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Wednesday, 4 July 1906
Page: 1025

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I have listened to the explanations of the Attorney-General regarding this clause, but it appears to me that he only makes confusion worse confounded. I do not hesitate to say that I do not think the Attorney-General is "playing the game" quite fairly.

Mr Isaacs - I am not playing any "game" - the honorable member may be doing so.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The AttorneyGeneral may put the position which way he Likes ; it does not matter. The illustrations of the honorable gentleman are catchpenny illustrations, and nothing more. For instance', last night, when on the same matter, he spoke of the possibility of several large farmers oppressing and injuring the small farmers of Australia, whereas tonight he tells us there can be no such thing, since the farmers are all engaged in the same Australian industry.

Mr Isaacs - I did not say anything of the kind.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then, again, to-night he goes to Japan for an illustration, and imagines the possibility of Japanese coal being poured into Australia to the destruction of the coal industry. When the Attorney-General is so hard up for illustrations - when he has to rake creation through to find a possible case, of injury, it is time we stopped legislating for improbable and impossible cases. If that is the whole aim of the Bill, it becomes increasingly clear that we are not ripe for such drastic, far-reaching proposals. I suspect, however, that the real intention behind the clause is that which has been blurted out so bluntly by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who says that the reason for this proposal is a desire to get work here, and keep it here.

Mr Mauger - That is good cause. Does the honorable member object?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) -Why does not the honorable member's leader have the candour to put that reason in the forefront of the Bill? Why has not the AttorneyGeneral the candour and frankness to say that this is a fiscal proposal and nothing more?

Mr Mauger - It is not a fiscal proposal ; it is a provision,plus a fiscal proposal.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My reading of the clause is that it is for the purpose of dealing with Inter-State monopolies. According to the. Attorney-General to-night, there can, under this clause, be no InterState monopoly of a deleterious kind to be visited by penalties. For instance, supposing Mr. McKay should enter into a combination within Australia, and chase all the other Australian implement makers out of business, he would not be injuring an Australian industry. He really would be only grouping, combining, and consolidating the industry, according to the reading which the Attorney-General has given to-night. My impression is that this clause is intended to relate to sections of the same industry operating antagonistically in the various States. I understood from the beginning that it was the intention of the Government to provide for monopolies within Australia - that is, for Australian monopolies as well as for outside and foreign monopolies.

Mr Isaacs - So far as we could, and as the Constitution allows.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It appears to me that the complication has arisen from copying the American trust legislation, which aims at the restriction of trusts within America. It would have beenvery much better if we had had two Bills, if that is the object of the Government - a Bill! to repress trusts in Australia, and a Bill torepress foreign trusts and their depredations in Australia. The two objects should,. I think, be kept distinct.

Mr Isaacs - The House gave a very distinct expression of opinion last session that we should make one Bill cover as much ground as we could.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The trouble is that, when we come to inquire as to whether the Bill does cover Australian ground,, the illustrations which the Attorney-General gives us seem to show the impossibility of such trusts occurring. Supposing some harvester maker, or some enterprising coal proprietor, in Australia, should, by reason of having increased capital at his back - and that is a point the Attorney-General made much of in his explanation to-night,, when he expressed a wish to prevent possible depredations by large aggregations of capital - make up his mind to clear away all competition and create an Australian monopoly, then, according to the AttorneyGeneral, there would still be an Australian trade, and the capitalist could not be touched under this clause.

Mr Isaacs - He is struck at by other clauses in the same Bill. He would not be allowed to go on as he liked,


Mr Isaacs - Clauses 7 and 8 - under clause 7 any individual person who does Inter-State trade, and under clause 8 a corporation which does trade, whether in a State or beyond a State.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is the same difficulty there.

Mr Isaacs - Every possible case of monopoly or unfair dealing that it is possible for us to deal with under the Constitution we have dealt with. We have shown no favour to any one.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I quite believe the honorable gentleman, but his illustrations are unfortunate.

Mr Isaacs - I did . not select the illustrations. I simply dealt with those put before me.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The interpretation of the Attorney-General is, as I understand it, that this clause has not to dowith competing sections of Australian industry, but has regard to Australian industry as a whole.

Mr Isaacs - That is paragraph b of clause 4.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. Really, then, it seems to me to be a clause which will encourage rather than repress Austialian monopolies.

Mr Isaacs - That is a fair way of dealing with it, but it is different from the other position put by the honorable member.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If Australian industry as a whole has to be regarded, and not a section, no matter how remotely located, of some particular industry, it seems to me to be a splendid proposal for building up and protecting Australian monopolies, rather than for preventing them.

Mr Isaacs - That would be very good criticism if we had not the clauses 7 and 8 in the Bill.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not see that clauses 7 and 8 operate to the contrary.

Mr Isaacs - They strike against any monopolies.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They deal with monopolies of Inter-State trade or external trade, and with monopolies by corporations. Well, a man or a corporation might eliminate all competition from many of the industries of Australia, and so long as he sold his goods at a fair price, and paid fair wages for labour- as every trust in the world to-day is doing - he could not, according to the terms of the Bill, be touched at all, simply because there would be no " detriment of the public. " That phrase, " detriment of the public," appears to me to be as wide as it is possible to make it. In Australia it is hardly possible to conceive of a huge aggregation of wealth for the purpose of controlling industries operating in any such way as it is possible for trusts to operate in the United States. There, as is well known, the means of transportation are the mainstay of the monopolies. It is easily possible to conceive, as we are told is the case in connexion with shipping on the coast, of a trade being controlled and grouped without there being any detriment to the public, whilst at the same time there is something in the nature of a; monopoly to the extent of controlling the whole of the operations of the trade within the Commonwealth. According to the Attorney-General, such a monopoly could not be touched under the clauses of this Bill, for the simple reason that an Australian in dustry must be regarded as a whole. Will the Attorney- General say that this Bill would take no account of a possible sectional disorganization that went on while this process of incorporation was going forward ? Suppose the coal industry in New South Wales should, by reason; of some extraordinary facilities., greater capital and power of combination, combine to knock out the coal industry of Victoria. Would not this Bill apply to a case like that? According to the interpretation of the AttorneyGeneral, it would not, because the industry is to be regarded as one.

Mr Isaacs - This paragraph would not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would the Bill at all ? I do not see that it would.

Mr Isaacs - Wait until we come to clauses 7 and 8. Then we shall see.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The explana tion of the Attorney -General, so far as I can see, only shows the necessity of eliminating this provision since it can have no possible effect, except a purely fiscal effect, which can be readily and completely covered in any Tariff proposals which the Government may wish to bring forward. The honorable and learned gentleman talked of preserving genuine, valuable industries. That, again, was a very wide and vague statement to make. What are "genuine, valuable industries"? Who would decide that? Everything would depend upon thepointof view. For instance, I understand that the Government contemplate bringing down a scheme for the encouragement of Australian industries. When that scheme comes before this House for consideration there will be the largest possible divergence of view as to whether those industries are worth cultivating in Australia. For instance, there are the cotton industry, the coffee industry, the silk industry, and many others. They are what may be called tropical industries. They may be valuable and. genuine. Theymay be important from one point of view. Some honorable members may regard them as very important industries, but others may think that they, are exotic, and that we ought not to attempt to establish them in Australia, where our wage rates and industrial conditions are at so high a level. I submit that the Attorney -General ought to give us further illustrations of the effect of this provision, or should, as has been suggested, consent to its excision from the

Bill as being totally unnecessary ; especially as we have subsequent clauses which cover every possible scheme or machination for the destruction of Australian industries by means of trustification, and the evils attendant thereupon.

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