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Wednesday, 4 July 1906
Page: 988

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I have listened to the explanation of the Minister, and, while he may be given credit for the best intentions in the world, it is incumbent on us to take care that those intentions shall not fail to be carried out when the Bill is passed. The Minister talks in quite a fair way about octopus monopolies and trusts ; but this clause goes much further. The honorable gentleman may have no present intention of coming into conflict with any of the ordinary trading concerns of this country, but, as the clause is framed, it appears to me to be inevitable that friction and trouble will arise in the common occupations of Australians. That is what we want particularly to avoid ; and any statement as to the intentions of the Minister cannot, I am afraid, be accepted by the Committee as a safeguard. I say frankly that recent experience makes us a little bit wary of the Minister. We remember, for instance, the attitude of the honorable gentleman, and also of the Attorney-General, on the Commerce Bill. We now find the Minister of Trade and Customs taking a course directly contrary to statements he made when that Bill was going through Committee. As a result of a great deal of agitation and complaint, the Minister has modified his regulations, and, I understand, has made them of a more reasonable character. But he could very readily, as he has declared, have pursued a drastic course under the terms of the Commerce Act; although, when the measure was going through Committee, he expressed himself as having no such intention or purpose. And so with the Bill before us. The Minister's intentions, however good theymay be at the present time, may melt as the mist before the rising sun, if some interested individual in the ordinary administration of the Department comes before him with a complaint. A case may then be made out under the Bill which will require the Minister to act, if the law is not to be a dead letter. Therefore, it isto the terms and provisions of the law, irrespective altogether of the intentions and wishes of the Minister, that we have to look in discussing this matter in detail. I venture to say, with the greatest possible deference to the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, that the words " Australian industry " do not mean an industry the boundaries of which are coterminus with the boundaries of Australia.

Mr Higgins - I have not gone so far as that.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understood the honorable and learned gentleman to say that "Australian industry" in this clause evidently means an industry as a whole.

Mr Higgins - Yes, as a whole; but it must be an Australian industry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As distinct from a State industry, for instance?

Mr Higgins - No ; I have not gone so far as that - I mean as against a foreign industry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The words " Australian industry " are, I take it, conditioned by the term " in relation totrade and commerce among the States."

Mr Isaacs - They mean an Australian industry as contra-distinguished from a non-Australian industry - a foreign in dustry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; but the whole troublemay arise as between two Australian industries operating within Aus tralia.

Mr Isaacs - Two distinct Australian industries.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Two distinct phases of the sameindustry.

Mr Higgins - Anindustry would not be hit by the Bill under such circumstances.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Let me give honorable members an illustration of what I mean.

Mr Isaacs - The honorable member means two distinct branches of the same industry ?

Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- Yes; If I said phases, I meant branches. For instance, it is known that in Victoria the State Government pay a bonus on the carriage of coalfrom Korumburra to Melbourne. What would happen if Messrs. J. and A. Brown,

Mr Watkins - A Royal Commission has just recommended that the State Government shall not give less than 12s. 6d. a ton for Victorian coal.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In this instance, we have a combination on the, part of the State Government of Victoria and the Korumburra coal-mine proprietors, involving a bonus on the carriage of coal, and the making of such transport arrangements, as may enable the Victorian coal-owners to knock Messrs. J. and A. Brown outof the Melbourne market. That, surely, is a combination clearly intended to injure another Australian coal industry.

Mr Isaacs - No; they are Australian competitors in the same industry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the same thing, surely.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister gave a similar illustration when he said that two sets of harvestermakers could be dealt with.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The whole purpose of the trust legislation of America is, I take it, to prevent trusts wiping out all competitors in America by unjust and unfair means.

Mr Isaacs - There is a monopoly clause later on in the Bill.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But this clause has the same operation.

Mr Isaacs - No.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This clause has the same phraseology.

Mr Isaacs - They are two different clauses for differentpurposes. In the case put by the honorable member, if it were intended to create a monopoly, those concerned would be hit by the Bill, but not by this particular clause.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral may speak of " monopoly " if he likes, but the thing is the same in both instances - both come under the penal clauses of the Bill.

Mr Isaacs - But not under this clause.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Bill provides that if anything of the kind is done there may be a penalty of £500, and that

Mr Isaacs - That does not fall within sub-clause b of clause 4.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That may be; at any rate, there is a design, by means of special concessions, which mean unfair competition, to destroy or injure another industry in Australia.

Mr Isaacs - Another industry - no.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Unquestionably, it is a distinct and separate industry operating in another State.

Mr Kelly - The Victorian Government fix cheaper freight for Victorian coal.

