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Tuesday, 17 July 1906

Mr SPEAKER - Will the honorable member discuss the Bill?

Mr JOHNSON - I propose to discuss the Bill, but I was drawn a little off the track by the Minister's interjection. The honorable member for Fremantle, in his diatribe, said that, in the beginning, the Opposition approached the consideration of this measure in a half-hearted fashion. From the time I saw the Bill in its original form last session I expressed my opposi tion to its enactment. Al that time I was just as strongly in opposition to it as were the members of the Labour Party, including the honorable member for Fremantle. At no time have I attempted to hide my opposition to the Bill, or to temporize with it.

Mr Wilks - What about the honorable member for Perth, the most bitter opponent of the Bill?

Mr JOHNSON - Last session all the members of the Labour Party were bitterly opposed to the Bill ; but now they are supporting almost to a man a measure which is admittedly more drastic than the one introduced here last session, and which thev then opposed.

Sir William Lyne - No.

Mr JOHNSON - The Minister himself said it was more drastic when he introduced the Bill. I would remind the honorable member for Fremantle that so clumsy, so imperfect, so full of objectionable features was the Bill as it was introduced last session, that it was not pressed in its then existing form. During the recess the Ministers had time in which to consult one another, and to carefully consider and redraft its original provisions. It was brought in this session by the Minister of Trade and Customs as the perfection of the united wisdom of the Cabinet : but it had not been before the House for three days before the Opposition succeeded in convincing even Ministers themselves that it was necessary to bring down a whole sheaf of amendments.

Sir William Lyne - What does- the honorable, member know about it ?

Mr JOHNSON - Honorable members have only to use their eyes to see upon the table the sheaf of amendments which the honorable gentleman brought down, and which practically made a new measure of his pet Bill.

Sir William Lyne - Not at all.

Mr JOHNSON - How can the honorable gentleman sit there calmly and say, " Not at all," when copies of the amendments are lying upon the table for any one to see? He will deny anything in the face of the most glaring evidence of the futility of his denial. Will he say that this is anything like the Bill which he introduced this session ? Has it not undergone amendment in almost every clause, if not in almost every line? It has no claim to be regarded as the same Bill as that which the honorable gentleman originally introduced.

Mr Wilks - The only remaining part of the original Bill is the title.

Mr JOHNSON - The title is a misnomer. Instead of being entitled -

A Bill for. the preservation of Australian industries, and for the repression of destructive monopolies - it should be called -

A Bill for the purpose of promoting Australian monopolies, and the repression of commercial enterprise.

When the honorable member for Fremantle says that we, as an Opposition, have come here for the purpose of opposing an AntiTrust Bill, he makes a charge which is not in accordance with facts. If it were an Anti-Trust Bill, and its purpose were really to prevent the creation of monopolies, and to destroy monopolies, I am perfectly certain that the Minister would have received cordial support from all those who have been so strenuously opposing its passage. But it is an anti-trade Bill pure and simple, as he knows perfectly well.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member is not representing the views of his constituents.

Mr JOHNSON - I wish the honorable gentleman would put his assertion to the test of an appeal to them. My constituents are perfectly in accord with me on this point. I have no fear as to what their verdict will be when I explain to them the provisions of the Bill.

Sir William Lyne - When the honorable member called a meeting the other day, he got only ten persons to attend.

Mr JOHNSON - Tt so happens that I did not call a meeting the other clay.

Sir William Lyne - When the honorable member was at a meeting the other day, there were only ten persons present.

Mr JOHNSON - I was not at a meeting the other daw

Sir William Lyne - Well, six weeks or two months ago.

