2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. KNOX presented a petition from certain residents of Kooyong, praying that stringent legislation be enacted to prohibit the importation of opium for smoking purposes into the Commonwealth.
Mr. CROUCH presented three similar petitions, two from white residents, and one from Chinese and Japanese residents of the Commonwealth.
– I wish to call the attention of the Prime Minister to the following report of a speech made by the Governor of South Australia: -
The only blot upon their prosperity was the way in which they saw, for a certain period of the
Year, mail steamers flying by this State, which had to be content with getting mails and cargoes second-hand from another State. He took a great interest in everything which would benefit South Australia, and while he could not take a prominent part officially, because the necessary action was not in the hands of the State Government, he did what he could to maintain the rights of South Australia in the matter, and to remove the great injustice done to this State. When he spoke to one in the highest authority in the Commonwealth, he was met with the answer that no public representation on the subject had been made by the people here on the subject. This loss of the mail steamers must not occur again, for if it did it would be fraught with the most serious consequences.
– From what newspaper is that report taken?
– The Adelaide Advertiser, of Monday last. The speech was made at the Commercial Travellers’ dinner
– I have read that report.
– Iwish to askthe honorable and learned gentleman ifhe does not consider that it is time thatthe Governor of South Australia wasasked to remember his position, andto abstain from interfering inbiusiness other than that which he is sup posed to transact on behalf of his State and from making public statements,some of which are not merely inaccurate,but most unwarrantable and intolerable?
– A gentleman pre sent at that dinner has informed me, a: he thought that my attention might be directed to the matter, that thenewspaper report of His Excellency’s speech conveys to readers an impression different from that received by his hearers. I understand that the Governor was referring to the inconveriience suffered by the State when, fora time, during the Reid-McLean administration, the Orient mail steamers ceasedto call at Largs Bay.
– The Governor’of South Australia is always making partisan statements.
– These remarks, were addressed to a gathering of commercial travellers, and had relation to mercantile operations.
– The honorable and learned gentleman will sympathize with Queensland on this account.
Mr. DEAKIN. It seems impossible to deal with the circumstances of any oneState without being supposed to sympathize with or differ from the views held by the people of some other State..
– Will the Prime Minister make inquiries as to the truth’ of the statement of the Governor of South’ Australia that-
When he spoke to one in the highest authority in the Commonwealth, he was met with the answer that no public representation on. the subject had been made by the people here on the subject ?
The inference is that the interests of South’ Australia were not looked after by the representatives of that State in this House. Will the honorable and. learned gentleman also ascertain whether the following statement is correct: -
He tried, at the time of the mail difficulty, to serve the. interests of the State faithfully ?
I should like to ascertain what steps the Governor of South Australia took in that matter.
– I will have the records relating to the mail subsidy examined.
– In view of the statement of the honorable and learned member for Corio, which has not been denied, that Artillery rankers desirous of submitting themselves for examination for commissions are asked questions, by a special board of officers, about the social position and status of their families and relatives, will he request the Minister of Defence to see that similar questions are put to the officers now holding commissions?
– I would rather that no such questions were put under any circumstances to any person.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government intend to introduce this session any legislation dealing with the weights and measures of the Commonwealth ; and if not, whether any such proposals next session will include a provision for the adoption of the metric system by proclamation of the Executive, should that system be adopted by the Government of the United Kingdom?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
A Bill is being drafted on the subject, but it is doubtful whether it can be considered this session.
Probably in such Bill power will be taken to introduce the metric system when such a course may seem desirable.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 15th September, vide page2414):
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention ap pears - “ Officer “ means an officer of Customs. “ Trade description,” in relation to any goods, means any description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect -
Upon which Mr. Knox had moved by way of amendment -
That the words “ a Customs entry relating to goods and,” lines 29 and 30, be left out.
– There are several amendments which I should like to move in an earlier part of the clause, and perhaps the honorable member for Kooyong will afford me an opportunity to do so. Honorable members will, I think, regard this as one of the most important clauses in the Bill, to which we should devote some attention, since the circumstances are a little technical. It will be remembered that, among the objections taken to the Bill - to which I shall have to refer for the purpose of a few remarks with regard to the drafting of this clause - one was that it is a complete departure from the principle of English legislation ; that, while in England the Act which prohibits the wrongful application to goods of trade marks and trade descriptions, simply penalizes those who use such marks fraudulently to pass off goods which are not of the character which they are represented to be, the Bill proposes to give power to the Minister to prescribe what description an importer or exporter shall place on his goods. Under the Bill the goods must be described according to methods of description prescribed by the Minister. In England the principle is that no description need be placed on goods, but that, if a description is placed on them, it must be a truthful one. There is great difference between the two positions. If a man is in any doubt as to what a particular description may mean; as to whether by using it, he may not be likely to mislead purchasers, and so bring himself within the penal sections of the Act, he need not place any description on his goods. In other words, he may abstain from trying to puff them, or from claiming special advantages for them, by allegations as to their nature or origin. But, under the Bill, an importer or exporter must, in every case, describe his goods according to the method prescribed by the Minister. This is so vital a difference in principle that we must be careful to see that we do not amplify our definition of trade description beyond that contained in the English Act, and, as I think I shall show, in the States Acts.
– Does the honorable member for Kooyong desire to withdraw his amendment?
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– We must be very careful to narrow, within its clear necessities, the meaning of trade description. The Minister, so far from having done that, has most unreasonably and stupidly amplified it. It is a pity that, when the Bill was introduced, we were not given a definition of its provisions, which, while being, as it should have been, succinct, would also have been adequate and clear.
– How does the honorable and learned member show that clause 3 compels the making of a statement as to what the goods are?
– Clause 3 alone does not do that. It defines a trade description, and is followed by other specific provisions. If the honorable and learned member refers to clause 7, he will understand the object which I have in view. I wish to show that the Bill differs vitally from the local and the English Acts, and that we should be careful not to amplify its definitions to increase the responsibility of those coming under it. The difference in principle to which I allude imposes a great responsibility on importers and exporters in Australia which is not imposed by the English Act, or the legislation of the States. I have complained that the Minister has not explained the provisions of the Bill with the clearness necessary for the proper understanding of it. It was not correct lo say that this Bill was founded upon the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887. The Minister ought to have- told us that while there was no departure-, in principle from English legislation–
– I did not statethat there was no departure in principlefrom English legislation. I stated that the Bill was based partly upon English legislation.
– The only legislation referred to was the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887.
– I also referred tothe Trade Marks Act.
– The Minister’s remarksupon that point conveyed nothing. In thefirst place he should have explained the difference in principle, and should have informed us that instead of adhering to theuniform provision relating to “trade description “ running through the several State Acts, which follow the English Act, a varying definition had been adopted. Heshould have explained, further, that apart from the difference in principle, the provision with regard to trade descriptions was, when coupled with the penal clausesof the Bill, much more drastic in its effect than that contained in the English Act. Whilst the English statute merely declares that a trade description, in relation togoods, should include particulars as to thenumber, quantity, measure, gauge, or weight of the goods, paragraph a of clause 3 requires that particulars should be given as= to the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, or weight. It is remarkable that the added” terms are words the definition of which is exceedingly loose, and the connotation of which is particularly indefinite. Instead of using the clear and accuratewords which appear in the English and States Acts, almost metaphysical terms of” vague and nebulous meaning are employed. The words “nature” and “quality” are very wide and indefinite. Very much the same could be said with regard to”purity,” and, in a minor degree, with regard to the words “class” and “grade.” The only added word with any definitemeaning is “size,” and that happens to be superfluous, because all the information necessary may be called for under theterms “number,” “quantity,” and “measure.” The Minister appears to have desired to use as many words as possible, whereas the best method of drafting is tobe precise and concise. The fewer wordsused consistently with accuracy, the better,, because the multiplicity of terms really-
*Commerce* [19 September, 1905.] *Bill (No. 2).* 2419 leads to trouble in the Courts of justice. The definition given io the Bill is rendered dangerous by its tremendous expansion in substance through the addition of the words to which I have directed attention, if honorable members will look at paragraph *b* of clause 3, they will see that the draughtsman, following up the desire for novelty, is not content to leave the words as they stand in the English Act, but has transposed them, although the transposition has not effected any change in the meaning. In the English Act, the words ""place or country" are used, whereas in the Bill' the words are transposed. I do not see the object of that alteration, nor do I see that any useful purpose is served byl the insertion of the words "or at," so as to make the paragraph read " as to the country or place in or at which the goods were made or produced." The new words do not grammatically fit in with the text, and, moreover,! are superfluous. Paragraph *c* is an innovation - no such provision appears in the English or State Acts - which very closely approaches to the class of legislation sought to be introduced in connexion with the provision for the use of trade union labels. Information is to be supplied as to the manufacturer or producer of the goods or to the person by whom they were selected, packed, or prepared for market. I do not know why these words should have been inserted' except as a corollary of the provision for the use of trade union labels. There have been other substantial additions to the provisions in the English and States legislation. Unless some clear and intelligent object is to foe served we should aim at uniformity in legislation, and should, follow as far as possible the ' terminology of Imperial legislation in regard to which a number of important decisions have been given during the last eighteen years. If we make our legislation uniform with that which has been in force in the United Kingdom we can secure a perfect application of Imperial decisions to our own Act. It is dangerous to depart from definitions which have been interpreted by the highest tribunal in the Empire. I have already mentioned that some of the State Acts deal with these very matter's. Take the case of the South Australian Trade Marks Act of 1892. Part II. of that Act deals with the question of false and misleading trade descriptions, and follows exactly the termino logy of the English Act. It seems to me that it is even more incumbent upon us to follow as far as we can the definitions adopted in local Acts than to adhere to the wording of the English statutes. The States Acts are still in force and as the Bill before us deals only with trade and commerce with foreign countries, we should have a series of provisions dealing with the marking of goods differing in principle as regards; goods intended for export, and those intended for home consumption. This is a serious matter. Surely this Parliament, which was created to bring about uniformity, ought not, at this early stage of its career, to set itself to promote diversity of practice. I do not know what position manufacturers will find themselves placed in under varying legislation of this kind. Surely they will not mark their goods for local consumption in one way, and apply different descriptions to those which' are intended for export. They cannot separate their products, because large manufacturers do not manufacture purely for export from Australia. If this provision were struck out, it would be a good thing for the Commonwealth. All that is desired, namely, to prevent the use of fraudulent trade marks would be accomplished under section 52 of the Customs Act, which' enables the Minister to stop importations, or under the States Acts now in operation.
– Does the honorable and learned member find any conflict between the States laws and the provisions of the Bill?
– Yes. I have sought to point out that- a conflict does exist. The States Acts follow English’ legislation, and the English statute does not penalize a man for not describing his goods, but only for applying to them false descriptions. A merchant is free to send his goods out without any description, but if he decides to describe them his description must be true.
– But has the honorable and learned member been able to point to any inconsistency ?
– I have been endeavouring to do so. I am arguing from the provisions of the Bill.
– The honorable and learned member’s argument is that we should so frame the Bill as to bring it into accord with the States laws.
– I say that it should not be passed at all, because it is not necessary. English legislation, which has accomplished everything required, has been embodied in the statutes of the States. I do not see why we should change the principles of English legislation, when there is no apparent necessity for so doing. If the Bill were passed a manufacturer would have to apply to all goods intended for export, the description prescribed in this measure, whereas, in order to comply with’ requirements in regard to goods intended for home consumption, he would have to refer to an entirely different set of laws. Besides, it would require all the ingenuity of a lawyer to discover beforehand whether a particular trade description was or was not misleading in some material particular.
– Is the honorable and learned member’s objection to clause 7 ?
– It goes to the root of the Bill. My object is to point out that in our definition of “ trade description “ we ought not to increase the risk of manufacturers incurring penalties by amplifying - where it really is unnecessary - the meaning of the words beyond the limit suggested by the Imperial Act of 1887 and the various States Acts dealing with this subject. Where the Minister has departed from the definition in the English Act he has very seriously increased the risks to persons engaged in external commerce. The use of the word “ nature,” the very first one in paragraph a, must have that effect. “Nature” is an abstract word which is exceedingly wide and indefinite. The Minister will make a man describe the nature of the goods that he is going, to proclaim as coming within the meaning of this measure, and a merchant will have no option, in cases of doubt, but to apply a description and risk a prosecution’. If it were not that I desire not to weary the Committee I could quote English decisions, reported in Keri!1 on Trade Marks, which show the difficulty that men experience in accurately describing their goods in relation to matters of quality or purity, which suggests the wisdom of the British Parliament in not making the definitions as wide - even where it is optional, as it is, under the English Act, to adopt them - as the Minister wishes to make them in this instance.
– Having regard to the fact that the paragraph refers to the number, quality, and purity of the goods, is not the use of the word “nature” mere redundancy ?
– I think it is. The honorable member’s impression would be strengthened by a perusal of the English decisions on the shorter meaning of “ trade description “ as used in trie Imperial Act. There are words introduced into this clause that will make ‘ ‘ confusion worse confounded.” They are at best duplicationsof meaning, and have a certain redundancy that is always dangerous.
– Would it not be better to move to omit the word “ nature?”
– I propose to do so in order to test the principle of this definition.. The more words that are added to one that is already clear and accurate, the more indefinite its meaning becomes. The Court assumes that the Legislature does not use many words to express in any particular provision that which is already expressed, by one. Redundancy in debating often leads to nothing, but it is a particular vice in an Act of Parliament. I shall move to strike out the word ‘ ‘ nature ‘ ‘ in order that the definition may be limited to that given in the English Act of 1887 and in variousStates Acts. The Trade Marks Act of 1892 of South Australia gives definitions of “ trade description “ and “false trade description,” which are identical with those in the English Act, and differ materially insubstance from the one’ which we have now under consideration. In support of my assertion I shall not do more than refer honorable members to Part II. of that Act. If we did not pass this definition the Bill would be emasculated and rendered unnecessary, but everything that ought to be done would still be possible under the Customs Act, the Trade Marks Bill, and the local Acts of some of the States.
– I do not think that all the States have adopted the English legislation on trade marks.
– It is open for them to do so. We do not wish to impinge on their province. If they have no desire to adopt such legislation for local purposes, it is a matter that concerns only themselves. We cannot touch them so far as local production and consumption are concerned ; but any misdescription of imported goods can be dealt with by the Customs Act. That Act gives wide authority, and by availing ourselves of its provisions we can accomplish anything that reasonably ought to be done under a Bill of this kind.
– Is the object sought to be achieved by the use of the word “nature” expressed in any of the other words in the definition?
– I think not.
– Are there any words which express the nature of the commodity ?
– I think that the provisions with, regard to that are sufficient. If one gave a definition of the number, quantity, measure, gauge, size, or weight of the goods-
– That would not meet a case in which butter was described as oleomargarine’.
– Does the South Australian Act provide any penalty for so describing butter or vice versa?
– Most decidedly. Such a case would be covered by the provision in regard to a “false trade description,” which is identical with that of the English Act.
– But the “nature” of the goods is not mentioned.
– A “ false trade description “ means a trade description which is false in a material respect in regard to the goods to which it is applied. Surely if tar were described as butter, that would be a false description within the meaning of this clause, even if the word nature were omitted.
– What if a man were requested to describe his goods correctly? There is no other word in the definition clause dealing with the “nature” of an article.
– I recognise the point at which the honorable member is driving.
– What -objection can there be to requiring a man to tell the truth in regard to anything?
– The difficulty of saying it. If the Committee wish the word “nature” to remain, I shall refrain from moving the amendment, although its use might lead to difficulty of interpretation, inasmuch as it covers far more than is intended. It does not, however, touch the substance of my objection. It is inadvisable, unless absolutely necessary, to use words the scope of which is far greater than the necessities of a measure require. The point which the honorable member for Gippsland has in view is perfectly intelligible. If tha Minister desired, goods would have to be described.
– And if a man described them at all, some word would have to be used showing what they actually were.
– I can appreciate the force of the honorable member’s argument, and am not prepared to say off-hand that by a reference to the subsequent part of this clause his objection would be removed. I shall test the question by moving the omission of the word “ quality.” It refers to part of what is covered by the word “nature,” and the proposal to strike it out will not be open to the objection suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland in regard to the omission of that word. I cannot say at present that the object sought to be accomplished by the use of the word “ nature “ is not attained by another part of the Bill, but in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I move -
That the word “quality,” line 9, be left out-
– I trust that the Committee will reject the amendment. If the .honorable and learned member had suggested another word more forcible than “ quality,” I should not have objected to its omission, but. he has wholly failed to indicate what we should insert in its place. My desire is to add the word “ colour “ to the definition. In order to show the Committee that legislators all over the world are passing measures designed to protect the people from, commercial immorality, I wish to read quotations as to what is being done in Canada and the United States. Whenever Congress passes a measure that is not in harmony with the ideas of a certain section of the people of this country, some honorable members invariably refrain from referring to it. but when it suits their purpose they are always ready to point to the United States as “the great example.” In the Age of the 15th inst. the following paragraph appears under the heading of “Trade and Finance”: -
Attention is drawn to the fact that on the 1st of the present month the new regulations governing the importations of food products into the United States came into force. As the matter of dealing with Australian products is now underlegislative consideration, it may be well to call attention to the action taken’ by the United States.
This is what is being done in the great republic - in the country where they have wooden hams and log nutmegs -
The new regulations referred to are intended’ to prevent the landing in the republic of any but pure food articles, and to put a stop to the-
– That is what the honorable and learned member for Angas <has been contending.
– I do not say that the honorable and learned member has not a conscientious objection to the clause as it stands -
Should sugar, which is usually used in sweetening certain food products, be replaced by any other substance for that purpose, such as glucose, this fact must appear on the label. Where any essential ingredient of a food product is abstracted, and such abstraction is not necessary or usual in the preparation of the product, the label must indicate the ingredient which has been removed. For instance, if a portion of butter fat should be removed from milk, such removal is to be noted in the label. All descriptive matter must be printed in the English language, and in all food products packed and shipped after 1st September, the descriptive matter will be required as a part of the original label. The regulations have been indorsed by traders, who admit that the desire to insure cheapness in food requisites has opened the door for the admission of adulterated articles that should not be permitted to go into consumption.’ The policy of stopping the sale of “ make believes,” by insisting that the contents should be shown on the package is an advance ; add contents, weight or length, and then we shall get honest trade.
Almost every country with which we have to compete is imposing strict regulations, making it impossible for men to become millionaires through chicanery and fraud. How can Australia hope to compete in the markets of the world if we have a lower standard of commercial morality than have other countries ? Think of the fact that Australia of all” countries that sent products to South Africa during the war was the principal offender in reference to short weight.
– Short weight in what article?
– Think of the fact that the experts of the British Army will not allow Australian leather to be used. Is Australia to be the only country that is afraid to tackle the problem for fear of losing a little business? I am (riad that the Ministry has had the pluck to bring down this Bill. I hope to see it carried.
– They have the brains to understand it, and we have the brains to assist them to have it enacted. Nearly every advance that has been made in the world has been opposed by those who have benefited from the system sought to be improved. That had been the case in science, in literature, and in every department. The lineal ancestors of those who are opposing this Bill were the upholders of slavery, polygamy, and other things that are now regarded with horror.
– The contention of the honorable member for Darwin with reference to the United States Act is not at variance with what honorable members on this side of the chamber have been trying to get in this Bill. So far as I can make out from his reference to American legislation, it calls upon people who put in their goods ingredients which are not ordinarily used in such commodities to affix a label stating what is contained in them. That is precisely what the honorable and learned member for Angas contended should be done in this Bill. Ministers have never explained what the clause under consideration- and clause 7, which is the crux of the Bill, are intended to do. It seems to me that they are taking powers which, if exercised to the full limit,- would control the whole of our commerce, and would be in conflict with several of our States Acts referring to internal trade. I am a supporter of this Bill. I voted for its second reading. Its main provisions are such as any one who desires to see commerce conducted honestly must wish to see “adopted. But power is given to do such a wide diversity of things that we do not know where the Executive will stop in compelling people to submit to regulations and to the whole paraphernalia of inspection. I have had some experience of what inspection! means, and I say* that this is one of the most’ dangerous powers that can be given to any Government. ‘ It enables inspectors to issue their fiat as to whether goods are to be exported as first, second, or third grade ; in fact, as to whether they are to be shipped abroad with a chance of their bringing so much more or less money to the exporter. It is this dangerous power that I contend against. I wanted to pin the honorable member for Darwin to what I think was really in his mind when he spoke of the short weight of Australian goods exported to South Africa during the war. I think he intended to refer to the jam trade. I wish to say that Australian jams were never sent to South Africa short weight. The packages were sold at the weight they contained. That fact has been brought out in the House of Commons, and Australian exporters have been completely exonerated from any attempt to “get at” the War Office or the general public. Coming from an honorable member who complains so much about the “ stinking fish “ cry, his reference to this subject was remarkable.
– Short weight butter was exported.
– I cannot speak with regard to butter, but certainly the exporters of jam were paid for net weight, no matter what was contained in the tins. The packages were used by the Army in whatever way they thought fit, but there was no misrepresentation in regard to the weight of goods purchased. As to leather, I cannot speak so positively, but from what I have heard, I am quite prepared to believe that Australian leather is as good as any leather made in the world. It may be true that some leather is adulterated here as it is in other parts of the world, and it is for us to determine whether we shall call upon the manufacturers or exporters to say whether their leather contains any foreign ingredients. I am quite prepared to give the Government power to do that. But I am not prepared to pass this clause as it stands, though I cannot see exactly how to move in the direction of amending it. The clause would subject exporters and manufacturers to the prospect of being blackmailed at the instance of a staff of officials, whose word would have to be obtained astothe quality of the goods before they could be shipped. It is a fair thing to say that if a man exports leather which contains foreign ingredients, he shall declare what those ingredients are. But if the article is leather pure and simple, no Government should interfere to decide what the quality is. It would be sufficient to keep up the Australian good name if we put a bar to adulteration which might’ bring our trade into contempt. But I guarantee that if this Bill passes in its present form, before it has been in operation twoyears the whole commercial world of Australia will be up in arms against it.
