2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a paragraph which appears in the Sydney Morning Herald of 23rd September, in which it is stated’ that the right honorable member for East Sydney, when appealed to on the subject, said that he would consider a proposal that, in commemoration of the practical services of the Royal House of Brunswick to the Empire, the name of Australia should be changed to Brunswickland, and the Federal Capital be called Guelph ?
– The consideration of the right honorable member for East Sydney is within his own command, and must remain so.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House what action was taken by the Governor of South Australia in reference to the English mail contract during the period when the mail steamers were passing Adelaide?
– As I informed the honorable member for Hindmarsh last night, there are amongst the papers appeals from the Government, the Chamber of Commerce, and various public bodies in South Australia, of a date prior to. the time when the mail steamers were actually passing Adelaide, but no representation appears to have been made by any person or bodyduring that period.
– Then am I to understand that the Governor of South Australia took no action officially.
– So far as I understood. His Excellency’s statement, it referred to a communication, not with the Government of the Commonwealth, but with some high Federal authority, who may or may not have been a member of the Parliament, or of the Government of the Commonwealth.
– When will the medals and certificates for distinguished service in South Africa be given to the officers entitled to them?
– The honorable and learned member directed my attention to this matter some days ago, and I have received the following information from the Minister of Defence : -
Apparently all the medals due to South African Contingents sent from Australia have been received by the various Commandants. If any man who is entitled to a medal sends full particulars to the nearest Military Commandant, that officer would tell him what he should do. In some cases, if he belonged to an irregular corps, he would have to apply to South Africa, but in any case the Commandant would be able to put him in the right way to obtain the medal.
I presume that this answer covers certificates as well as medals.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
If he will cause inquiries to be made as to whetherflogging in any shape is still used as a form of punishment on board that part of the Imperial Navy which is subsidized by Australian money, and will he report the result of such inquiries to the House?
– I will have pleasure in having inquiries made.
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– I am informed -
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I understand that it is intended, if possible, to provide by the Electoral Bill which is now under consideration in another place, that the electoral rolls collected by the States shall be made to fit in with the rolls used for the Federal elections. If that is done, it may eventually lead to the adoption of the suggestion which I made about two years ago. that the Federal electorates should be multiples of the States electorates. But if we have redistributions of seats at short intervals, what is aimed at in the Electoral Bill will be impossible, because there will be so many redistributions that the rolls for the States electorates will not do for Federal purposes. I mention the matter now so that the Minister may consider the desire expressed by several honorable members that, instead of having enumerations for the purpose of redistributions every five years, as this Bill contemplates, there shall be an enumeration every ten years.
– All the States will not of necessity be affected by. an enumeration ; the representation of only one State may be altered. We hope that the Electoral Bill, after it has passed through Parliament, will be framed in such a way. that the rolls of the States will fit in for Federal elections, and that the State electorates will be, as it were, parts of the Federal electorates. We have considered whether an enumeration shall be taken every five or every ten years, and we have come to the conclusion that it is best, in the interests of boththe States and the Commonwealth, to have an enumeration every five years.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clause 10 in regard to the following proposed amendment, viz. : - Sub-section 2, omit “ shall be,” and insert “ may be detained by the collector, and may, by direction of the Minister, be seized as,” and clause 13 in regard to the following proposed amendment, viz. : - Omit the words “ any word, figure, or mark for the purpose of indicating the quality, class, or grade of the goods,” and insert “ the prescribed trade description,” and for the consideration of new clauses7a, 7B, and 13A.
– The effect of the motion will be that, when we get into Committee, we shall have no opportunity to deal with any amendments on clauses 10 and 13 otherthan those proposed by the Minister, though it is usual when clauses are recommitted to allow honorable members to deal with the proposals of the Government in regard to them, and with any other proposals which may be made. The Minister asks us to limit the consideration of the Committee to the proposals’ made by him.
– Not with regard to the new clauses.
– With regard to the amendment of clauses 10 and 13, and I think that we shall be prevented from inserting other new clauses.
– The House can recommit the Bill for as much or as little alteration as it pleases. Should the motion be carried as it stands, it will be possible for the Committee to consider only the Minister’s proposed amendments of clauses 10 and 13, and the new clauses 7A, 7B, and 13A. If the House desires .that the Committee shall have more liberty, it must’ say so.
– As I was not here when the Bill was going through Committee, I am not aware whether a larger recommittal was promised than is now proposed.
– The promise was a little larger than the present proposal.
– I think that the Minister has extended his promise.
– I- prefer that some honorable member who was present during the Committee proceedings shall deal with that matter, and will content myself with pointing out that, if the motion is carried as it stands, it will be impossible for the Committee to consider anything but the amendments mentioned in it.
– I obtained a copy of the Hansard, report, and went through it, to see what promises were made.
– I have not had an opportunity to do what the Minister says he has done, but I recollect, that when we were dealing with clause 10, it was urged that the exporter who had made an innocent mistake should have a right to the return of goods which had been seized, instead of leaving it to .the discretion of the Minister to return them, and the honorable member said - I do not remember his exact words - that he would see if he could find suitable words to make some such provision. Now, the Minister proposes to recommit the clause for the purpose of making a specific amendment which, so far as I know, is not in print, and which “he read rapidly, so that I was unable to follow it.
If the motion is passed as it stands, and the Bill is recommitted as the Minister proposes, we shall be confined to the Minister’s amendments, although the whole Committee may see an obviously better way of achieving the object aimed at.
– Let us have the whole Bill dealt with over again.
– That is not my desire. The interjection , was not justified, because I have never shown any wish to delay business, nor do I speak except to what T. conceive to be the subject under discussion. I do not desire to discuss clause 10 all over again, but merely wish to insure that the exporter who makes an. innocent mistake-shall be better protected. The amendment suggested by the Minister may be the best to adopt, but as it is not before us in print we cannot form any judgment upon that point. If the proposed amendment is made in clause 10 a distinction wilt at once be drawn between an innocent exporter and an innocent importer. Clauses 7 and to are upon, exactly the same footing and are intended to achieve the same object, and. therefore, if clause 10 is modified a similar alteration should be made in clause 7.
– Although the conditions are not quite the same. I have no objection to make a similar amendment in clause 7 if the honorable and learned member so desires.
– I am not championing the cause of either side, but I think that in passing a Bill of this kind we should place both importers and exporters on the same footing, because on the surface it would appear to be unjust to make the conditions more rigid for one class than for the other. I would ask the Minister to recommit the class in a general form. I do not think that the adoption of that course would involve an waste of time. All we desire to do is to insure that the objects of Hie clause shall be effectively carried out. Honorable members on Both sides of the Chamber are “agreed that some modification should be made.
– The recommittal of clause to as a whole was definitely agreed to by the Minister.
– I certainly understood so, and, therefore, I think that the Minister would be only fulfilling his promise if he acceded to my request.
– I would remind the honorable and learned member that we are not in Committee, and that the Minister, having moved a motion, cannot alter its terms. If it be desired to change the form of the motion, some other honorable member will have to move an amendment.
– I move -
That the motion be amended by the addition of the words “ clause 7,” and by the omission of the limitations imposed in respect to the amendment of clauses 10 and 13.
– If there is any impression that I promised to recommit the whole of clause 10, I am willing to fulfil that undertaking. But nothing to that effect appears in Hansard.
– It was certainly desired to effect a certain object, and not merely to consider a certain set of words.
– With regard to clause 5, the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne raised a question as to whether the Commonwealth had power, under the Constitution, to authorize its officers to break open and enter any place for the purpose of examining goods entered for export. The Minister promised that the clause should be recommitted.
– I said that if the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne specially requested that the clause should be recommitted, I would agree to that course being adopted. I also promised to consult the Attorney-General upon the point raised, and I have done so. The Attorney-General and the Parliamentary Draftsman are of opinion that we have full power to carry out the provisions contained in the clause.
– Has that information been conveyed to the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne ?
– No; I have not seen him.
– The matter is of some importance, because if the provision in sub-clause 3 of clause 5 should prove to be ultra vires, the whole Bill will be rendered worthless, so far as the export trade is concerned.
– If the honorable and learned member who raised the objection wishes the clause to be recommitted, I shall be perfectly willing to adopt that course ; but I think that he will be satisfied with the result of my inquiries.
– I do not altogether like to propose that the whole Bill should be recommitted, but I think it would be advantageous if that course were foi- lowed. The Minister promised to bring down a clause declaring that the measure should apply to only certain classes of goods.
– That is provided for in the proposed new clause, clause 13A.
– It appears to me that the Bill has been crudely drafted and insufficiently considered. It has been framed as if the principle of the English Act had been embodied. We all know that the English Act merely provides against false or misleading descriptions being attached to goods, whereas under the Bill the Minister has power to prescribe that a particular trade description shall be used. In the latter part of clause 3 the wording of the English Act in regard to “ the custom of the trade or common repute” is adopted. Those words are applicable in the English Act, but not to the present measure, because the Minister has absolute power to decide by regulation what description shall be adopted. This slavish following of the wording of the English Act, without reference to the fact that the principle of the measure is absolutely) different from that of the Imperial Statute, shows how crudely the measure has been drafted. I think also that clause 13 (b) should be recommitted. Provision is made that the regulations under clauses 7 and jo shall not prescribe a trade description which discloses trade secrets unless “in the opinion of the Governor-General “ its disclosure is necessary for the protection of the health and welfare of the public, but no provision is made as to the way in which the opinion of the Governor-General shall be ascertained. It is not for me to recast these provisions, but, in order that the Bill may assume some appearance of respectability, several of (them .should be entirely remodelled.