Mr JOHNSON - Evidently, some person has been Dulling the Minister's leg. I have no knowledge of any such meeting. I oppose the third reading of the Bill because, from beginning to end. it i* a lie, a sham, a fraud. It simply imposes upon public credulity bv pretending to be one thing when it is quite another thing. Under the guise of being an anti-trust Bill, it is simply a Bill for the purpose of brinkin"in prohibitive protection behind the back of Parliament. Expressed in a few words, that is its character. It is only for that purpose that it was in troduced. The existence of trusts, in America - because no trusts have been shown to exist in Australia - has been put forward as a flimsy and very transparent excuse for bringing forward this legislation. What I complain of is that it is dishonest on its face, that it pretends to aim at monopolies when its clauses make for the creation of monopolies, and the destruction of trade. Let us glance for a moment at Part II. of the Bill once more. If we refer to clause 4 we see that paragraph a of sub-clause r purports to deal with persons who try to restrain trade or commerce to the detriment of the public, and that paragraph b makes it an offence for persons who try, not to restrain trade or commerce, but to promote trade and commerce. Here, at the beginning of the Bill, we are confronted with two diametrically opposite sets of offences. Clause 4 applies to those who restrain or promote trade internally, clause 5 makes the same offence apply to foreign corporations who try to restrain or promote trade. Whichever way persons proceed, thev will commit an offence. Whether they try to restrain or to promote trade, that will be an ' offence. The clauses are absolutely ridiculous,. Here we have ordinary processes of commercial enterprise pounced upon through the agency of a measure of this kind, and persons engaged in trade and commerce treated as if they were criminals, dangerous to the peace and well-being of the community. The cause for this legislation is an alleged desire to suppress trusts which have not been shown to exist in Australia. There has not been a single effort on the other side of the Chamber to show that such a thing as a trust exists in Australia. The only semblance of a trust here is 'what has been spoken of as the tobacco trust, and even the honorable member for Fremantle had to admit that there is no complete tobacco trust in Australia, because the combination does not embrace all connected with the tobacco industry.

Mr Kelly - Where is the honorable member for Fremantle now?

Mr JOHNSON - He is, as usual, out of the Chamber, and probably will not speak for a month or two, when, perhaps, he will again feel it necessary to put in an appearance and lecture honorable members on this side of the Chamber upon the iniquity of criticising Government measures. The other day the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, the Chairman of the Tariff Commission, appealed to the Minister to defer the consideration of this measure until the reports of the Tariff Commission were before us. He pointed out that the reason given for the introduction of the Bill was the allegation that Australian industries are suffering by reason of the dumping which is taking place, but the Commission has not been able to obtain any evidence of the fact that dumping is occurring in Australia. The Minister has not yet given us a single instance of dumping.

Sir William Lyne - The honorable member has already said that about six times.

Mr JOHNSON - I think it necessary to repeat it, and to ask the Minister, if he knows of an instance, to acquaint the House with it, even at this late hour.

Mr Hutchison - Who will be injured by the passing of the Bill, if there is no dumping ?

Mr JOHNSON - Where is the necessity for the measure if dumping does not exist?.

Mr Hutchison - The Bill will prevent dumping.

Mr JOHNSON - Does the honorable member think it necessary to pass legislation to prevent a continuance of something which is not occurring, and of the probable occurrence of which there is no sign i

Mr Wilks - It is a Bill for stumping, not for dumping - stumping the electorates.

Mr JOHNSON - No doubt it was introduced purely for electioneering purposes.

Sir William Lyne - I have heard these statements so often that the utterance of them is beginning to affect my hearing.

Mr JOHNSON - The Minister does not like to hear the truth, but it must be spoken, nevertheless. When he told us that the Bill was being introduced to pre- 1 vent the injury, and even destruction, of Australian industries by reason of the dumping operations of foreign trusts, he should have given us specific instances of the abuses to which he referred.

Sir William Lyne - If I had done so, the honorable member would have said that my statements were wrong

Mr JOHNSON - The Minister did not bring forward even a colourable imitation of a case of dumping, though, had such a case existed', he would no doubt have seized upon it with avidity, with a view to showing the need for a Bill of this character. The honorable and learned member for Bendigo has pointed out the unfairness of proceeding with the measure before honor able members have been able to inform themselves as to the true condition of industrial affairs here, by means of the evidence attached to the reports of the Tariff Commission. As the Minister has not been able to bring forward one instance of dumping, delay in consideration of the measure would not matter. In any case, the reports of the Tariff Commission will be available within three or four weeks, and, when they have been presented, we shall be able to see what foundation, if any, there is for the allegations as to the strangling of industrial industries by foreign competitors. I curtailed my speech on the motion for the second reading of the measure, in deference to the wishes of the Minister.