– I hope theCommittee will not pass the amendment. The word “quality,” to my mind, is of great and grave importance. Even in regard to leather, which has been mentioned: by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I know that the quality for certain purposes has been materially reduced by the application of certain chemical substances. Not only leather, but a variety, of other products may be rendered inferior in quality by the use of adulterants..
– But if the leatheris pure, would the honorable gentlemanallow the Government to step in and designate its quality?
– If it is known to be inferior leather, it should be somarked.
– But under thisBill goods will be graded.
– The honorablemember appears to be afraid of the word’ “grade.” Honorable members oppositehave been using it in a ridiculous manner. They know perfectly well what is intended. I will read what is done in Victoria, where grading takes place just as; much as could be the case under this Bill. This is the way in which goods are graded, in this State: -
Compulsory inspection under this Act takesplace with regard to butter and cheese intended* for export, and in regard to live stock and produce liable to carry any disease, such, for instance, as meat. The compulsory supervisionwith regard to the latter, however, extends onlyto inspection as to freedom from disease. Butter, after inspection, is marked either “ approved forexport “ or “ fit for pastry.”
Those words “approved for export” arealways contained in the Victorian Act.
-That is a grading Act.
– It applies toquality.
– If that is doneit is grading.
– Honorablemembers opposite may call it what they like. They have been trying to make out that the object of this Bill is toapply to goods such terms as “ Grade 1,” ‘‘Grade 2,” “ Grade- 3,” “ Grade 4,” and so on. But they know perfectlywell that there is no intention todo anything of the kind at present.
– If power is taken to do it under this Bill what is to preventits beingdone ?
– It may be necessary, in some cases, to mark goods with a statement of their quality. But, to show the misconceptions that have arisen, take the case of apples. Some gentlemen connected with the trade came to see me. They had seen a copy of the Bill, and took fright because the words “quality” and “weight” were used in certain clauses. They thought that in future apples would have to be sold by weight instead of by the bushel. I pointed out that there was no intention to do anything of the kind, but that the object was, amongst other things, to fix the size of the case - to impose a standard for selling purposes.
– There is 1:0 power in this Bill to do that.
– Yes; the word “ size “ is used.
– That does not enable the Government to fix any size of case. ‘
– If exporters do not agree to the size fixed, we can deal with them; but there is no doubt that they will do so.
– I say there is no power in the Bill to fix a size for cases.
– I differ from the honorable member.
– The honorable member for North Sydnev should read clause jo in conjunction with the clause under consideration.
– I told the honorable member on Friday that he was wrong. It is absolutely necessary to retain the word “quality.” I have listened to the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Angas with a great deal of pleasure, as I always do, because they are always closely reasoned from his standpoint. I think, however, that the honorable and learned member is absolutely wrong in his view that we ought to adhere altogether to the wording of the English Merchandise Marks Act and the Acts of the various States. In Victoria, and I believe also in South Australia, there are Acts dealing with questions of this kind, but I am not sure that such legislation has been passed in any of the other States. Whatever we do must be applicable to the whole of Australia; and one of the objects of this Bill is to secure uniformity. It is always better to have matters of this kind made certain and, although, as one honorable member has said, the object may be achieved by the definition of another word, it may, on the other hand, not be covered. We ought to let the public and the commercial people know exactly what we mean. The word “ quality “ was in the Bill as originally drafted or prepared by my friend the honorable member for Gippsland.
– The honorable member for Gippsland has stated distinctly that the Bill was not prepared by him - that he had never seen it.
– I understood that the honorable member for Gippsland had seen the Bill, and had given directions to have it prepared.
– The honorable member for Gippsland said that he had never revised the Bill.
– That may be, but the honorable member for Gippsland gave directions to have the Bill prepared, I understand, under certain conditions; he may not have revised it in detail.
– The honorable member for Gippsland said he had never altered the Bill.
– The honorable member for Gippsland certainly said that he had never revised the Bill.
– That may be so.
– Then why should the present Minister of Trade and Customs take shelter under a statement of the kind ?
– The Bill was drafted according to the ideas of those to whom the honorable member for Gippsland gave instructions.
– And those are the same officers who are now advising the Minister of Trade and Customs.
– Not, perhaps, the same officers. The word .” purity “ is not in the Merchandise Marks Acts, or any of the Acts of the States ; and it has been deliberately inserted in the present measure, after discussion between the officers of the Department and myself, because it is felt that without it there will be a great weakness in regard to wine and other liquid commodities. There are other words which have been inserted for a similar reason. The honorable and learned1 member for Angas has the candour to admit that he would prefer to see the Bill rejected altogether; and, therefore, while his criticism may be directed, to framing the Bill as nearly as possible in the shape in which he would like to see it, Ave cannot forget that he has ho. friendly feeling towards it, and would like to see it rendered useless by allowing it to go no further than the present legislation. I hope the Committee will reject the amendment, because the definition has been thought out, and is directed to meet all cases. The great object of the Bill is to insure that foodstuffs, especially those which come in or go out of Australia, shall be pure - that every commodity shall be what it is represented to be. If a commodity is marked, and is bought with a mark upon it, that is tha business of the purchaser ; the object of the Government in introducing the measure is to secure that the public shall know what they are buying.
– Will the Minister apply the Bill to foodstuffs only ?
– No. I have, however, stated that I intend to submit an amendment.
– What is the amendment ?
– I indicated roughly what the proposed amendment is, and when we get further on with the Bill I shall be as good as my word. I know that many honorable members think the measure ought to apply to all goods, and, after what I saw the other day in connexion with boot manufacture, I am inclined to think that something should be done to stop the iniquity there disclosed.
– This Bill would not affect such boots.
– I did not reply fully the other afternoon because honorable members were then in a hurry to catch trains, and I should like now to say that I am uncertain whether it would not be a good thing to apply this Bill to goods as between State and State, as well as to foreign goods. When we make further progress with the measure, I think it may be possible for some consideration to be given, to that aspect of the case.
– There appears to be some misapprehension as to the practice in Victoria. The Victorian Act, dealing with exports, was passed in the year 1898, and there was much discussion in the State Parliament on the principle of grading. Finally, Parliament decided that all butter, for instance, of a reasonably good quality should be marked “ approved for export,” butter of inferior quality being marked “ pastry “ j the only pro hibition on export from Victoria was that of commodities not fit for human consumption. A suggested provision for dividing produce into various grades was persistently brought forward by the departmental officers, but was not inserted in the Bill. In 1901, an amending Bill was introdured into the State Parliament, and the departmental officers once more sought to have Victorian exports graded, but again Parliament refused to pass such a provision into law.
– Owing to the opposition of the Legislative Council.
– And also owing, to strong opposition from a number of producers.
– The provision was passed by a large majority in the Legislative Assembly.
– When I was in the Victorian Legislative Assembly the Opposition was led by one of the best dairymen in Victoria, who is at the present time a member of the State Parliament. In the Legislative Council the grading principle was objected to by a member who was at that time, and is now, I believe, one’ of the largest dairy farmers in the State. These facts show that the principle of grading was not accepted in Victoria, and that the only prohibition assented to was in relation to produce unfit for human consumption. Regarding the question from its lowest stand-point, what is the good of a man exporting produce and branding, it as of inferior quality? We have heard a good deal lately of “the stinking fish” policy, which would seem to be that adopted by the present Ministry. Buyers in London do not buy on the Government brand, but on the quality of the goods.
– I am informed quite differently.
– If the Government brand goods as inferior, that only provides an excuse for the buyer to beat down the price, whereas goods, when not branded, have to stand on their merits.
– In the States of America, there are Government brands.
– But how are we to get uniform grading from one end of Australia to the other? Are we to assume that departmental officers will adi grade in exactly the same way ? We need only ask the question to show the unreasonableness of the proposal.
– There might be contradictory grading between the States and the Commonwealth.
– That is so; and the more one looks into the question the more -difficult it appears. It has been repeatedly pointed out that this Bill would not cover the shocking examples which the honorable member for Darling laid before honorable members the other night.
– I think it will be found that the Bill does cover such cases.
– The Bill applies only to goods exported from Australia, and the honorable member for Darling was referring to produce which is exchanged between the States, and which, as I say, would not be affected by the Bill in the slightest degree.
– The Bill would prevent the passage of goods which were not properly described.
– It would not even do that. All the Bill provides is that, if goods are branded with a true description they shall be allowed to enter, but not otherwise. The honorable member for Darling gave instances of goods of local production sent from Melbourne to other parts of the Commonwealth ; and that could not be prevented by the Bill. In this regard, the measure will give a premium to an industry of the kind referred to by the , honorable member for Darling - an industry which ought to be discouraged. I hope the Committee will not accept the grading principle, seeing that the bulk of the producers do not desire it.
– That is not the issue now.
– The whole question hinges on that issue. Strong representations were made to me when I was a member of the Victorian Parliament against the adoption of the grading principle, and similar representations have been made to me during the past few months.
– I understand that the honorable and learned member for Angas proposes that the Committee should eliminate the word “ quality/’ not because he particularly objects to that word’, but in order to test the question whether there shall be any provision whatever as to the grading or branding of goods for export - whether there shall be any Government regulation. Personally, I am in somewhat of a difficulty as to how to vote until I know exactly what the Government propose. The intentions of the Government, and the amendments which it is proposed to submit, ought to be within the knowledge of honorable members before any vote is taken. Otherwise, I shall vote for the inclusion of the word ; because we should then be free to recommit the Bill and strike it out, if necessary. It would, however, materially assist the Committee if, in dealing with a matter of this magnitude, we knew exactly what steps the Government proposed to take.
– We are at present working in the dark.
– To a certain extent that is so. At present there is no Department to deal with matters of the sort under discussion; and we are entitled to know to what extent it is proposed to have Government inspection. I am in entire agreement with any proposal for classifying, if necessary, goods imported for human consumption, and for the accurate description of other commodities, so that the public may not purchase them in ignorance of their contents or quality. Of course, when we h’ave to deal with exports, it must be made clear that we do not put into the hands of Customs officials a power practically to retard production in Australia. That might follow if those employed in this duty were not thoroughly qualified for the work. Under the Bill, an “ officer “ means an “ officer of Customs.” I suppose that if an expert were appointed, he would be made an officer of Customs, but certainly every Customs officer could not be intrusted with a very great deal of this work.
– The expert would be under the Customs Department.
– There would be no difficulty in making him an officer of the Customs Department. What I mean to say is that it is essential that any man appointed to grade the quality and test the purity of goods, should be an expert. Butter, meat, wine, and fruit are, I suppose, the leading lines of exports to which the provisions of such a Bill as this would apply. No ordinary Customs official, unless he has had very large practical experience and possesses some amount of scientific knowledge, is qualified to grade these commodities. The grading of wine requires expert knowledge of a very spe: Clad character. In South Australia, we intrusted the rejection of certain wines and the granting of certificates of purity and soundness in respect of wines to Professor Perkins, a man whose qualifications in this respect are second to those of no other man in Australia.
– What salary was he paid ?
– I think he reached a salary of ,£800 a year.
– Does he grade or does he say that one article is pure and that another is not pure?
– He does not really grade. I think that he deals with only two classes, but honorable members will see that that requires quite as much expert knowledge as grading, because there is so much wine on the border line. Whether an officer has to grade into two or four classes, there is a border line in each case, and it is that which constitutes the difficulty. I gather from the remarks of the Minister that the question of uniform packing cases can be provided for under this Bill.
– There is no power under this Bill to provide for that.
– It seems to me that there is. I shall not discuss the question, but honorable members who are better qualified than I am to interpret its provisions express the opinion that that power is undoubtedly contained in the measure. It seems to me that this clause, taken in conjunction with clause io, gives that power. I should like to point out that while, in the opinion of fruit-growers, certain packing cases are best for the export of fruit to Europe, the fruit trade with the East requires a different method of packing, and requires a case in which there is a centre-piece. All these things must be taken into account, and the Government Department intrusted with the administration of this measure must be very careful not to hamper the trade of the Commonwealth.
– The fruit trade with Northern Queensland will require cases made of the timber which can be got there.
– That is so. In South Australia, we grow no timber suitable for making packing cases. In some of the States, of course, the local timber is used for their manufacture. In some instances the outside dimensions of the cases will be governed by the materials used in their manufacture, but that is not a very serious consideration, because what will be insisted upon under Government inspection will be the capacity of the cases and not their outside measurement. The honorable member for South Sydney, when, speaking about the War Office contracts for goods sent to South Africa, contended that Australia had come very well out of the discussion which took place in connexion, with those contracts, inasmuch as it was proved that the bulk quantity of the goods sent was in every case as specified. From my own observation, I am able to inform the honorable member that, in one case, at all events, a” shortage would have been exported but for Government inspection. I shall not be any more definite, but honorable members may take my word for it that it was only because inspection by a Government officer was a. condition laid down by the War Office that a shortage was discovered in the case of certain goods sent from one of the States.
– Was that ire South Australia?
– It was in connexion with certain contracts for goods sent to South Africa.
– It was not inNew South Wales.
– I do not know whether there was any inspection of goods supplied under those contracts in New South Wales.
– Yes, there was.
– It is probable that a knowledge of the fact that the goods would have to pass a Government inspector was an incentive to those supplying the goods to see that they were full weight.
– The contracts- were for net weight.
– The goods had to be put up in certain-sized tins, as a rule. But in one case which came under my ownobservation the tins were not of the weight which they were stated to be, and but for Government inspection the net weight exported would have been short.
– I exported goodsunder those contracts, and I know I was paid for what I delivered.
– I am not referring to any goods exported by the honorable member. Inspection as to quantity and’ quality might be a splendid thing for thereputation of Australia, and of great advantage to Australian producers if it iscarefully and efficiently carried out. But it is really important that we should knowto what goods this measure will apply.. The Government should, as far as possible, have the details of their proposal worked out, and they should take the Committee into their fullest confidence in respect to them.
– They are afraid that a little knowledge would be fatal to the measure.
– I do not think that the honorable member believes that. A little knowledge is better than none. I am sincerely anxious to assist the Government to pass a measure which will serve the purpose for which this Bill has been introduced. At the same time, I entirely agree with those who say that we should have very full information as to what the Government really propose to do before we are asked to give them such powers as are provided for in this measure. I can quite conceive the possibility of the export trade of some of the States being hampered by over officialism. We should know really what the Government propose under the measure before we consent to give them these very large powers.
– It is refreshing to honorable members on this side to listen to so thoughtful a speech from the other side as that delivered by the honorable member for Boothby. All those who have made certain representations from this side agree entirely with what the honorable member has said. The consideration of the Bill is surrounded with difficulties, largely due to a want of knowledge as to how it will be practically applied. Men who from day to day are, throughout this Commonwealth, in constant contact with the exportation and importation of goods of all kinds hold the view that this measure is calculated to hamper trade. The honorable member for Boothby desires that no measure passed by this House shall have such an effect. The Minister is aware, from representations made to him by the Chambers of Commerce that the exporters and importers of the Commonwealth are entirely in favour of every clause and line in this Bill which will have the effect of preventing fraudulent representation in commerce and trade. It is because it is felt that this measure will not accomplish that object, but will have the effect of unnecessarily hampering trade, and will involve enormous expenditure if its provisions are to be satisfactorily applied, that so much resistence is offered to it. I would suggest that at this stage the Minister should take the Committee into his confidence, and let honorable members know his decision in the matter so far as it was communicated to the Chambers of Commerce. The honorable gentleman explained that clause 7 was not to apply to goods other than articles intended for human consumption, and medicines and medicinal preparations recommended as beneficial for any portion of the human or animal body. So far as the measure will apply to these goods, we all desire ‘to assist the Government in making it as effective as possible.
– Why not apply it to articles of wearing apparel?
– I have quoted the opinion of the Minister. It was explained to the honorable gentleman at the time that that took the sting out of the measure, but that in various other directions it was impossible to apply the Bill practically.
– According to what is now being said, my statement does not appear to have taken the sting out of the measure very much.
– We have had no definite statement that the Minister is prepared to come down with the proposed amendment. I am1 sure that the honorable gentleman intends to do so when we reach clause 7.
– I told the honorable member that I intended to fulfil my promise..
– Honorable members do not understand precisely what it is the Minister proposes to do. I feel that the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Angas re-opens the whole discussion on the principle underlying the Bill. The opposition to the measure arises from the belief that it will hamper trade and commerce to the detriment of the Commonwealth. So far as it will prevent fraud and misrepresentation in trade and commerce it will receive general support, and the Minister may be perfectly sure that every honorable member on this side will support any clause calculated to have that effect. But we have made representations which are based on practical experience, and they have not been made, for the purpose merely of obstruction. We have every desire to make the Bill a workable measure* and it has therefore been very gratifying to us to hear the speech made by the honorable member for Boothby. It is clear that there are supporters of the measure who believe that its application requires very serious consideration. I believe that the honorable and learned member for Angas does not attach too great importance to the meaning of the word “ quality.” The honorable and learned gentleman has simply shown that in its present shape the Bill is unworkable, and may do harm. We, therefore, ask the Committee tore-consider it, and our views in regard to it could not have been better stated than they have been by the honorable member for Boothby.
Mr.KENNEDY (Moira). - It appears to me that those opposed to this proposal argue on the assumption that the Minister and officers administering this Bill will leave nothing whatever undone to hamper trade.
– We have had some experience of the administration of the Customs Act.
– I take a view which isquite contrary to that of the honorable member, and I hold this view because of what I know of the supervision of exports in Victoria by State officials. Notwithstanding what the honorable and learned member for Wannon has said with regard to the intentions of the Victorian Parliament when a certain measure was before it, more particularly as to one article of export, the indirect effect of that legislation has been good,a considerable improvement in the quality of that one article being one of its results. I do not -believe for a moment that where business is conducted on fair lines, and the goods which are imported or exported are what they are represented to be, there will be any interference on the part of the Customs Department ; but I hope that whenever dishonest practices occur in regard to either importation or exportation, to the detriment of the honest trader, the Minister will require the affixing of true descriptions to the goods concerned. By way of illustration I ask, should not the Customs Department be able to require an importer, after reasonable notice has been given to him, not to import as woollen goods what is really shoddy, or to import as linen what is cotton ? - a fraud the existence of which was proved in our Courts a short time ago.
– Very respectable men were connected with it, too.
– No fault may attach to those in the trade; but the public must be protected, and importers should be asked to clearly and distinctly describe the nature of their goods, and should be made responsible for their descriptions. With regard to what has been said about grading, I do not believe that there is any danger of any hampering restriction being placed upon either the importer or the exporter. I am not alarmed about the possibility of an undue interference with our export trade in meat, butter, or fruit.
– Is there an inspector of meat connected with the export trade of Victoria ?
– We have had such officers in Queensland for ten years.
– It is a pity that the first shipments of meat sent from here were not inspected, because the action of some of the exporters was such as to ruin our reputation for a time, so that it is only recently that we have recovered lost ground. The Minister is empowered under the Bill, not to restrict or hamper importation or exportation, but to assist honest traders. Every Act of Parliament imposes restrictions on the individual ; but it is not intended to interfere with honest traders. The object of this measure is to prevent honest traders from being injured by the unfair competition of dishonest traders. In my opinion, if the amendment be agreed to, the efficacy of the Bill will be impaired.
– It ought not to be necessary to assure honorablemembers, as has been done so often already, that underlying the opposition to various provisions of the Bill there is no desire to protect dishonest traders, though there is a desire to seethatgoods which bear a description are truthfully described, whether they be imported goods or goods for export. I wish to point out that the Bill does not profess to accomplishsome of thosethings which honorable members think it will accomplish; and, further, that it will not successfully accomplish some of the the objects aimed at. For instance, there is nothing, to prevent the use of. deleterious, injurious, or adulterated articles oncethey have been imported. The card-board which was exhibited here by the honorable member for Darling on Friday last can still be imported under a proper description, and used locally in the making of boots.
– That can be prevented.
– I do not see how it can be prevented by the Bill if the manufactured article is not exported from the State in which it is made. I think, however, that we can deal with InterState trade.
– I doubt if the provisions of the Bill can be applied to Inter-State trade, because of the prohibition in section 92 of the Constitution against interference with the freedom of trade between the
– I would not question the honorable and learned member’s legal opinion, but, as a layman, I am inclined to think that we can deal with Inter-State trade. We cannot, however, deal with the manufacture and sale of goods within any State. Card-board could be imported under its proper description, if the Bill were in force, and made into boots which could be sold within the State as manufactures of leather without interference by the Commonwealth Government. Several honorable members, however, argue that the Commonwealth Government can prevent such transactions. Those who are supporting the amendment do not object to true descriptions of goods being required.
– Would the honorable member compel the placing of descriptions on all goods?
– I do not object to a description being insisted on where that is necessary to prevent fraud, but I do not wish for insistence upon unnecessary descriptions. The Bill gives the Minister power to insist on, not’ merely true descriptions, but any descriptions which he or his officers may choose to impose. There may be no mis-description, the truth of the description being admitted by the Department, and yet the Minister may insist upon some other description as well. That is a very wide power to give to the Minister. I agree with the honorable member for Boothby that we should know to what goods it is intended to apply the provisions of the measure, as the desirability of certain provisions in the Bill will be much affectedby that. It is time that the Committee had an intimation from the Minister as to the limitations which he will impose. The Minister stated that he would fix a certain size for fruit cases.