– I think that the suggestion made by the honorable and learned member for Angas is worthy of consideration. Honorable members on this side of the Chamber do not desire to offer any factious opposition, but merely wish to make the measure workable. As it stands, the Bill is pregnant with annoyances, and is unlikely to prove effective. The proposal of the Minister that the regulations framed by him should be enforcable immediately they are published in the Government Gazette, and remain operative, despite a resolution of this House condemning them, caused the utmost consternation, and there are several matters connected with the power proposed to be conferred upon the Minister in regard to making regulations to which I wish to refer. I think that, in view of the circumstances under which the discussion of clause 14 was curtailed on Friday afternoon, the fullest consideration should be given to any representations that may now be made in regard to it. I have already shown the Minister that a whole series of difficulties will arise in connexion with the application of any regulations which may be framed under this Bill to the importation of tea. I purposely avoided making specific reference to this matter upon Friday last, because of my intention to bring it forward to-day. I therefore move -
That the motion be further amended by the addition of the words “ and clause 14.”
– Whilst I am anxious that this Bill should be passed in as workable a form as possible, I do not know that any useful purpose will be served by recommitting it in its entirety. At the same time, I think that some opportunity should be afforded us of submitting such consequential new clauses as our deliberations in Committee may necessitate. We know that even upon the Government side of the House considerable alarm is experienced lest the provisions of the measure may prove hurtful to our export trade. If we merely agree to the recommittal of specific clauses, it is quite conceivable that a lot of time will be wasted, since each of those clauses may have to be amended in a way one new clause in itself might secure. For that reason I urge the Minister to consider the advisability of amending his motion by the addition of the words “ and other new clauses.” The honorable gentleman can accept my assurance that this suggestion is not put forward with the idea of delaying the progress of the Bill. My present objections to the measure relate chiefly to the provisions affecting the export trade. If the motion proposed by the Minister be agreed to, we shall have no opportunity in Committee of dealing with the general question of exports. I do not suggest that we should necessarily re-open the whole question, but I contend that we ought to have an opportunity of making such consequential amendments in the Bill as will effectually safeguard the principles that we embody in it. I have no desire to obstruct the passage of the measure. I have fought it to the best of my humble ability ; but” the House has definitely accepted certain principles, and I do not think it is of any use to speak at any further length upon it in Committee. I would point out to the Minister that endless discussion will ensue if his proposal be adopted. I should be glad to receive an intimation from the honorable gentleman as to whether he will favorably consider my suggestion.
– I cannot accept it.
– That being so, I move -
That the motion be further amended by the addition of the words “ and other new clauses.”
– I should be very glad if the Minister could see his way to recommit the whole Bill, because I think the discussion which has already taken place has shown that time would be saved by the adoption of that course. I would ask the honorable member for Bland whether he is of opinion that the Bill should.be passed in its present form ? Let me refer, for instance, to its provisions as they affect the export of fat lambs. We are all hopeful that such a trade will be developed in the export of Australian lamb as will considerably add to the wealth of the country. As honorable members are aware, this class of lamb from South Australia has realized as much as 21s. per carcass in the London market. ‘Under the Bill, however, I presume that lamb from Western Australia will be classed simply as “Australian “ lamb. That would aim a blow at South Australian Iamb, without in .the slightest degree conferring any advantage upon the trade in Western Australian lamb. In the constituency which is represented by the honorable member for Bland-
– My constituents are not afraid of this Bill.
– They would be, if they understood its provisions. The farmers in the constituency -which is represented by the honorable member are going in very largely for the cultivation of wheat. We a’ll know that in a good season lambs which are fed upon wheat lands reach a state of perfection which cannot be approached upon other pastures. But under the measure lambs coming from poorer country would be placed, for the purposes of export, in the same category as our best lambs. Honorable members are aware that the way in which lambs are reared makes a considerable difference to their quality.
Unless we recommit the entire Bill, we cannot so amend it as to provide that the mark “Australian” shall be applied only to articles of a certain quality.
– Does the honorable and learned member believe that the Bill makes provision for grading?
– I am sorry to say that the Bill will injure the poor man very considerably. If the grading system be successfully adopted, it is evident that all the articles which do not reach a> certain standard of quality will cease to have any value whatever. If we cannot export wheat because it does not come up to a certain quality, its value will fall by 3d. or 4d. per bushel, and it will be practically a waste product, save for fodder purposes. At the present time, however, we export such wheat, which is not of the best quality, but which, nevertheless, possesses a certain commercial, value. Surely, if its export is to be prohibited, because it does not comply with particular trade requirements which, attach to the firstclass article, we shall absolutely ruin the smaller agriculturists. On the face of it that is a dangerous provision to retain in the Bill. Occasionally we all experience annoyance when we see unscrupulous traders obtaining certain advantages ; but in legislating to check their opportunities for the enjoyment of those advantages, we require to be careful that we do not affect the prices which the great bulk of the farmers would receive for their produce. When the honorable member for Bland and others of his party urged the desirableness of passing a measure that would prevent any advantage being gained by unscrupulous traders, I am sure that they had the hearty sympathy of the Opposition. It seems to me, however, that the Bill as it stands will not carry out the object we have in view, and I therefore urge the House to . call on the Minister ito recommit it. I have already pointed out the serious effect that it is likely to have on the export of wheat and lambs. We are all anxious that there shall be some sort of grading in connexion with the export of butter, but surely we are not going to say that inferior butter which, although unsuitable for human consumption, might be otherwise utilized, shall not be allowed to be exported. I wish to propose one or two amendments, but shall not be able to do so unless the whole Bill is recommitted. It is a matter of vital importance that we should proceed on sound and reasonable lines. In its general scope, the Bill is a departure from anything that has yet been attempted in this direction. If we agree to it as it stands, it will prevent the export of goods that are below a certain grade. That is certainly undesirable. During the drought much of the wheat produced in New South Wales was of inferior quality, but was, nevertheless, allowed to be exported. Is it to be said that because wheat produced in .times of drought is not up to the standard of that grown in good seasons, it shall not be sent out of the Commonwealth?
– The Bill will not prevent the export of wheat of various grades.
– It appears that under the as it stands, all wheat exported must be of one grade.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the desire of the Minister is to destroy trade?
– Certainly not. All that I say is that the Minister charged with the administration of this measure may have no special knowledge of these matters. Even if he had, he could not be expected to personally supervise the grading of exports. As the House has assented to the principle of the Bill, I do not wish to oppose it. My only desire is that it shall be so framed as to be capable of being administered with the least possible friction. I am very loth to submit what may be deemed a hostile amendment, but if the Minister does not see his way to agree to my proposal, I shall feel it incumbent on me to move that the remaining clauses be recommitted. By consenting to this amendment, the Minister would show that he had a genuine desire to make the Bill as perfect as possible, and I feel satisfied that it would obviate a prolonged debate.
– It would be a precedent for the recommittal of any Bill simply because an honorable member had been absent during its consideration in Committee.
– On a previous occasion I pointed out the objectionable features of the Bill, but, unfortunately, many of the amendments which I suggested have not been made. The discussion upon it, however, has been productive of good. As the Bill has passed through the Committee stage it can no longer be said to be a party measure, and I fail to see how the amendments necessary to carry out what appears to be the desire of the Minister can be made without the recommittal of the remaining clauses. In these circumstances, I move -
That the motion be further amended by the ad- dition of the words “and the remaining clauses.”
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby). Although I intend to vote for the motion as proposed to be amended by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, I certainly shall not support the recommittal of the whole Bill. The able arguments that have been advanced by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa were put before the Committee last week, and I must confess that I was very much disappointed at the result of the appeals then made by certain honorable members to the Minister. I feel that while the Bill may be effectively used as an instrument of annoyance, it will be powerless to protect the community. Much that is proposed to be done is already being carried out by the States authorities far better than we could hope to do it under the Bill as it stands ; but as nearly every amendment that has been proposed has been defeated by a substantial majority, I think that it is hardly worth’ while offering amy further opposition to it. I intend to support the amendments that have been suggested, and to concentrate my opposition to the measure as a whole.
– Several amendments have been submitted, and I think that business will be facilitated if I at once put all of them, with the exception of that pro- posed by the honorable and learned member for Werriwa. On that amendment honor - able members will be able to discuss the generalquestion, and the limitation of the debate which the other amendments would impose will then be avoided.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
Question - “ That the words ‘ and clause 7 ‘ be added, and that the words limiting the further consideration of clauses 10 and 1 3 be left out “ resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words “and clause 14” be added - put, but there being no tellers on the side of the ayes, resolved in the negative.
Question - That the words “ and other new clauses” be added - resolved in the negative.
Mr. Conroy’s amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Glynn) proposed -
That the motion be further amended by the addition of the words” and clause 13B.”,
– Is the amendment in order, the House having dealt with clause 14?
– I do not think that there is anything in parliamentary (practice, or in any Standing Orders, which requires that these clauses shall be dealt with consecutively. I think that they can be ordered to be recommitted in any sequence of which the House pleases to approve.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - In view of the opinion expressed by the division just taken, I shall not again move my amendment; but I regret that the Minister did not accept my proposal. Twice as much alteration will now be necessary as would have been required had the amendment been agreed to.
– I move -
That the motion be further amended by the addition of the words “ and clause 2.”
This clause provides that the Act shall be incorporated and read as one with the Customs Act of1 901. The Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, which is the original of this measure, was to be read with section 52 of the Customs Act ; but it is now proposed that this Bill, which is supposed to be much less drastic than the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, shall be incorporated and read with all the exceedingly drastic provisions of the Customs Act, including that under which am accused person is to be held guilty until he has proved his innocence. I do not see that that is necessary. In my opinion, it would be sufficient to incorporate and read this Bill with section 52 of the Customs Act. I do not think that the Minister has shown the necessity for the provision to which I am objecting, and he was a member of the Government which drafted the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill. In my opinion, the provision is undesirable. We are dealing in this Bill with both imports and exports, and the distinction between accurate and inaccurate descriptions, between true descriptions and prescribed descriptions, may be very fine. I ask the Minister if he does not think that the power asked for in the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill is not sufficient, and if it will not be enough to incorporate and read this Bill with section 52 of the Customs Act? I do not think that we should make it more objectionable. All that is necessary is to provide sufficiently against fraud.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
– If agreed to. it would jeopardise the Bill.