Sir William Lyne - Will not the honorable member curtail this speech, too?

Mr JOHNSON - I am continuallymaking concessions to the Minister; but there are times when it is not right to make them. When the motion for the second reading of the Bill was before the House, we were told that it would be advisable to confine the debate within certain limits, because the Bill could be dealt with fully in Committee, when its clauses could be discussed in detail. But in Committee the Minister again displayed anxiety to avoid criticism. The cry then was, "You had a full opportunity to criticise the .principles of the measure when speaking on the motion for the second reading. Why go into these matters now ? " On the motion for the third reading, the honorable gentleman is once more desirous - as he has been at previous stages - that there shall be no criticism. The measure, however, is so dangerous and pernicious that, in the interests of the producers, manufacturers, and the public at large, it should be subjected to the most complete criticism. The Bill which it is proposed to read a third time is a verv different measure from that first submitted to us. But, although the efforts of the Opposition have removed many objectionable features, its provisions are still a most serious danger to the interests of the public.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.30 p.m.

Mr JOHNSON - Ministers have chosen a singularly unfortunate time at which to introduce a measure of this character. Our newspapers and our statisticians are at considerable pains to show us that the country is enjoying a time of exceptional prosperity, and "Ministers have so far acknowledged the correctness of their representations that at the opening of the session they placed in the mouth of His Excellency the Governor-General the following words : -

I have called you together, I rejoice to say, in a season of general prosperity throughout the Commonwealth, production having increased, prices being favorable, while both trade and finance afford most encouraging evidence of the soundness of business.

Therefore, the excuse for the urgency, or even the need, of such a measure as this put forward by Ministers stands condemned out of their own mouths. We find in the Governor-General's speech a flat contradiction of Ministers' assertions with regard to the slackness of trade, and the discouragement and strangulation of our industries, which they have put forward in justification of their action in introducing this measure. We have been told by legal experts that even if there existed amongst us trusts whose operations were injurious and tended to the strangulation of our industries, the measure would not militate against them. They point out, however, that the Bill would seriously interfere with the ordinary trade, commerce, and industry of the country. I have previously pointed out that, whereas Part II. of the Bill is ostensibly aimed at the repression of monopolies, Part III. will tend to destroy all competition, and thus foster monopolies within the Commonwealth. The measure gives into the hands of those who desire to establish local manufacturing industries, the power to prevent any one from coming into competition with them, either by producing locally, or by importing. I submit that the less we interfere with trade and commerce, the better it will be for all concerned, because as soon as we attempt to check imports, we must injure our export trade. If we are to build up a great nation under the Southern Cross, we must, for many years to come, devote our energies principally to the cultivation and encouragement of the primary industries natural to the country, which do not need legislative interference for their protection or encouragement. In order to attain this end, we must develop our export trade in every possible way, so that we may obtain in exchange the best of manufactured goods from the countries beyond seas with which we trade. If we limit our imports, we must reduce the volume of our exports, because other nations will not trade with us upon any such onesided plan as is apparently contemplated by the framers of the Bill. It must be remembered that imports and exports pay for each other. It is a noteworthy fact that the Bill is aimed principally at those of our own kith and kin. Two-thirds of our import trade is transacted with British Possessions, and, therefore, the Bill would operate mainly against those of our own flesh and blood who speak our own language. The provisions of the Bill are framed upon the supposition that even those who spring from the same stock as ourSelves have evil designs upon us, that they desire to crush us and to destroy our trade and commerce. But, despite all these assumptions, not one tittle of evidence has been brought forward to sustain any such imputation. The Bill is of a most insulting character, in that it seeks to treat the people of our own race in a scurvy manner - a manner that we ourselves would be the first to resent if the people of the British nation were to legislate upon similar lines for the exclusion of Australian products from/ their markets. To enact legislation of this! description based upon an imputation of that character, betrays a most unpatriotic spirit. If we intend to prevent trade and commerce with our own kith and kin, we might accomplish our object much more effectively by other means. For instance, if we think it is desirable that we should live isolated, that we should keep Australia for the Australians, and make everything that we require by Australian labour, we might achieve our end much more effectively, and at much less expense by building walls across the mouths of our harbors and rivers, by blocking up the channels, and thus absolutely preventing any ships- from coming to our ports. If trade is a bad thing, by all means let us stop it. At the same time, let us stop it effectively, and thus avoid the expense of maintaining an army of Customs and other officials, whom the taxpayers are called upon to support.