– A size which would be recognised by the Department as the proper size.
– The proper size to hold certain quantities. I interjected that the Bill gave no power for that. The honorable member forBoothby very properly urged that it would be very undesirable to fix one size only, because different sizes may be required fordifferent destinations.
– If another sizewere used, it would have to be specifically branded.
– The various sizes should bear a certain proportion one to another.
– Even supposing that it were desirable, the Minister would not be empowered to fix the sizesof the cases.
– There is nothing to prevent a man using any kind of case, so long as it is properly marked.
– I contend that no power is conferred to fix the size of the cases used for packing goods- for export. A man may send in a case containing 1 cwt. or 2 cwt., so long as he marks it accurately. The Minister may require that the case shall be accurately marked, but he cannot fix the size of thecase to be used.
– We shall fix certain standard sizes, and if cases of other sizes are used, they will have to be marked accurately.
– Thestandard cases will also have to be marked.
– Not necessarily.
– I am merely pointing out that there is a great deal of misapprehension with regard to the measure, and that some further information is due to honorable members. I donot attach to the word “ quality “ the importance indicated by the honorable and’ learned member for Angas. I merely look upon his amendment as a test of the question of grading by the Commonwealth. I am certainly opposed to grading being done by the Commonwealth authorities, until arrangements have been made with the States for suspending their operations in that direction. It would be absurd to havetwo grading systems in operation at the same time.Not only would it lead to duplication, but also to confusion and dissatisfaction, owing to the differences of opinion which might exist between the graders of the Commonwealth and those of the States. We should be told clearly how the Minister intends to classify goods intended for export. Does he intend to follow the Victorian example, and grade butter as “approved for export,” oras “ pastry.” I gather that he does, and, if” so, we shall at once have a duplication of grading.
– The Commonwealth Act will take precedence of all other Acts.
– Still, I think it undesirable that we should, without entering into some understanding with the States authorities, undertake work which is already being performed by the States.
– All the States do not at present grade and mark goods for export.
– But some of them do, and the Minister has not informed us whether he intends to exercise the powers conferred under the Bill in all the States, or whether he intends to accept as sufficient the grading which is now being carried on in some of the States. We are being asked to commit ourselves to a large expenditure, without any explanation from the Minister as to how far he intends to exercise the powers proposed to be conferred on him. The Victorian Act is perfectly clear. It is free from the uncertainty that attaches to the provisions of the Bill.In view of the very wide powers which are proposed to be conferred, and of the fact that the system which is to be established under the Bill is already in operation to a large extent in several of the States, we should proceed with the utmost caution.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - The honorable member has questioned me so repeatedly upon the question of grading, that I hardly understand what he means.
– We do not know what the Minister means.
– The honorable member has nodesire to understand. He knows well what is intended. I think that the honorable member for Boothby will admit that it is impossible for me, before the measure is passed, to go into particulars as to how the whole of the detail work will be carried out under it. I shall not attempt to do anything of the kind.
– Very much will depend upon the regulations.
– Exactly. A great deal of the work performed in Victoria is carried out under regulations. What the Committee are asked to do is to approve of the main principles of the Bill, and to leave matters of detail to be dealt with by regulation. Honorable members cannot expect that before the Bill is passed
I shall instruct my officers to consult the authorities of the various States as to how grading shall be carried out, and also to confer with certain business men with regard to the trade descriptions and marks to be used!
– Surely the Minister can tell us whether it is intended to duplicate the arrangements of the States?
– It is intended that the Commonwealth shall deal with the matter after consultation with those States in which provision is madefor the inspection and classification of goods intended for export. An endeavour will be made to arrange matters amicably.
– In cases where the States Acts are operating successfully they will not be interfered with.
– I should not like to say that; but probably the States officers who are now carrying out the work for the States will act for the Commonwealth much in the same way that they are doing at present in other departments. It is not intended that there shall be any undue interference in cases where they have adopted satisfactory methods, but only that amicable arrangements shall be made. There is no desire to unduly interfere with the States methods, although Commonwealth legislation must, of course, supersede that of the States. I have here a statement with regard to what is being done in Victoria in this direction. I have previously read a portion of the memorandum, which proceeds as follows : -
Grading is carried out by the Department when requested by shippers, but is not compulsory. With regard to butter, the desirability of submitting to Departmental grading is being widely recognised.
When I was at Albury show a few days ago a numberof persons interested in this trade told me that the desire to have the Victorian Government brand placed upon their goods was becoming universal, and that a great many persons in New South Wales were now sending produce for long distances through to Melbourne, in order that the Government brand might be affixed to their goods. The butter exported from Sydney) is not graded by Government officials. I am not sure that some butter is not sent from localities near Sydney to be graded and exported from Melbourne. The statement from which I have been reading proceeds -
Two years ago, 22 butter factories submitted voluntarily to grading ; last season there were 67, and it is expected that before very long all those factories doing any export trade will come in. When this takes place, the intention of the Department is to have all butters approved for export graded first, second, or third grade, and those not coming within any of the grades will be marked “pastry.” At present’ very little “pastry” butter is exported. The voluntary submission for grading, of other products, is also largely increasing. The Department grades and marks “as follows : -
Mutton and lamb : prime, good, and’ plain. In each of these qualities there are the following distinctions of weight : -
Only a few shipments were graded last year, but the number submitted to the Department is increasing.
Rabbits are branded in Black, signifying “best,” and in Red, signifying “seconds,” and words “ second grade.”
Each quality is divided according to weight, into -
But in “ seconds,” instead of “ large,” &c., they are numbered size 1, 2, or 3. Practically all the rabbits exported are inspected and graded.
That indicates what is. being done in Victoria. I need, not weary honorable members by reading any further, but the memorandum goes on to deal with vegetable products, poultry, and other articles, and tends to show that the desire to have the Government mark affixed to produce is rapidly extending. I have been asked to say what new provision I propose to submit by way of restricting the operation of the Bill. I told the deputation from the Chamber of Commerce that my desire in the first instance was to deal mainly with produce, food-stuffs, and medicines. I have since thought over the question whether apparel shall not be brought within the scope of the ‘Bill. I want to be fair to all concerned, and I propose to submit an amendment somewhat in this form -
Sections 7 and to shall apply only to articles, for human consumption, or goods used in the manufacture of articles for human consumption, medicines, and medicinal preparations - and I think I shall add the words “ apparel and manures.”
– What would be left out ?
– A great many things. I do not pledge myself to the exact words. I have been endeavouring to ascertain the exact technical meaning of the word “apparel,” but I have not yet obtained a very clear definition. I think, however, that, without extending the scope of the Bill to every article of merchandise, something should be done to put a stop to the practices followed by some manufacturers, such as were indicated; by the honorable member for Darling in connexion with boots and shoes, and the materials used in their manufacture. There is no desire, so far as I am concerned, to unduly restrict trade. Other Ministers may act differently, but I do not intend to unduly hamper or restrict trade. It is my desire to prevent the introduction of spurious articles such as are being imported into the Commonwealth, and are involving great destruction of human life. I refer particularly to infant foods.
– And clothing.
– My remarks do not apply to clothing to the same degree. I also wish to inform the honorable member for Boothby that when the Bill becomes law it is intended to consult persons interested in . the export trade as to the proper trade descriptions to be adopted. We shall meet them in every possible way, and interfere as little as possible wilh what has been done in t 1:e pa.-!. We shall exercise the powers conferred u i)on us under the Bill, only in cases where dishonest practices have been indulged in. I have nothing more to add. I have sought to meet all the objections that have been advanced, and wish the Committee to clearly understand that it would be foolish at this stage, before the Bill has actually come into operation, to endeavour to go into every little detail to be dealt with under it. _ All that I can do at the present stage is tostale generally what is the object which the Department seeks to carry out.
– I have listened to the Minister with a great deal of interest, but confess that he has given us ‘no further information, except as to one point. I think that he succeeded in making it exceedingly clear that he is not going to allow whatever exemption he promised the Chambers of Commerce.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The Minister told us that he proposed to limit the operation of the Bill to all foodstuffs for human consumption, to medicine, and to apparel, or, in other words, to all that people consume in the way of goods, plus medicine, and to all that they wear. I should liketo know what will be omitted.
– A number of things - all piece goods, for example.
– We should omit nothing.
– I can quite understand the honorable member for Melbourne approving of this. He knows what scope the Minister intends this provision to have. If he had his way, he would prohibit the importation of anything that could possibly be made in Australia.
– I would prohibit anything coming in under fraud, and I think the honorable member would do the same.
– The honorable member is quite consistent. No one desires to shield fraud. The Opposition have just as great a desire to prevent it as have honorable members in the Ministerial corner ; but, at the same time, we have no desire, under the pretext of stamping out fraud, to do anything that would hold up the whole trade of the port: If we could stamp out fraud by these ready methods, it would be a delightful thing to do, but I am sure that the only idea of the honorable member in regard to stamping out fraud in connexion with the trade of the port is to shut the port.
– The honorable member is dreaming.
– I hope that I am. At all events, from what the Minister tells us, he intends, “ notwithstanding anything he may have said to the Chamber of Commerce, to make this Bill broad enough to cover all that people consume in the way of food, and all that they need in the shape of apparel and medicine. That being so, what will remain outside the scope of this measure?
-Furniture, jewellery, piece goods, and other things.
– I am reminded by the honorable member’s interjection that he showed us the other day a lot of boots made of ‘inferior leather or pasteboard, which he said had been manufactured in Australia. How would he deal with such manufactures ?
– By so amending the Bill that it would also apply to Inter-State trade.
– I am afraid that that would not help the honorable member. It would have no effect so far as the greater part of the product of such material was concerned. Only the other day I saw a pair of boots, made in a local factory, costing a fair price, and supposed to be composed of good material. The little leather on the heel of one of these boots had worn down, and when the heel was opened it was found to be packed with paper. That kind of thing goes on in the States, and, although my honorable friends in the Ministerial corner talk about this Bill being calculated to prevent dishonest trade of that kind, they must know that it cannot do so.
Mr.Webster. - The honorable member knows that we have not the power to pass a Bill that would touch that kind of trade.
– Quite so; and thehonorable member shows by his interjection that he recognises that the Bill will be practically useless, so far as the prevention of dishonest trade is concerned. In connexion with our oversea and Inter-State trade it is not a matter of dishonest trading. The Minister proposes to take power to prohibit various goods if they do not comply with a certain description that he himself thinks right. He proposes, if necessary, to destroy the whole of such products, if they do not comply with the standard which he himself sets up. How will the question of dishonesty arise? The Minister himself will have to say what is dishonesty in relation to these matters, and from his decision there will be no appeal. If he sees a description applied to goods which may be honestly a mistaken one, is he to say that it is dishonest? Is he to prohibit those goods and to destroy the business of the persons concerned because a mistake which he chooses to call dishonest has been made? At the present time it is generally left to the law courtsto determine what is dishonesty, except in relation to matters of Customs administration. Are we to let the Minister prohibit and despoil a man’s business because the latter may have interpreted a trade description in a different way from the Minister himself? A man may have done so in an honest, open, and above-board way ; but, because his description does not tally with the Minister’s interpretation of what is necessary, is he to have the brand of dishonesty put upon him?
– The Bill provides for such cases.
– It does not. The Minister would have complete power, not only to prohibit goods, but to confiscate them. There is to be no escape from? his decision except such action as he may take by way of grace. I do not think that any man conducting intricate business concerns, of which he may know a great deal more than does the Minister himself, should betreated in this way. Do not honorable members see that a business man’s interpretation may be far more honest than that of the Minister, simply because the trader has a more intimate knowledge of the goods?- The Minister may prescribe a standard for goods that in the long run may prove to be an inferior one. In order to comply with such a standard a man might have to produce an inferior article, whereas if left to himself he might produce a very much superior one. The Minister is to be the judge of all these matters. He is to prescribe the standard, gauge, measure, and everything else connected with the various goods coming under the operation of the Bill;, but I say that neither he nor any of his officers has the requisite knowledge to determine their quality. Here is a case in point. A few years ago the Government of New South Wales assisted the fruit-growers to the extent of arranging a shipment of oranges for London and sending it there for them. A departmental fruit expert was sent to the various orchards to select the fruit, and I am told by the growers themselves that if this work hadbeen left to them, they would, have sent a different class of oranges from that which he selected. The result of this action was that the shipment - for which the’ Department paid the growers - arrived its London rotten, and was a huge failure: No shipment of oranges from New South Wales has since been tried. In that case a Government expert selected an inferior kind of orange for shipment to London, rather than take the opinion of those who had been in the business all their lives, and could have assisted him had they been permitted’. Under this Bill, if a grower packed, oranges, and they did not come up to the standard laid down by the officers of the Department, he mightbeheld to be acting dishonestly - his goods might be confiscated, and his trade destroyed. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to “ swallow” everything thatthe Ministersays. The honorable gentleman does not know anything better with regard to all these matters.
– The honorable member does not know that we do “ swallow “ everything that the Minister says.
– Some honorable members appeared to acceptin a very docile way every statement made by the Minister. I hold that the Minister is not a fair judge of all the ramifications of the various industries that will be coveredby the Bill.
– The honorable member knows that the Minister will not judge of these matters for himself.
– I am referring to the Minister and his officers. What does Dr. Wollaston, Mr. Smart, or any of the other officers of the Department know, for instance, about oranges?
– Why not appoint a board to act as general advisers to the Minister?
– We should then’ require an expert for every trade dealt with. The Bill, if it be passed, will simply duplicate all that hasbeen done in this direction by the States. I do not expect for one moment that the States will surrender their right to overlook these matters in the way they are doing to-day. The Minister submitted figures showing that the State grading of butter and other kinds of produce was on the increase in Victoria. If they are doing well in this State why do we need to meddle with them ? Why not let them alone?
– We are not dealing only with Victoria.
– When the Minister was speaking the honorable member interjected, by way of eliciting the fact that if a State were doing, well in this respect, the Minister would not interferewith its administration., But the Minister must administer this measure, when it becomes law, for all the States or none. He cannot apply it to one State and let another go free.
– The Commonwealth and the States may work in unison.
– Of course they may. The best way to secure that harmony would be, first of all, to obtain the consent of the Premiers of the States to such a measure as this. All efforts in that direction so far have elicitedonly a direct refusal on the part of the State Premiers. The matter was gone into very fully at the Hobart Conference, but the Premiers of the States would not agree to uniform action - they would not have any interference with their local arrangements. The Minister is now thrusting this Bill on them. They do not want it. Most of them arein rebellion against it ; but I suppose it is because we have nothing else to do that we are taking a hand in these affairs of the States. Huge problems are overshadowing us and knocking at the door for solution, but we have nothing better to do than to adopt this meddlesome attitude with regard to functions which, according to the Minister, are being well performed to-day by most of the States.
– I did not say that all the States are doing it, because they are not.
– I suppose the honorable gentleman is referring particularly to Victoria?
– To Victoria and’ New South Wales.
– If the States are doing the work well, I do not see why we should wish to meddle with them. Why not leave them alone? My contention throughout the argument has been that, with the elaborate Health Departments of the States and with the skill and experience at their command, they can do better by local arrangements than we can do by means of an unified and central authority. And there is no guarantee that when we set up to do this work the same practice will be found to have been adopted in all the States. It is not so now in respect of many matters. I apprehend that there will be the same difference in methods under this Bill. My complaint is that under the measure the Minister is taking powers to which he can find no parallel in the civilized world. I challenge him to say where there is any law like that proposed in this Bill.
– What about the passage read by the honorable member for Darwin ?
– Some parts, of the world must always lead.
– So far as I can ascertain, other countries that interfere in these matters confine their attention simply to imports, and leave exports severely alone.
– There are several . Asiatic countries in which the law is most stringent in regard to the importation of produce.
-I hope we are not following the example of Asiatic countries.
– It seems like it.
– I am afraid that the honorable member is right. This is an Asiatic proposal I fear. The only thing that differentiates it from Asiatic practice is that in Asia the principle of prohibition is carried down to the lowest affairs of life. They have, prohibition of localities as well as of countries. But I repeat that the Minister and his officers cannot do what is proposed half as well as it is being now done in the States.
– Not in all of the States.
– In most of them. The honorable member, of course, refers to those States where it is not. being done by the Government. But it is done none the less. Every pound of butter that leaves Australia is graded - if not by the Government, by some other experts. A gentleman who came to Australia from London lately was very emphatic in his statement that the Government brand on butter gave it no extra value. Buyers purchase after testing the quality. The Government brand, he says, does not make the slightest difference to the large buyers of butter in London, who are well able to look after themselves. What will happen if this Bill is passed I am afraid is that less and less of our second-quality stuff will be sent abroad. Some honorable members may say that that will be a good thing. I do not agree with them.
– There is always a market for inferior grades.
– The great bulk of the working people in the older countries of Europe can never hope to buy anything but second-quality fruit, butter, cheese, and bacon, They cannot afford to buy the best. What will probably result from this Bill is that we shall shut ourselves out from that market, which is by far the largest in Great Britain at the present time. We ought to allow our exporters to send away what they like so long as it is sent honestly and fairly. We can always rest assured that the buyers at the other end will take good care to differentiate in matters of quality and price. If any action is to be taken to put a Government stamp or brand upon our exports, it ought to be with the concurrence of the States. The Minister of Trade and Customs ought not to put his meddlesome foot into the local arrangements of the States, probably interfering to the detriment of the trading and producing interests of Australia. The Ministerhas laid down the delightful doctrine that all we need to do is to enunciate a few general principles in the Bill, and to leave the details to be worked out by him and his officers. That is to say, according to his contention, we ought to say in the Bill that the butter ex- ‘ ported shall be “ good butter,” and leave everything else to him. I am not prepared to do that. The honorable gentleman mut.ters that I shalT have to. I suppose that I shall. He has a majority behind him. But I exercise my right to protest, and call attention to the fact that honorable members do not appear to be giving such consideration to the details of the measure as I think they ought to do. The Minister says, “ Leave the details to the Department.”
– Leave everything to the Department !
– Yes ; I do not see why we need a Bill at all. I am sure that the present Minister of Trade and Customs would run Australia, if we only chose to let him do it. I remember reading a statement in the Age, purporting to be an interview with the honorable gentleman, wherein he declared that the Government were going to make people at the other end of the world do this, that, and the other. Give him the power, and I am sure that he would make folks “ sit up.” He likes nothing better, particularly if he can get a big journal to back him for all it is worth.
– Does the honorable member think that is possible while we have a Parliament sitting? ,
– I think that the strangest possible things may be done while this Parliament is sitting. Things are being done every day that I venture to say never could happen if we had a Parliament looking after such matters, as it ought to do. > Mr. Spence. - Then where is the Opposition ?
– It is doing its very best, but it happens to be in a minority. The honorable member and his party are at the back of the Government, and are supporting it in some strange things too - some of them contained in this Bill. Take the case of harvesters.
– Order ! I think that has nothing to do with this Bill.
– I graded the harvesters all right.
– But the honorable gentleman has not yet proved his state ments. He can grade anything under this Bill. He can prescribe anything, and there is no appeal from his decision. In the past, kings cut people’s heads off because there was no one to say them nay. If this Bill once gets on the statute-book, the Minister will be the Pooh-bah of commerce in Australia, and will be able to work his own sweet will as to what is to come into the country and what is to go out of it. There may be something to be said for a despotism so long as it is benevolent, educated, and intelligent; but I am not prepared to make the honorable gentleman a despot. I know him too well. I know the many blunders he has made during his administrative career, both in his own State and since the commencement of Federation.
– I did something that the honorable member’s party never did.
– There is no doubt that the honorable gentleman does things, some of which would be better left undone. Very often he has done things that the interests of Australia would have best been conserved by not doing. Those things are nothing to glory in, or to gloat over. He has done many things in the way of administration that I should be sorry to have my name associated with.
– I am very proud of them.
– I am sure the honorable gentleman is. He has a happy knack of doing some things and shunting off the consequences. That is another feature of his political history. He has done many things that have brought him kudos, but some one else has had to shoulder the burden - or, to put it vulgarly, has had to whip tlie cat for him.
– Are we to be treated to a biography of the Minister?
– He is asking to be trusted with enlarged powers, and I am giving reasons why he should not have them. A very much abler and better man than he ought not to have such powers. No man ought to have them. I believe that the honorable gentleman will do his best to accomplish what he thinks ought to be done, according to his lights. , But I would not give these powers to any one, because I do not think that any one man has the requisite knowledge, fairness, and judgment to deal equitably with all the trading operations of Australia. If, however, the Bill is to go through, I hope that it may be possible to prescribe a general fruit case for the Australian trade. I believe that, by the process of marking cases as containing imperial bushels, half-bushels, and quarterbushels, it would be possible to prescribe ii general case. If the Minister were to prescribe that fruit must be put up in such cases, the fruit-growers of Australia would, 1 believe, readily subscribe to the standard. It is not so much a common shape as a common quantity per case that is required* That is to say, fruit-growers have agreed that the imperial bushel should be the standard, so that a person purchasing a case would know exactly how much fruit it contained. At present growers put what they like in their cases. Some give as little as possible ; others give full measure, pressed down and running over. This reform would be one of the most useful things that we could do by means of this measure. But, according to the Minister’s own statement, what he wants to do is to prescribe common conditions for the whole of Australia as to matters which are now being better done by the States themselves. Therefore, we shall merely be duplicating machinery without securing more administrative efficiency. The Bill will be absolutely useless for the purposes for which it is intended, namely, to protect the honest trader and the consumer. It has been shown that it is impossible to protect the consumer. We cannot give him any guarantee of quality ; because goods are open to manipulation after they leave the hands of the Customs officer, and it is not proposed to follow them into consumption. Therefore, in that respect, the Bill will fail. What we are asked to do - to protect honest people and to see that they get honest value - will be set aside by people who are already disposed to act dishonestly by the general public. The men who now impose dishonest values will still be able to do so by manipulating the goods after they leave the hands of the Customs officials. As to the real intention and motive of the Minister - as to the real gist of the measure - it has been abundantly shown again and again during this discussion that the objects sought will not be achieved. We had better leave this matter to the States, the authorities of which, with all their experience behind them, will be best able to safeguard the interests of the consumer and of the honest trader.
