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Friday, 13 July 1906

Mr LONSDALE (New England) . - I must admit at once that this amendment, no matter how si 1 1 v it may be, is the logical outcome of the Bill. As the measure proposes not only to protect the manufacturer, but as the hypocritical pretence behind it is that it is intended also to protect the worker and consumer, we should take care that the consumer is effectually protected. I do not believe in this kind of legislation, but if, on the one side, we are going to prevent competition, then we ought to fix what is a fair price, we should take care of the other side also. I do not quite agree with the terms of the amendment, which, apparently, fixes the prices of imported goods. I suggest that the price inside at which all manufactured goods are to be sold should be fixed. We should prevent manufacturers from getting, by the aid of this Bill, increased prices. Why should we put it in the power of manufacturers to obtain just what prices they like ? The Minister, on a former occasion, has accepted evidence from competitors as to the price of goods, and, on cx parte statements, has increased the price for Customs purposes. We should clip his angelic wings a little, and should, at any rate. prevent that kind of thing occurring in "future. When prices have to be fixed, the matter should come before Parliament. And if we can fix the price of goods by means of a duty, or in any other way, why should we not fix it positively ? Why should not a Court, where evidence could be taken from all sides, have the right to fix the price?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Would the honorable member have the Court fixing the price to-day and changing it to-morrow ?

Mr LONSDALE - Yes. Let us keep the Justice sitting to fix the price every day. I am against this kind of legislation, because, it is 'absolutely absurd. The pretence is that the :Bill is intended to help the consumers and workers. We have inserted a provision to help' the workers, and why should we not insert a provision to prevent manufacturers from charging extreme prices ? The particular friends of the Minister of Trade and Customs, in whose interest the Bill has been introduced, could insist upon the price of harvesters being kept at the very highest point. Whyshould we not say to these manufacturers, " You must sell your goods at a certain price, or you shall not get any relief under the Act " ? Is there anything, wrong in doing that ? If there is, then the Bill is wrong al! through. Of course, the Minister has his idea, and that is to help the rich against the poor. Outside and inside the House he poses as a great lover of the poor. But in every act he keeps his eye upon the wealthy, and does not care a straw as to what may become of the consumers or the workmen, so long as his special friends, the manufacturers, can be helped. With that alteration, I feel very much inclined to support the amendment, not because I believe in it, but because I consider that, if we are going to help everybody, we should try' to adopt the best method. ' I admit that we cannot by law help everybody; but, as some classes of the community believe that certain words, when printed upon a piece of paper, can make persons rich and help the community, we might as well try to do so in this direction as in any other.

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