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Wednesday, 11 July 1906

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) .- I am heartily in accord with the amendment so ably proposed by the honorable member for North Sydney. Any one who listened to the honorable member must have recognised the full force of his proposal. Some honorable members might possibly cavil at the fact that a Minister other than the one in charge of the Bill replied to the arguments of the honorable member. For my part, however, I recognise the peculiar difficulties attaching to the position of the Minister of Trade and Customs in this con nexion. The amendmentis practically an invitation to the Government to prove the value of their protestations in favour of preferential trade. For some reason or other, the Minister of Trade and Customs was not prepared to accept the proposal, but, at the same time, he found it inexpedient to actively oppose it. I can picture to myself the visions which must have floated before the imagination of the Minister of Trade and Customs - visions of the great audiences which he has recently addressed upon the question of preferential trade, and remembrances of the rhetoric which he employed. I can understand the very natural difficulty he would have felt in rising to resist the amendment. He preferred to leave one of his colleagues to shoulder his responsibilities in that regard. What was more fitting and proper than that the Attorney-General should take upon himself to reply on behalf of the Minister of Trade and Customs? He is always at the Minister's elbow helping him out of his difficulties.

Mr Isaacs - He is never in difficulties.

Mr KELLY - The Attorney-General is always here to look after the Minister of Trade and Customs, who has sadly required his fostering care. Unlike other Ministers, the Attorney-General, having been in such close touch with the members of the Labour Party, has never traded in Imperial sentiments, and was therefore the better able to consistently oppose the amendment. While complimenting the Government upon their choice of a mouthpiece, I cannot congratulate them upon the special pleading to which the AttorneyGeneral treated us. I use the term advisedly, and in no offensive sense. The honorable member for North. Sydney had urged the acceptance of the amendment upon the ground of gratitude to the mother country. He had urged it in the name of preferential trade, and he had cited a precedent to strengthen an already overwhelming case.

Mr Wilks - Do not forget the Treasurer ?

Mr KELLY - I shall deal with the right honorable gentleman shortly. Did the Attorney-General, in his reply, show that the precedent established in New Zealand is one which is inapplicable in this case? Did he endeavour to prove that the NewZealand situation was in any way _ different - so far as the experience of dumping is concerned - from the Australian situation? He did not. It would have been futile for him to attempt to do so, because throughout the whole of this discussion the Minister of Trade and Customs has accepted it as an axiom that if dumping of a certain character is taking place in New Zealand, dumping of a similar nature is occurring in Australia. He has all along urged that the precautions which have been adopted in New Zealand should be observed in Australia. That being so, the Attorney-General, no doubt, felt that it would be futile for him to attempt to prove that this great principle which New Zealand has incorporated in her legislation - the principle of non-interference with British trade - should not be likewise incorporated in this measure, because the cases were not upon all-fours. Instead of endeavouring to answer the question raised in this connexion the Attorney-General indulged in a piece of " special pleading," and I use that term advisedly. The Bill, the honorable and learned gentleman said, is intended to deal with criminals, and he asked members of the Opposition - " Do you think that British traders are criminals, seeing that you wish to exclude them from its operation " ? That was the main point of his speech last night. He said that the Bill was intended to prevent cri:minal dealings in trade.

Mr Isaacs - I did not say "criminal."

Mr KELLY - I understood the AttorneyGeneral to use a phrase of that kind. If, however, he assures me that he did not, I am quite prepared to accept his statement.

Mr Isaacs - I do not think that I did. As far as I can recollect, I said that the central purpose of clause 1 5 was to prevent the intentional destruction or injury of Australian industries.

Mr Wilks - The honorable and ] earned gentleman used the term "criminal" in his excitement, and he is now ashamed of having done so.

Mr KELLY - Let us take it, the AttorneyGeneral pointed out that the Bill is intended to prevent destructive competition, with Australian industries.

Mr Isaacs - That- part of the Bill.

Mr KELLY - Exactly. He then proceeded to ask whether we imagined that British traders were so reprehensible that in their trade relations with Australia' they had that object in view.

Mr Isaacs - I did not say so.

Mr KELLY - The Attorney-General! will find that statement in his speech.

Mr Isaacs - I do not think so, but I have not seen the Hansard proofs of my speech.

Mr KELLY - The Attorney-General will find that the facts are as I have stated. The scope of this Bill goes far beyond the question of the development of trade by improper means. However, I shall defer consideration of that matter for a moment, and I shall deal now with the new question which has been raised' by the Attorney-General. He declares that the Bill is intended to prevent destructive competition with Australian industry. Was not the New Zealand Act designed for the same purpose?

Mr Isaacs - I said " intentional " destruction or injury.

Mr KELLY - Exactly. Is not that the design of the New Zealand legislation which we are now asked to copy in yet another respect by the honorable member for North Sydney? That legislation is upon all fours with the amendment. The New Zealand legislation, I repeat, contains a safeguard of exactly the same nature as does the amendment under consideration. That fact fully answers the statement of the Attorney-General. If he quotes New Zealand as a precedent in the one case he must accept it as a precedent in the other. Of course, the Bill was not devised to deal with criminals. The Attorney-General does not now say that it was.