– The honorable member for Parramatta has told us that there is as much_ desire on the part of himself and his followers as there is amongst honorable members on the Ministerial side to put down dishonest trade, and yet the only attempt that so far has been made to deal with the matter is sought to be destroyed by the Opposition.
– We suggest another way.
– The honorable member has suggested nothing practical so far as I have heard.
– I have suggested a conference of State Premiers.
– The honorable member has suggested a good many trade matters which ought to be left entirely with? out regulation. The chief objection raised to the Bill, and to this clause in particular, by honorable members of the Opposition is that the measure is too drastic - that it is an interference which will hamper trade. But we have heard very little indeed about protection to the consumer, who ought to be our first consideration.
– The Bill will not protect the consumer.
– I admit that the Bill will not entirely protect the consumer. For instance, many of the matters mentioned during the discussion are purely matters for the States. I was glad to hear the honorable member for’ North Sydney admit that we have power to regulate commerce between the States.
– I think the Commonwealth may do so.
– I do not pretend to be a constitutional authority, but, so far, only the honorable and learned member for Angas has said that we cannot regulate commerce between the States.
– I do not give a deliberate opinion, but merely say that the matter is doubtful.
– That is what I understood the honorable and learned member to mean. It is said that the Bill proposes to give too much power to the Minister. My experience, however, is that powers of administration, such as these, are exercised in a very lax manner. Under the Customs Act, for instance, I am satisfied that, in the opinion of a good many of the electors, the members of the Government are not exceeding their duty in the way of administration; and it is repeatedly said that it is a pity we did not have the honorable and learned member for Adelaide longer at the head of the Customs Department. Under the circumstances, I think we have nothing tofear in regard to the Minister exceeding the powers of administration proposed to be given him by this measure. If the Minister of Trade and Customs did exceed his powers, this House would bring him up with a round turn before he had time to do any real mischief to trade. The honorable member for Parramatta tells us that this Bill will be a duplication of the systems of inspection and grading which obtain in the States. But the Bill goes a great deal further in regard to imports and exports than could any measure in an individual State.
– A great deal further for the worse.
– For the better, I think. In South Australia, at the present time, fruit, poultry, rabbits, butter, lambs and other produce are graded ; and I do not think that it will be contended for a moment that if this Bill becomes law the South Australian Government should no longer continue their work of inspection. My own opinion is that when the work is found to be well done the officers employed now will continue , to be employed, and the standard set by the States experts will be accepted by the Customs officers. In South Australia I have heard none of the objections to grading, which have been put forward . during the discussion on this Bill. I have heard no complaint of a serious character, nor indeed of a trivial character, though it? has been complained two or three times that the inspector cannot be in a dozen places at once.’ In regard to manures, for instance, which the Minister proposes to bring under this Bill, it is necessary that there should be some protection. In South Australia not only is the protection proposed by this Bill afforded, but all manures are subject to analysis.
– That was done without the assistance of the Commonwealth.
– Exactly. South Australia is the only State in which the analysis of manures has been carried out ; and the idea is so good that I should like to see it extended throughout the Commonwealth.
– That has been done in Victoria for two years past.
– The Bill deals only with imports, and not with commodities ‘ made for use in the Commonwealth.
– A great deal of manure, is imported, and the Bill ought todeal also with locally-made manures.
-That is a State matterin which we cannot interfere.
– We can deal with manures under this Bill if we are willing, todo so.
– We can deal with manures if they are sent from . State to State.
– And inspection in this respect would be very good for all concerned. The South Australian people, I believe, get a fair proportion of the cardboard boots mentioned by the honorable member for Darling.
– Where are those boots made ?
– They are made in Victoria, and sold in South Australia.
– Does the honorable memberreally say that card-board boots; are made in Victoria ?
– A great many things are done in the way of trade in New South Wales, Victoria, and also South Australia, with which I have no sympathy and this Bill would assist in preventing: dishonest practices of the kind. The whole objection to the Bill seems to be that it will interfere with trade; but honorable members lose sight of the fact that the only interference proposed is with dishonest traders. There is no attempt to interfere with the honest manufacturer, to whom, for the first time, this Bill offers protection.
– The Bill goesfurther than that.
– And I am very: glad to know that the Bill does go further. Unfortunately, inmy opinion, the measure is not far-reaching enough, owing to the limits imposed by the Constitution. If this Bill, as it stands, becomes law, the lives of many infants will be saved, and that is animportant consideration when we want population so badly. Recently there was a medical congress in Adelaide, and Dr.. Armstrong, of Sydney, there stated that the total infant mortality of England is greater by 44 per cent. than that of New South Wales, and 25 per cent. greater than the infant mortality of Sydney. Dr. Armstrong went on to say that thereare 10 per cent, more deathsfrom diarrhoea in Sydney than in England, although pneumonia and bronchitis are 150- per cent, greater in England than its
New South Wales, and the total infant mortality used to be greater in New South Wales than in England. What reason does Dr. Armstrong give for this reduction of mortality? He says that a vigorous enforcement of the adulteration of food sections of the Health Act have materially helped towards this end. Surely that is something at which it is worth while aiming. A great deal of the infants’ food consumed in Australia is imported from different parts of the old world, and much of it, instead of being pure, is actually dangerous. I remember that at one time in Victoria some condensed milk, which had been imported, was found to have had 90 per cent. of the food ingredients extracted.
– That milkwas made in Germany.
– This Bill will prevent any fraud of that kind.
– That is not so.
– Undoubtedly it will, because the Minister will have power to confiscate and destroy such a product.
– The Bill gives no such power.
– I know that, the Bill provides that goods must bear a true description, but if milk were described as having had 90 per cent. of the food ingredients extracted, the Minister would doubtless confiscate it.
– Hear, hear.
– Milk so described would not sell.
– And there the Bill would show its effect.
– But milk of that kind could fee manipulated after it left the Customs.
– If we set the example by passing this Bill, the States will follow, and see that milk is not tampered with after it leaves the Customs. The States will say - “ The Commonwealth has done its duty, and now it is time for us to do ours.’’ I am glad to see that in this regard Victoria and New South Wales are moving ahead of the Commonwealth; and their action is very necessary. The honorable member forParramatta asked whether, if this Bill would deal with medicines, apparel, and food, what else there was for it to deal with? Up to the present I have not heard one word said about jewellery, for example. People are fleeced to a most astounding extent by false jewel- lery, which is nearly all imported.
– This Bill would not stop the sale of such jewellery.
– Undoubtedly it would. The Bill would compel importers of jewellery to affix a true description, showing the quality and component parts.
– Where would the description be?
– Where the regulations prescribe.
– On the box containing the jewellery, I suppose?
– It is not for me to say how the descriptions are to be affixed. The honorable member for Parramatta has urged that the Minister does not know how this provision about the true description is to be carried out; but the Minister very rightly retorts that he will have the help of the experts in the Department. When a similar law was proposed in South Australia, precisely the same arguments that we have heard to-day were used. But no injury whatever has been done in that State;on the contrary, its trade has improved greatly, and the consumer, the honest merchant, and the bungler are alike protected. I believe that a good deal of the produce which is sent abroad, and which gives Australia a bad name, is the result of ignorance on the part of the exporter.
– Where has Australia a bad name?
– Our country has a bad name in England, on the Continent of Europe, in South Africa, and in America; indeed, I believe that in the lastmentioned country the importation of certain goods from Australia has been absolutely prohibited.
– Is the honorable member of the “stinking fish” party?
– My desire is to remove any justification for the bad name which Australia may have. The honorable member for Parramatta says that buyers in the old country will ask for the quality they wish, and indicate the price they will pay. What protection is thatto the consumer? Dealers in the old country are only too glad to buy margarine, and sell it under the name of butter. I. remember seeing tons of it sold under the name of butter, and the people bought it as butter.
– Did the honorable member know that it wasmargarine ?
– Then why does the honorable member say that it was?
– We got an expert to tell us. This practice became so bad in the old country that the British Parliament had to pass legislation declaring that no . margarine, or other inferior oleaginous matter, should be sold as butter.
– There would be some sense in that; but we cannot do that.
– We can prohibit its importation into Australia.
– We do prohibit it under the Customs Act.
– We can go further, and we can prohibit inferior goods being exported from this country. I have no more desire to see myfellow-beings in. other countries injured than I have to see injury done to my fellow-citizens of Australia. The honorable member for Parramatta says that the buyer will see that he does not pay too much for inferior goods, but the consumer has often to take what he can get. We know that goods are sent from other parts of the world to Australia, and, in some instances from Australia to other parts of the world, which are unfit for human consumption.
– Does the honorable member believe that this Bill should apply to Inter-State commerce ?
– Would the honorable member have a series of Customs-houses on the borders of the States ?
– We might require an additional Customs officer or two. The honorable and learned member will admit that these matters are regulated to some extent in Victoria, as they are in South Australia, and there is no reason why we should not regulate trade between the States as well as trade with foreign countries. If honorable members will consult the evidence which has been given before the Tariff Commission in regard to liquor alone, they will find that some of the leading distillers agree that there is hardly such a thing as pure liquor coming into Australia to-day.
– They alsosay that, after it is made up into bad whisky, the refuse is made into teetotal drinks.
– With regard to teetotal drinks, Mr. Saul Joshua says that a large proportion of poisons, including fusel oil”, are used in the making of temperance drinks throughout Australia. The New South Wales Government Analyst says that 50 per cent. of the temperance drinks consumed in Australia are water coloured with analyne dyes, and flavoured with amyl acetate. We have it admitted by the Government Analyst of Western Australia that at no time in its history have the liquors consumed there been so deleterious to health as at the present time.
– What about “ Pinkey “ ?
– Exactly. Pinkey is a brand of wine which is responsible for the death or madness of hundreds of human beings in South Australia.
– Not hundreds?
– Hundreds, and not scores. When the honorable member for Grey goes back to Adelaide. I will be able to take him to one wine-shop where I have seen scores of men and women whose intellect has been imperilled by the consumption of the liquor referred to by the honorable member for Yarra.
– Where does that wine come from ?
– Unfortunately, I have to admit that it is made in South Australia.
– This Bill would not apply to it.
– There is no reason why it shouldnot, and I have to tell the honorable member that if possible we shall make the Bill apply to Inter-State trade. I may also inform him that some of the bad wines of Victoria and of New South Wales are sent to South Australia. There is bad wine made in every State of the Commonwealth.
– The dreadful wine to which the honorable member refers seems to be made in the only State which has passed similar legislation to this.
– South Australia has not passed legislation similar to this Bill, but the South Australian Legislature will shortly be asked to deal with a very much more drastic measure. They would’ say in South Australia that this measure could not be as effective as it ought to be, because it does not go far enough. We should therefore have no hesitation in passing a measure which will be very mild as compared with the legislation which will certainly be passed in some of the States to prevent food adulteration. Another Government analyst says that half the whisky of commerce is simply silent spiritartificially coloured. That is surely something with which we can deal. It is well known that immature whisky contains a large proportion of fusel oil, which is well known to be most injurious to health. The Committee will be failing in its duty if it does not give the Minister under this Bill power to prevent the sale of such compounds. Since I am giving information as to what is taking place in all the States, I may inform honorable member’s that Dr. Ham, Health Officer of Queensland, said some time ago that he found fruit syrups which had not even a nodding acquaintance with any fruit at all. Those syrups are sent to different parts of the Commonwealth. Dr. Ham also said that thirty-five chests of tea had been made by mixing magnetic acetate of iron with tea dust and sand rolled by means of starch into little pellets in-imitation of genuine tea.
– There is power under the Customs Act to prohibit that.
– I am aware that that power is provided under paragraph g of section52 of the Customs Act, but if the Minister availed himself of that power to prosecute the offenders honorable members would say that he was exceeding his duty. What I have stated shows that the administration of the Act has not been sufficiently drastic.
– The honorable member is showing that there is no necessity for this Bill.
– There is every necessity for it, because inferior goods are exported from one part of the Commonwealth to another, and I claim that the scope of this Bill can be made to extend to Inter-State trade. An amendment in that direction will certainly be moved. I direct the attention oftheCommittee to the fact that on 17th October last a deputation representing the Victorian Chamber of Commerce waited on the honorable member for Gippsland, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs, to ask him to prevent the importation of poisonous drugs. The deputation declared that there was being carried on in this State, “ a wicked, fraudulent, and widespread traffic whereby there is wholesale and continuous destruction to human life.” Is it not time that we had a measure of this kind on the statute-book, when representatives of the Chamber of Commerce come before the Minister of Trade and Customs with such a declaration as that?
– This Bill will not stop that.
– If the honorable member moves an amendment that will stop it, we will support it.
– It is the duty of every member of the Committee who is aware that destruction of life is going on as the result of the importation and consumption of deleterious drugs to assist in enacting legislation which will put an end to such a state of affairs.
– The only way is to amend the Constitution.
– An amendment of the Constitution is not required. Dr. Gresswell, who was chairman of the Melbourne Board of Health-
– He was the best health officer in Australia.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. Dr. Gresswell said that adulteration was going on here.
– This Bill will not prevent it.
– We can, under this Bill, prevent the introduction of any goods containing anything of a poisonous or deleterious nature. Let us consider what other countries have done in this matter. Even in Japan the use of saccharine in foods is absolutely prohibited. We could exercise our power similarly.
– Would the honorable member prohibit the importation of saccharine ?
– No ; but I would restrict its use. I would not prohibit the importation of either opium or fusel oil, but I would prevent them from getting into human consumption.
– The question is the omission of the word “ quality.”
– I am trying to show that, if the word “quality” is left out, we cannot deal with the evils to which I have referred. It has been suggested by the Minister that he may bring down a schedule.
– No. I do not intend to do so.
– I would not object to a schedule, if it were provided that other goods besides those mentioned in it might be dealt with under a proclamation. Let us make the provisions of the Bill as wide as we can, instead of restricting them. The sale of boots with card-board soles must be largely responsible for cases of consumption, and other troubles amongst children, as the honorable member for Corangamite knows.
– It would be better if parents did as I do, and let their children run about without boots.
– That would be a thousand’ times better than to let them wear boots with soles like sponges. I do not think that honest traders have anything to fear under the Bill, but I hope that the Committee will not agree to the striking out of the word “quality,” or any other word in this clause, because it is our dutv to make the provisions of the Bill as wide as possible.
– The Minister told us that a great number of the people he met at the Albury show last week were in favour of grading.
– Those connected with the export trade, and especially those connected with the butter trade, are in favour of it.
– I received a letter last week, which shows that three-fourths of those connected with the butter industry in New South Wales are opposed to grading. The largest co-operative company in . that State-
– The Byron Bay Company ?
– No; I refer to a coopera:tive company which represents the largest number of farmers in the State. That company would: be willing to have the Government brand placed on its produce if it would thereby gain an advantage, and only recently sent a man home to England to see if it is an advantage in the disposal of produce for butter to- bear a Government brand. He has reported, however, that English buyers are not influenced by the Government brand. What they look for is the factorv brand, arid thev buy on the reputation of the factory.
– Does not the honorable member see that there is good reason for that, because of the misuse of the Government brand in Victoria?
– The representative of one of the largest, Scotch butter importing firms gave sworn evidence in Sydney that a Government brand is of no value as establishing the quality of the produce on which it is placed. The brand is placed on butter when it is new, but that butter may afterwards, because of the market being unfavorable, be kept in a cool store for three or four months, during which time it may deteriorate, so that when it is exposed for sale, although branded by the Government expert as of first grade, itmay be of inferior quality. The honorable: member for Hindmarsh said that, in all probability, the Commonwealth would accept the grading of the States; but, indoing that, we should be no better off thanwe are now. The provision that goodsmust be properly described is no protectionto English consumers. For instance, a. creamery company might put on the market butter which was the greatest rubbish; but, if it described it as creamery butter, thedescription would be a true one, and would* therefore satisfy the requirements of theAct.
– If the butter wereinferior, that would have to be shown.
– The makers might not call1 it finest, or best, butter, but simply markit creamery butter, and if it were butter which had been made at a creamery thedescription would be a true one. The action now proposed to be taken by the Commonwealth is twenty years behind theaction which has ‘been taken by the States. The Government say that they will prevent” fraudulent exportation, but they cannot prevent the exportation of goods ‘ which aretruly described.
– We can say what descriptions shall be applied.
– I have taken a most activepart in encouraging grading in the buttertrade, because I thoroughly believe in it;, but, so far as New South Wales is concerned, the factories are thoroughly uptodate in this matter, and put their produceon the market properly graded, accordingto quality. There has been no demand for this Bill, because what is proposed to bedone is being done better by the Governments of the States. I have no objection to the prohibition of the importation of goods injurious to the public health, but I think that the evils which have been spoken of can be dealt with under the Health and” Adulteration Acts of the States.” The honorable member for Hindmarsh told us that milk is imported here from which ninetenths of the cream has been extracted, butfurther importation will not be stopped by the Bill, because the article can be described as skimmed milk, and brought inunder that description, being sold afterwards under any description the vendorlikes to place on it.
– It must be described in that way to comply with the provisions of the English Act.
– Yes. We are wasting time in dealing with this measure, because it will hamper commerce, and will not be as effective as the States Acts. The Minister thinks that, by using the word “ quality “ in the clause, he can improve the quality of the exports of Australia; but the Bill will not have that effect. Neither will it improve the quality of importations. If it would do either, I would assist the passing of it. In this legislation we are following a long way after the States, although we should lead, and the States are simply laughing at us. I shall support the amendment..
– I have listened with considerable interest and attention to the speeches on the amendment, but I have not been able to harmonize the grounds of opposition to the proposal in the Bill. We are told that the measure gives the Minister too much power, and will make him autocratic, and that it places the import and export trade of Australia under a control to which it should not be submitted. Then we are told that the Bill will accomplish nothing; that it is powerless to effect the purposes aimed at ; and that the States legislation is ahead of what is proposed. I am not disposed to regard the measure from either of these extreme standpoints. I have felt for a considerable time past that legislation of this kind is absolutely necessary, in the interests of the public health. The consumer is not alwaysable to protect himself. He has very often to accept the goods which he buys on the description applied to them, whether they are goods manufactured within Australia or- imported goods. Unprincipled manufacturers very frequently trade on the good reputation built up by their honest competitors, and consumers have occasion to complain that they are not sufficiently protected by State legislation against trade frauds. With regard to the export trade, we must be careful to cultivate our markets. We can only hope” to achieve success in this direction by supplying the very best articles, and catering for the tastes of our customers. Unfortunately, our experience has shown us that while some exporters; with a full appreciation of the necessity for putting a superior article on the market; have supplied goods of high quality, and have achieved a good reputation, unprincipled persons have exported inferior goods, and eventually destroyed the reputation of our goods, and thus lost the market. This Bill is intended to prevent anything of that kind in the future. It will afford protection to the . honest trader, and help us to find a profitable outlet for our products. Some honorable members appear to think that exporters who have hitherto been shipping superior produce will, under the system of classification proposed by the Bill, be placed at a disadvantage owing to their goods being classed with inferior’ articles’, but nothing of that kind is contemplated. On the other hand, the exporter will secure the full benefit attaching to a true description of his produce. In New South Wales, considerable opposition has been shown to Government supervision of produce intended for export, but, wherever that system has beentried, it has been found to operate in the interests of the legitimate exporter. I am informed on good authority that, whereas, in the first instance, many farmers and dairymen in New Zealand objected to Government interference, they have derived somuch advantage from the system of Government grading adopted in that colony, that they are now amongst its strongest supporters. I feel sure that the same change of opinion will take place in Australia. The production of leather is an industry natural to New South Wales, which is one of the largest stock-producing States in the Commonwealth. Instead of exporting our hides, we should be able to send them, out to the markets ofthe world in a manufactured form and toand a profitable market. We are told, however, by one of the commercial agents of New South Wales, that the mere fact that leather comes from Australia is sufficient to condemn it. This is not due to the fact that our tanners are not able to produce a good article, but because inferior goods have been exported, with the result that the market has been ruined.
– This measure would not remedy that evil.
– I trust that it will have that effect. We shall, at least, be able to prevent, the exportation of leather, in the manufacture; of which barium chloride is used. We should also be able to exercise some supervision over the Inter- State trade. The honorable member for Darling has indicated the extent to which paper and other rubbishy materials have been substituted for leather, in the manufacture of boots and shoes. The boot manufacturers of New
South Wales have been subjected to a great deal of unfair competition on the part of competitors in Victoria and elsewhere, who have been using improper substitutes for leather, and we should do our best to put a stop to such practices. The honorable and learned member for Angas contends that it is not within’ our power to control Inter-State trade, but I think that we should at least make an effort to do so. If the HighCourt holds that we have not the necessary powers,we shall be in no worse position than at present. There is urgent need for legislation of this description, and we should endeavour to fully meet the requirements of the case. Whilst it is, desirable that in the interest of our growing export business, we should send to other parts of the world the best articles we can produce, it is also necessary that we should protect our consumers against being imposed upon in regard to imported goods. Many imported articles of food and of wearing apparel are the subjects of adulteration, and not only are the public grossly; imposed upon, but great injury is inflicted upon the health of the community by the trade deceptions now practised. I am informed that in Germany and other Continental countries the most stringent provisions are enforced against the adulteration of foodstuffs intended for home consumption, but that manufacturers are allowed an absolutely free hand with regard to similar goods intended for export. The consequence is that we are having foisted upon us a number of poisonous preparationsandshoddy articles which should be prevented fromentering into consumption.