Mr Watson - That ought not to affect anybody else engaged in the same industry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the point with which I am dealing. I say that so long as there are these special freights, the competition between the coal owners of New South Wales and the coal owners , of Victoria is on an unfair basis.

Mr Isaacs - There are special rates on New South Wales lines.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That does not make special rates fair.

Mr Isaacs - I know that.

Sir William Lyne - All this would have beensettled long ago if the honorable member for Parramatta had not blocked the appointment of an Inter-State Commission.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Who blocked the appointment of an Inter-State Commission ? So far as I know, I never spoke on the Inter-State Commission Bill. Another case is afforded in that of the Newcastle coal mines and the Lithgow coal mines. It costs, I believe, about 6s. a: ton to bring coal from Lithgow to Sydney. Let us say that the Newcastle mineowners have private railways and steamers of their own, and are thus enabled to place the coal on the market in Sydney in such a way as to prevent the possibility of competition from Lithgow. Clearly that is unfair competition.

Mr Watkins - Why is that competition unfair ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Anything is unfair which tends to lower wage rates - which tends to disorganize industry; that is according to the definition of unfairness under the Bill. The honorable member for Newcastle spoke of an intention to commit wrong - but what is wrong under the Bill ? A wrong is anything that succeeds in the way of competition - because it succeeds, it is wrong, and the Bill challenges it on that account. This Bill sets up new crimes in our calendar. Acts which are necessary, and which may be the very essence of progress, may be regarded as wrong under the Bill; and, because they mean progress, and, perhaps, temporary dislocation, they must be challenged and investigated.

Mr Watson - I thought the honorable member's party was in favour of regulating trusts ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - May I remind the honorable member that he is guilty of tedious repetition?

Mr Watson - I dare say it is uncomfortable to the honorable member to have such a reminder.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member for Bland has made the same interjection about twelve times.

Mr Watson - About twice. I think.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Tedious repetition is against the Standing Orders, and, therefore, I suggest that the honorable member should say something original and fresh. Let us take the question of harvesters. We were told in the House a little while ago - I do not know with what truth - that Mr. McKay had actually changed the locality' of his works, and gone beyond the jurisdiction of the factory laws and Wages Boards of Victoria. Would Mr. McKay, under these circumstances, not be able to bring unfair competition to bear, as compared with an industry the conductors of which observed the factory laws and the decisions of the wages boards ?

Mr Hutchison - No; because Mr. McKay would still be under the factory laws which do not apply to wages.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But suppose a competitor came to the Minister, and said that in consequence of Mr. McKay having changed his scene of operations, the latter was in a position to compete unfairly.

Mr Hutchison - No; the other man could move his business if he chose.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Maybe he could, but maybe he could not. Such a man might not have the necessary capital at his back ; and he could point out that his industry had become disorganized in consequence of

Mr. McKay'saction. Having to observe fresh conditions, and not having sufficient capital at his back to enable him to make changes in his mode of operations, he would practically be shut up. That is unfair competition under this Bill. That is disorganization of industry under this Bill. That is intent to injure competitors under this Bill. And so we find that the simplest operations of trade come under this sweeping clause. Then, again, the Judge in the determination of these matters has to have regard to " Producers, workers, and consumers." How is he going to have regard to the whole three of them? What may be in the interests of the consumer may be against the interest of the producer and of the worker. For instance, the higher you put up the price to the consumer the more wages, it may be, the employe gets, and the greater is the profit of the producer. What, therefore, may be to the interest of the producer and the worker may be quite against the interest of the consumer. Is the Judge to shake these things together and decide them, and by a compromise strike a balance between them ? I observe, of course, that the consumer comes last in point, of consideration in connexion with all these matters.

Mr Isaacs - Is not that the natural order.? You cannot consume a thing before you have produced it, can you?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is not the worker a producer? Why that distinction at all?

Mr Isaacs - You have first the producer or the employer, then the worker, then the consumer. Is not that the natural order ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not see a distinction between a producer and a worker. I take it that a man cannot produce unless he works either with his hands or with his brain. I am afraid that this classification would not stand any economic test. I shall be glad to hear the honorable member for Bland on this fine distinction between producers and workers. He, of course, claims - it is one of his favorite doctrines - that 80 per cent, of the people are workers. I do not know where the distinction begins, and why it is made at all between producers and workers. There is a distinction, intelligible enough, between proprietors, or employers, and employes, but there is no such distinction that. I know of - no intelligible distinction - between pro, ducers and workers. Then there is the consumer. As I have said, what may be to the interest of the worker may be against the interest of the consumer ; and upon what principle is the Judge to proceed in determining whether there has been a. design to interfere with and disorganize an industry to the " detriment of the public " and " in restraint of trade"?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Members of Parliament may . differ as to what are the interests of the consumer.

