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Thursday, 5 July 1906


Mr HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) . - I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that, during a prosecution, the business of the party proceeded against may be held up. We are told by the marginal note that clause 10 is based upon section 4 of the Sherman Act, which provides that -

The several Circuit Courts of the United States are hereby invested with jurisdiction to prevent and restrain violations of this Act, and it shall be the duty of the several district attorneys of the United States, in their respec tive districts, under the direction of the AttorneyGeneral, to institute proceedings in equity to prevent and restrain such violations. Such proceedings may be by way of petition setting forth the case, and praying that such violation shall be enjoined or otherwise prohibited. When the parties complained of shall have been duly notified of such petition, the Court shall proceed, as. scon as may be, to the hearing and determination of the case ; and pending such petition, and before final decree, the Court may at any time make such temporary restraining order or prohibition as shall be deemed just in the premises.


Mr Isaacs - That has absolutely no relation to clause 6.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - Under clause 10, goods may be held up temporarily, pending the decision of the Court. It seems to me most un-English to provide in clause 6 that competition shall be deemed: to be unfair until the contrary is proved, because in British law a man is always held to be innocent until his guilt has been proved.. Under clause 6, however, an honest trader may be compelled to prove to the satisfaction of the Court that he has not been guilty of unfair competition, and, while the case is proceeding, a temporary restraining order may be obtained by the AttorneyGeneral to hold up' his business. Honest traders are to be regarded as felons merely because they are dealing in wares which come into competition with similar goods manufactured in Australia. Unfair competition, according to the clause, is competition which, in the opinion of the jury, is " unfair in the circumstances." In what circumstances? In the circumstance, I suppose, that a man is trading in goods which come into competition with Australianmade goods. Apparently, any one who does that must, under the clause, run the risk of being proceeded against, and. if unable to prove his innocence, be fined heavily, or perhaps imprisoned, at the same time being made to suffer heavy financial loss by the impounding of his goods and the holding up of his business. Competition is to be deemed to be unfair until the contrary is proved, if the defendant is a commercial trust or agent of a commercial trust." American lawyers who have written upon this phase of the question say that the tens of thousands of persons who have put their small savings into the companies which form part of trusts are individually liable to punishment.


Mr Isaacs - Certainly not.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - The AttorneyGeneral last night amended clauses 4 and 5 so that they now read "continues to en- gage," instead of engages, in any combination. That makes the provision a little less stringent, but, nevertheless, any such person as I refer to, if he continues to be a member of a trust, will be liable to the penalty set forth in the measure,- although, perhaps, quite innocent of the operations of the trust. Competition is the very soul of business, and has achieved the comforts which we now enjoy.


Mr Isaacs - Fair competition is the soul of business.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - Competition is not unfair unless there is an attempt - as by selling goods at a loss - to destroy a trade rival. We, on this side, have said that we shall support legislation to prevent such competition.


Mr Isaacs - Then why did honorable members vote against my proposal last night ?


Mr HENRY WILLIS - We allowed a number of amendments to pass- without calling for a division, and the honorable member for Lang withdrew his amendment because the principle for which we are fighting - that there- shall not be unfair competition to the detriment of the public - has not vet been affirmed by the Committee. How could a widow who held shares in a company which was a member of a trust prove that she was not a member of that trust, if she were getting her revenues from it, however ignorant she might be of the nature of its operations? Competition is to be deemed unfair until the contrary is proved, also, if it " would probably, or does in fact, result in a lower remuneration for labour." The amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney, if it had been adopted, would have greatly improved the Bill. The Minister of Trade and Customs was informed by a merchant last week that articles essential to the manufacture of boots and shoes in Australia are imported, and are the production of a trust. If the importation is prohibited, the local boot and shoe industry will be crippled. It might be possible to establish in Melbourne a make-shift industry for the production of such articles as are now imported, but how could a local manufacturer compete successfully against the foreign manufacturer, with his larger output and his patented machinery, unless his employe's worked longer hours and received lower wages than the hours and wages of the employe" of the foreigner? But if it is impossible for a local manufacturer to compete against the goods of a foreign manufacturer without employing his men for longer hours, and paying them lower wages than obtain elsewhere, the importer of the foreign manufacturer's goods will be liable to a heavy fine, and even to imprisonment. This legislation is supposed to be necessary in the interests of Australia and of our native industries; but surely a native industry should flourish and be able to compete successfully against foreign rivals. This infamous piece of legislation has been originated by Ministers who have lived on their professed desire to keep the industries of Australia alive, and to make this a selfcontained community. Now they are taking steps which are calculated to stamp out all our industries, because they aim at preventing the introduction of the products of foreign trusts with which we cannot dispense. Paragraph c provides that competition shall be regarded as unfair "if it would probably, or does in fact, result in greatly disorganizing Australian industry and throwing workers out of employment." How is it possible for our industries to escape disorganization if the importation of the raw materials necessary for their success is prohibited ? I pointed out .last year that, although we produced! a large quantity of leather, we had not a sufficient amount of that commodity in the higher qualities to meet the demands of the public. It would not be possible for our manufacturers to get along without importing the higher classes of sole leather, such as Kron's, and that turned out by certain English manufacturers. Furthermore, our manufacturers could not dispense with French, English, and German upper leather such as is now used by them.