– No. I ask honorable members on both sides of the Chamber to remember that if the Bill is carried as it stands, the exporter whose description is not technically accurate may be required to prove his innocence in order to avoid punishment. It is difficult sometimes to say exactly what the words “ incorporated and read as one” imply; but certainly, at first sight, they would seem to imply what I have indicated, and all the honorable member for North Sydney asks is that we should have an opportunity to consider that point. The question is a very serious one. Is it right that an exporter who is said not to have upon his goods the exact brand prescribed by the Minister should lae treated as guilty until he proves his innocence? That is not the way to hel,p our Australian export trade. All we want to do is to make sure that there shall be machinery in existence to bring the Act into operation. I believe that that is the object of the clause, but it has gone too far. If the Minister consults his colleagues, I am sure that they will tell him that the clause covers more than is necessary. This matter is so serious that it ought to be further considered in Committee.
– I trust that the Minister will allow the clause to be recommitted. Throughout the discussion on this Bill I have pointed out the position in which the exporter may be placed if he affixes to his goods some mark which, in the opinion of the Minister or his officers, does not truly represent their character. The Minister desires to adopt a star-chamber method of dealing with exporters and importers, and I object to any such proposal. No man should be treated as if he were guilty until he is proved to be so. I think that we should make the conditions as easy as. possible for our exporters, and that no attempt should be made to prevent our trade from expanding in every direction. In many cases the Minister will find it impossible to prescribe trade descriptions of a suitable character. One honorable member, who knew what he was talking about, told us that at one season of the year half -ripe apples are exported from -Tasmania to catch the London market at a time when the market was bare, and the highest prices were obtained for them,. Surely it would puzzle the Minister to apply to such goods a description that would convey to the purchaser in London a true idea of their character. Should they be described as “unripe apples” or “fruit not properly matured “ ? In many other cases a similar difficulty would arise, and I think that, apart from section 52, which the Minister considered quite sufficient to enable him to do all that was necessary under the Trade Marks Act, it would be undesirable to apply to the conditions of our export trade the very drastic provisions of the Customs Act.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I would ask the Minister to seriously consider the request that has been made. The matter is so serious that I feel sure that when it is fully represented to the Minister he will realize the necessity for some change. Under sections 20 and 21 of the Customs Act, the Minister would have power to seize goods intended for export whilst they were in transit by rail. The owner of the goods could be brought before the Court, and: under section 257, if he were proved to be guilty, the justice before whom he was tried would have no option but to impose the minimum penalty. It ‘is not left to the. magistrate to determine what the penalty shall be. Even though the ends of justice might be met by imposing a fine of is., he would be compelled to inflict the minimum penalty of £5. The Customs Act was strictly drawn to enable full control to be exercised over imports ; but in dealing with goods within our own borders, we do not need to bring such stringent laws into operation. It is all very well to say that the powers conferred under the Customs Act will never be brought into operation in connexion with our export trade. It was stated some years ago that the powers given to the Minister of Mines and the Minister of Lands in New South Wales would in time become the subject of abuses, and I leave honorable members to judge whether or not that prophecy has been fulfilled. We should guard against similar possibilities in this case. Under section 255 df the Customs Act it is provided -
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.
That is to say, that the mere ex parte statement made by a Customs official shall be taken to be proved unless it can be disproved. It is proposed that some unfortunate farmer, whose goods are condemned as unfit for export, shall be hauled from his farm, hundreds of miles away in the country, to Melbourne or Sydney, at the sweet will of the Minister, and subjected to serious inconvenience and loss. If a Customs officer considers that a farmer’s goods are not up to the mark, his statement will be held as proof sufficient for the purposes of the prosecution. The goods mayhave been all right at the time they left the farm. We have often heard of cases in which goods have been damaged in transit ; but the farmer would have to prove that they were so damaged, and would probably be put to considerable expense in conducting his defence. Are these unfortunate men to be made criminals by Act of Parliament? The majority of honorable members do not seem to realize what terrible weapons the powers proposed to be conferred might become in the hands of a Minister, or the extent to which our producers might be prejudicially affected. Does the honorable member for Bland claim for a moment that the averment of the prosecutor should be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary ?
– I am not going to help the “stone- wall.”
– Does the honorable member think that I am “ stone-walling “ when I point out that the most serious consequences may follow from the inclusion of this provision in the Bill ? The honorable member, by his silence, has sufficiently answered me. He has shown that he is afraid to reply. I have made an assertion, and I am. justified in concluding that he believes ‘that such a provision as I have indicated should not be introduced into the Bill. As I have made that assertion, it must be deemed to be proved in the absence of proof to the contrary. I am thus applying the principle contained in section 255 of the Customs Act to the position of the honorable member at this moment, in order to show him how unjustly it might operate. If matters are to go on in this way, the sooner the public hustle some of their representatives out of this House the better. We are rapidly gaining experience of some of these heaven-born legislators, who decline to listen to argument, and who are quite incapable of understanding it, because I must presume that they are not evil-minded.
– I ask the honorable and learned member not to discuss that matter, but to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– To my mind, it is perfectly clear that the effect of this clause is not understood by honorable members. If it were, I cannot conceive that they would’ silently assent to it. If the Bill be passed in its present form, it must be read in conjunction with the Customs Act of 1901. That Act was framed by a gentleman whose state of health did not allow him to understand the full effect of its provisions.
– It is a very good Bill, notwithstanding. The honorable and learned member will never be able to draft as good a measure.
– I am aware that if I were weighed in the mental balance of the honorable member, I should probably be found wanting. It is our duty to recognise what may happen under the operation of this Bill! When the Customs Act was under consideration, I pointed out that, in time to come, we might have a gentleman filling the office of Minister of Trade and Customs who would impose valuations upon imports without paying any regard whatever to evidence. In the opinion of many competent judges, that condition of affairs has already arisen. By passing this measure in its present form, we shall be placing in the hands of the Minister a weapon of offence the effect of which will be to make people pay to secure non-interference, because if they cannot obtain peace in one way they will do so in another. ‘As a result, we shall open the door to all sorts of fraud and corruption, such as is prevalent at the present time in America.
– I trust that the Minister will allow this particular clause to be recommitted. During the secondreading debate upon the Bill, only incidental reference was made to that provision, and its possible results were not fully perceived. Further, its effect when read in conjunction with the Customs Act. was not debated in Committee. The primary object of the Customs Act of 1901 is to protect the revenue, and for that purpose very stringent provisions are included in it. This Bill, however, deals not only with imports, but also with exports, and I happen to represent a constituency which is composed almost entirely of exporters. Under the measure, as it now stands, I find that the Government are prepared to confiscate the productions of the soil, if they do not bear certain marks, or if they technically infringe any regulations which may be framed by the Minister. Further, it is sufficient for the Minister to charge a producer with having been guilty of a breach of the regulations, when the onus will be thrown upon the latter to prove his innocence. The fact that this legislation will affect the producers of the country in a way in which no other legislation has affected them, is of itself ai sufficient reason for the recommittal of the clause. The various States Acts which relate to the export of produce were referred to by the Minister in the debate which took place last week, and I challenge him to point to a single provision in any of those statutes which allows the produce of our farmers to be confiscated, or which permits the mere statement of a prosecutor to be regarded as proof of a crime, until the accused has established his innocence. As one who represents a producing district, I urge the Government to recommit the clause. In passing, I may. mention that by refusing to do so, they are merely making a rod for their own backs, because I shall take every opportunity of impressing on my constituents the fact that the legislation which the Government desire to enact, aims at confiscating the produce of the farmers besides treating them as criminals upon the mere averment of a Customs officer. Nobody wishes to take up an attitude of that kind at election time, but I shall most certainly do so if the Ministry persist in their refusal to recommit this clause.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- It is a painful commentary upon the usefulness of this Chamber that the Government are not prepared to accept the suggestion to recommit clause 2. It has been clearly shown that when that provision was debated in Committee, its far-reaching character, which makes us read this Bill in conjunction with the Customs Act of 1901, was not fully appreciated. I challenge honorable members who oppose the recommittal of that clause to say that they have read the Customs Act with a view to seeing how it will operate upon this Bill. I ask the honorable member for Carpentaria whether he has considered that aspect of the question? Has he reflected what burdens may be imposed upon the exporters of Queensland under the operation of this Bill ? I put a similar question to the honorable member for Grey. How would this clause affect, for example, the export of salt, in which his constituency is so vitally concerned ?
– There is no salt exported from the district which I represent.
– I have always understood that salt is a staple product of South Australia, and I suppose the Honorable member will not deny that he is in some measure also the representative of the State from which he comes. I ask the honorable member for Riverina whether he has considered the effect of this Bill, when its provisions are read in conjunction with the Customs Act of 1901.
– Yes, and I believe in the principles which are embodied in it.
– Then why is the honorable member not prepared to allow us an opportunity of acquiring some of his wisdom ? I challenge him to show, in Committee, that he is fully seized of the importance of this matter.
– I am fully seized of the importance of getting on with the public business.
– Is the honorable member prepared, then, to shackle the export trade of his own constituency ? Then I appeal tothe honorablemember for Laanecoorie to say whether he is so regardless of the export trade of his constituents that he does not care how the proposal to incorporate the Customs Act with the Commerce Bill will operate.
– The honorable member is not receiving many replies.
– No replies are possible, except from the honorable member for Riverina. He is the only honorable member who has been bold enough to say that he has considered the innumerable sections of the Customs Act in their relation to this measure. Honorable members have seriously neglected their duty in this respect, and the people will have cause for astonishment if the House passes the clause without very serious consideration. I finally ask the Minister to consider the advisableness of recommitting the clause.
-i did not think that we should have this long debate after a fortnight’s consideration of the Bill in Committee.