– Unfortunately, this Bill does not deal with that question.
– It will do so, so far as we can exercise any control. German manufacturers are now exporting to Australia goods which improperly bear some of the best of English trade marks. In the case of cutlery, for instance, the. names of some of the best Sheffield makers are attached to worthless goods, and in this way not only are our consumers being imposed upon, but grave injury is being done to British manufacturers, with whom it should be our desire to do business. The Bill should provide machinery that would put a stop to such importations in future. I am also informed that jewellery manufactured in foreign’ countries is stamped as being of a higher grade than it really is.
Jewellery of local manufacture has to be stamped according to the quality of the metal used, whereas foreign jewellery is subject to no such regulation. Something should be done to put an end to such unfair competition with local industry. I am not wedded to the Bill in its present form. I hope that it will be greatly improved, and that members of the Opposition will lend their aid with that end in view. I am strongly impressed with the. necessity for legislation of this kind, and I think that if we lead the way the States will afterwards be able to supplement our work. The Minister will act wisely if he consults the States which have already passed legislation of a similar character, with a view to bringing the Commonwealth administration into harmony with that of the States. No doubt considerable diversity in legislation and practice now obtains, and if we can bring about some degree of uniformity we shall secure a higher degree of efficiency! than has been yet attained. Instead of being a petty piece of legislation unworthy of the Federal Parliament, as one honorable member has suggested, this is a measure of far-reaching importance. For manyyears we have been urged to takeaction in this direction, and I hold that theBill is worthy of a Legislature which professes a desire to promote the best interests: of the people of Australia. If the Opposition can suggest any amendments that will improve the Bill, I trust that they will bring; them forward, and that the result of our efforts will be the passing of a measure that will be worthy of the Parliament of theCommonwealth.
– I am not at allclear whether we are acting wisely in proposing to pass this provision. It is unnecessary to say anything as to the necessity for excluding importations of food unfit for human consumption. I am sure that honorable members on all sides are agreed as tothe wisdom of that being done; but I fail to see that the Bill will assist us to that end. It will require traders to give proper descriptions of certain classes of goods, but it certainly will not protect the people from the consumption of unwholesome food. Whilst it is highly important that we should shut out deleterious foodstuffs’ or shoddy articles, it is equally important that the public should be protected from such goods when made within theStates themselves. It is because the Billwill not enable proper supervision to be exer- cised over locally-manufactured products that I am inclined to think it is somewhat premature. The co-operation of the States is necessary, otherwise the Bill will become to a great extent a dead-letter, or may be tyrannously administered to the special advantage of the protectionist cause. If the operation of the Bill were extended to InterState trade, I am afraid that we should return to something like the condition of affairs that prevailed prior to the abolition of the border duties. We have no information as to the extent to which the Government propose to go. So far as I can gather, the Minister has given us no indication Qf the way in which it is proposed to administer the Bill. The limited list of goods to which it is said that the Bill will apply, includes butter, fruits, wines, meats, food generally, apparel and manures. If the desire of the honorable member for Hindmarsh is to be complied with, it will also extend to patent medicines. Under the term “ food generally,” a variety of imports will be affected. I should like to know whether ordinary Customs officers are to determine their quality, and to decide whether they conform to proper trade descriptions. For instance, is an ordinary Customs officer to determine whether apparel, consisting of an admixture of wool and cotton, is correctly described, or whether patent medicines are in accordance with the description- which they bear? In order to supervise the importation of a few of these lines, at least fifty experts will have to be employed.
– At every port.
– I would not say that, although if the Bill is to apply to goods of every description, it is difficult to say how many experts will be necessary.
– The States which deal with, these matters experience no difficulty.
– There are health officers, for instance, in the different States.
– But the State officer, dealing with meats, has nothing to do with fruits, and a Government fruit expert has nothing to do with the supervision of butter. When the Minister was speaking I inquired whether it was proposed to utilize the services of the States officers, and received the reply, “ We may, or may not.”
– If it is possible to work with the States and to avail ourselves of the services of their officers that will be done.
– Are they to be Federal officers ?
– I cannot give a definite statement on that point.
– To whom are they to be responsible?
– That is what I wish to know, and it is because of the absence of information in regard to these matters that I am inclined to think that the Government proposal is somewhat premature.
– When it is proposed to employ States officers under any Bill that is generally provided for in the Bill itself.
– We -utilize the services of many States officers at the present time.
– Will the Minister object to an amendment providing that the work shall be done bv officers of the States ?
– Certainly ; I do not think we ought to be bound down in that way if the States would not .agree to something reasonable.
– Some arrangement should have been made in the first place with the States themselves. It was proposed last session to ride rough-shod over the States by establishing a Federal Bureau of Agriculture ; but so far very little headway has been made with that proposition. When the matter was before the House, I said that the proper course would be to endeavour to secure the co-operation of the States, and I feel that I may safely say that the Government of the State of which I am a representative would readily assist the Commonwealth in carrying out the object which we are seeking by this Bill to achieve. But the Commonwealth Government might, at least, have had a consultation with the Governments of the States. Whether I am sitting on the Government benches, or in opposition, I shall never vote for a duplication of the work of States officials. Every measure of this kind that we pass means the creation of a new Department, the cost of which, as “new expenditure,” will have ultimately to be borne by the States. Proof of my contention that we need the co-operation of the States in carrying out the objects which we have in view is to be found in the fact that the Bill will not prevent shoddy articles being foisted on the people. All that it will do will be to prevent importation or exportation under false descriptions. Even if this Bill be passed, the shoddy exhibited by the honorable member for Darling may still be distributed all over the States.
– An amendment should be moved providing that the Bill shall apply to Inter-State trade.
– Then we shall want officers at every border town.
– The Bill as it stands would not, for instance, prevent the “ Pinky “ to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh referred, being sold in South Australia, or sent to other States. The more we consider the measure the stronger must be our conviction that in order to make it a success we must have the co-operation of the States. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us an assurance that the Bill will not mean a duplication of State and Federal officers.
– I certainly do not see why it should; I do not think there is the slightest chance of it.
– If the States had been approached, I am sure that the position would have been improved. I feel satisfied that some at least of the States would not have thrown any obstacle in the way of our passing legislation on these lines. The only question is as to what are the right lines to follow. It is not my desire that a measure shall be passed which, unless it is to have some practical application, may prove a scourge for our backs. If this Bill becomes a dead letter, we shall have been subjected to the abuse of those who opposed it without having afforded any benefit to the people. I certainly am not afraid to accept the responsibility for any action I may take as a member of this Parliament, but it is doubtful whether any benefit will be derived from the passing of the Bill in the absence of the co-operation of the States. It is clear thatit will not prevent many of the abuses to which reference has been made. It might prevent shoddy from coming in under a misdescription ; but there would be nothing to prevent its distribution under another name.
– Shoddy leather could be described as “ leatherine, “ and as such distributed all over the States.
– That is so.
– In the view of those who wish to kill the Bill, dreadful things may be done.
– I hope that the Minister will recognise that neither I nor my honorable colleague is offering factious opposition to the Bill, and I sincerely trust that he will offer us further information before we are asked to vote on these provisions.
– Some of the difficulties to which reference has been made may be real, but I am satisfied that many of them have been greatly exaggerated. Objection has been raised that, if the Bill were amended as I propose, the cost of its administration would be materially increased. The Bill declares that certain things shall be done with regard to imports and exports, but in giving effect to these provisions we shall not need an army of inspectors on the State borders. If goods made in Victoria are soldi in Riverina, and it is discovered that they are not as described, the purchaser would have his remedy, and the remainder of the stock would be liable to forfeiture.
– The importer of the goods into New South Wales would certainly have a remedy against the fraudulent manufacturer.
– Not under this Bill, after the goods had been imported into another State.
– Why not?
– It would not be constitutional.
– I trust that the Minister will consider the point, with the view of so framing the Bill that there may be a provision of the kind incorporated. At any rate, the States have power to pass Acts in cooperation with the Commonwealth measure. True, we cannot make them do so, but if we lead the way, they will naturally have to follow. I have not sufficient legal knowledge to enable me to say whether, in this Bill, we can go further than to deal with goods passing through the Customs House. But it appears to me that, even after that stage, they could be made liable to forfeiture if they were found to be inferior to what they were described as being. Suppose goods were imported from abroad, and it was not discovered that they were adulterated until they had passed through the Customs House, does the honorable member for North Sydney mean to say that there would be no remedy ?
– Not after they are delivered.
– While there may be difficulties surrounding the problem, -we should certainly go as far as our constitutional powers, will permit. In other legislation we have dealt with matters intimately affecting the citizens of the Commonwealth, and, even if we cannot follow up goods after they have passed through the Customs, I am satisfied that it is possible for us to impose some check. At all events, a prosecution would lead to an exposure, and manufacturers would soon find that it was not worth while to take the risk. I have a word to say in reply to those who urge that it would be necessary to employ a large staff of inspectors to carry out this measure. Some of the States already provide for the inspection of exports. If such inspectors certify that goods are of a good quality, it will not be necessary for the Commonwealth to inspect them again.
– But the States might expect us to pay for the inspection.
– No, they would not. For instance, the State of Victoria provides for the inspection of butter. If the Victorian inspector guarantees the quality of a consignment of butter as not likely to lower the credit of Australian products in ai foreign market, that fact should ‘be quite sufficient for the Customs officers, and no further inspection should be required. That is the common-sense view of the matter. It is ridiculous to suppose that the Government would appoint other inspectors to do work that had already been done successfully by State officers.
– How would imports be dealt with?
– It might be easy to make arrangements with the States. The Minister could arrange with a State Government that the officers employed to inspect exports could also deal with imports. An expert employed by a State to inspect a certain class of exports could likewise inspect the same class of imports. Our object being to conserve the interests of the taxpayers and consumers, the work could be done without any material increase in cost, and I feel sure that the States would show readiness to co-operate with us to that end.
– They might dismiss their experts after the Commonwealth Act was passed.
– If the States experts are doing satisfactory work, the States are not likely to dispense with their services. But even if they did, the Commonwealth could avail themselves of their services, and the cost to the taxpayer would be the same. It does not matter much whether the work is done by the Commonwealth or by a State, so long as there is only one payment. Much of it , could be done by the Customs officers already employed. All the talk about the Minister being expected to inspect goods is mere nonsense. The Minister would be guided bv his officers ; and many of the Customs officers are experts in particular kinds of goods. The inspection of imports will pay the community in the long run. By its means we secure that goods of good quality go into consumption, and thereby conserve the health of the public, and; save their pockets in regard to medical expenditure. Some samples which I produced on Friday .have given rise to questions as to whether the goods were -imported. I may say at once that what is done here in regard’ to the manufacture of boots from inferior materials is also done in other countries. Only lately I was speaking to a man who had been employed in the boot trade in England, and he told me that large quantities of boots aTe made for export in which card-board and straw-board are used instead of leather for parts that are not exposed to view. Therefore, no special condemnation of local manufacturers was involved, in the samples which I showed. Such goods, when worn in damp weather, would be liable to give severe colds to the wearer, and to damage his health. From every point of view it is advantageous to the taxpayer that his interests should be protected bv such inspection as can be secured by means of this Bill.
– Judging by expressions we have heard during this discussion, the conclusion might be arrived at that the Commonwealth may expect nothing but antagonism from the States in the administration of this measure. But I do not think we are justified in any anticipation of the kind. In my opinion the States will co-operate with the Commonwealth Government, in the effort now being made to restore or maintain the good name of Australia in the markets of the world, and to secure, as far as possible; that unadulterated products ‘only shall be admitted into this country. We have had evidence lately in Australia that there is more than one kind of thief - that, as Shakespeare says, there is the thief who Steals one’s purse, and the thief who steals one’s good name. Indeed, in Australia we have had persons who would steal both the purse and the good name of the community. I take it that, in. the opinion of honorable members, and of the people generally, one of the most important objects we can have in our legislation is to preserve the good name of Australia in the markets where Australian goods are sold. Whether this Bill will achieve that end seems to be a matter of opinion, regulated according to the side of the House on which honorable members sit. The Bill is, perhaps, not all that we should like it to be, or all that by-and-by we may be able to make it; but I am strongly of opinion that it represents a step in the right direction. Even if the fear of the honorable member for Grey be in part realized, namely, that the administration of the Bill will add to the public expenditure, I suggest that the improved standing of Australian products will more than repay ais. The honorable member for Cowper, speaking this afternoon, informed us that, in the opinion of a number of butter producers in New South Wales, a Government brand is of no advantage to those concerned in the sale of that com- modity. That opinion is, I know, shared by some of the butter producers in Queensland ; but I have here an extract! from the Brisbane Courier of Saturday last, which throws a rather different light on the case. It is only -within the last few months that the Queensland Government have begun to grade butter for the London market ; and any one who takes an interest in the subject cannot but ha%re noticed the improved standing of the Queensland .product in the markets of Europe. Before the Government! began to brand the exports, Queensland butter occupied the very lowest position amongst Australian butter in the quotations, but now, under the new Dairy Act, the commodity from the northern State is rapidly rising to a position of equality.
– The Sydney Morning Herald of last Saturday had an article on the, success of the grading of butter in Queensland.
– Will this Bill not interfere with the systems of grading now carried out in the States?
– Not in the slightest degree.
– I shall read this quotation for the purpose of showing the importance which is attached to the Govern ment brand by those who handle our goods on the other side of the world. The brand is accepted as indicative of quality, and the paragraph shows that the grading facilitates trade in exports of this kind, inasmuch as, relying on the brand, importers in .the old country are enabled to make forward sales. The paragraph is from the London correspondent of the Brisbane Courier, under date nth August, and is as follows : -
The Tooley-street agents who received the first of the Queensland butter shipped under the new Dairy Act speak approvingly of the results of the Government grading. So far, they say, it is quite satisfactory. They do not expect that it will make any appreciable difference to prices in the present state of the market, but they express the opinion that it cannot fail to add to the reputation of Queensland butter if it be carried out with uniform care. For a full test of the system they will wait until the next summer shipments arrive. But on one point they agree at once - namely, that proper grading will facilitate “forward” buying, and add to the growing confidence among country buyers’ in the imports from Queensland. The butter has been gaining steadily in repute on its merits during the last twelve months, and grading will assist this progress. When the adoption of a definite system of grading in Victoria was under discussion a few months ago, it was suggested that grading at the port of shipment might in some cases prevent the London agents from getting the full value of the butter, as, for instance, if parcels passed as second grade in Melbourne became equal to first grade on the homeward voyage. No change of this kind was noticed in the shipment of Queensland butter which came in the steamer Marathon, according to the firms which sold the bulk of it. They think that any improvement which may take place in second grade butter included in later shipments will as a rule be noted and allowed for, especially when the selling market is in a good condition’. The Victorian Government inspector gives the same opinion. He says that any disadvantages attached to grading for the London market are far outweighed by the advantages gained.
The same remarks would, in my opinion, apply to fruit and other perishable or semiperishable goods exported from Australia. If our fruit were branded, it would be a guarantee to the agents and dealers that it had been inspected and ascertained to be of good quality and condition when shipped, and this would inspire confidence, which, unfortunately, has been too much shaken by the condition in which produce has been sent to England in the past.
– I am glad to hear from the honorable member for Moreton that the Government grading of butter in Queensland has had such good effects. lt is contended by persons largely interested in this industry in New Zealand that Government grading has proved a distinct advantage in that Colony. I desire, however, to speak more particularly of New South Wales, where opinion appears to be divided ‘on the subject. The honorable member for Cowper told us this af ternoon, that at a meeting held under the auspices of the large co-operative dairying company in New South Wales two or three months ago, about three-fourths of the farmers of the State were represented, and a resolution was carried in opposition to Government interference in the industry. I know that in my own district opinion is divided ; but I am not called upon to indicate which feeling predominates. In a great industry of this sort, every one engaged in it should have an opportunity of being heard. The Coastal Farmers’ Co-operative Company were represented at the” meeting to which I have referred, and I have already informed honorable members the nature of the resolution passed.
– Does that company do any grading ?
– I presume that they examine the various brands, and probably notify their agents abroad as to their character. In some of the factories and central creameries of New South Wales cream is graded in order to insure the uniform quality of the butter, and this system has been found of great advantage. There is a strong feeling, however, at the present time that the less the Government interfere with the industry the better. Without any aid from the State, this large industry has been successfully built up, and many of those concerned are adverse to any legislation of the kind proposed in this clause. In consequence of the different opinions held, the proper way to have dealt with the matter would have been to give all parties con.cerned an opportunity of stating their case, which could have been done if the amendment of the honorable member for Kooyong, for which I voted, had been adopted. It appears to me that if this proposal be adopted it will be necessary to have many experts grading butter and other commodities for the various markets of the world. A butter expert will not be a piano expert, and so on ; so that it would appear necessary to have a large army of inspectors at each port of shipment. If that be so, it will afford another opportunity to those people who, without, so far as I can see, any just grounds, are . always harping on alleged extravagance in connexion with the Federal expenditure. Much has been said as to the effect this Bill will have in preventing the importation of deleterious articles for human consumption; but my opinion is that in this respect the Bill will fail. If, for example, . whisky of an inferior character is imported in casks branded with a proper description of the article they contain, this Bill will not prevent its introduction into the Commonwealth’. It may afterwards be taken out of bulk and sold in bottles or in tumblers to consumers. The same thing will apply to all cognate articles. This Bill cannot prevent that being done. I am at one with honorable members who have dealt with the matter from the consumer’s point of view. We know well that consumers in all parts of the Commonwealth have from time to time loudly complained of -the deleterious nature of many of the articles passed on to them for consumption, more particularly in the country districts. In Sydney we have under an Act a number of inspectors, whose duty it is to inquire into these things, and, as the result of their inspection, articles of a deleterious character are, to a large extent, prevented from going into consumption in that city. But the representatives of big firms make no secret of the fact that inferior stuff is transferred to the country districts and sold there, to the detriment of the inhabitants of those places. How will this Bill prevent that state of things? There is no provision to deal with it any more than there is provision to deal with the other difficulty to which I have referred. It has been said that the Bill will be effective in keeping out shoddy articles. I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Minister to, in this way, keep out articles which now come into competition with goods produced in the Commonwealth? If it is the object of the Minister to use the power conferred under this Bill for that purpose - and I believe it would be possible to so use it - honorable members should hesitate before they give any Minister of Trade and Customs such a power. It appears to me that, if any attempt is to be made to apply the measure to InterState trade, it will involve the restoration of the old border Customs Houses. Having listened to the debate, I feel that there is a great difference of opinion amongst honorable members on that phase of the question, and I should like the Minister to give the Committee some assurance that that is not likely to follow from the passing of this Bill. I feel sure that honorable members generally do not desire a return to the old system of border Customs, or the creation of additional staffs of Government officials at our various ports. The honorable gentleman might give some explanation in connexion with the matters to which I have referred when he next addresses the Committee.
– The discussion on this clause would appear to be as keen as that on the second reading of the measure. I strenuously opposed the second reading, because, while I was not opposed to the intention of the Bill, as presented by the Minister of Trade and Customs, I doubted very much whether it would carry out that intention. Honorable members are aware also that I opposed the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee. Now that it has run the gauntlet of a second reading, and a majority of honorable members are apparently satisfied that it will achieve the object for which it has been introduced, we have an amendment moved which will absolutely destroy the measure as an instrument for achieving that object.
– The honorable member does not understand why it was moved.
– I am not concerned with the motives which induced the honorable and learned member for Angas to move the amendment. I am concerned with the interests of the consumer, and I believe that some legislation of this kind is required to protect consumers from the sale of deleterious foods and drugs. I previously contended that this could better be effected by States legislation than, by Federal legislation, but the second reading having been agreed to, I object to an amendment which will prevent the measure having any useful effect. Some honorable members on this side have said that there is no demand for it. That is a very peculiar objection to urge against such a Bill. Consumers are not organized for the protection of their own interests, whilst we are all aware that producers and exporters are, for financial purposes, powerfully organized.
– Importers are also-
Mr.WILKS.- That is so. The commercial morality of the importer is neither better nor worse than, that of the protectionistmanufacturer. Both these sections of thecommunity seek for gain. Their concern is not for the comfort and health of thecommunity. I do not attack the manufacturer any more than the importer in thisconnexion. I know that there are importers and manufacturers who would scornto distribute commodities of a deleterious character, but I amalso awarethat there are someof both classes whowould take advantage of competition to put into circulation the cheaper and inferior classes of goods for purposes of profit. Let us analyze the objection that there has been no demand for this measure. We do not find the burglar asking for increased” police protection, or that thereshould begreater difficulty placed in the way of his: trade.
– Who is the burglar in this instance?
– I shall deal with that presently. Though consumers are not organized, we know that they and their children suffer from the consumption of deleterious compounds, and it is right that someaction should be taken to protect them.
– This Bill will not protect them.
