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Thursday, 12 July 1906

Mr KELLY (Wentworth) . - It seems to me, in considering this clause, that if, taking the contention of the Opposition as correct, we assume that what is meant by " unfair competition " is " successful " competition, and then follow out the effect, we shall find that " the in-, tent " to which the Attorney-General has referred is no safeguard whatsoever. Any one in the mother country competing with a protected industry in Australia, and finding that his yearly sales in this country were becoming greater and greater, must, if he were a man of ordinary common sense, realize that he was detrimentally affecting the productions of the Australian protected industry with which he competed. He must realize that the goods in that industry were being no longer produced, or were being withdrawn from the market, or were being sold at a loss, or were being produced at an inadequate remuneration) for labour, whenever His sales were becoming greater, that he was injuring the industry, and, therefore, according to this Bill, was guilty of "unfair competition." In that case, what" has the Judge to do? It is his duty to investigate and determine whether the imported goods are being imported with the "intention aforesaid." I have just shown that if the importer is successful, he must be aware that he is guilty of what this Bill defines as "unfair competition." Therefore I say that the word " intent " in the Bill, on which the Attorney-General has dwelt, is absolutely no safeguard against abuse. If we wish absolutely to prohibit importations from abroad that might compete with some protected industry, the most open and straightforward method is to pass a law absolutely prohibiting the importation of the goods in question. At present we are endeavouring to prohibit importations by a surreptitious underhand method. We are describing as " unfair competition " what is simply successful competition. We are preventing the home manufacturer in Great Britain, under penalties, from dealing in' our markets. In attempting in this way_ to strike at successful competition, we are simply guilty of a mean sham. When we sell our produce cheaper in England than we sell it in this country, is not that " un fair competition" within the meaning of this Bill ? When we grow wheat on our cheaper lands, "and under our better climatic conditions, and send that wheat under cheap freights over our local railways and over the seas, and when we know that by so competing we very detrimentally affect the home grower of wheat, are we not guilty, according to our own definition, of " unfair competition " ? But we claim that that is very successful and legitimate trade. I agree that it is. But if it is legitimate for us to do these things, ought we not to say that it is equally legitimate for those at the other end of- the world? If we wish to stop them from competing in our markets, why, in the name of common sense, do we not say, " We are not going to trick with words; we are not going to employ legal quibbles; we shall absolutely prevent your' products from reaching our shores ; we believe that your trade is successful ; we do not want it to be successful ; we are going to stop it in a straightforward, honest way." The only antidote for this treatment which we propose to mete out to English traders is for Great Britain to do the same thing to us. Then we should crawl down, and the producers of Australia would soon be looking for the omniscient legislators who are responsible for this Bill, who would be searching for all the hollow logs thev could find. If anything 'could be described as particularly unworthy in the speeches or thoughts of the Minister of Trade and Customs, it was the suggestion made by him that we should put aside all moral considerations because of the necessities of the dear old mother country. The Minister told us that the whole world knew that, willy-nilly, Great Britain had to take our produce, and he seemed to think that that was a sufficient answer to the arguments of the honorable member for North Sydney.

Mr Fisher - Why has Great Britain to take it?

Mr KELLY - Because she wants it. . We know that she wants it. But the mere fact that she has to take it,, and that it is to her interest to take it, is no reason why we should deal unfairly with English traders.

Mr Fisher - She takes it because she can do no better, just as we should do.

Mr KELLY - I am confessing that she has to take it. But do the national necessities of Great Britain furnish a reason why we should be unjust to her? Surely if any portion of the world is worthy of our love and our consideration it is the mother country. I do not think there is a man in this Chamber who would have the temerity to stand on any platform before his constituents and preach .a policy of meanness against the. United Kingdom. If we are afraid to preach a policy of open meanness to the mother country, honorable members ought .not to do mean things towards her in a surreptitious way. The statement to which' I have referred was not worthy either of the Minister of Trade and Customs or of this Chamber.

Mr Fisher - Do we differentiate against Great Britain?

Mr KELLY - We are declaring proper and fair operations of trade to be unfair, whilst claiming that our own similar operations are perfectly proper.

Mr Fisher - The honorable member would advance his arguments better if he left out those sentimental expressions.

Mr KELLY - I hope that the deputy leader of the Labour Party will not refer to any one's love of the mother country' as a mere sentimental idea. I can assure him that so far as honorable members on this side are concerned our love for the mother country is far deeper than a mere sentiment. I do not think it will help the great party which he so ably leads if he were to make it known to the people of Australia that he regards his love of the Imperial connexion or the great people from whom we are sprung as a mere senti-' ment. I do not think that any one who looks at the sub-clause in this straightforward way will think that- it should be permitted to remain. If it is excised the clause will still be effective. The only difference will be that we shall be absolutely trusting the Court instead of imposing restrictions thereon. I think -it would be adequate for all its purpose if the first part of clause 14 were made to read as follows: - '

For the purposes of this part of the Act competition shall be deemed to be unfair if the means adopted by the person importing or selling the imported goods are, in the opinion of the Comptroller-General or the Justice, as the case may be, unfair in the circumstances.

That, I think, would meet the whole case, and, therefore, I heartily support the amendment.

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