– I regard this measure as one of the most important and dangerous that we have ever been called upon to consider. Instead of being entitled a “ Bill for an Act relating to Commerce,” it should be described as a “ Bill for an Act to harass and strangle the export trade of Australia.” To my mind, the clause by which it is proposed to incorporate with the Bill the provisions of the Customs Act will have a very serious effect upon the export trade of the Commonwealth. And yet the protests of those whose expert knowledge entitles them to say that such will be the effect of the provision are received in solemn silence. An attempt is being made to bulldoze the Bill through the House.
– The honorable member must not charge the Government with attempting to “bulldoze” a Bill through the House.
– If the word “ bulldoze “ be unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw it. I repeat that every legitimate argument advanced against the passing of the Bill has been received in silence, although many honorable members opposite privately admit that our contentions are sound. They troop in like a flock of sheep to vote against any amendment of the Bill, no matter how vital it may be.
– One of the honorable member’s constituents has done more to cripple the export trade in apples than has any other man.
– I do not know to whom the Minister is alluding, but I say, without hesitation, that the Bill, if passed as it stands, will certainly cripple the export trade in Tasmanian apples.
-Throughout the consideration of this measure the Minister has shown that he knows nothing whatever of the purport of its provisions. The report of the Comptroller-General, to which reference was made by the honorable gentleman, contains a paragraph that he did not read. The paragraph in question shows that, when a similar Bill was before the Victorian State Parliament, it was pointed out that one of its clauses would very seriously affect the export of fruit. The result was that the provision was not pressed, and that the Bill was not applied to the export trade in fruit.
– I think that I read the whole statement made by the ComptrollerGeneral.
– I have been unable to find in Hansard any reference to the paragraph to which I have referred. So far as the export of fruit from Tasmania is concerned, I may say that the whole system is altered. There are now few large buyers ; the fruit is shipped almost wholly by the growers. Many of these are small men, and are not in a position to become seized of the technicalities of the regulations that may be issued under this measure. And yet, because they are unable to comply with the terminology of the regulations, they will be held under the Customs Act to have committed a criminal offence, and the onus of proving their innocence will be thrown upon themselves. Surely no one can. say that we are likely to encourage the export trade in this way. Much has been said about the desirableness of fostering that trade, and of assisting immigration, and yet it is proposed to pass a Bill that will shackle the very men whom honorable members opposite profess a desire to assist. We have no right to impose a provision of this kind upon the class of men affected. Their life-long training and occupation does not lit them to readily grasp the technicalities of complex regulations. Those who have spent a life-time in making homes for themselves in rural districts, and in building up our export trade, sometimes have not the education and training necessary to enable them to comply readily with the conditions now sought to be imposed, and they will be forced in many cases to make long journeys to the capital in order to prove their innocence of charges laid against them under this Bill. I hope that the Minister will allow the clause to be recommitted, and will not bring the exporters of Australia under the stringent and drastic provisions of the Customs Act. If he will not accede to our request, I trust that a division will be taken, so that a clear line of distinction may be drawn between those who are honestly attempting to assist the producers, and those who, whilst professing a desire to encourage them, are seeking to bind them hand and foot by means of regulations that will have a serious effect upon, even if they do not ruin, the export trade of the Commonwealth.
Mr. REID (East Sydney). - I do not think that there could be a more striking proof of the demoralized condition of the House than the impatience which has been shown in connexion with’ the proposition now before us. I understand that in Committee the clause, which it is desired to recommit, was allowed to pass practically without any discussion. What is the request? Those who have spoken have not called upon the Government to alter their policy. They have simply preferred a request that a particular clause shall be reconsidered in Committee. If, after that reconsideration, no good cause is shown for an amendment, the clause will remain as it stands. But what does the clause mean? Bv two or three lines of clause 2 a vast mass of legislation, consisting of 277 sections of the Customs Act, are made part of this Bill. The Customs Act is a highly penal measure. In some quarters, there is a hatred of persons who import goods, but the Opposition are not to-night standing up for the importer. The Customs Act which was intended to deal with the despised class to which I have referred, was drafted and administered in such an unfair and barbarous spirit that, unpopular as this class was, the force of public opinion became such that the Ministry had to absolutely vary their policy, and to abandon the system of persecution which thev had established under it. I said a little while ago that a Court in New South Wales absolutely refused to give effect to one of these monstrous provisions, which are contrary to even the rudimentary ideas of British justice. The case in question was brought under the Commonwealth Distillation Act, which provides that the words of an information shall be deemed to be proven until the contrary is shown. A police magistrate adjudicated, and a Government inspector put in the information without calling any evidence whatever. The person charged, however, produced witnesses, and the police magistrate, at the close of the investigation, said, “ I cannot make up my mind whether this man is innocent or guilty ; under the section upon which the charge is based, however, the statement in the information is to be deemed to have been proven, in the absence of proof to the contrary, and, although the evidence leaves my mind in a state of doubt, this man must be convicted.” This was an outrage against all ideas of British justice. The case came before the Full Court, and it declined to read such a monstrous injustice into an Act of Parliament. The Full Court said, “No Parliament could have meant this. What it must have intended is that, if an information be put in without any evidence being called in defence, the offence shall be considered proven.” The Full Court refused to read the words in question in what we should regard as being their literal sense, holding that if they were so construed they would constitute an outrage on any idea of justice. We, however, are coming away from that position. What are we doing? What with droughts and difficulties of various kinds in the way of the settlement of the country, as well as the intense competition of other producers in the great markets of the world, our producers have a hard battle to fight. But to what will this Bill expose them? They will have to run ihe gauntlet in their own country, as if they were criminals, before they can put their produce on board ship to cross the high seas. What other Legislature goes to such ridiculous and insane lengths in crippling the producing energies of their people as to throw a mass of Customs surveillance and persecution in the way of their endeavours to compete in the markets of the world ? Such an exhibition as this has never been seen. The prices of our products are regulated by the prices ruling in the markets of the world, and surely we can allow the clever merchants of Great Britain to see for themselves that they are . not swindled by Australian producers. Do honorable members think that these men cannot, as buyers, look after their own interests, and see that no wrong is done them? It suits an Opposition to have legislation of this sort introduced and passed. I think that the Bill will bring a hornet’s nest about the ears of the Ministry, and will fasten a load of serious responsibility upon every representative of a country constituency. From the mere party point of view, it would suit us very well to let these obnoxious provisions go through, because we know the proper resentment which will be caused by them among those connected with the producing interests of Australia. The leader of the Labour Party is driving the Commonwealth Government to his entire satisfaction, and has become impatient because he cannot drive the Opposition, too. He finds that there are still some honorable members who are prepared to do their duty in discussing and sifting the measures placed before Parliament, in spite of the fact that the Labour Party holds the reins of power. It is surely better for the Government, who are responsible for this measure, and for the Parliament which is being asked to pass it, that we should do our best to make it less obnoxious. But because we are making efforts in that direction there is a feeling of resentment and impatience in some quarters, as though we were outraging the rules of parliamentary debate. If there is one class for whom both free-traders and protectionists should show the most anxious solicitude, it is the great body of persons who are building up the prosperity of Australia by swelling the vast volume of our exports of primary products to the markets of the world. These people have no comfortable city life; their incomes are not assured to them ; they are at the mercy of the seasons, of pests and plagues; and have to meet the bitterest competition of coloured and cheap labour from all parts of the world. But it is not enough for the Government that our farmers and settlers have all these handicaps. A beneficent Parliament is asked to see if it cannot throw more obstacles in their road, and, by providing for the vigilant scrutiny of their dealings and efforts to find a market for their produce, entangle them in Customs prosecutions. Our Customs officials have a very thankless duty to perform, and while we are prepared to sup- port them in their endeavours to prevent fraud on the public revenue, no one would put them forward as the proper men to deal with the interests of our producers. They are properly keen on the detection of all frauds against the revenue ; but what training have they which is likely to make them regard the difficulties of our producers, whose products may Le liable, in their hundreds of miles of transit to the coast, to all sorts of changes, for “which they may not be responsible? Under the Bill as it stands, the remotest settler in Australia must make himself acquainted with some mysterious mark which the Minister in Melbourne is going to invent for application to particular goods intended for export. He will also have to study, not only a measure of eight or ten clauses, but another measure containing 277 sections of a highly penal character. He must do all that to find out what his position is, although he is engaged only in the innocent occupation of sending the products of his farm through the ports of Australia to the markets of the world. We should help him to do that, instead of treating him as if he were trying to cross some Customs frontier, and endeavouring to smuggle his goods through a barrier set up by a wise Parliament. We cannot leave commerce too free for the producers of this distant land, the sale of whose products in the markets of the world determines the result of their labours and enterprise. All that the Minister has been asked to do is to permit the reconsideration of a clause which applies over 200 sections of another Act to the business operations of the producers of Australia. That is a reasonable request. Why should it Le resented and refused? So far as any party purpose is concerned, it would have been better for the Opposition to let the Bill pass as it stands. Can any one deny that considerable improvements have been made in the measure as the result of the criticism of honorable gentlemen on this side of the Chamber? If the Opposition abandoned its duties, what would be the result? Measures would be introduced and passed under a conspiracy of silence, with an unnatural acquiescence which -is foreign to the genius of a free Parliament, and would be significant of rottenness. There never yet was in the British Empire a Parliament that was not prepared to intelligently discuss and criticise all measures submitted to it affecting the inter- ests of the great mass of the people. This is not a measure affecting only a handful of lawyers, or a few importers; its provisions bear upon hundreds of thousands of persons who are increasing the resources of Australia. We are endeavouring to apply to those persons principles, not of justice, but of injustice, which shock all the instincts of those who are accustomed to the honest administration of law. Surely no apology is needed for the performance by the Opposition of its duty in respect to this measure ! I wish to express my gratitude fo my honorable friends for the great services which they have rendered in connexion with the consideration of this Bill, and to point to the emphatic testimony of a disinterested witness as to the value of those services. No one will accuse the honorable member for Boothby of being an ally of the Opposition, or of expressing views merely to please or help us. He Kas shown a loyal disposition to support the Government; but what has he candidly confessed? That, whereas he began with a strong feeling of confidence in the wisdom of this Bill, as submitted by the Government, as discussion has proceeded, and more light has been thrown on its various provisions, his opinion has changed, and this afternoon he denounced the Bill as useless, and one which he would oppose. Surely the voice of an independent and impartial judge like the honorable member should have some weight with the Minister, even if ours has none. My regret is that the amendment has been received in such an unfriendly spirit. There is no more useful action which a Minister can take - whether he regards a measure as of personal consequence to himself or as something in regard to which he is a public trustee - than to gladly welcome endeavours to improve it ; because the better it is when finally passed’ into law the greater will be his satisfaction in it, and the more will it be a source of credit to him. I was not here when the Bill was in Committee, so that I cannot say that the Minister has shown any unfairness in dealing with it hitherto; but I strongly complain of the attitude which he is taking in regard to the amendment. The Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, I understand, was drafted under the auspices of the last Deakin Administration, and introduced by the Watson Administration, and I think applies only to imports; but in clause 15 of that Bill, those responsible for it were very careful to say . that -
All goods prohibited, by this Part of this Act, to be imported shall be prohibited imports within the meaning of the Customs Act 1901, and the provisions of that Act shall apply to those goods as fully as if they were included in section fifty-two thereof, except that no person shall be deemed to have committed an offence against the Customs Act 1901 by reason merely that he has imported goods which are prohibited by this Part of this Act to be imported.