– On the second reading, I said that it would not, but the majority of honorable members are determined that weshall go on with the measure, and I am prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the Ministry. No one will look upon me as an ardent supporter of the present Administration, but now that the Bill has reached the’ Committee stage I am prepared’ to deal with it on its merits. In refraining from calling for a division on the second” reading, honorable members, who asserted’ that it would not carry out the intention for which it was introduced, have admitted that there is something in the measure.
– It can effectsome purpose.
– If it is to effect any useful purpose at all the amendment must not be accepted. Another argument used is that the passing of the Bill” will involve the appointment of an army of experts. The honorable member for Illawarra talked of an expert on butter, and’ an expert on pianos. We are not greatly concerned with the distribution of inferior pianos, which do very little injury except perhaps to the nerve centres, but we are greatly concerned with the distribution of inferior foods and deleterious drugs. I remind honorable members that the Minister has already, under the Customs Act, an army of experts who will be able to carry out many of these duties.
– Will they Be able to grade butter?
– The honorable member is arguing from the producers’ stand-point, . whilst/ I am speaking from the consumers’ stand-point. I am aware that a member of the Commonwealth Parliament is supposed to represent the interests of the Australian community as a whole, but there are some constituencies which are specially interested in the matter of imports, and others which are specially interested in- the matter of exports. My concern in this matter is to protect the very large consuming population that I represent. My electors are not producers of goods for export, but many ‘thousands of them are the easy prey of those importing and distributing the class of inferior goods which, this Bill is intended to, legislate against. I desire toprotect my constituents from the distribution of deleterious foods and drugs.
– How will this Bill effect that?
– I fought that question out on the second reading, but now that we have reached the Committee stage- 1 am prepared to give those who support- the. measure an opportunity to make it effective for the- purpose for which if has been introduced. I have already said that I believe that legislation of this kind could be better dealt with by the States Parliamen.cs, but it isa public duty to protect consumers in the way I have suggested, and- also- to- protect fair traders from the injury done them by those who are guilty of commercial immorality. There can be no doubt that local manufacturers distribute deleterious com. pounds. That is a scandal, but it only shows that the States Legislatures should have taken act-ion in the matter. It is no> reason why, when we have reached the Committee ‘ stage of this Bill, we should, not give the Minister an opportunity to carry out the object for which he says he introduced it. The word “quality” is, in my opinion, essential in this clause if honest importers and’ exporters to be protected. It has been said time after time that the producers of Australia have suffered be cause designing exporters have put on the British or other markets goods which were not up to standard. The Bill has been- introduced to make an end to- such practices, and,, therefore, although I am1 not a supporter of the Ministry, I feel bound to vote for it. I* intend that the Government shall be armed as effectively as possible to carry out its provisions. If that is done, the responsibility for defectsin administration will lie- at their door. If, however, the Bill proves effective, and is properly administered, the health, of the community will be protected, and honest traders will be assisted by others being required to observe a standard of commercial morality which at present seems to be at a sad discount. These remarks are not an imputation upon either the importers or the manufacturers as a whole. The members of neither claSs are philanthropists; they are business men who wish to make as- much money as they can each year. But some of them have a lower standard of dealing than others would stoop to, and put on the market inferior articles which impose on the public. I know of a case in which a particular friend of the Minister, who is a ‘boot manufacturer in New South Wales, and an ardent and well-known protectionist, used to pass off his wares as American-made, because he knew that American brands were- fashionable, and thought he would thereby secure larger sales. But whatever may be the need of the public- for protection against imposition in the matter of wearing apparel and articles of luxury, such as pianos, our- great concern should be the purity of our food supplies, and of the drugs which we use. As I think that the omission of the word “quality” would destroy the Bill, I shall vote against the amendment.
– In my opinion, this is a. measure which should not have been brought before the Federal Parliament, because it deals with matters which should engage the attention of the Parliaments of the States, and in regard to which some of the States have already Acts in operation. Ohe of mv main objections to the Bill is that it is too- Com.prehensive. But, although it seeks to do so much, it would, if passed into- law. probably- effect very little-. It is full of mischievous provisions, clause 3 in particular being loaded with proposals of an objectionable character. I believe that attempts to put into operation the provisions of section 52 of the Customs Act - which, if it were possible to carry into effect, would achieve the main object of the Bill - have failed because the Department has not been able to procure the necessary expert evidence in regard to the quality of the goods to which it has been sought to apply them. It seems to me that it will be impossible for any Customs officer to say whether a trade description correctly describes the material or ingredients of which goods are composed, or from which they are derived. To demonstrate his ability to do so, a man would have to undergo an examination in regard to the manufacture of every conceivable article of merchandise. But no man could acquire even a rudimentary knowledge of the processes of manufacture or production of more than a dozen or two articles. The alternative is toemploy an army of experts, acquainted with the details of every branch of manufacture and production of goods of every conceivable kind for importation and exportation. That, however, would mean an immensely increased expenditure. I do not suppose that it is the intention of the framers of the Bill to bring into existence a new Department ; but to ask the Customs officials to do the work is manifestly imposing on them an impossible task. The Bill places in the hands of the Minister a power which I object to place in the hands of any Minister. It allows him, in the event of the contravention of its provisions, to order the confiscation of imports. In the hands of an unscrupulous Minister–
– The Bill is not under discussion, neither is clause 3. The honorable member must confine his remarks to the proposed amission of the word “ quality.”
– I shall support the amendment, because I should like to see the clause omitted, and because I see no need for the Bill itself. In expressing that view, I am fortifiedby the opinion of the Attorney-General of New South Wales, as expressed in an interview. Sir William Lyne defended the Commerce Bill on the ground that it was based upon the Imperial Merchandise Marks Act of 1887. Mr. Wade said, in this interview, that there was a marked difference between the two- “ The primary object of the English law,” observed the Attorney-General, “ is to prevent the fraudulent use of trade marks, and as a complement to that provision there is. a provision against the use of fraudulent trade descriptions. In the Federal Commerce Bill themaker of goods may or, may not, as he thinks, fit, apply a trade mark to a trade descriptionof his goods. The English Act not only provides that the producer who attaches the’ falsetrade description shall be liable to a penalty, but also any person selling those goods who has; the knowledge that the description is false. “ Sir William Lyne is mistaken when he says the definition of a false trade description iscopied from the English law. The presenceof the words ‘omitted therefrom’ is a danger in the Commerce Bill, and do not occur in the English Act. My objection to the Commerce Bill is to the power given to a Minister of theCrown to determine what shall be the description attachable to the goods. The Minister may, in a proclamation, declare that, unless certaingoods have applied to them a description of suchcharacter as is prescribed by the proclamation, these goods may be excluded from entering, or prevented from leaving the country. The conditions of trade will be governed, not by thehonesty of the individual trader necessarily, or by the purity of the goods, or their commercial value, but by mere chance as to whether they comply with conditions laid down by somebody outside the trade altogether. “ There is the further danger that if the Act is capable of wide interpretation given to it by the regulations, those regulations cannot be annulled, but there is no doubt that if it wereproposed to embody all the powers of the regulations in the Act itself the House would reject it. The nearest approach to this clause that. I can find in legislation in England is in section 16 of the Merchandise Marks Act1887. That certainly provides that the importation of articles may be prohibited under certain exceptional conditions. That is to say, if a foreign manufacturer sends goods to England bearingthe trade mark of some English manufacturer or trader, he is committing a fraud on the English people.
It is well known that foreign manufacturers are in the habit of turning out goodswhich resemble articles of English make, but are of inferior quality. These goodsare very often put on the market, and labelled or marked in such a way as to* deceive the purchaser into the belief that they are of English production, and of high quality. For instance, I recently sent a messenger to one of the shops in Melbourne to purchase some English-cut tacks, but I was supplied with German goods of inferior quality, made of pewter, which could’ not be driven into even soft wood.
– Was there a label on the packet to indicate that the tacks were madein Germany.
– I did not see the ori ginal packet. Cut English tacks are preferred, becausethey are known to be of good quality, and thoroughly reliable
– Does not the honorable member think that goods of that kind should bear a true description, and that the persons who sell articles that are not properly marked should be punished?
– Yes, I do; but the provision we are now discussing would not meet such cases. Mr. Wade is of opinion that -
If such a clause as that were passed by the Commonwealth Government all honest traders would welcome it.
I say that too -
But this is very different from the elastic Executive power which enables a Minister to lay down such conditions as he thinks fit, which may have the effect of absolutely paralyzing trade. Then, again, in carrying out the provisions of the English Act, special conditions are laid down as to the issue of warrants to search for goods in respect of which the offence lias been committed. None, of these safeguards is to be found in the Commerce Bill. The English Act does not deal with the quality, purity, or class or grade of goods. I see no reason why the Minister, perhaps in all good faith, may not lay down a standard of v purity for any article. That standard may be of such a character that the trade cannot comply with it, or it may be that the local manufacturer can comply with the standard, yet it would be impossible for the importer to do so. In this way I see it is possible under this Bill, when the duty under the Customs has failed to exclude manufactures, to lay down a standard which the importer cannot comply with, and so -drive that particular kind of trade away from the Commonwealth. In the United States I find nothing in the remotest degree approaching the drastic powers of this measure, and the detailed interference with the trade of each State. The useful provisions of the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 have been adopted in’ South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia, and the law is much the same with regard to the fraudulent use of’ trade marks and trade, descriptions in New South Wales. We have all we want in this State to protect ourselves against commercial frauds of this character; but if a provision like section 16 of the English Act were passed by the Commonwealth we would have similar protection against fraudulent * traders in other countries.
That is the opinion of the At’torneyGeneral of New South Wales with regard to the Bill. Perhaps I may be permitted to quote a case bearing upon this question of quality which recently came under my notice. A friend of mine, who is engaged in a softgoods business in Melbourne, recently gave me some information with regard to the effect-of the Tariff upon certain lines of goods. He represented that in some cases importers have to sell their goods at the same prices that they were able to obtain prior to the introduction of the Federal
Tariff, and that, in order to overcome the difficulty arising from the increase in the duty, they had to make special arrangements with the manufacturers at home to supply them with an article of lower quality. He stated that the working men could not afford to pay more than is. per pair for socks. Prior to the introduction of the Tariff, importers were able to sell for is. per pair socks of excellent quality, but afterwards they had to ask the manufacturers to supply them with socks of a lower quality, which -they could still sell at is. Therefore, the consumer is now obtaining an article of lower quality than that which was previously sold tohim at the same price. The same remarks apply to other imports, and if it is desired to prevent deception of that kind, it appearsto me that the remedy is to be applied, not by means of a measure of this kind, but by repealing the iniquitous Tariff, which invites traders to perpetrate frauds of the character referred to.
– I am as anxious as is any honorable member that a measure should be passed to prevent adulteration, and to insure that goods shall be supplied to consumers under their proper description as to quality. Most of the honorable members who have preceded me have failed to appreciate the object of the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Angas. He showed’ clearly that his object was to improve the Bill by bringing it into line with existing legislation in Great Britain and South Australia, and thereby rendering it more valuable. The South Australian Act distinctly provides in Part 2 - “ Trade description “ means any description, statement, or other indication, direct or indirect, as to the particular quantity, measure, gauge, or weight of any goods.
In that provision there is no mention of “quality “ or “ nature “ ; whereas in the Bill before us, the terms “nature, quality, purity, class, grade, and size “ are employed. The South Australian Act is based upon Imperial legislation, from which the terms included in the Bill now before us were, after careful consideration, expressly excluded. Since the Imperial Act wasbrought into force, a number of judgments have been given by the English Court bearing upon the terms to which I have lastreferred, and the honorable and learned’ member for Angas desires to exclude from the Bill all word’s which would be difficult to- define and. might lead to serious litigation. This Bill will not prevent: adulterated foods going into consumption. Under its provisions a. man willi still be at liberty’ to import adulterated goods, provided that he correctly describes them.. He may introduce cardboard or imitation, leather, as long as he describes it by its. true name, and. that material may still be used in the manufacture of boots and shoes, so that the. Bill will really fail to carry out the object we have in view. Unless it is the intention of the Government to act in concert with the States in the administration of their Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, or other measures relating’ to adulterated foods which are in operation, children will continue, as at present, to be poisoned by deleterious compounds.
– Will not the Bill deal with a lot of the tinned foods that are now coming in ?
– I do not think SO.
– They will have to be correctly described.
– -The Bill will have to be brought, into line with the English Sale, of Foods and Drugs Act in order to secure what we desire,, for the Government have, taken no power under it to obtain, samples, of various foods and to analyze, them. I do not think. any honorable, member would oppose a Bill that would prevent, a roguish, manufacturer from putting poisonous compounds on the market.. The Bill will not: “be effective-.
– If the Opposition will leave it alone they will find that it will be effective enough.
– I fail to see that it will be effective. It is the duty of a Government to submit effective measures to the Parliament, and it is the business of an Opposition- to- show in. what respect any measure is defective. I share the feeling# of the honorable’ member for Boothby that the Bill does not provide for reasonabledefinitions in regard to imports and- exports. While it gives the Minister wide powers that may be seriously abused, it does not afford him sufficient power to deal with many matters that ought to be dealt with under such a measure. The honorable member for’ Hindmarsh referred to the desirableness of prohibiting the importation of oleomargarine, butterine”, and- like products. I would remind Him, however, that, under section 52 of the Customs Act 1901, the Minister has. power’, not only to prohibit exhausted and adulterated teas, but -
Oleomargarine, butterine, or any similar substitute for butter-, unless coloured and branded as prescribed.
Under- the same section -
All goods the importation of which may be prohibited by proclamation as well as -
All goods, having thereon or therewith any false suggestion of any warranty guarantee or concern in the production or quality thereof by any persons, public officials, Government, or country, are prohibited. In moving the second reading of the Bill, the Minister, read a list of various imports that might be brought under, its. provisions. Beer and apparel are the first two items on the list. It is probable that a man who is an authority on. apparel may be also a good judge of beer, but he might not be able to say whether or not it contained deleterious compounds. We all know £hat beer is largely adulterated with, drugs that are really dangerous to the consumer, and. I should like to know how the. Minister is going to deal with such importations without the assistance of an expert. Experts will have to be in attendance at every port to deal with, these goods. Then,, again,. I should like to know how furniture,1 which is also included in the list, is likely to come under the Bill. If it is the. intention of the Minister to carry out his promise to the deputation from the Chamber’ of Commerce which recently waited on him, and to confine the application of the Bill entirely to foodstuffs, honorable members will certainly assist him to” that end.
– They are showing to-night what assistance they are prepared to give.
– I do not think that the honorable gentlem’an has any reason to complain. I do not wish to delay the Committee in arriving at a decision, but I should certainly like to know whether it is the intention to apply the Bill to the full, list of imports which he read. 0 When the honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke of the necessity- of preventing: the importation of poisonous drugs, I presume that he meant that proprietary medicines should be examined, and that if they were found to contain poisons which were deleterious to the consumer,, their importation should be prohibited. I think “that all honorable members will agree with that contention, but, under the Bill, it will be impossible to deal with such goods. The Bill needs to be very carefully considered, and to receive more attention at the hands of honorable members than it is getting at present. I would remind the Committee that paragraph a of clause 3 will apply to exports as well as imports. In all the States, Government experts are employed to examine and grade various exports, but, although that is done, the exportation of inferior articles is not prohibited. I presume that the Minister would not interfere with that practice. For instance, under the system, at present adoptedin Victoria, butter is divided into three classes - creamery, dairy, and mixed, and all below the last-named quality is classed as pastry butter. Would the Minister avail himself of the provisions of the Bill to prevent the exportation, say, of pastry butter which is unfit for human consumption, except when used in the manufacture of pastry ?
– Certainly not, if it were correctly marked.
– Am I to understand then that the Government is to take over the work of grading these products?
– I have no doubt that the Commonwealth Government will make an arrangement with the States.
– Would it not be better for the Government of the Commonwealth to consult with the States Governments before we pass this Bill, so as to see how far they could come into line with them ?
– Afterwards, not before.
– It is a very important matter to the producers. The States Governments do a considerable amount of grading already, but how far does the Commonwealth Government intend to go ? Honorable members on both sides of the Chamber would like to know. We do not want to have any clashing of interests. There is, I admit, a great deal to be said for grading, though’ some producers object to it. The Government certainly will either, have to provide their own experts, or to enter into an arrangement with the States; and are the States agreeable that the Commonwealth should take over the work of grading.
– Or to lend their officers?
– It does not seem to me, from what I have heard lately, that the States are. agreeable to anything that the Commonwealth does.
– Under those circumstances, it would surely be unwise for the Government to proceed with the Bill, as they do not know how far the States are willing to act with them.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas).- I shall not attempt to reply to all the criticisms, on my amendment, because some honorable members who are supporting theGovernment are giving admirable support tothe effort which I am making to improve the. Bill. I had two objects in view in moving; the amendment. One was to, secure: uniformity; because weshould, as; far as possible, keep our legislation in thesematters in line with English legislation, so. as to get the benefit of English decisions.. Apart from that, also, people engaged intrade throughout the British Empire should be able to know, without having to look at a. multitude of statute-books, what the laws; are. They should be able to infer from the laws in operation in England what the laws are likely to be in a British dependency.. As a matter of fact, at the Colonial Conference of 1902, uniformity in respect of patents, copyrights, and other commercial matters was expressly referred to as being; desirable, as will be seen from the report, which can be read in the Library. So that I am really acting from an Imperial point of view, as well as from the point of view of common sense, in urging that we should as far as possible - unless, of course, necessity is shown for a divergence - adhere to thelines initiated by the Imperial Government in legislation placed on the English statutebook. I also object to the word “ quality being inserted, because in no case in England is the word “quality” used; in fact the word was deliberately left out of theEnglish legislation. Kerly on Trade Marks,. after a reference to the Act of 1862, whichwas amended by the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887, says, on page 569 : -
That Act did not, and the present Act doesnot, extend to descriptions of quality as apartfrom kind.
The author goes on to describe the Act, and” remarks that it was extended to deal in general with - marks which filled the office of trade marks, to reach all false merchandise marks other than marks of quality.
These marks of quality were therefore deliberately left out because, as I have endeavoured to impress upon the Committee, the word” quality “ is one which is very comprehensive in its significance. It is an. abstract term, which does not suggest anything concrete. Hence it is capable of many shades of meaning, and can be used in such a variety of connotations that it would be almost impossible to secure convictions. For that reason the English Legislature, having had the advantage of the inquiries of Commissions, deliberately left out the word as being a dangerous one to employ. And if it is dangerous to use the word in England, where a man need not put the description on his goods, it must be doubly dangerous here, where a man has to put such a description on them as may be prescribed by the Minister. If he is in doubt in England he does not put a description on his goods. If he is in doubt here, he nevertheless has to put a description on them, because he cannot export or import unless he does so. It is not, as the English Act says, a description that is not “ false in a material particular.” We go beyond that, and say, “ If it is likely to mislead1,” terms which are deliberately left out in England as being somewhat dangerous. “ False in a material particular “ is a term much less likely to cause difficulty than the term ‘” likely to mislead in a material particular.” And those words “likely to mislead” are placed in the latter part of the clause, emphasizing my contention that the addition of these words has made Che definition - coupled with the penal clauses of the Bill - far more dangerous to honest importers and manufacturers; because they must describe and must not make a mistake. I think that honorable members will see that I have some reason for asking that the word “quality” should be left out, even if the Minister will not agree to limit its application. I do not know whether he quite went that length, but there was some indication of his intention to limit it to food products and patent medicines. If he will absolutely guarantee that he will simply schedule such articles as that, and not take power to proclaim other things as being within the scope of the Bill, I will agree to withdraw the amendment. But if he will not do that, I must decidedly object to intrusting a power of this sort to an administration which will be subject to the importunities of interested persons. It may be that in view of the tremendous category of goods covered by the Bill, importunities of all sorts will be employed, and will lead to a serious conflict of interests between importers and manufactur ers. I am sure that the Committee sees the ^inexpediency of allowing such a power as this to be wielded by men who in all the circumstances of politics are not always infallible, or are not always possessed of a perfect sense of obligation to the” Commonwealth. I would again point out to honorable members what may occur. Goods are not to be imported unless upon a description as regards their quality. Now, if the Minister desires to stop the importation of any goods, he can, under the Customs Act, simply proclaim them as not to be imported. As has been decided in America, the trade and commerce section allows that to be done. The Minister can, in that way, put an embargo upon commerce. He is empowered to issue a proclamation against the importation of particular goods without offering any reason. That such a wide power as this has hardly ever been inforced does not remove the fact that for cause shown he is authorized by the Act to proclaim against certain importations. That is an honest way of dealing with things - to proclaim only for specific cause, to say that they shall not be imported because they contain certain materials injurious to the public health. Suppose that under this Bill the Minister declares that a description of quality must be attached to certain goods, and those goods are imported. What has he to do? If he is brought by the importer into a court of justice, the difficulty of proof lies with the Government. The Minister will not want to face that difficulty. Why? Because, as I said before, the term “quality” is so very wide. It involves distinctions grading almost imperceptibly, as twilight does into dark. He will not risk a prosecution where the onus 6f proof is thrown upon him in that manner. The importer will say that the description is not false, and the Minister will not prosecute. The Bill .will therefore prove to be a delusion to those who are supporting it. Because if it fails in a case of that kind, it must be a perfect delusion. Further, it will work a positive injury to our commerce, and to the operation of existing State laws. The State laws at present are fairly effective to cope with such cases, and to substitute Commonwealth administration, which is often far less effective, will work injury to all classes. For an administration which is fairly effective we shall be substituting an administration which’ is doubtful. What the Minister will do is this : He will lay an information under clause 8 of the Bill, and he will attempt to shift the burden from the holder of the goods - either the importer or the exporter - of having attached a false trade description; in other words, having put a description upon the goods which gives a false indication of their quality. Then see what position the Minister, will be in. This measure, in conjunction with the Customs Act, will place him in this position - that alleging in an information that the description is false, is prima facie evidence that it is false unless the importer or the person who gets the goods - and who may not be the man who attaches the description to them - proves the contrary. Section 255 of the Customs Act contains this provision -
In every Customs prosecution the averment of the prosecutor or plaintiff contained in the information, declaration, or claim shall be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary.
