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Thursday, 5 July 1906

Mr McWILLIAMS (Franklin) . - I should like to have a distinct assurance from the Attorney-General that this clause does not apply to Australian trade. I understood the Attorney-General to state that it was intended to apply only to foreign trade.

Mr Isaacs - I say that it does apply to Australian trade, but does not discriminate between Australian competitors.

Mr McWILLIAMS - My point is this : There are commodities which can be produced in some States at a cost much lower than that involved in other States. For example, the boot trade of Tasmania has been very severely hit by the competition of the manufacturers of Victoria, who, owing to their larger turnover, can produce their goods at prices which the smaller manufacturers of Tasmania cannot equal.

Then take the case of butter, which is imported from New South Wales into Tasmania and sold at prices with which the local producers are not able to compete. Then, again, New South Wales can send her coal into Victoria and sell it at a price which defies all competition. We produce potatoes, fruit, and other commodities, which we are able to send to the other States, and there, owing to our climatic conditions, we are in a position to undersell the local producers. The point that I wish to raise is, " What will be considered unfair competition " ? A jury sitting in New South Wales to investigate a complaint in reference to the coal industry

Mr Watson - This provision will not be interpreted by a jury.

Mr McWILLIAMS - It must be interpreted by some tribunal.

Mr Watson - It will be construed by a Justice of the High Court.

Mr McWILLIAMS - It must be interpreted by some tribunal.

Mr Watson - By remitting the matter to a Justice of the High Court, we shall get rid of the influence of local prejudice.

Mr McWILLIAMS -I am not speaking of a case in which any local prejudice is present. What I wish to ask is, " Would it be unfair competition to sell Newcastle coal in Melbourne at a price which would result in the closing down of the Victorian collieries?" Actually, it would be.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not what theBill provides.

Mr McWILLIAMS - Under this clause, a very serious position may arise as to what constitutes unfair competition in trade as between the States. A very great deal will hinge upon that. I am not speaking of a case in which a deliberate attempt is made to knock out an industry--

Mr Isaacs - The clause only relates to cases in which an attempt is made to knock out an industry.

Mr McWILLIAMS - If Newcastle coal could be sold profitably in Melbourne for 17s. 6d. per ton, it might be distinctly disastrous to the colliery proprietors in Victoria, despite the fact that the Newcastle miners were receiving a fair wage. Would not such a condition of affairs be calculated to reduce the wages paid in the Victorian collieries? Undoubted it would. Whilst I desire to prevent anything in the nature of a destructive monopoly flourishing in our midst, I hold that we must be exceedingly careful lest we create a machine which will have a disastrous effect upon the trade between the different States.

Amendment (by Mr. Isaacs) agreed to -

That after the wont " labour " in paragraph b the words " in the Australian industry " be inserted.

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