There is a qualification on the penal sections of the Customs Act, one of which is referred to; but in the Bill before us, which deals with all Australian producers, the Ministry have been less scrupulous than the first Deakin and the Watson Administrations were in regard to the importers. It has been customary to apply the term “ foreign trader “ as ‘an epithet of reproach to the free-traders of Australia ; but the Bill embarrasses the producer of Australia to assist his competitors in the markets of the world, and thus plays the part of the foreign trader. This turns the maxims of my protectionist friends upside down. I am sure that such a provision is not in accordance with the wishes of honorable members, whatever their political views may be, and I do not think that this provision has been deliberately inserted. I do not believe that any honorable member would knowingly attempt to hamper our producers in connexion with the export of their produce to the markets of the world. My complaint is that they will not take the trouble to see what the effect of the Bill is. No one would deliberately injure our producing industries, and it is a thou- sand pities that, when .we are dealing with a measure affecting the operations of our producers as exporters, we are not more careful to make things easier instead of harder for them. The Bill makes things as hard for our exporters as we can make them. It reverses the genius of legislation. In no other country in the world are such provisions in force. So far as the interests of Great Britain are concerned, we may safely leave to the Parliament of that country the adoption of measures necessary to prevent our producers from inflicting injury on the British people. Surely we can leave all such precautions to the British people themselves. It is most officious on our part to subject our producers to these two ordeals. They have to run the gauntlet of the Customs House of their own country, and, having done so, they have then to run the gauntlet of the Customs House of another country. Surely one set of Customs Houses is bad enough, without establishing a second one in the country where a man works, and where he ought to be assisted in every possible way. I can see that it is idle to expect the Committee to consider this matter any further, but I have deemed it my duty to make these observations on the subject.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I do not think that. the Minister has any justification for resenting the action of honorable members in taking up the time that they regard as necessary to bring this measure into a proper shape. An effort was made to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, and the discussion to-day has shown that that course would have been the best to pursue. If the Bill bc passed in its present form, it will work great harm, even if it does not lead to the absolute destruction of many of our primary industries. Last week the Minister of Trade and Customs resented the suggestion I made that we were attempting to protect foreign consumers at the expense of our own people, but I had the amplest justification for my assertion. Surely we should legislate for the benefit of the citizens within the Commonwealth; we certainly ought not to subject them to restrictions of two Customs Houses. The right honorable and learned member for East Sydney has very clearly pointed out the disadvantages under which our producers will labour, and the irritating conditions under which they will have to work. Any injury that may be inflicted must fall upon the producer, because the agents and middlemen will assume no responsibility whatever. We are all familiar with the trouble that was caused owing to the manner in which the Customs Act was administered in the earlier stages, and we should guard against any similar results being brought about in connexion with the Bill now before us. The present Minister of Trade and Customs succeeded in introducing rational methods into the administration of the Customs House, and yet he is now proposing to revive the old condition of affairs, and to impose all sorts of irritating restrictions upon our exporters. Surely the Minister must recognise that he inflicted a grave injustice upon the whole community by refusing to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, and to give honorable members the benefit of the advice of experts to guide them in framing a useful measure. I do not believe honorable members opposite desire to create difficulties, but unfortunately they do not appear to realize the serious consequences which are likely to follow the passing of this Bill. I know that some members of the Labour Party do not like the Bill. Not only has the honorable member for Boothby expressed himself in the strongest terms of disapproval, but other honorable members entertain strong objections to it. We are justified, therefore, in exercising our fullest right of criticism, and in endeavouring to prevent the passing of the measure in a form in which it will be a curse to the community. The Minister must not be irritated if we adopt every means in our power to explain to the public the reasons of our opposition to iniquitous clauses. I trust that the Bill will be thoroughly reconsidered.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas).- I do not know when the first edition of the Bill was drafted. I understand that one draft was in existence even at the time that the Watson Government were in office, and it is, therefore, quite possible that the clause now under consideration would never have beenincorporated in the measure if the Acts Interpretation Act of 1904 had been on the Statute Book prior to the period to which I refer. Assuming, however, that the first draft was made after that Act was passed, the draftsman must have overlooked one of its most important provisions. Prior to the passing of the Act referred to. it was necessary whenever penalties were imposed under a Bill to make the necessary machinery provisions. Under section. 6 of the Acts Interpretation Act of 1904, however, it is provided -
All pecuniary penalties for any offence against any Act may, unless the contrary intention appears in the Act, be recovered in any Court of summary jurisdiction.
Therefore, so far as the legal machinery for the recovery of penalties is concerned, the draftsman need not have incorporated the Customs Act, because, under the section referred to, provision is made for the automatic incorporation in the Bill of such provisions as are necessary for the recovery of penalties. I cannot see why the Minister should object to the excision of the clause now objected to. If it be retained, it will lead to untold mischief, and will, in many cases, lead the Court to strain the law in order to find a verdict for the defendant. Apart from cases in which all the evidence is on the side of the defendant, I would point out that where evidence has been given on both sides, and doubt still exists in the mind of the magistrate, he will have to reverse one of the leading principles of English law under which the defendant is entitled to the benefit of the doubt. For instance, under clause 8 an importer might be prosecuted for attempting to import goods bearing a false trade description. A false trade description is defined as meaning a trade description which is “ false, or likely to mislead,” and the importer would have to prove that the description was not likely to mislead. This wording is particularly loose, and the evidence submitted would probably leave the magistrate in doubt upon the question at issue. Under such circumstances, it would not be just to convict the defendant. When the Bill was under consideration in Committee, I incidentally pointed out that the Minister would probably lay his information under clause 8, instead of under clause 7, relying upon the provision that allegations in the information shall be accepted as prima facie evidence, and that the defendant’s guilt shall be assumed unless he can prove to the contrary. I hope that the Minister will assent to the course suggested by the honorable member for North Svdney.
– I thought that we had debated this Bill at sufficient length, and that there was no further necessity for any long speeches. We have been engaged in discussing the measure for nearly three weeks, and it is absurd for honorable members to suggest that the Government have acted unreasonably towards the Opposition. Whenever the name of the Customs Department is mentioned honorable members opposite appear to be reduced to a stale of wild hysteria, and do not know when to stop their harangues. It is all very well for the right honorable member for East Sydney to come here and tell us that; the Bill has not been properlyconsidered. He has not been here for a month.
– Then the Minister cannot say that I have taken up much time.
– No; but I contend that the right honorable gentleman should not complain if honorable members who have been engaged in considering the Bill for such a time should object to a rediscussion of the whole measure. I do not wish to curtail reasonable debate, btv. I shall strongly object to the whole o. our work being gone over again. The honorable member for North Sydney was present when clause 2 was under discussion, and he took no exception to it. I wab told, when I was recently in Sydney, thai this action was to be taken at the instance, of certain importing firms.
– The Ministeris stating what is absolutely incorrect if he infers that I am acting at the instance of importing firms.
– I say that i knew that this course was to be followed, and that it was being adopted at the instance of certain large importing firms in Sydney.
– I have been speaking on behalf of the exporters.
– The honorable and learned member, and the members of his party, would’ leave our producers open to the unfair competition of the black and cheap labour of the outside world, which has been referred to bv the right honorable and learned member for East Sydney. That is what the members of the Opposition would do.
– Why should the Minister wish to imitate them?
– We have no desire to imitate them. The right honorable member has made a statement which he cannot verify. He has declared that the producers do not desire the adoption of the grading system. -If he. will take the trouble to read the report of the Victorian expert in reference to New Zealand in connexion with this matter - a report which only reached my hands this morning - hewill find that in that Colony the system of grading meets with almost unanimous approval, although the same cry that is being raised here attended its introduction there. The expert to whom I refer - Mr. Crowe - states that, in the first instance, the same fears to which expression has so frequently been given here were apprehended in NewZealand, and that for a time considerable objection was taken to the grading of exports.
Mr. Reid. question.
– The honorable gentleman was just now discus: ing almost every matter to which he could -We are not discussing that right turn his tongue. The New Zealand expert further states that because the Government mark is attached to certain exports it is a common practice for those exports to be purchased in large quantities, f.o.b., at Auckland by English buyers.
– I must ask the Minister not to discuss that question.
– The leader of the Opposition has declared that the producers of New South Wales do not desire any Government interference with their exports. He is the last person who should talk about helping the producers of the soil, seeing that the only thing he ever did for them ‘was to impose additional taxation upon them, whilst at the same time depriving them of the little protection which they had previously enjoyed.