Mr Isaacs - Not this part of the Bill.

Mr KELLY - Exactly. This part of the Bill is designed to prevent intentional' " unfair competition " with Australian industries.

Mr Wilson - Will the AttorneyGeneral agree to the insertion of the word "intentional" in the Bill?

Mr Isaacs - It is in the measure already.

Mr Wilks - "Avowedly" is the word which should be used.

Mr KELLY - Under the provisions of the Bill what constitutes "unfair competition" ? Clause 14 provides that -

Competition shall be deemed to be unfair if, under ordinary circumstances of trade, it would probably lead to the Australian goods being either withdrawn from the market, or s.old :.t a loss unless produced at a lower remuneration for labour.

I take it that the measure is aimed not so much at unfair competition in the ordinary sense of the term as at successful competition. I have just quoted clause 14, and I now wish to point out that absolutely all competition from without must necessarily affect, in some way or other, industries within Australia. Any competition from without can be successful only !at the expense of some similar competing industry within Australia, irrespective df whether it be intentionally or unintentionally unfair competition with that industry. As the Bill is drafted, I hold that the Judge who has to decide questions relating to " unfair competition " will undeniably have to determine that unfair competition exists in all cases where competition has been successful, because, under the provisions of the measure, successful competition is unfair competition. In such a case it is clear that when the AttorneyGeneral wishes us to believe that it is wrong for any one to compete " unfairly " with Australian industries, he would have us believe that it is wrong for any of our kin over sea to be successful in competition with us. If it be criminal to beat one's competitors in the open market, it is criminal even for the Attorney-General to deprive many a poorer barrister of his due proportion of briefs in the Victorian Courts. The same argument might be applied to him or to anybody else pursuing his ordinary avocation, as he and his party wish to apply to the trading community generally. This is not a Bill to prevent criminal interference with Australian industry. Upon the face of it, it is a Bill to prevent successful competition with Australian industry. It is the duty of the Government to look the position fairly in the face. The honorable member for North. Sydney wishes us to continue trading with our kindred oversea. He appeals to our sentiment, to our sense of gratitude and of fair play. He reminds us of what we owe to the mother country. He recalls that the reason why we have been free to develop our territory, without any restraint save the dictates of our own consciences, the reason why we have never heard a shot fired 'in anger, the reason why we, a mere handful of people, are able to maintain, our exclusive right to one of the richest countries in the world, is to be found in the strong right arm of the motherland. In reminding us of these things he has pleaded in a way which I think no honorable member can overlook. He has urged US to recollect our obligations to the mother country, and I think it would be to our everlasting shame, if this Committee showed itself unresponsive in that connexion. We have heard a great deal of talk - and I expect that we shall1 hear more during the course of this discussion - regarding the protection which we have enjoyed all these years at the hands of the mother country. Upon what is that protection based? Undoubtedly it is based upon the commercial activity of the people of the United Kingdom. Great Britain's power and might, to which we owe so much, are based upon the commercial supremacy of the British people. That being so, it is obviously to our own interests to see that nothing which we do shall be aimed at the basis of that power. It is to our own interests to see that British industry shall be - so far as we can make it - successful, and to insure that no successful British industry shall be penalized. That is all that the honorable member for North Sydney contends for in his amendment. In the past, the Government have made the welkin ring with their eloquence upon, the preferential trade question. They have appealed to our Imperial sentiments and to our Australian loyalty. When he was recently in London the Treasurer took as the keynote of all his discourses the phrase " One people one destiny." Will the right honorable gentleman accept the chance which we offer him to- day of proving the value of his protestations?

Sir John Forrest - But under the Bill the British trader must be guilty of intent to destroy or injure Australian industries.

Mr KELLY - Will the Treasurer refuse to shelter himself behind any quibbles ?

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why not assume that the British trader is honorable in his dealings ?

Mr Isaacs - We do.

Mr KELLY - Will the Treasurer prove himself /the same Imperialist now, when his office may depend upon his action, that he proved himself in England when seeking merely the plaudits of the crowd ?

Sir John Forrest - That is a dirty insinuation. Some people ought to be taught manners. They do not know how to behave themselves.

Mr KELLY - The Treasurer made the phrase " One people one destiny " the keynote of all his discourses in England. We now give him the chance to prove the value of his protestations. Will he accept the challenge? I am afraid that he finds it inconvenient to answer my very plain question. I presume that he will follow the precedent which he has so often set us, of refusing to vacate the comfortable surroundings of the Treasury Benches at the expense of his principles. I would remind the Committee that the phrase, " One flag, one people, _ and one trade " was the basis of the appeal made by the Prime Minister throughout the length and breadth of Australia at the last general elections.


Mr KELLY - The Prime Minister and his party were elected on the platform of " fiscal peace, preferential trade, and loyalty to the Empire." They have flung overboard " fiscal peace "-

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