course of the debate frequent reference has been made to Socialism, and it has occurred* to me that Socialism is a trust writ large. All the evils associated with trusts attach to Socialism. I am in favour of this Bill up- to a certain point, but I will not record a vote which will assist, not merely in sneaking in protection, but in drowning protection by a prohibitive Tariff.

Mr Mauger - Does the honorable member know where he is?

Mr WILKS - The honorable member for Melbourne Ports knows where he is when he is attending a meeting of those patriots of Australia - the protectionists - at 66 Bourke-street, and when they are forwarding pamphlets through the post on His Majesty's Service. He knows where he is when he is booming protection and indicting epistles on behalf of the manufacturers. The usual method of dealing with measures of this character is to refer them to a Select Committee. But the best tribunal to investigate the questions involved in the Bill is the Tariff Commission. So far the evidence taken bv that body has not disclosed the existence of a single monopoly.

Mr Hutchison - Then the Bill will not touch them.

Mr WILKS - Then why is the honorable member so anxious to pass it?

Mr Hutchison - We want to have it upon the statute-book for an emergency.

Mr WILKS - Only the other day the honorable member was one of the most cheerful in declaring his belief in the nationalization of industry.

Mr Hutchison - I believe that monopolies do exist in Australia.

Mr WILKS - Then why does not the honorable member cite a single illustration of them? Personally I am in favour of the repression of inimical monopolies.

Mr Hutchison - The shipping and tobacco combines are quite enough, to begin with.

Mr WILKS - The honorable member for Fremantle holds that the producers in

Western Australia are suffering from the effects of the rebate system.

Mr Carpenter - The producers suffer all over Australia.

Mr WILKS - We may be able to deal with the Australian shipping companies, but I should like to know from the AttorneyGeneral how we are to deal with shipping combines whose headquarters are in Great Britain. It should not be forgotten that the operations of foreign shipping combines are very much more injurious to Australia than are those, of the local shipping combinations. While I arn prepared to vote for the repression of destructive monopolies, I find that this Bill is a sham whichever way it is looked at. I believe that we have a right to ask for further information before proceeding with the Bill, and I therefore move -

That all the words after the word " be " be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words "not further proceeded with until after the Tariff Commission has presented its report on metals and machinery."

Mr Deakin - What has that to do with it?

Mr WILKS - I will be able to show the Prime Minister that this measure has a good deal to do with metals and machinery.

Mr Deakin - The Tariff Commission's report has nothing to do with this Bill.

Mr WILKS - I think that it has much to do with it. The members of the Tariff Commission have been inquiring into the conditions of industries using metals and machinery, and they comprise the largest manufacturing industries in Australia. There is no necessity to adopt the usual course of referring the Bill to a Select Committee, because, as I have said, the Tariff Commission have now before them, the information which a Select Committee on the Bill might be expected to obtain. Two members of the Commission, one a member of the Opposition, and the other a member of the Labour Party, have pleaded with the Government to allow the consideration of the Bill to be postponed until the riff Commission has reported, and only last week one of those honorable members gave us the assurance that the presentation of the Commission's report was within measurable distance. I cannot understand the anxiety of Ministers to force this measure through. We are not blocking the measure.

Mr Deakin - Honorable members opposite are trying to block it.

Mr Lonsdale - The evidence given before the Tariff Commission will show that the Bill is not needed.

Mr Deakin - How can that evidence show anything about monopolies ?

Mr Lonsdale - It does.

Mr WILKS - No action is being taken to try to block the measure. Honorable members on this side have said that they are in favour of some of' the general principles of the measure.

Mr Deakin - What has the Tariff Commission's report to do with destructive monopolies ?

Mr WILKS - It may not have so much to do with destructive monopolies as with dumping.

Mr Deakin - Only one part of this Bill deals with dumping.

Mr WILKS - The Tariff Commission's report will affect Part III. of the Bill, and may to some extent deal with the question of monopolies.

Mr Deakin - It will affect no part of the Bill.