I say that, as a matter of administration, the Minister will not meet the challenge thrown out to him on the ground that he cannot prove the information that the goods are falsely described, and he will lay the burden of proof upon the importer of showing that they are not falsely described. That opens up a very serious prospect, and it shows the wisdom; of the English legislation that penalizes a man for a false description of goods, but does not penalize him for a false description of quality. On page 570, Kerly on Trade Marks mentions adulteration under the heading of quality -
Adulteration or the sale of goods not of the nature or quality demanded or pretended is made a criminal offence by other statutes in many special instances.
Then he goes on to refer to the fact that the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts, the administration of which is far more perfect than the administration of this Bill is likely to be by the Commonwealth, make it an offence to mix injurious ingredients with articles of food. The administration of this Bill cannot be so perfect, and will make the measure a delusion to those who support it, as instanced by the fact that the Government have never attempted to put an embargo on the importation of goods under the Customs Act. on the ground that they were not as described ; the Minister knowing that the proposition is hardly capable of proof. If the Minister was challenged, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he could not sustain his allega tion of a false description of quality. It would be impossible to do so. Under the circumstances, therefore, it would be far more expedient to leave the States to deal with these particular matters, which can be dealt with under theFood and Drugs Acts far more effectively than is likely to be the case under this measure. I repeat that I believe that honorable members will find that this Bill is an absolute delusion, and that so far from protecting the public it will injure them, because the administration will be a failure. And I ask the Committee whether importers are likely to describe bad goods as bad goods? Is a man likely to say that his butter is of a dubious quality, and that it will become rank in a short time? Not at all. If he has any doubt about the quality he will give himself the benefit of. it. knowing the difficulty the Minister will be in as regards instituting a prosecution, and being aware that the intentions of the Act will be defeated. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will recognise that I am justified in what I have said as to this clause.
Question - That the word “ quality “ proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided -
Ayes … … … 31
Noes … … … 12
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the words, lines 29 and 30, “ a Custom House entry relating to goods and,” be left out.
I have no desire to ignore the decision of the Committee, as indicated by the division just taken, but, as I had already indicated that I should move the omission of these words, I now do so. It is a matter of common knowledge that these Customs House entries are usually passed by clerks, and for any omission or neglect the pains and penalties provided are most serious. The Minister of Trade and Customs is aware that the Chambers of Commerce were unanimous in desiring that this provision should not be made, and the suggestions of those bodies were, it will be admitted, offered with a desire to make the Bill effective. I may be told by the Minister that these are the words used in the English Merchandise Marks Act ; but, as the honorable and learned member for Angas pointed out when he submitted the last amendment, there is really no analogy between the two provisions. The pains and penalties under the measure before us are immeasurably greater than those under the English Act The other sub-clauses render it unnecessary that a Customs House entry shall be a trade description, and the position may be met “by the Minister requiring a separate document, embodying facts within the knowledge of the principal of any firm desiring to pass goods. In the earlier stages the administration of the Customs Act caused considerable consternation amongst merchants throughout the Commonwealth in consequence of prosecutions being instituted, and explanations demanded, for any error or negligence on the part, it might be, of some junior clerk; and it is felt that if the clause be allowed to remain as it stands at present there may be a repetition of that trouble and inconvenience. The present Minister of Trade and Customs then recognised how harshly the administration of the Customs Act pressed on merchants, and he altered the practice. I appeal to the honorable gentleman now, in view of the fact that full particulars are provided for in the other sub-clauses, to accept the amendment which I have moved. It is unnecessary, in the ordinary day by day conduct of a merchant’s business, to exercise a power which might be the means of possible misfortune to a firm. The amend ment I have submitted may safely be supported by any honorable member who is in favour of the .whole of the other provisions of the measure: In my opinion, this sub-clause,’ if not amended, will prove to be -unworkable, and will create a sort of reign of terror amongst merchants ; and that, I am sure, is not the object or intention of the Minister or the Government in introducing the Bill.
– I desire to point out, as I did the other night, that the English Merchandise Marks Act contains a provision similar in effect to that now under discussion.
– The ‘two provisions are quite different in their working.
– I shall refer to the reasons for the provision in the English Act later on. Section r of the English Merchandise Marks Act provides : That “ a Custom House entry relating to imported goods “ shall, for the purposes of the Act, “be deemed to be a trade description applied to the goods.” That is practically the same as the provision which we have inserted in this Bill. It has been pointed out to me very strongly by the officers of the (Department that the words which it is proposed to omit are absolutely necessary for the proper administration of the Act.”
– This is the only means by which these particulars can be obtained.
– That is so. A good deal of what has been said about the Bill not being as stringent as it might be would be effective if it were not for this < very provision. The section was inserted in the English Act in consequence of a report by a Royal Commission which investigated the subject. After referring to the inclusion in the English Act of the provision I have read, the report I have on the subject says -
This fact is very important, and in itself alone it is sufficient reason for the inclusion in the Commerce Bill, which is based so largely upon the British Act, and the objection brought forward to the Commerce Bill does not extend to controverting the wisdom of the British law which prevails so largely in the various parts of the British Empire.
The reason for its inclusion becomes still stronger when we consider how it came to be adopted in the British Act. Its adoption in England was the result of a recommendation by the Committee of the British Parliament in 1890, which reported as follows : - “ The evidence given before your Committee was, in their opinion, conclusive proof that goods (notably articles of consumption) come into this country in large quantities in an adulterated form, but cannot, according to the evidence given by the Customs authorities, be detained under section 3 (d) and («) of the M. M. A., because in most instances they bear no trade description as defined by sections 3 and 5 of the said Act.”
What I want is to have .the trade description brought in here in the way in which this Committee reported that it should be dealt with in the Imperial Merchandise Marks Act. The Committee further reported -
Your Committee are of opinion that much harm is being done to legitimate trade by the impunity with which spurious articles are introduced into this country. They therefore propose that the Act should be amended by making the Customs “ entry,” which must bear a description of the goods imported, a “ trade description “ within the meaning of the Act. The adoption of this amendment would, in the opinion of your Committee, give the Customs power to detain goods, the “ trade description “ of which is false as to the materials of which they are composed.
It was on that report that the provision I have read was inserted in the English Act, and on that report I desire that these words should be left in this Bill. I ask honorable members not to impair the effectiveness of the measure, as it would be impaired by the omission of these words. I can well understand that those who desire to oppose the Bill should wish to make it as weak as possible. A great deal that has been said to-night as to the impotency of the Customs officers to deal with persons importing anything impure, or anything fraudulently marked, is of no effect whatever. I ask the Committee not to consent to the amendment.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs objects to the amendment on the ground that certain honorable members desire to destroy this measure.
– I have no wish to be interpreted in that way. What I said was that the amendment would weaken the measure.
– I at once accept the honorable gentleman’s denial. I can assure the Committee that any provision that is necessary to detect fraud will find support on this side. So far from desiring to see goods introduced under a false trade description, during the whole of my mercantile career I have had attached to invoices, under a system inaugurated by the honorable member for Mernda, a supporter of the Government, a clause guaranteeing that goods sold under those invoices are of the exact character of the invoiced and labelled description, and that the firm would be responsible for the purity of the goods sold .under that guarantee. That is a self-imposed Adulteration Act, and personally I should like to see other merchants adopt the same course.
– The Minister desires to make all merchants like the honorable gentleman.
– It is quite true, as stated in the report read by the Minister, that the English Act does not provide for a trade description, and in that lies the difference between it and this Bill.
– It can be dealt with in> clause 7 or clause 10.
– The Minister, under this clause, can insist on a trade description being placed on goods.
– If it is carried.
– If it is carried. The reason for the inclusion of the Customs entry in the English Act was that there was no other trade description, compulsory under that Act. Consequently, they had to enact that this, the only description provided for, must be accurate. I do> not object to insisting on general accuracy in an entry form ; but the Minister might insist on a number of the items of information set out in clause 3 with reference to number, quality, place of origin, manufacturer or producer of goods, person by whom they are selected, and so on, being placed ii* a trade desciption, which might be a label or an invoice or a Customs entry ; but if he is going to insist that they shall all be placed in a Customs entry, it will become a very difficult and almost impossible’ task to pass entries for any large quantity of goods. One would1 have to enter into a long description, altogether irrelevant to any Customs entry, giving all details as to ingredients, source of origin, and so on, of each line of goods. That would make a Customs entry a tremendous document. Without pressing the matter too much at the present time, theMinister might consider whether he cannot propose something which would meet that difficulty. He has every security in being able to insist on a trade description apart from a Customs entry. If the Customs entry is to be made a trade description, and* must consequently contain all the details which the Minister is entitled to stipulate shall be given in a trade description, it will be a very difficult document to prepare. These entries are sufficiently lengthy at present, but this provision, if carried out, might require, in the case of large lines of goods, that they should be tremendous catalogues.
– I had a conversation with the Comptroller-General of Customs on that point, and he does not think that there would be the least trouble or any difficulty in connexion with the matter.
– I quite admit that if the full trade description is not insisted on in the entry it might not be troublesome, but power is taken to make the description in a Customs entry as minute- and detailed as any other description attached to the goods. That may be necessary under the English Act, which does not provide for any other description. But in this measure, where we do provide for a full and complete description in another way, I do not see why we should provide for it also in the Customs entry. Might I remind the Minister that under paragraph d of section 234 of the Customs Act it is provided that “ No person shall make any entry which is false in any particular,” so that! there is security under the Customs Act as regards falsity. The giving of detailed information in the Customs entry would afford no protection to the consumer, nor is there any necessity for it when there is power to see that the full and complete description is given on the label or invoice. That is the difficulty to which I direct the attention of the Minister in supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kooyong.
Mr. HIGGINS (Northern Melbourne).The criticism of the honorable member for North Sydney bears on clause 7 rather than on clause 3.
– The two clauses must be read together.
– I admit that they must be considered together. At the same time, I think that when we come to clause 7, the honorable gentleman will be able to move an amendment which will achieve his purpose, and which will be well worthy of consideration.
– I am willing to act on that suggestion.
– The object of including a Customs entry under the head of trade description is to assist the prosecution of fraud.
– That is the object.
– I think that those who framed the clause hardly realized that the Minister, in having regulations made, might say, “ I shall compel importers to include details in Customs entries which they do not usually contain.” I do not think it is intended to make Customs entries any more formidable and detailed documents than they are at present. The honorable member for North Sydney never speaks beside the point, but always in a manner which commands the attention of honorable members, and I respectfully suggest that he might allow this clause to pass. The honorable gentleman will admit that Customs entries are not trade descriptions ordinarily, and if there is a false statement in a Customs entry the person responsible for it should be liable to prosecution.
– I am not against that, so long as a detailed description is not required in a Customs entry.
– A modification of clause 7 might be suggested, and I should be inclined to support it, to give effect to what the honorable gentleman desires, but I hope that we shall a.ll be prepared to assist any Administration to prosecute in cases of clear guilt. It is very difficult to prove that a trade description is false, and we must give the Customs officers full power to deal with such matters. If there is dishonesty, let us punish it. If, in a Customs entry, a man calls something pure milk, or pure wool, which is not pure milk or pure wool, and if, for instance, he says that certain gold is 18 carat gold, when it is not, he should be liable to the penalties proposed in this Bill. The experience of the British Customs is that you can in no way reach the prosecution of an offender so effectually as by insisting that every description in a Customs entry shall be true. One honorable member has said, to my surprise, that these Customs entries aTe made by boys. It is quite true that they are left too much to boys. It is our business to see to it that every entry put before the Customs authorities for the purpose of duty or any other .purpose shall be carefully made out, and shall be true. I am personally aware that one of the most frequent means of the evasion of duty is the practice adopted of trusting the making of Customs entries to irresponsible persons, or to persons who do not know the business. I ask. those who have any experience in these matters to corroborate me in that statement. They know it is done commonly. The importers of goods allow entries to be passed by boys, who, when they come for advice, are told to “put in so and so.” Then when they are faced with a falsehood they say, “ Oh, it was that boy. He did not understand.” I feel that we should excuse nothing in a Customs entry when the plea is that the person to whom the making of if was intrusted was incapable of properly performing the task.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I am in accord with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, and with the Minister himself, in thinking that the penalties of the Bill should apply to any attempt to make an entry which would impose on the Customs, or which contained a fraudulent representation of the nature of the goods to which it referred. I do not desire to relieve the importer of the responsibility of exercising proper care in seeing that the right trade description is given. If he allows his clerk or office boy to give a fraudulent description, he should be liable to the penalty attaching to the making of a false description. The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, however, has put forward the valuable suggestion that the object which I had in view in moving the amendment might be better met by an amendment in clause 7, and I therefore beg leave to withdraw my amendment, adding that I do not desire that there shall be room for the introduction of fraudulent methods.
– It seems to me that if the Customs entry is to contain all. the particulars set out in paragraphs a tof, it will take a considerable time, and entail considerable trouble, to make. I think that the end in view will be met by requiring a trade description containing all these particulars to be placed on the tins or other packages containing imports. To duplicate this information on the Customs entry is only to entail additional and useless labour on our merchants. I do not think that the merchants of the Commonwealth are so void of principle and of honour as the measure would indicate. I know that a large number of them are honorable men, and I am ready to protect all honorable men from the unfair competition of dishonorable men. I am also willing to protect the consumer, by insisting that all goods brought into the country shall have affixed to them proper trade descriptions. The Merchandise Marks Act of Great Britain differs from the Bill in that it deals only with imports, whereas the Bill deals with both imports and exports. If it dealt merely with imports, the task of the Legislature would be easier. Although I think that it would be simpler to amend this clause than to amend clause 7, I do not object to the withdrawal of the amendment, because I do not wish to set my opinion against that of the honorable and learned member for North Sydney, who has had such a long experience in mercantile matters. We should, however, not overload the Bill. In passing legislation of this kind, we are often putting into motion forces of which we do not know what the effect will be, and just as some honorable members believe that there is ground for distrusting our merchants, I have a strong feeling that the officers of the Customs Department are not to be trusted with too much power, because, being brought up in an atmosphere of suspicion, they are likely to be tyrannical, and their conduct in many cases has indicated that disposition.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
– I move-
That the words “ or omitted therefrom,” line 38, be left out.
I could understand the Customs officials wishing to penalize anything in the nature of a false trade description, and I think that it is reasonable that a man should be punished for putting on his goods any description liable to mislead. But it is going much further than that to say that persons shall be punished for omitting something from a description.
– Fraudulently omitting.
– The Minister, unfortunately, is to be the only judge as to what constitutes faudulent omission. A trade description is defined to mean any description as to the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, or weight of the goods, and the other particulars set out in paragraphs b tof, and a false trade description means any false statement in regard to any of these particulars, or any omission therefrom. I cannot see what circumstances the words “ or omitted therefrom “ are intended to meet.
– It seems to me, for reasons which have been very amply given to the Committee by the honorable member for North Sydney, that the Customs entry ought not to contain particulars which are not required by the Customs Act. It would certainly be very harsh to require that all the particulars required in a trade description should be set forth in the Customs entry relating to any goods. That cannot be the intention. What is done in England, and might be done here, is to prevent false statements being made in the usual form of the Customs entry. If the Minister will accept an amendment in that direction, I think that we might do what is necessary, by inserting after the word “ entry,” line 28, the words “ limited to the particulars prescribed by the Customs Act 1 90 1, or the regulations thereunder.”
– If is not competent for the honorable and learned member to move that amendment, since there is already an amendment before the Chair.
– I am prepared to withdraw my amendment.
– It is not so difficult to deal with the matter here as to deal with it in clause 7.
– I prefer to deal with it in clause 7, so that I may discuss the question with my experts.
– Will the Minister resubmit this clause if it be found that the matter cannot be dealt with so conveniently in clause 7
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - What I wish to do in the first instance, is to link this measure with the Customs Act, and, as was suggested by the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, it may be that an amendment can be framed which will allow that to be done without requiring too elaborate a trade description to be inserted in the Customs entry. I do not desire that any attempt should be made to effect the honorable member’s object toy amending this particular clause. Before we reach clause 7, I shall have obtained further technical information from the Comptroller-General of Customs as to whether it would be possible to meet the desire of the honorable member for Kooyong without weakening the intention of the Bill. If I can agree to the amendment with safety, and the honorable member’s object cannot be achieved by amending clause 7 or 8, I shall toe quite willing to recommit the clause now under discussion. The words now proposed to be omitted were deliberately inserted with, a view to giving the Minister the fullest, power to deal with cases of fraud, and I desire to avoid any amendment that will weaken that power.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I objected to the withdrawal of the amendment, because I did not see how the object of the honorable member for Kooyong could be achieved by amending clause 7. If the amendment were accepted it would restrict the Customs entry to the statement of the particulars that are usually filed in such entries, and I think it is desirable to do that.
– Would the Minister kindly make some statement with regard to the question I have raised?
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I do not feel disposed to agree to the proposal of the honorable member, because numerous cases might arise in which an exporter or an importer would deliberately omit a necessary trade description. A false trade description is one which is false “ by reason of anything contained therein or omitted therefrom.” We should have the power topunish an importer or an exporter who, by the omission of essential particulars, practically gives a fraudulent description.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).There would not be so much objection tothis provision if the importer or the exporter had an opportunity to demand a fair and judicial examination into his conduct. The Star . Chamber in England wasabolished years ago, and we should not establish any such institution here.
– Who squealed out for a Star Chamber when importers werehauled up before the Courts on chargesof fraud?
– Those who arecharged with fraud upon the Customs aremore likely to obtain justice in the Law Courts than if they are tried by persons whohave already prejudged them. Underthe provisions of the Bill, the very officials who Have preferred charges will be called upon to try the accused persons, and I would ask the honorable member whether he would like to have his conduct inquired into by a person who was prosecuting him..
– The importers are satisfied with the present arrangement for inquiries into alleged breaches of the Customs Act.
– They are not satisfied. The importers were not satisfied with ;the course adopted in the harvester case. They asked, to be permitted to go before the Court, and reasonably so> because no man with any sense of justice would resquire that a man should be tried by the very officers who had declared him to be guilty of fraud. Under the Bill as it now stands those who are alleged to be guilty of fraud will be entirely at the mercy of the Minister and his officials, and I decline to confer upon the Customs authorities the powers which are now contemplated. If we cannot trust the Courts, let us appoint other judges. We should carefully guard against wrong being done to any citizen. I have no personal friends among the importers any more than other honorable members have, but I contend that we should be careful that justice is done to every member of the community. If it is provided that those who consider that they are aggrieved by any action of the Customs authorities can appeal to a judicial tribunal, I shall have_ no objection to the provision as it stands in’ the Bill.
– It seems like a romance to hear the honorable mem”Ler complaining about a Star Chamber.
– It is nothing else.
– I am delighted to hear it. If there was one section of the community that clamoured for the adoption of the Star Chamber process in connexion with Customs inquiries at the time when importers were being hauled before the Courts, it was the section which is now fighting the Bill. Was. not the present mode of procedure adopted at the request of importers who were being charged in the Law Courts with frauds upon the Customs?
– Their request should mot have been granted.
– I was delighted when importers and others who were guilty of frauds upon the Customs were taken before the Law Courts, and I was one of those who objected most strenuously to the procedure now being followed. If the honorable member will propose that instead of the Customs authorities being the final arbiters in cases of alleged fraud, the accused persons should be taken before a judicial tribunal, I” shall support him. I cannot sea any justification for the alteration proposed by the honorable member for “Wentworth. The words which he proposes to omit are necessary for the proper definition of a false trade description. My only objection is that they are not quite strong enough, and I prefer that the word “liable” should be substituted for the word “ likely.” I can conceive that some difference of opinion might exist as to what was “likely to mislead”; but the same di*vergence of view would not be possible in regard to the word “liable;”
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- I think that the Minister has mistaken my object. The omission of the words which I have suggested should be excised would do no harm, but, on the other hand, . would improve the clause. I would point out that “trade description” relates, among other things, to the quality of an article, and any omission in that regard might be construed by the Minister as a false trade description. For instance, suppose that a quantity of salt butter were imported, and the word “salt” was not included in the trade description-
– Or that the importer did not apply any description to it.
– But he would be compelled to apply a trade description.
– He might call it butter, but not bad butter.
– The importer would have to apply a trade description, and if that description were false he might be prosecuted, apart altogether from any provision containing the words which I propose to omit. It appears to me that it would be absurd to empower the Minister to punish a man for applying a false description merely because- of some omission on his part. Surely the only person who could say that he had been deceived by such an omission in the description would be the consumer of the article. I do not think the Minister should be intrusted with any such power as that proposed to be conferred. He would be placed in a most serious position, and, indeed, it is largely on his account that I am suggesting the amendment.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I should like to point out to the honorable member, in the first place, that it is not the Minister, but the officers of his Department, who will be called upon to deal with this matter. It is only in the case of an appeal that the Minister will take action.
– Does the Minister direct his officers, or are they irresponsible?
– They are not irresponsible, but in matters arising under this Bill they are not likely to receive any direct instructions from the Minister.