Several honorable members interjecting -
– During the speeches delivered by honorable members upon the Opposition side of the Chamber, I do not think that the Minister made any interjections, and it is very unfair, indeed, for them to interrupt him so seriously.
– Then let the Minister cease making charges.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I anl not making charges. I am merely replying to the statements which have been made during this debate. The leader of the Opposition and others have made certain statements here with “a view to having them spread broadcast, and now they complain the moment I attempt to show that those statements are incorrect. I wish to point out that in Victoria the number of those who desire their exports to be dealt with by the Government is doubling, trebling, and even quadrupling as years go on. I have details in my possession which support that statement. The same remark is applicable to Queensland. All that we ask in this Bill is that we should be given reasonable power, after consultation with the various States Governments, to give effect to the grading system. Some of the States, including New South Wales, have never taken effective action in this connexion.
– I would point out to the Minister that the question before the Chair is, whether or not clause 2 shall, in common with other clauses, be recom mitted. The only question raised by that clause is as to whether this Bill should be incorporated with the Customs Act. I would ask the Minister to confine his remarks to that question.
– I always bow to your ruling, sir, but I must point out that a very wide latitude has been allowed to previous speakers, and that I am merely endeavouring to refute the very improper, unfaithful, and untrue statements which have been made.
– I may say that I followed very closely the speeches made by honorable members upon the Opposition side of the House, and I confess that once or twice I thought they were exceeding the legitimate limits of the debate; but in each instance the due connexion was established between their remarks and the clause which is under discussion.
– Before the Minister resumed his seat, he declared that he was replying to “untrue” statements, which had been made bv honorable members upon this side of the Chamber. I wish’ to ask you, sir, whether that expression is in order ?
– If the Minister made use of that expression, I must ask him to withdraw it.
– If I did make use of the word “untruthful,” I withdraw it; but I am under the impression that the word I employed was “ unfaithful.” An amendment has been suddenly submitted in reference to clause 2, which provides that this Bill shall be incorporated with the Customs Act of 1901. I have heard it stated that the leader of the Opposition did not see the original draft of this measure. I venture to say that a little light could be thrown upon that statement. In the measure as it was originally drafted, the following words occur: -
This Act shall be incorporated and read with the Customs Act 1901.
– But the Minister promised to make the Bill less drastic.
– I have done so. I have agreed to recommit certain clauses, with a view to dealing with the cases which were presented the other day. Upon that occasion I said that if some slight modification of these clauses would dissipate the fears entertained by some honorable members, I should be prepared to agree to their amendment. I made that statement chiefly as the result of the observations’1 which fell from the honorable member for Gippsland and the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I wish to meet honorable members as far as possible, but I will not allow the Opposition to amend the Bill in such a way as to destroy its efficacy. Nearly every honorable member who has spoken from the opposite side of the House has declared that he would destroy the measure if he could. I would- further point out that this Bill contains a few clauses which would be absolutely unworkable if the Customs Act were not read in conjunction with it. If the measure were merely intended to carry out the provisions which are embodied in it, without machinery clauses, there might be some force in the contention of honorable members of the Opposition that it would prove ineffective in operation. But. when it is worked in conjunction with the Customs Act, so far as its machinery provisions are concerned, it becomes absolutely effective. For instance, sections 205, 208, 265, 269, 276 of the Customs Act will fit in with the machinery provided in this Bill. When it is declared that the measure when read in conjunction with the Customs Act will be productive of disastrous results, I wish to know where are the complaints in regard to the operation of that Act? As a whole, the Customs Act, though it contains very drastic provisions, is working smoothly in the interests of the Commonwealth, and does not engender much friction. Similarly no friction will be experienced in the administration of this Bill. As a matter of fact, I aim informed by the draftsman that if it were amended in the direction the Opposition desire, it would be better to withdraw it and to entirely recast it, because we should have to make it a complete machinery Bill as well. Read in conjunction with the Customs Act, however, it becomes effective. It has been said that the Customs authorities might board a train and take possession of produce intended for export when it was some 200 or 300 miles away. Do honorable members imagine that the Customs Act is being foolishly administered, and that there is an innate desire on the part of the authorities to destroy the export trade ? The great object of’ the Department is to make Australian exports still more acceptable in the markets of the world. I may tell the honorable member for Franklin that for some time the action- of one of his own constituents did grave injury to the export trade in apples to London. I regret that I cannot accept the amendment. If I could reasonably do so I would. Honorable members must take my assurance that I am not actuated simply by a desire to appear stubborn. But in my judgment there is nothing in the Customs Act which will injure the exporter. I believe that within a very short time after this Bill comes into operation it will be hailed with delight by the producers, who will proclaim it to be one of the best Acts that have been passed by the Commonwealth Parliament.
– (North Sydney). - When’ the Minister began his speech, he stated that he knew this amendment was being moved at the instigation of certain Sydney importers. I am the mover of the amendment, and I say there is not a shadow of truth in his statement. He made his statement without any knowledge that it was true. It is absolutely untrue.
– Order. Will the honorable member withdraw that remark?
– I say that the statement of the Minister is absolutely inaccurate. I have not had any communication with an importer in Sydney, or anywhere else, either with reference to this amendment or to the Bill itself. Before making a statement of that character the Minister should do others the justice of ascertaining its truth or otherwise. I pronounce his statement to be inaccurate. It does not contain a single word of truth. I have had no conversation with a Sydney importer in reference to mv proposal, or in regard to the Bill itself, and if the remainder of the Minister’s statements are upon a par with that to which I refer, I am very sorry for him.
– As a matter of personal explanation., what I said was that I heard this action, was to be taken at the instance of two large firms in Sydney.
– The Minister said that he knew it was instigated by several Sydney firms.
– I said that the movement was instigated by certain Sydnev firms. I did not mention the honorable member’s name.
– The honorable gentleman inferentially did ; because I am the mover.
Question - That the words “ and clause 2” proposed to be added be so added - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 7, 10, and 13, and for the consideration of, new clauses 7A, 7B, and 13A.
In Committee (Recommittal):
Clause 7 -
All goods imported in contravention of any regulation under this section shall be forfeited to the King.
Subject to the regulations, the Comptroller- General, 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 importer upon security being given to the satisfaction of the ComptrollerGeneral that the prescribed trade description will be applied to the goods or that they will be forthwith exported.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the words “ shall be,” line 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ may be detained by the Collector, and may by direction of the Minister be seized as.”
– Before the amendment is put, I should like to point out to the Minister that the question raised by several honorable members in connexion with this clause - and also clause 10 - was that, under the clause as it stands, or as proposed to be amended by the Minister, an importer or exporter, who had innocently failed to apply the required trade description to his goods, would be liable to have those goods seized. My desire is that it shall be provided that where either an importer or exporter satisfies the ComptrollerGeneral or the Minister that the mistake of which complaint is made, was not knowingly committed, it shall not merely be left to the Minister’s discretion to return the goods, but that the person concerned shall have set out in the Bill itself his right to their return. The Minister might possibly take shelter behind the contention that he was not satisfied that a mistake was innocently committed, but as a matter of fact that would not suffice to protect him in the same way as would the clause as it stands. It would not do so, for the reason that if the clause provides that on the Minister being satisfied that an offence has not been knowingly committed, the goods shall be released, the Minister or the Comptroller-Generalwill be forced to give consideration to each case. If the Minister or Comptroller-General then failed to perform his duty properly, he could be challenged, because it could be said - I am assuming, I admit, an apparently improbable case - that he had wilfully refused to recognise the facts before him. It would, therefore, give an assurance to the importer or exporter that reasonable proof that his error was innocently committed, would prevent the possibility of his goods being confiscated. It would also prevent the possibility of the delay and inattention which might otherwise occur. As the Bill is apparently to become law, it is not my desire that the clause shall have no effect, or be so wide that an intentional wrong-doer will be able to escape. Although the amendment of the Minister goes to some extent in the direction in which I wish to go, it does not go anything like so far as it has been suggested we should go.
– What does the honorable and learned member suggest? I have tried to meet his objection.
– Yes ; but the Minister has not fully met the point raised by me. I wish the clause to- provide that, where it is proved to the satisfaction of the Minister that a mistake was not knowingly committed, goods which have been seized shall be released.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that that is not provided for by my amendment?
– The honorable gentleman’s amendment leaves the return of the goods purely at the discretion of the Minister or the Comptroller-General. When the Minister has been reasonably satisfied that an error was an innocent one, he should be compelled to let the goods go, on a proper description being applied. to them. Such a provision would in no way diminish the efficacy of the measure, and would remove the not altogether unreasonable fear of importers and exporters that they may be subjected to capricious treatment. Delay - the mere putting aside of the matter for a time - which could take place under the clause as it is proposed to amend it, might work as much injury as would be caused by deliberate malfeasance, whereas if the clause is amended as I wish to amend it the Minister or the ComptrollerGeneral must give prompt attention to any complaint.
– Whatever amendment is made in this clause in regard to imports must be applied also to exports. Clauses 7 and 10 were originally drawn on similar lines, and the treatment of imports and exports must be alike, unless we are prepared to have the reflection of unfairness cast upon our legislation.
– Whatever goes into clause 7 must also go into clause 10.
– I see no reason for providing for forfeiture. In the first place, it is a very unequal punishment. An offence may be comparatively slight, the departure from a description, say, entailing no real fraud, and the punishment in one case may be the forfeiture of a shipment worth £10, and in another case the forfeiture of a shipment worth ^10,000. In the Victorian Act dealing with exports an appeal to arbitrators is allowed from the decision of the Minister as to whether products are sound or free from disease, and on the refusal of any inspector to mark any case, keg, box, or package, as required by the Government.
– Under some of the -States Acts there- had to be an information prior to forfeiture.