Mr Thomas - Would the honorable member do away with all' the Customs officers ?

Mr JOHNSON - If we are to legislate in the direction indicated, they might W employed in some of our local industries, if any were left to survive the experiment of this logical application of a principle indorsed by the Labour Party.

Mr Thomas - We should then have to fall back upon direct taxation.

Mr JOHNSON - I have no objection to direct taxation for the purposes of revenue. That, however, is a little outside the scope of the present discussion, and I do not pro- pose to be side-tracked by the honorable member. If trade is a bad thing, let us dispense with it, but if it is a good thing let us have all that we can get of it. As a free-trader, I maintain that all trade is good. Free-trade is natural trade, and I object to this Bill, because it prevents that freedom of trade which I hold to be absolutely necessary to the well-being of any nation. Free-trade, I repeat, is natural trade, and for the purpose of enabling countries to exchange their commodities one with another, nature has provided us with harbors, ports, and rivers, which we, in our blind ignorance, render practically useless by the imposition of artificial restrictions. I have already shown that two-thirds of our import trade is done with British Possessions. About ,£7,000,000 worth of that trade consists of metals and machinery chief! v of British origin. In moving the second reading of- the Bill, the Minister referred to the practice of dumping. He quoted a list of articles, in regard to which he did not prove that the practice existed. Amongst these were sewing machines and harvesters. He said that the value of the harvesters annually imported into the Commonwealth was £85.000. That is quite true. But I would point out that the value of the harvesters' of local manufacture amounted in the same year to £250,000, and further, that the value of the machines exported to other countries was £30,000. In connexion with the allegation Qf dumping, it is a scathing satire on ourselves that the harvesters which are exported from Australia are sold in foreign countries at a lower price than that at which they can be purchased in the home market by our own farmers. If the sale of these machines in foreign countries at a lower price than that at which they can be purchased locally, constitutes dumping, it is undeniable that the Australian harvester manufacturers are guilty of dumping - the verv practice of which thev so bitterly complain and a sympathetic Minister so indignantly condemns, when an outside company is alleged to practise it in Australia. I wonder what we should say if the people of foreign countries were to pass similar legislation to that which is contained in this Bill for the purpose of shutting out Australian goods from their markets. We should regard it as an unfriendly act. Yet we are doing the very thing that we condemn, when it is practised by others. If Australian harvesters can be sold in foreign countries - in the Argentine and elsewhere - -at less than they can be purchased locally, we may reasonably assume that they are not sold at a loss. They are not exported by the manufacturers merely for the pleasure of exporting them. The McKay Harvester Company make a profit out of their export trade. If the value of the Australian-made harvester is the price which the foreigner is charged for it after payment of insurance, freight, . and transport charges, then the price which the Australian farmer has to pay in excess of that amount is surplus profit, and is an unfair impost. I desire to know how the Minister proposes to protect the consumer, who is one of those mentioned in the Bill as being the special subject of paternal regard at the hands of the Government. We have knowledge of the fact that the Australian farmer here is charged an immensely higher price for the Australianmade article than the farmer outside has to pay for the same machine. That being so, the local consumer has a right to be considered. What provision is there in the Bill to protect his interests? None whatever. When an effort was made by the Opposition to amend the Bill, in order to give him some measure of protection against unfairly high charges, the Ministry, and those allied with them, opposed the proposition, and vet I suppose that they will have the unblushing audacity to go before the country and claim to have legislated in the interests of the consumers. I should like to know what the farming constituents of the Minister of Trade and Customs will think of his action when they understand its true significance. He may rest assured that they will not be kept in ignorance of it between now and the next general election. The action of Australian manufacturers of harvesters, in selling their goods abroad at a lower price than they charge in the local market is typical of what all protected manufacturers do. The practice is not peculiar to manufacturers of harvesters. In connexion with all local industries, the home consumer is charged the highest price that the Tariff will permit; and we may be sure that advantage will be taken of any measure of this kind for the same purpose, whilst the price obtained outside is always regulated by the competition with which they meet. We know that it is not the practice of Australian manufacturers any more than it is that of manufacturers abroad to carry on their work year in and year out solely to sell at a loss. When they sell abroad at a lower price than they do at home, it is sometimes because of a desire to get rid of accumulated surplus stock. In such circumstances it may happen occasionally that they sell, perhaps, at a trifling loss, or at all events, at a. very small margin of profit. Speaking generally, exporters aim at making a fair profit out of their trade; otherwise it would not be worth their while to continue in it. And yet we find that the practice prevails amongst manufacturers, both here and elsewhere, of charging a much higher price in the local market than is charged outside in respect of the same goods. This Bill seeks to exclude imports, among other grounds, on the score of their cheapness. The effect of the measure will be to prevent goods coming in here which can be sold at less than the locallymanufactured articles. Whence come many of these articles, the cheapness of which is the subject of complaint? Generally speaking, the article made bv low-priced or pauper labour come from continental protected countries. Here we have