– No measure can prevent a Minister from controlling the officers of his Department.
– The Minister will have very little control over his officers in this regard, except when an appeal is made to him. If the honorable member turns to clause 10, he will find that -
Subject to the regulations the ComptrollerGeneral, or on appeal from him the Minister, may permit any goods which are liable to be or have been seized as forfeited under this section to be delivered to the owner or exporter…..
It is only in such a case that the Minister will take action. As to the statement made by the honorable member regarding the possibility of fraud being committed by the omission of certain words from a description of goods, I would point out that, if, for instance, the shoddy boots exhibited by the honorable member for Darling were simply described as “ men’s boots,” or “children’s boots,” as the case might be, and no reference were made to the fact that they were constructed partly of paper or cardboard, that would be a fraud, provided that the omission were deliberate. It is to meet such cases that it is necessary to have a provision of this kind in the Bill.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- The Minister’s explanation raises a completely new position. Under the clause, as it stands, imitation leather could be imported as piece goods, and made up locally into boots, which could then be sold as leather boots. A fraud could thus be perpetrated on the consumers of the Commonwealth. The retention of these words will therefore lead to the institution of a new industry in Australia - to the establishment of factories from which the poor people of the country will be supplied with articles of a “ brummagem “ nature.
– The States will look after that.
– Why do anything which will afterwards put the States in the position of having “ to look after that “ ?
Mr. LONSDALE (New England). - From an interjection made by the honorable member for Moira, whilst I was speaking, I was led to infer that he favoured the Star Chamber inquiries to which I was objecting. I find, however, that he does not favour such proceedings, and that what he wished to convey was that the importers favoured such a system of dealing with frauds on the revenue. I realise that there may be some trifling cases withwhich it might be permissible to deal in this way, but I hold that any serious fraud should be dealt with judicially, and in an open way. The fact of the public hearing of such a case would in itself be a greater punishment, and would have a stronger deterrent effect, than would the penalties for which provision is made. The Bill ought to contain a provision for an appeal to a judicial authority. If the Minister and his officers are satisfied that they are acting rightly they should have no objection to an appeal from their decisions to a judicial authority. Where the punishment imposed is the result of an omission on the part of a trader, the latter should have a right to show that the omission was not fradulent, and a judicial authority should then be able to deal with the case. A man charged with having given a false description of his goods should be allowed to appeal from the decision of the person who really lays the charge against him. and prosecutes him. No one should object to that proposition. I shall ask one of the legal members of the Committee who agrees with me to draft an amendment in that direction, and I shall be prepared to move it.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- I rise this time really in the interests of the honorable member for Moira, who, I understand, is rather concerned about the use of the words “likely to mislead.” The honorable member thinks that it is rather an awkward phrase, and I agree with him that the word; “liable” would be preferable to “ likely.’.’ I move-
That the word “ likely,” line 39, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ liable.”
Mr. GLYNN (Angas). - As has been mentioned by the honorable member for Kooyong, it would be futile to attempt to amend this clause, in view of the decision of the Committee on a previous amendment, although I should attempt to. amend several of the paragraphs if I did not think it would be a waste of time to do so. Several words have been inserted in these paragraphs that are not in the Imperial Act, andi the definition of “false trade description “ makes the clause much more harassing than it would otherwise be. There is a whole line in that definition which is not in the English Act. The words “ or likely to mislead” have been omitted from that statute, the reason being that the Courts in England have decided that a description might be likely to mislead and yet be perfectly innocent. The English Act is. confined merely to a false description, which is false in a. material respect as regards the goods in question ; but although the Courts in England have decided that it would be unfair to punish a man for a misleading description which was innocently given, the draftsman of this Bill has thought fit to insert the words to which I have referred. It seems to me that it would be a waste of time to attempt to strike them out in view of the decision of the Committee, but before the clause is passed it is necessary to.make some protest against the amplification of the words in the English section.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- The Minister has offered no explanation of the use of the words “ likely to mislead,” and I should like to see them omitted.
– No explanation is necessary.
– Is the Minister so satisfied of the omniscience of the officers of his own Department that he is prepared on their mere if se dixit, to depart from all existing Acts dealing with this matter? By leave, I withdraw my amendment, with a view to propose the omission of these words.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Kelly) proposed -
That the words “ or likely to mislead in a material respect,” lines 39 and 40, be left out.
– I think that the Minister might very well accept the amendment.
– I am not going to do so.
– That is about as intelligent a reason as we have had during the whole evening from the Minister as to anything relating to the Bill. We shall have to endeavour to get some of these reasonable amendments suggested from the other side. If that be done it will bring the Minister to his feet very quickly. The only explanations that he has deigned to make so far have been in answer to speeches by honorable members opposite.
– That statement is as unfair -as it is incorrect.
– It is absolutely correct. The amendment is a very fair one from every point of view. Surely we ought to make the wording of the Bill as clear as possible, particularly when it carries such heavy penalties. It has been pointed out by the honorable and learned member for Angas, who has made a special study of the Bill, and of its relation! to the laws of other countries, that such vague language as that now proposed to be left out is omitted from other legislation in this direction. I can understand the Minister desiring to retain all these vague expressions in the .Bill, only on the assumption that he wishes to be a law unto himself after it has been placed on the statute-book. This provision is a kind of drag-net, of which I venture to say the honorable gentleman will make use. The words “ likely to mislead “ will leave the matter one to be interpreted solely by the Minister himself. The description may be one of the most obvious kind, and may express in the most intelligent language what is intended’, but the Minister may say that in his opinion it is “ likely to mislead.” I submit that we must put in this Bill language so definite that it will be incapable of being misunderstood. There should be no such terms as those to which exception is taken by the honorable member for Wentworth. Only last week we were engaged in discussing a section of the Immigration Restriction Act, in which Parliament had not definitely stated what was intended. Here is a clause which is equally ambiguous. It leaves it open for the Minister to say that a thing is wrong, and to place a man in disadvantageous circumstances, simply because he may have a different view as to the meaning of language from that of the Minister. That ought not to be. The clause is quite drastic enough without this language. It is quite clear without it. It is more definite without it. The traders of the country ought . not to be tied up by vague and meaningless language. But, meaningless as it is, as it stands it becomes meaningful by the action of the Minister. It is a drag-net expression, which means nothing, except an expression of opinion on the part of the Minister at any time. I hold that our Bills ought to be framed so that he who runs may read - especially people whose business will be controlled by them, and the consequences to whom may be very serious. I beg the Minister to consider whether the words would not be better out of the Bill ?
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong).- I hope that it is not useless to make requests to the Minister, with a view of improving this Bill,
Surely the Government is not going to perpetuate the use of words which are proved to be dangerous and meaningless simply because objection is taken to them by honorable members on this side. The clause uses the words, “ false or likely to mislead in a material respect.” We ali approve of legislation against language being applied to goods that is calculated to mislead “ in a material respect.” But “likely to. mislead “ is a drag-net expression, which ought not to be retained. The Minister admits that in practice the administration of the Bill would be left to the officers of his Department. It has been urged that the officers, who are to be the accusers, are also to be the judges. Surely we should make the language clear and definite, in order that those who administer the Bill may have no doubt as to what Parliament intended. The Comptroller-General of Customs is an extremely able and conscientious officer, but I believe that it is quite possible that even he may fail in carrying out the varying provisions of this Bill as applied to all the ramifications of commerce. The representations that have been made to the Minister on the point are not idle, but are those of people who wish for what is fair and workable. They ought not to be subject to continuous pinpricking legislation, such as is sought to be imposed here. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will feel that, without any loss of dignity, or without infringing the real purposes of the Bill, he can accede to the deletion, of the words.
– We shall be six months on this Bill if we proceed as we have done to-night.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas, who, it is admitted, has given a great deal of attention to the Bill, and/ has compared it with existing legislation in other parts of the world, says that such language is not to be found in the English Act. Surely, therefore, there is reason in the request that the words should be omitted.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England). - I heard the Minister interject a few moments ago that we shall be six months dealing with this Bill if we proceed as we are doing. Are we to cease asking for what we think to be fair because the Minister is not prepared to consider what we propose? He can shorten the discussion by granting some of our reasonable requirements. We ask that the words “likely to mislead “ shall be left out.
– The very clause under which fraud is likely to arise.
– It all depends upon the individual who reads the description. What might mislead one person would not mislead another. If a description upon certain goods is not “ false in a material respect,” we ought not to punish the person responsible. If it is false in a material respect, punishment should follow. But there should be no punishment merely because a description is, in somebody’s opinion, “ likely to mislead.” I shall not cast any reflection upon the officers who will have to administer this Bill, but I must say that they are brought up in an atmosphere of suspicion. If the slightest mistake occurs on the part of a merchant in passing entries through the Customs, they suspect him of being guilty of fraud. They are constantly on the look-out for frauds against the Customs. Any mistake that occurred under this clause would be considered by such suspicious people to be intentional and worthy of prosecution. I am strongly opposed to the words remaining in the clause. I am perfectly well aware, of course, that the Minister, with his large majority behind him, can resist us like an autocrat. If our numbers were nearer to his, he would be as pliable as a rope of sand.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I wish to say two or three words, after what has been alleged, in respect of these unfortunate words; and I ‘intend to read the terms of, the English Merchandise Marks Act. The definition section contains the following words : -
Every person who sells, or exposes for, or has in his possession for, sale, or any purpose of trade or manufacture, any goods or things to which any forged trade mark or false trade description is applied, or to which any trade mark or mark so nearly resembling a trade mark as to be calculated to deceive.
That is practically an indorsement of the words of this clause. Indeed, the terms of the English Act are even stronger than ours.
– Substitute the words of the English Act, and we will accept them.
– The honorable member would be prepared to accept anything that he thought would do harm. In the South Australian Act the definition of false trade description includes a “ trade mark reasonably calculated tel. lead persons to believe that the goods “ are so and so. Those words are, if anything, stronger than the words in the Bill, and very much wider in their application. It is straining a point to say that those other Acts do not contain a similar provision.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas). - I was perfectly aware, when I told the Committee that the words in this Bill were not in the English Act, that there were other words in the English Act. . I know that at page 585 of Kerly on Trade Marks, it is expressly pointed out that Judges have declined to say that, simply because a trade mark is likely to mislead, it is a false description. On that ground men have been acquitted, because a trade mark, which is merely likely to mislead, may be a perfectly innocent description.
– This is the provision in the South Australian Act.
– What I said was that the words are not in the English Act.
– But there are words to the same effect.
– As I have already said, the Judges have declined to convict, on the ground that a trade mark is likely to mislead, because a trade mark may mislead, and still be innocently used. The effect of the clause as it stands is that a man. who innocently misleads may have his goods forfeited.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas seems to argue that we should make no departure from English .legislation. I think, however, that we ought to be capable of doing our own drafting. Honorable members of the Opposition seem to. mistake the object of this Bill, which is, I take it, to prevent fraud ; and when we try to prevent fraud, we have to deal with very smart and unscrupulous people. Under these circumstances, the law ought to be so worded that there shall be no loophole for escape. The Opposition seem to be under the impression that the Minister of Trade and Customs and his officers will endeavour to trap innocent people - that the Minister will exercise his tremendous powers with that result.
– The Minister has done so already in one case.
– That has to be proved yet. We know that in Victoria, in the ten years prior to Federation, over £19,000 was paid in fines for this very offence.
– Mostly unjust persecutions.
– There was a tremendous lot of deliberate fraud. In the first eighteen- months of Federation some £3,000 was paid in fines, for this offence.
– Men were prosecuted for trivial mistakes.
– That does not alter the fact that there were proved cases of deliberate fraud. It requires a vast number of small fines for mistakes and errors to make up the sum of ,£19,000, and I know from the records that the bulk of the big fines were for deliberate fraud. As I understand the Bill, the false description must be intended to mislead for the purposes of fraud.
– Who will be the judge?
– Honorable members of the Opposition do not seem to object to the presence of the word “ false.” Who will decide as to the falsity of a description? All these matters have to be decided on evidence, and even then it is only a matter of opinion; and my point is that the misleading must be deliberate and on some material point. T.he Opposition, would appear to think that the present Minister will always be in office; but we may take it for granted that, whoever is at the head of the Department, will not undertake foolish or unnecessary prosecutions. Indeed, honorable members are so watchful that there is very little chance of any serious mistake in administration.
– Why should our Act be altogether different from Acts elsewhere ?
– It is not necessary that we should slavishly follow the English Act.
– That Act is followed in South Australia.
– It does not matter to us if every other country in the world follows the. English Act; we have to make our own laws. If I mistake not, the Department have power to correct descriptions which may be handed in. If that be so, it will be open to the Department to point out to a firm that the statement is likely to mislead, and that, for their own protection, it ought to be amended. There are good grounds for the provision in the Bill. I do not pretend to be an authority on draftsmanship, but I cannot see that anything would be gained by striking out the clause.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- The Minister quoted from the English Act to show that I was riot correct in my statement that that Act contained no such words as “ likely to mislead;” but the honorable member quoted so far and no further. First of all, the words in the English Act are nothing like the words in the Bill. The words quoted by the Minister were - “ to which any trade mark or marks so nearly resembling a trade mark as to be calculated to deceive,” whereas the words in the Bill are “ likely to mislead in a material respect.” The English Act, as I say, refers to a trade mark “ so nearly resembling a trade mark as to be calculated to deceive,” and then follow words which the Minister did not quote - “ is falsely applied.” It is simply absurd to attempt to draw a parallel between the two provisions. All we desire is that some protection shall be given to men whom certain honorable members seem to regard as criminals. The honorable member for Darling is evidently under’ the impression that this Parliament protects everybody and everything ; but I have come to a different conclusion. When a Government have a majority who blindly follow them, they are prepared to do things of a most tyrannical nature. Our laws ought to be so drafted as to allow no tyranny over any section, or any. persons in the community, but to protect the equal rights of all men. . We on this side of the House are trying to do our duty to the country, and should not be charged with seeking to protect any particular body of men. Any one who commits fraud and deceives the public ought to be punished ; and I am prepared to assist in passing laws to that end, but I am not prepared to make criminals of men for committing imaginary offences.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The Minister of Trade and Customs is. unintentionally no doubt, misleading the Committee in the quotations he has made. The Minister informed us that the sections in the English Act and the South Australian Act are much more stringent than1 the clause he proposes, but, strange to say, he quoted from the enacting clause, and ignored altogether the definition section in each Act. It will- be found that the definitions in both Acts are much’ more definite than that to which he seeks to give effect in this Bill. On their very face, the sections which have been quoted, show an intention to prevent straight out fraud. No one quarrels with that. We are as anxious as is the Minister to prevent fraud. I would point out that this Bill covers verv much more ground than that. As has been pointed out by the honorable member for Kooyong, the word “ quality “ is not to be found in the Acts to which the Minister has referred. There is all the difference in the world between fraud as applied to the description of the place where goods are made; or as to their contents, and the matter of an opinion - for it may come to that - as to the quality of an article supplied. According to the drag-net clause submitted by the Minister, if there happens to be a difference of opinion between the maker of an article, say butter, and the Minister, the latter may say that the definition of the maker is likely to mislead as to the quality of the goods. There is no such drag-net clause in the Acts which the honorable gentleman has referred to. They are clearly limited in their scope, and if the honorable gentleman will follow those Acts there will be no trouble. It is because he seeks infinitely wider powers than are given under those Acts that we should be very careful of the words we put into this definition clause. It is a very serious matter to say that a mere mistake as to the quality of goods may render a man liable to a penalty of £100. The Minister, in quoting from the British and South Australian Acts, entirely misled the Committee as to the powers they confer when compared with those which he seeks to acquire. We shall be very glad if the honorable gentleman will say that he is content to accept the definition contained in those Acts, because that would be an immense concession. I ask again, what reason the honorable gentleman can have for seeking to go further, unless, as has already been hinted before to night, he desires to get this Bill passed in a certain form for the purpose of making it prohibitive to do business with outside places ? I ask the honorable gentleman again to be content with the powers conferred under the British and South Australian Acts. The South Australian Legislature was content to follow the British precedent, but the honorable gentleman is going one better in insisting on a drag-net provision, which will make it im- possible for us to do business with outside countries. The honorable gentleman is unwilling to follow this precedent, and, like the honorable member for Darling, the experience of the world is nothing to him.
– Yes, it is; but we need not slavishly copy what others have done.
– No one is suggesting that; but we say that since we do business with other countries we should so far as possible approximate our legislation to theirs. They have set up certain standards and prescribed certain conditions which are applied to trade between them and Australia, and we should reciprocate by as nearly as possible approximating our legislation to theirs. Apart from the merits of the question, if there is nothing specially against the adoption of that course, we should strain every nerve to bring our legislation. into line with that which experience has shown, has worked well in Great Britain.
– I rise to support the amendment, for the obvious reason that the retention of the words “or likely to mislead “ are quite unnecessary, unless the measure is designed for some purpose which has not yet been made clear to the Committee. If the Minister continues to adopt an arrogant tone towards honorable members of the Opposition, who venture to suggest that the Bill might be improved in certain respects, and refuses to meet reasonable suggestions for its improvement in a reasonable way, he will have only himself to blame if the discussion of the measure is prolonged. There must be some means of entering a protest against the honorable gentleman’s treatment of suggestions from this side. It has been clearly shown, by the honorable member for Kooyong, and other honorable members, that the retention1 of these words can serve no useful purpose. We are entitled to know why the Minister desires to retain them, but, so far, we have had no information on that point. The honorable gentleman has referred us to the British and South Australian Acts, and, as has been pointed out, he has quoted the provisions of those Acts in such a way as to lead to a misapprehension as to their effect. When he made his first explanation, the honorable gentleman said that these words were taken from the British Act. or based on it.
– No, the honorable gentleman did not say anything of the sort. What he said was that somewhat similar words were in the British and South Australian Acts.
– I do not remember the exact words which the honorable gentleman used, but the meaning he intended to convey was that the words “contained in this clause were the same in effect as the words contained in the British provision. It has been shown that there is no resemblance whatever between the two provisions. We should have no objection if the Minister is willing to adopt the words of the British or South Australian Acts.
– One would think that the honorable gentleman would strain every nerve to bring our legislation into line with the British legislation on the same subject.
– Unquestionably, in view of the fact that he has pointed out that this Bill is modelled on the British Act, and he proposed to quote from that Act to show how nearly alike the provisions were. If the honorable gentleman believes that this clause should have the same meaning as the British provision he can have no reasonable objection to substituting the words, of the British Act, which we think are better, and more clearly define what is intended. If he is not willing to do that, we are justified in assuming that these words “ or likely to mislead “ are to be retained for some purpose, which, so far, has not been made plain. I wish to know if they are to be retained for the purpose of enabling a Minister who may be so disposed to continue the system of persecution of importers which has been carried on in the past. I can discover no other- reason why they should be left in the clause. If that is the intention’ in retaining them, I shall do what I can to see that the amendment is forced to a division. If the Minister is unwilling to receive reasonable suggestions for the improvement of the Bill, we are perfectly justified in using all the means at our disposal to resist his action, and I shall certainly exercise my right in that direction.
– I desire to amend the amendment by omitting from the words I propose shall be left out the words “in a material respect.”
Amendment amended accordingly
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I suggest that the honorable member for Wentworth might move to strike out’ all the words after the word “false,” line 38, with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words of the section which the Minister has read from the British Act.
-It will be quite possible if the amendment moved by the honorable member for Wentworth is carried to move that the remaining words of the clause be struck out with a view to the insertion of the words of the section referred to.
– Very well, I will act on that suggestion.
Question - That the words “or likely to mislead,” proposed to be left out, stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
A trade description shall be deemed to be applied to goods if … .
it is used in any manner likely to lead to the belief that it describes or designates the goods…..
Mr. WILSON (Corangamite).- This is one of the drag-net clauses whichmay cause serious trouble in connexion withthe export of butter, apples, and other produce, and I should like the Minister to postpone its consideration until to-morrow. I move -
That paragraph c be left out.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Some time since, by a question addressed to the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, I asked for information in regard to. the proposal to place 6-inch guns in the new fortifications at Fremantle, and asked whether the advisability of supplying heavierguns had been considered. I received the reply that the matter would be considered, and I understand that the Department now proposes to use 7.5-inch guns. It is a moot point, however, whether even theseguns will be effective. I draw attention to the matter now because the question hasbeen raised in another place, and the reason which appeared to be given by the Minister of Defence for the mounting or 7.5- inch guns instead of guns of still heaviercalibre is that the mountings have been made for guns of that size. While that is correct, so far as the Fremantle fortifications are concerned, no steps have as yet been taken to build the forts at North Fremantle, so that the inadequacy of themountings cannot be a reason for not placing heavier guns there if they are needed. I should like the Government to obtain aspecial report from the Defence Department on this subject. As I have pointed” out before, modem warships are being armed with very heavy guns, and itwould be an act of folly of which I cannot think the Government would be guilty, to mount guns which would not provide am effectivedefence. I hope that the Government will ascertain whether the military authorities are fully convinced that what is proposed” to be done at North Fremantle will provide an effective means of defence.
– The honorable member has correctly stated the size of the guns-, proposed to be used. Those guns were, at the time they were recommended, the best type obtainable, and there .is a strong opinion amongst the expert advisers of the Department that they are-still the best for the situation, because no warship could damage vessels lying at Fremantle without coming within their effective range. The question raised elsewhere as to whether 9.2- inch, mark 10, guns would not be better than 7.5-inch guns is being inquired into by the Minister of Defence.
Question resolved in the. affirmative.
House adjourned at- 11. 10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050919_reps_2_26/>.