Mr Johnson - They would have to use in its place locally-produced barium-loaded leather.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - Unless our manufacturers have opportunities of introducing the raw material required to enable them to turn out first-class articles, our industries are bound to become disorganized, and our workers will soon be walking about vainly seeking employment. Many of the articles which are in daily use by the public will increase in price to. the extent of fully 50 per cent., and the whole community will be reduced to a state of desperation. Carnegie has pointed out that the American trusts conduct their operations in a country which has a population of 80,000,000, and that they can turn out their manufactures on a very large scale. For instance, in connexion with the process of clicking in the bootmaking trade, the operatives in Australia use a knife to perform an operation which is executed in America by means of stamps. The factories in the "United States are thereby enabled to turn out tens of thousand's of articles in the one operation. How' would it be possible for our manufacturers to compete with factories equipped upon such lines unless they had opportunities afforded to them to introduce and use up-to-date machinery? The Minister of Trade and Customs told us the other day that a certain manufacturer was permitted to use an American machine only on condition that he did not employ any English machines in the same factory. If the Bill came into operation, the manufacturer would not be permitted to introduce such a machine, and would thereby be handicapped in his operations. If up-to-date machines are not brought here, how can our mechanics improve upon them? I would! mention another case. Motors are coming' very largely into use in connexion with shipping and other enterprises, and yet under the Bill it would be impossible to introduce naphtha, benzine, or petrol, the fuel principally used for driving such motors. This prohibition of importations would be brought about merely in order to assist the kerosene industry of Australia. The general public would be compelled to use the Australian product, that could not be purified1 up to the necessary degree except at a cost probably 500 per cent, in excess of that involved in America. Therefore, it is almost inevitable that a large number of the. motors and engines referred to will be thrown out of use. Then again, industry will be much hampered if those who desire to use as fuel residual oil, which is much cheaper than coal, are unable to procure that article. Mining operations cannot now be carried on in many parts of the back country, because of the expense attaching to the use of coal as fuel. If, however, plentiful supplies of oil were available, the difficulty would be overcome, and many of our mineral deposits which are not now being exploited would yield an appreciable addition to our wealth. Under the Bill, any person who attempted to introduce oil or naphtha would be punished. Moreover, the importation of motors would be prohibited, and this would operate to the disadvantage of the local manufacturers, who would have no opportunity of keeping themselves uptodate by observing the improvements effected by American and other motor makers. Buildings have been erected and plant installed at Double Bay, on the shores of Sydney Harbor, with a view to the manufacture of motor cars, but I am afraid that that industry will never be permitted to make a start, and .that hundreds of men will be denied an opportunity to obtain profitable employment. Moreover, the members of the public, such as bakers, butchers, laundrymen, and travellers, who would be inclined to use motor cars for commercial purposes, will be prevented from doing so. The Bill will prove an insurmountable obstacle to many persons who, but for the difficulties placed in the way, would take steps to establish industries which would prove advantageous to the community as a whole. What man would run the risk of being subjected to twelve months' imprisonment and a fine of £1,000? Who would face the possibility of having his goods impounded, or forfeited, in the manner that the Bill provides for? It seems to me that this is ruinous legislation, and that the provisions of the Bill have never been properly thought nut. There is no precedent for them. If the Attorney-General had been content to work upon the lines of the legislation that has been passed in the United States, and to accept the suggestions that have been made from this side of the Chamber, the public would have been protected against injury at the hands of destructive trusts, and, at the same time, would have been left free to engage in legitimate trading operations without being hectored and worried bv a number of vexatious provisions. The Attorney-General, in his endeavours to improve on the American legislation, has lost sight of the fact that, whereas we have only 4,000,000 of people, the United States have a population of 80,000,000. The Americans are able to produce al! that they require, and are practically a self-contained community. Honorable members have only to read the speeches of Mr. Chamberlain in order to realize the great strides that America has made, and what she is doing to-day, as compared with what she was able to accomplish a few years ago.


Mr Isaacs - They would realize what is being done by the United States under protection, as compared with what was possible under free-trade conditions.


Mr HENRY WILLIS - The AttorneyGeneral is endeavouring to apply the principle of prohibition, but he should remember what prohibition has done for America. The Minister of Trade and Customs told us that the American manufacturers were making the home consumers pay from 10 per cent. to 50 per cent. more for their products than they charge to their customers in Australia. They are able to do this owing to the high protective duties to which the Attorney-General has referred'. This Bill is of a destructive character, and is no credit to the Attorney-General. I am surprised that a gentleman of his reputation should sit here and put forward such proposals, making concessions only when he is convinced against his will by members of the Opposition. The measure will inflict a grave injustice upon the very industries upon his solicitude for which the reputation of the Attorney-General has been largely based.







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