evidence of the fact that the imported cheap goods are Hie product of heavily-protected labour. That labour may be protected, not by means of legislation of the kind now before us, but by legislation which has for its object a similar aim - the shutting out of imports, and the encouragement in that wa\ of the local producer. It is singular that this low-priced labour, which is so often condemned in the House, is invariably very highly protected. That shows clearly that the effect of restrictions upon trade, whatever their effect may be on the profits of the manufacturers., is not to raise but to lower the wages of labour. This Bill has received the condemnation of all the public bodies representative of the producing and commercial classes that have given it consideration. I have not yet seen a report of a. meeting of an association of importers, manufacturers, or farmers at which it has not been condemned. I propose now to refer to a meeting of the Yannathan branch of the Farmers, Property Owners, and Producers' Association held on the 6th inst., at which a condemnatory resolution was passed showing that a great many of the primary industries of Australia Will materially suffer from the operation of this Bill. The resolution, which was reported in the Argus, was as follows: - " That this branch of the Farmers', Propertyowners', and Producers' Association is of opinion that the Australian Preservation of Industries and Repression of Destructive Mono- polies Bill now before the House of Representatives will be injurious to the best interests of the public, more especially the producers, as the prohibition put on certain imports, the restraint on trade, and the restriction of the rights of traders to purchase their goods in the cheapest and best markets, must result in enhancing the price of commodities ; that necessaries like wool-packs, cornsacks, manures, implements, &c.,, absolutely necessary to producers will be only purchasable at excess prices, and therefore greatly increase the cost of production, whereas the products from the soil will still have to be sold in the markets of the world in competition with sellers not hampered with such restrictions; that producers are entirely opposed to destructive monopolies, and in favour of local industries, but do not consider a bill of this nature will facilitate either one or the other, the reverse being more likely to fake place, viz., the destruction of industries and the encouragement of local monopolies." That resolution was passed by a branch of an association which is very influential, and which cannot be accused of not knowing where its own interests lie. The branch having met and considered this measure, which its authors assert is intended to assist the farming and producing, in common with other industries, has not a good word to say for its provisions, but, on the contrary, condemns it in very severe terms, and points out that it will greatly enhance the prices of a number of articles, the obtaining of which at a cheap rate is an essential factor in the success of the primary producing industries. Yet even an appeal of this character from an association of farmers, whom the Minister of Trade and Customs is supposed to largely represent, seems to carry absolutely no weight with the honorable gentleman. Notwithstanding that farmers' associations have condemned the Bill all round, we find the Minister impervious to any suggestions or criticisms, even when the provisions to which exception is taken affect that particular section of the electors who form so large a portion of his constituents. I venture to say that the Minister of Trade and Customs, when before the electors, will have to answer a great number of questions, but no doubt, with his usual adroitness, he will be able to fence some of the points raised, and to throw dust in the eyes of the farmers as to the real character of the measure. I find that meetings of the association were also held at Gormandale. Hamilton, and Geelong, amongst other places, and that similar resolutions to that which J have already read were there carried. Wherever meetings have been held throughout Australia for the purpose of considering the matter, the Bill has been absolutely condemned ; and it must be evident to the Minister of Trade and Customs that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction, even amongst the people in whose interests the measure is supposed to have been framed. To show that there is no urgency for a Bill of the kind, on the ground of slackness of trade or injury to our industries, I have only to quote some official statistical information recently placed at our command by the authorities. The total value of the imports into Australia for the year 1905 was ^38.346,73'. of which ^25,524,802, or about 66.5 per cent., represented imports from British Possessions. It will thus be seen that the operation of the Bill will mainly affect British imports; and I have already pointed out that about £7,000,000 worth of our imports represents metal and machinery imported from Great Britain. During the past three years, there has not been any great increase in the imports ; and although the protectionist section of the community seem to regard any increase as a very great evil, I view the matter in a very different light. The value, of the imports for 1904 and 1905 was less than the value of the imports for 1903. The imports for 1903 amounted in value to £38,835,682 ; and the difference between the value of the imports for that year and the value of the imports for 1905 is represented by nearly half-a-million. or, to give the exact figures, £488,951. Let us now look for a moment at the exports for the same period. The exports from Australia for 1903 amounted in value to £[49,809,998, while the exports for 1905 amounted in value to .£56,841,035, showing an increase for the latter year of £7,031,037. As I have already shown, the total imports for 1905 were valued at £38,346,731 ; on the other hand, the total exports were valued at £56,841,035, showing an increase of exports over imports of £18,494,304. From -the point of view of those who favour restriction of trade, and who place a good deal of value on the excess of our export trade over our import trade, these figures are very encouraging.. I do not pretend to regard these figures with unmixed satisfaction myself, but protectionists should find them gratifying. In regard to the increased export trade, the statistics so far furnished indicate a record.