Mr WILKS - The Tariff Commission was specifically appointed to find out whether there were anomalies in the Tariff, and whether its effects were injurious to what were described by the Attorney-General as the " languishing industries " of Australia. We do not hear that phrase from the honorable and learned gentleman now, but last session the Attorney-General waxed eloquent in asserting that the languishing industries of Victoria called for an inquiry by a Royal Commission. We have had such an inquiry, and I desire to know if the members qf the Commission have gathered evidence to show whether the in- 'dustries of Australia are languishing, and, if they are, whether they are languishing as the result of any destructive monopolies. The Prime Minister has admitted that the reports of the Tariff Commission will have a bearing upon this measure, in so far as it deals with dumping.

Mr Deakin - Only as regards normal conditions. The Tariff Commission have endeavoured to discover the normal conditions of Australian industries.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What abnormal conditions would render this Bill necessary?

Mr WILKS - I wish to know from the Minister what abnormal conditions exist to warrant the passing of such a Bill.- The returns show that of the total value of our imports of goods under the Tariff division " Metals and Machinery," the products of

Great Britain are answerable for £4,000,000. In view of that fact, are we to understand that this measure is a slap in the face for the preferential trade with Great Britain, of which we have heard so much?

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member said £3,000,000 last time.

Mr WILKS - I said £3^80,000, and in round numbers I may say that British manufactures, under the division " Metals and Machinery," represent £4,000,000. We do not ask for economic teaching in connexion with this matter.

Mr Deakin - Honorable members opposite need it.

Mr WILKS - We have read the American authorities on the subject, and the Prime Minister need not be so conceited. He is not the only man who can read, nor is he the only man who can remember what he has read. We know the evils that exist in America, and if they existed here, or were likely to arise here, we should be prepared to vote for a measure to prevent destructive monopolies. I can say, on the subject of dumping, that, while I am prepared to fight Tariff battles as a freetrader, when a Tariff has been passed into law I am, as an Australian^ prepared to see that it is given effect to. But we are asked, in this matter, to shut our eyes and swallow the Bill as it is presented. Perhaps the Prime Minister will not accept the statement that destructive monopolies are caused by people taking advantage of the privileges given them under high protective Tariffs. I submit my amendment, not as one who is an enemy of the Bill, but that we mav be placed in possession of further information on which to deal with it. Apart from the speeches of the two Ministers who are most strongly interested in the Bill, the discussion upon it has only had the effect of damning it with faint praise. Those who have spoken strongly in favour of it have admitted that they do not believe that it will be effective. I wish to see such a measure made effective. I believe in State interference in these matters to the extent of control and regulation, and I say that if this Bill passes in its present form, and proves to be a failure, the honorable members of the Labour Party will accept no responsibility for it, and will blame both the Ministry and the Opposition for carrying an ineffective measure. They will say that there will still be mon opolies, and that we must try their panacea, which is State Socialism. As one who opposes their views on that subject, I should like to see this measure made effective, and, in order to do so, we must have further information. I am fortunate in having, in one portion of my electorate, the largest engineering establishment in Australia, and it is natural that I should like to see that industry progress. In spite of that, I have on no occasion voted for protection. When I hear people speaking of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company as a monopoly because it happens to be a successful concern, I ask to be shown that its operations are hurtful, before I vote for legislation which may injuriously affect it. I know that Mori's Dock and Engineering Company have, in certain classes of work, a kind of monopoly, but it is not a hurtful monopoly. By their use of the word " destructive " in this Bill, Ministers admit that some combinations may be beneficial. I believe that the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are beneficial. This measure, as it stands, will provide absolute protection, not for the workmen nor the small men controlling Australian industries, but for the big men. It will be no disgrace to the Ministry to delay the further consideration of this Bill. I have heard it said on the best authority this evening that the report of the Tariff Commission on metals and machinery will probably be in the hands of the Prime Minister in less than a week, and surely we cannot be accused of desiring to delay the consideration of the Bill, when we ask that we shall first be supplied with the information which will be contained in that report. I point out that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne doubts whether this measure is constitutional, and he intends to move an amendment. Other amendments have been promised from honorable members on the Opposition side, and if the Bill is proceeded wish before the Tariff Commission's report on metals and machinery is presented, the consideration of those amendments in Committee may give rise to greater delay than that which might be occasioned by the amendment I have moved.

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