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Friday, 13 July 1906

Mr HENRY WILLIS (Robertson) . - I regard this proposal as .impracticable as applying to the general trade of this country. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa was, I think, ironical. He cannot possibly agree with this proposal to determine what shall he the fair selling price df goods, if he calls to mind the definition of " probably " given by the Attorney-General, namely, that before the goods get into circulation they shall be seized if they would probably destroy trade. The Bill is complete in its effort to interfere with trade; but what would a Justice .know of general commerce to enable him to determine the price of goods ?

Mr Lee - What would he know about unfair competition ?

Mr HENRY WILLIS - Nothing at all. A Justice knows nothing about commercial affairs. This duty should be intrusted to an expert commercial man, or to a board of experts permanently appointed, and removed from political influence.

Mr Mcwilliams - Would the honorable member like to be tried by a jury of experts ?

Mr HENRY WILLIS - I would much sooner be tried by an expert than by an ignorant person. The proposal to determine the price of goods is absolutely absurd. Under the Bill the goods would be impounded. The use of the word " probably " would really be an inducement to incompetent persons to operate, because they would say, " The goods will then be set free, and we can determine the price, possibly with the assistance of the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs."

Mr Lonsdale - I would not allow the Comptroller-General to act.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - No; but he is already authorized by the Bill to act. With a majority at their backs, the Government can do what they like. But I shall be no party to a proposal to interfere with trade in such a way as is indicated in the amendment. It is not an improvement upon the proposals of the Government, because it would offer an inducement to the deciding authorities to act. They would say, " The hardship will be minimized if we determine the price" - a thing which they would be absolutely unfit to do. Admitting that a man may be most competent as a Justice of the High Court, he may still be quite incompetent to fill a position in which he would have to deal with trade. And a man who is experienced in only one line of trade would not be competent to discharge the duty. It could only be properly performed bv one who had a general knowledge of trade and commerce, 3. very wide experience, and very long standing in more than one country. I can not possibly support the amendment.

Mr Fowler - The Justice could call expert evidence, and have access to the books of all those concerned.

Mr HENRY WILLIS - No. I think that the honorable member pointed out an instance in which it might work. It is admitted to be practicable as regards certain classes of machinery, where the selling price in the country of production, and the selling price in the importing country are known. But when we come to think of the million and one manufactures the prices of which might have to be determined by the Justice or the Comptroller-General, we must see that the proposal is impracticable.

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