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member think that that has anything to do with the Bill?

Mr JOHNSON - Yes, Mr. Speaker. The main reason advanced for introducing the Bill is that our trade and1 industries are languishing, and being ruined by the importation of goods from oversea. It is contended that the local export trade is being ruined from the same cause; and the object of the Bill is to place restrictions in the way of oversea trade, and in the way of oversea competition with our existing industries. The Bill in its operation will affect both our imports and our exports ; and my object is to point out that our trade from imports has not shown any abnormal development, but, on the contrary, has diminished, while our export trade, far from being injured, is really in a more flourishing condition than it has been for a long time past, and that, therefore, the principal reason alleged for the introduction of the Bill is not founded on fact - is non-existent. However, Mr. Speaker, if you think it undesirable that I should not go into figures, it is not absolutely necessary for my purpose that I shall do so; and I shall content myself with simply relating the facts as they are. Without going into details, I may state that there has been a great increase in our exports of gold as compared with previous years. Our wool exports have increased, and the value of wool has largely increased.

Mr SPEAKER - Those details have nothing to do with the Bill.

Mr JOHNSON - I shall not pursue them. Generally speaking, they prove that our industries are in a flourishing condition. At any rate, I may be allowed to refer to the value of the productions of our manufacturing industries, which have to do with this Bill, and I shall do that very briefly. I shall not refer to the statistics for Victoria, as I dealt with them recently. Some figures which have come to hand show that the value of the productions of the manufacturing industries of New South Wales - that is, the value added to the cost of the raw materials in the process of manufacture - amounted last year to ,£10,580,000, op £7 3s. id. per head of the population. The increase was general in all branches of industry, but chiefly in the metals and smelting industries. Last year more factories were being worked than in the previous year, and the number of men employed was 4,139 more than in the previous year. These figures go to showthat, instead of our industries being in a declining condition, and requiring to be bolstered up by legislation of this character, they are more prosperous to-day than they have been for a considerable time past. I will leave that phase of the subject, and proceed to another, lt will be remembered that a certain section of this House, known as the Labour Part}', strenuously opposed this Bill when it was first introduced. It was on account of the opposition of that party that the Bill was dropped last year.