– Yes. Then the punishment for an evasion of the Victorian Act is only £50. I would not reduce the penalties in this Act to so small an amount, because I think that they should be sufficiently severe to prevent attempts to evade the provisions of the measure; but I think the forfeiture is an unwise penalty to provide for, in the first place, as I have said, because of its inequality, and, in the next place, because of the nature of the power placed in the hands of the Minister. We cannot expect throughout our history to be free from the danger of having in office a corrupt Minister, and if such a Minister had power to forfeit he might say, when a valuable shipment was concerned, “I must forfeit unless I have some inducement not to forfeit.”
– The power of forfeiture is given under the Customs Act.
– But not where there is a mere difference of opinion as to the grade or quality or true description of an article. In this measure we are dealing with very delicate differences, and I think that it will be sufficient to provide for a fine large enough to act as a deterrent against fraud. There is no provision for forfeiture in the Victorian, South Australian, or New Zealand Acts. A Customs officer may say that goods marked first quality are second quality, and, although fifty witnesses may be brought to ‘ DrOVE that, in their opinion, the goods are first quality, they will be liable to forfeiture on the ground of misdescription, the officer having declared them to be second quality. It is no wonder that reflections are made on our legislation when we deal so differently with this subject from the way in which’ other Australian Parliaments have dealt with it. If there had not been a division on the question last week, I would test the feeling of the Committee with regard to it now.; but I ask the Minister to consider the matter again, and not to leave in the Bill a penalty which far exceeds in its severity the penalty in an other Australian legislation of the kind.
– I think that we migh’t overcome the difficulty by providing for a penalty of, say, ,£500.
– It might be worth the while of an importer to incur a heavy fine if he were able to introduce a valuable consignment of goods.
– But under the Customs Act the Minister would have power to impose a penalty representing three times the value of the goods. I find by reference to section 236 ‘that -
Whoever … by act or omission is in any way directly or indirectly concerned in the commission of any offence against this Act, shall be deemed to have committed such an offence, and shall be punishable accordingly.
A similar provision is made in clause 15 of the Bill, but the word “knowingly” is used by way of modification. All the penalties provided’ for are in addition to the provision for the forfeiture of the goods. The honorable member for North Sydney has clearly pointed out the inequality of the proposed penalties. If a person placed a second-class description upon first-class goods his action could not be in any way construed as a wilful contravention of the law, and yet he would be liable to punishment. Some provision should be made by which persons making innocent mistakes could recover their goods. They should not be left entirely at the mercy of the Minister. We are making a serious mistake in conferring extreme powers on the Minister without making any provision for an appeal from his decision. I trust that the honorable gentleman will considerably modify the clause, otherwise it will offer; every facility for the perpetration of gross injustice.
– I understand that the Minister is considering whether something should not be done in the direction suggested by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, but I would like to point out the danger which we are incurring by incorporating the whole of the provisions of the Customs Act in this measure. Special provision is made in the Bill for the forfeiture of goods, and under the Customs Act the Minister has power, without cause shown, to prohibit imports. Therefore, suppose that under the Bill the Minister improperly, or without sufficient cause, prohibited certain importations, and he were proceeded against for the recovery of the goods, he might fall back upon his general power of prohibition without cause shown conferred by the Customs Act. If the Customs Act did not apply there would be no necessity to grant a right of appeal, and if it did apply the right of appeal would be useless. As the matter stands, I do not know what would be the effect of making provision in the Bill for an appeal from the discretion of the Minister. I trust that the clause will be recast so that the application of the Customs Act will not frustrate the object of the provision.
– I- do not see that the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella will have any effect, because, in addition to the provisions of the Bill, the Customs Act will operate. Under sub-clause 1 of clause 7, certain imports will be prohibited.
– Not within the meaning of the Customs Act.
– Section 229 of the Customs Act specifies that unlawfully imported and prohibited imports shall be forfeited to His Majesty.
– But does not “prohibited imports” mean absolutely prohibited imports ?
– I think that is open to question. Clause 7 provides that certain imports may be prohibited by regulation. That means that such goods will become absolutely prohibited as soon as such regulations are issued, and thus any goods that do not bear a proper trade description may become prohibited imports within the meaning of the Customs Act. In order to prevent complications arising, it appears to be necessary to provide that the Customs Act of 1901 shall not apply to the provisions in the clause. Otherwise any amendment we may make will become inoperative.
– We all know that Government Departments are occasionally very dilatory, and it appears to me that under the proposed amendment goods might be detained by the officials of the Department for such a length of time as to interfere with their delivery under contract.
– All cases will be promptly dealt with in my Department.
– How can they in all cases ? For instance, if some case arose in Western Australia, could the decision of the Minister be given within, say, a fortnight ?
– The Minister could deal with the matter by delegating, his powers to his officers.
– So long as reasonable assurance is given that the goods will be released within a reasonable time, I shall be satisfied.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I desire to propose an amendment, to which the Minister has agreed, in sub-clause 3. The amendment does not go so far as I desire ; in fact,I do not like the clause so far as the provision for the forfeiture of goods is concerned. But I will move -
That after the word “ may,” line 5. the words “ in any case, and if in his opinion the contravention has not occurred, either knowingly or negligently, shall,” be inserted.
Under my proposal, where an error is not knowingly committed, or is not the result of negligence, the importer will be entitled to the delivery of his goods.
– That is “delivery,” for the purpose of complying with the law ?
– Undoubtedly. Personally, I do not think that the Minister ought to have the right to forfeit goods for mere negligence. My position, however, is that the Minister has agreed to accept my amendment, but will not agree to it if the word “negligently” be omitted. Consequently, I am compelled to accept a very small crumb, instead of getting no bread at all.
– Under the amendment, the Minister may hold £100,000 worth of goods for “negligence.”
– I think that it is unreasonable to provide the penalty of forfeiture for non-compliance with the law relating to trade descriptions, as distinct from furnishing a false trade description. Under the Bill a mistake is just as punishable as is a wilful offence. I think that the words contained in my amendment will do some measure of justice to those who are chiefly concerned.
– Will it apply both to the Comptroller-General and to the Minister?
– It will apply to both.
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella and several others were very anxious to effect an amendment of this clause the other evening. I was under the impression that the amendment which has already been inserted would meet with their concurrence. However, as the honorable and learned member considers that this further amend ment is necessary, I will agree to it, because it only provides for action which any reasonable Minister would take.
– We are to rely upon a “reasonable” Minister?
– If the honorable member for North Sydney occupied the position of Minister of Trade and Customs, I should be quite prepared to trust him. Why is he not willing to extend the same consideration to others?
– I would trust no Minister with£20,000 worth of my goods.
– As the amendment only provides for action which any reasonable Minister would take, I accept it.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I regret that the Minister has not seen fit to go further. Let me take, for example, the simple case of an omission to put any trade description upon goods.
– In some cases that might be deliberately done, with intent to commit a fraud.
– How could a deliberate fraud be perpetrated under such circumstances? Let us suppose that I wish to buy any article. I am at liberty to examine it just as I please. What fraud is possible, when the vendor asks, “ What will you give for it?” But under this provision, simply because a man omits to put a certain statement upon his goods, he is liable to have the whole of them forfeited. Why should such an important matter be left solely to the discretion of the Minister? Why should not there be an appeal from his decision ? In England many Ministers have refused to exercise powers which others have attempted to thrust on them. They have held that there ought to be an appeal from their decision to a court of law. In this case, however, the Minister is absolutely to settle the matter in dispute. I protest against the enactment of such a provision.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas).- I move-
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (4) No regulation under this section shall take effect until after the expiration of six months from notification in the Gazette.”
This is a milder proposal than that which was suggested by the honorable member for Kooyong, because his amendment would have applied to exports as well as to imports. I think that honorable members will recognise the necessity of giving some notice to people on the other side of the world, as to what conditions obtain here in regard to importations. In the absence of some such amendment as I have indicated, the regulations may be brought into force immediately they are notified. To my mind, six months is a reasonable notice to give.
– It is, if anything, too short.
– That may be so.
– Does the honorable and learned member intend that six months’ notice shall be given from the time of the passing of the Bill ?
– I mean that six months’ notice shall be given, after the notification has appeared in the Gazette. Unless we postpone their operation, the regulations may come into force at once. I think it is clear that exporters in America and England are entitled to know the nature of our laws, since they are to be subjected to such very heavy penalties for transgressing them. It seems all the more necessary that they should be given notice when it is recollected that a trade description will probably have to be applied to every particular article. It will not be sufficient merely to label the outside packet. For instance, in a case containing 1,000 bottles of medicine, a label must be placed upon each bottle.
– Under the honorable member’s amendment, the Bill would not be brought into force for twelve months.
– Even if that be so, what harm would result? Under this Billwe are about to establish a general principle. Exporters abroad should be informed that if they intend to send goods to Australia, they must conform to certain conditions. Consequently they should be given notice.
– I will accept three months’ notice instead of six.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - I am rather surprised at the Minister’s statement that he is unwilling to accept an amendment which will provide for six months’ notice being given. The Minister is aware that goods have to be ordered from abroad. and labelled in accordance with certain trade descriptions, freshly ordered by the Minister. As those goods have to be put up specially, time must be allowed to send home instructions after the notification has appeared in the Gazette. Then the goods have to be brought to Australia - sometimes in sailing vessels. Can that be done within three months?
– As a rule, it can be done in very little more than three months.
– It cannot be done. The bulk of the orders are transmitted by mail, and the goods have to be specially put up for Australia. Labels have to be printed, and the goods have subsequently to be packed, entered for shipment, and shipped. A fortnight, and in some cases a month, often elapses between the date of shipment and the day of sailing, and if these goods were shipped from England by a sailing vessel three or four months might elapse before their arrival here. Surely in these circumstances at least six months’ notice should be given.
– What would be the position if it were desired to amend a regulation in order to deal with deleterious imports, and six months’ notice had to be given ? In the meantime the goods objected to would continue to come in.