Mr Mauger - Is not every worker a consumer? How can we separate producers and consumers?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member knows that there are distinctions which we observe - rough-and-ready distinctions and classifications of things - that do not always conform to the strict laws of political economy. I suppose this is one of them. It strikes me as being very rough and very ready to make a distinction between producers and workers. At any rate the point I should like to make is this - if Ministers only seek to clip the claws of a few large octopus combinations-

Mr Isaacs - An octopus would ' not have claws !

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - To cut away the suckers of these octopus combinations, shall I say ; to cut away their grip .; if he simply contemplates dealing with a few of these large monopolistic concerns, would not paragraph a cover all that he wants to do?

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member talks long enough to cover twenty clauses.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not spoken for a quarter of an hour.

Sir William Lyne - It is a waste of time.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I call your attention, Mr, Chairman, to the impertinent remark made by the Minister to me. It may appear to him to be a waste of time to discuss this Bill, seeing that he does not understand a word of it. Any one who endeavours to get a little enlightenment from him is simply met with these- rude, impertinent interruptions.

Mr Mauger - What did he say?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What is he always saying? He behaves as though he knows nothing about the Bill, and thinks that another who isinquiring about it. knows nothing about it either.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member does not seem to know much, about the Bill.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister does not know anything about it. I repeat that if the Government wishes to deal with a few of these possible monopolies in Australia, paragraph a will cover the intention in that respect, and that this matter of unfair, internal competition may very well be left to itself, upon the Continent of Australia, at any rate. If it is desired to deal with these matters as they affect other countries than our own, then the Tariff is the proper medium, and not a Bill of this kind.

Mr Isaacs - The Tariff is only for ordinary operations, but this Bill is for very extraordinary operations.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not see that any extraordinary operation is contemplated in paragraph b. It deals only with ordinary competition taking place between the industries of one State, itmay be, and those of another.

Mr Isaacs - Surely the honorable member will admit that it is not an ordinary operation to attempt to destroy an industry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It all depends. If the honorable gentleman starts out to destroy an industry, and does it by employing better methods, better machinery, and better skill - possibly by a patent of his own - is there anything wrong in destruction of that kind ? '

Mr Isaacs - That would be improving an industry.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Competition of that kind is the very essence of all industrial progress.

Mr Isaacs - An industry would be improved under those circumstances.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know that the industry would be improved in the broadest sense, but at the same time the method would disorganize the people engaged, who did not happen to have the advantage of these new and special methods. It would tend to put men out of work temporarily. It would dislocate the operations of an industry which was not operating upon the same skilful plane. But destruction of that kind is of the very essence of progress, and there could be no progress without it. If it were not for that kind of destruction - the destruction of old, obsolete methods' - we should be just where the Chinamen are, going round cycle after cycle, century after century, in the same old beaten track. Every new enterprise, every new machine, every new method of competition, every new discovery of science, means a dislocation of industry as it exists to-day. There must always be disorganization while the process of readjustment is going on. But. under this Bill, even that process of readjustment would be open to be challenged, and would be subject to investigation by a Judge and jury, with penalties to be imposed as the Judge may determine. And, after all, a very great deal will depend upon the point of view of the- Judge in relation to these industrial matters. Judges are not perfect beings. They can only do their best. They only guarantee disinterestedness and impartiality. They do not guarantee knowledge of superior industrial skill. Therefore, there is infinite danger surrounding the ordinary occupations of a country under paragraph b, as drawn by Ministers. I say again that, if they merely want to indict the big monopolistic trusts, paragraph a is quite sufficient for the purpose. " Restraint of trade," " detriment of the public " - those terms are wide enough to cover everything relating to monopolies, relating to the interests of consumers, and relating to the interests of workers and producers. Paragraph i£ is intended to meet a different class of conditions altogether. It is intended, I am afraid, to affect the ordinary competitive operations of business and trade, no matter how fairly they may be conducted. This Bill, I repeat, sets up success as a synonym for injury and unlawfulness. It indicts success as such, and challenges it to prove its right to be success, and its right to exist. We shall have a new class of offences created under this Bill. Therefore, the more strictly we can limit the operations of the measure, so as to be sure that it will only touch those big enterprises at which we profess to aim, the more clearly, I take it, we shall be in accord with the dictates of common-sense, and. as the Minister says, the more clearly we shall approach what he intends the operation of this Bill to be.

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