Sir William Lyne - I do not think that is so.

Mr JOHNSON - If the Minister will look up Hansard he will see that strenuous opposition was threatened to this Bill at that time, and it was not proceeded with. It has been brought up in the present session in an amended, and admittedly a more drastic, form. Yet we find that the very same section which last session was so strongly antipathetic to it, now almost to a man supports it. Nevertheless, the most influential organ of the Labour Party in Queensland, The Worker, refers to the Bill in terms of anything but approbation. Perhaps I may be permitted to quote an extract from an article which appeared in the Queensland Worker of 30th June in regard to the anti-trust legislation of this Parliament. The article describes it as useless, and then goes on to say -

They have a drastic law on the subject in America, and the trusts wax fat and laugh at it. Its one effect has been to elevate evasion into a science, and make politics a synonym for bribery and corruption. The greatest trust in the- world is the Beef Trust, and it has grown up under the shadow of anti-trust legislation ! America groans under its extortions, yet so cunningly is it done that in law the Trust has actually no existence. It levies tribute upon every American home, yet you may hunt the States up and down, and turn a lantern into every hole and corner, and find no trace of a Beef Trust to convince a Judge or jury. It has no offices, no books, no board of directors. Legal evidence that such a thing exists there is absolutely none. Yet it holds the great American Republic at its mercy, and reduces to a comic song its Declaration of Independence. It is more powerful than Parliaments and Presidents. It is superior to the Constitution. It makes a mock of justice, and under its baneful influence public life has degenerated into the vilest form of prostitution. Injunctions have at various times been taken out against its component firms, but for some mysterious reason they are never enforced. The law becomes afflicted with corns on its feet, and cannot move. It mislays its glasses, and cannot see. The " strong arm " that grips the petty thief and flings him into gaol is seized suddenly wilh paralysis, and the Trust continues to do with impunity the thing which it has been " prohibited " from doing.

That is a most scathing denunciation of this legislation ; and it shows that, .whilst the members of the Labour Party in this House are almost to a man supporters of the Bill, the most influential official organ of their party in Australia, speaks of all such legislation in terms of the strongest condemnation and ridicule. Of course, I know that criticism, no matter whence it comes, falls upon deaf ears so far as this Ministry is concerned. I have very little hope that anything that I can say will induce the Minister of Trade and Customs to see the error of his ways. But if he thinks that he has the people behind him ; if he thinks that the electors will indorse this legislation, and that they resent the criticism which has been levelled at it by the Opposition, surely we may ask him to put his professions to a practical test. Let him for the moment refrain from proceeding further with the Bill. Let him wait until we have the reports df the Tariff Commission before us, so that we can see what the evidence is, and what the recommendations of the Commission disclose. If the Minister has so much confidence in the necessity for the Bill, and in the existence of the. conditions which he alleges do exist, and if he is really sincere in his professions, he cannot have much reasonable objection to delay the passage of the measure for a few short weeks. If he believes that the Bill is really one which will commend itself to the constituencies, the best' thing for him to do, seeing that it has met with so much hostile criticism at the hands of the Opposition, is to submit it to the electors for their approval. If the Minister really believed that they would approve of it, T have not the slightest doubt that he would not hesitate for a single moment to adopt that course. But I feel as sure as that I am standing here that the Minister knows perfectly well that the concensus of public opinion is with the Opposition. Public opinion certainly condemns the Bill so far as any expression of public opinion has been given in the newspapers and elsewhere. We have not seen one single word in its praise. From quotations which I have giver., and from a number of others which. I might have given, had it been necessary, it is quite evident that wherever the Bill has been considered, wherever meetings have been held for the purpose of discussing; it, only terms of the strongest condemnation have been applied to it. If the Minister is really sincere in his protestations, let him submit the Bill to the country for the approval of the electors. I have no' fear of their verdict, because I am satisfied that it will show, so far as this measure is concerned, ample justification for the attitude which the Opposition have taken up in, regard to it.

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