– The Minister would have power under the Customs Act to prohibit such imports.
– Suppose it were desired to modify a regulation that proved to be too severe. Would six months’ notice be necessary ?
– I think that, under the amendment, it would.
– I do not think that such notice would be necessary, but if the interjection is as genuine as it is intended the description of the goods shall be, the Minister will have no difficulty in overcoming the objection.
– How ?
– He could directthat theregulation which it was proposed to modify should not in the meantime apply. Although I am not a lawyer. I undertake, if allowed time, to draft an amendment to meet the Minister’s objection in this respect.
– I am speaking of the amendment as submitted.
– If the Minister considers that the amendment would operate unfairly in certain cases, it is open to him to propose a further amendment. I am sure honorable members will admit that I have made out a good case for the adoption of the amendment. There may be exceptional cases, in which the notice would not require to be as long as I have said, but the Minister will be able to provide for them. Under the clause as it stands, the first intimation that an importer will have that a new description is required in respect of articles that have borne for years, perhaps, a particular brand, will be the notification in the Gazette.
– Six months’ notice does not seem too much in respect of original regulations, but I think it would be too long in the case of amended regulations.
– I am willing to consider any amendment that the Minister may propose, but I do say that at least six months’ notice should be given of any new regulation. In some cases a description that had been placed on goods for many years might be true, but the Minister might desire an amplification. He might, for instance, call upon importers of certain goods, bearing a statement that they had been made in Liverpool, to add the word “England “ to the description. The original Bill provided that the country of origin should appear in the description, and it is evidently the intention of the Department to require alterations of the kind I have named to be made. Importers may be required to give fuller descriptions, and to describe the ingredients of goods in respect of which such a demand has not hitherto been made. Surely reasonable time should be given to merchants and others concerned to comply with such requirements. There is nothing in the Bill in respect of which it should be necessary to take immediate action, regardless of the fact that such action might result in gross injustice being done, and really render it impossible for shippers to comply with the regulations. The Minister says, in effect, to the parties concerned, “ When your goods arrive here, I may forfeit them, if I see fit, because they are not correctly described; but I will not allow you the time necessary to enable you to do what I say shall be done.” With all these facts before them, I fail to see how honorable members can deliberately arrive at ‘a decision that would be absolutely unjust to those concerned.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I think that, in agreeing that three months’ notice shall be given, I have gone a long way towards meeting the honorable member’s objection. If the amendment were passed six months’ notice would have to be given of an amended regulation that I might propose twelve months hence to gazette. I have already agreed to an amendment by which the Bill will not come into operation until six months after the date of its passing. It is therefore probable that it will not come into force until March or April next, so that importers and others concerned will have an opportunity to prepare to comply with the new conditions.
– Not if the Minister fails to issue a proclamation.
– I have already made arrangements to have the regulations ready by January next.
– But the honorable gentleman has already agreed that the Bill should apply only to certain classes of goods.
– Does, the honorable member desire that for all time six months’ notice shall be given of any regulation.
– Then I cannot assent to the honorable member’s proposal. I am willing to agree that not less than three months’ notice shall be given.
– Make it four months.
– I think that the compromise to which I have expressed my willingness to agree should meet all possible objections. I had recently to deal with a case arising under a regulation issued while the honorable member for Gippsland held office as Minister of Trade and, Customs. A month’s (notice was, I think, given of the intention to bring that regulation into force, but when I found that the persons! affected by it had not had time to conform to it, I decided that the goods which they were bringing in should not be unduly interfered with. I saw that it was unreasonable to expect them to do what was practically an. impossibility, and I hold that it is ridiculous to suggest that six months’ notice should be given, of regulations applying to imports. In many cases of this kind intimation is sent by cablegram to the persons concerned in other parts of the world.
– The Minister may provide in the regulations themselves for such matters.
– Certainly. I do not wish a hard-and-fast line to be drawn in the Bill itself.
– It would be practically impossible to transmit trade descriptions to England by cable.
– In any event not more than five or six weeks would be occupied in forwarding particulars of trade descriptions by post to England and Europe generally.
– But the goods have to be packed and labels must be printed.
– If six months’ notice had to be given of an intention to require a particular trade description of certain goods, large imports of those goods might meantime be rushed into the Commonwealth.
– The Customs Act provides against such a contingency.
– I admit that if the Minister chose to strain the Customs Act he might prevent such a practice, but suppose that before the notice had expired a large shipment of goods to which a certain trade description was to apply arrived in Australia, would any one say that the Minister would be justified in availing himself of the provisions of the Customs Act to prohibit their importation? If he did prohibit them, there would be a wild outcry on the part of the Opposition. We should never hear the last “of it, and I would not undertake to adopt such a course. I do not wish to leave the door open to such an extent that before the notice expires the market may be flooded with undesirable goods.
– Or to give a monopoly in respect of those that happen to get in.
– That is so. I do not think it is necessary to give any notice, but am prepared to agree to an amendment that three months’ notice shall be (riven.
– Let it be not less than three months.
– Very well. I may say, in conclusion, that if I have to deal with the first regulations issued, I shall make special provision for cases in which it has not been possible to comply with them.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas). - I am prepared to accept the Minister’s suggestion that not less than three months’ notice shall be given, and desire to amend my amendment accordingly.
Amendment amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 10 - (a). All such goods to which the prescribed trade description is not applied, which are ex ported ot entered for export or put on board any ship or boat for export or brought to any wharf or place for export, shall be forfeited to the King. (3). Subject to the regulations the ComptrollerGeneral, or on appeal from him the Minister, may permit any goods which aTe liable to be or have been seized as forfeited under this section to be delivered to the owner or exporter, upon security being given to the satisfaction of the ComptrollerGeneral that the goods shall not be exported in contravention of the regulation.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- I am not particularly interested in the import trade, but I certainly think that this clause must be amended so far as it relates to exports. I find that section 229 of the Customs Act provides that goods which are unlawfully exported, as well as -
All prohibited exports put on any ship or boat for export, or brought to any wharf or place for the purpose of export, shall be forfeited to His Majesty. I therefore move -
That, after the word “ King,” line 6, the words “ and to such goods the provisions of section 229 of the Customs Act 1901 shall not apply.”
– I can understand the anxiety of the honorable and learned member for Corio that the unqualified provisions of the Customs Act as to the forfeiture of goods unlawfully exported should not apply, but I think that, with regard to the particular class of goods mentioned in clause 10, those unqualified provisions would not apply. Although this measure and the Customs Act are to be read as one, the express provisions of the Bill applied specifically to this class of goods would prevail. The express provisions of clause 10 would necessarily exclude the unqualified application of the Customs Act.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio).- In view of what the Attorney-General has stated - and he was good enough to put his opinion on this point before me privately - I withdraw the amendment, because I recognise his responsibility in connexion with statements of this kind.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That’ the words “shall be,” line 5, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ may be detained by the Collector, and may, by direction of the Minister, be seized as.”
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I propose to insert in this clause the words which were inserted in clause 7, and I again ask the Minister of Trade and Customs and the
Attorney-General whether they will leave goods intended for export liable to forfeiture when, in the opinion of the Minister, it has been established that the application of an inaccurate trade description to them was not knowingly made? The words inserted in clause 7 were -
If, in his opinion, the contravention has not occurred, either knowingly or negligently.
I accepted those words in connexion with clause 7, because they represented the extent to which the Minister was prepared to meet me. Now I ask whether he intends that the goods of an exporter or owner of Australian produce intended for export shall be even liable to forfeiture after he has shown to the satisfaction of the Minister, or his officer, that the inaccurate application of a trade description to them was made not knowingly, but only negligently? It may be said that negligence should be punished, but it should not be punished by so heavy a penalty as making the goods liable to forfeiture. It may also be said that the Minister would exercise his discretion in such a case, and not forfeit ; but if the Minister would not forfeit in any case, we should not give him a power which is not to be exercised. The clause provides that the regulations may prohibit the exportation of any specified goods, unless there has been applied to them a trade description of such character, relating to such matters, and applied in such a manner as may be prescribed. If, through negligence, a trade description is applied which, in the opinion of the Customs officials, does not agree with the prescribed description - and there might easily be a difference of opinion as to what was the proper trade description, whether the goods were class A, or class B, and so on - goods will be liable to forfeiture.It will not encourage Australian exportation to render goods intended for export liable to forfeiture on such grounds.
– They would not be liable to forfeiture merely for a difference of opinion.
– They would be liable to forfeiture if the trade description on them was, in the opinion of a Customs official, not the trade description required by the regulations.
– If goods had, in fact, the trade description required by the regulations, though in the opinion of the Minister they had not, they would not be liable to forfeiture.
– If the trade description required the specification of six particulars, five of which were given, but the sixth did not appear in the manner prescribed, and this happened not knowingly or through negligence, the goods would be liable to forfeiture. If negligence must be punished, let it be punished in some other way than by making goods liable to forfeiture, which, in many cases, would be the gravest penalty that could be inflicted.
– The negligence might be that of an agent.
– It might be any one’s negligence. I cannot understand how those who profess to earnestly desire to assist Australian exportation can insist upon the terminology employed in the clause. I ask the Minister to agree that as regards goods intended for export, the owner or exporter shall have the right to have them delivered to him if he satisfies the Minister or his officer that any inaccuracy in a trade description was not committed knowingly, but was due to negligence.
– Knowingly by whom?
– To the knowledge of the owner, or exporter, or agent. I do not think that negligence should be a bar to the return of the goods.
– We should not create a loophole for the escape of guilty persons.
– No; but I think that liability to forfeiture should attach only when what is done is done knowingly.
– No matter how gross the negligence ?
– No matter if the negligence be gross. Because the goods are given up to have the proper trade description applied to them. It is not as if they could get away without that. If the noncompliance with the law is not knowingly committed, but is due to negligence, the goods should not be liable to forfeiture. They can be held until the proper trade description is applied to them. Under the amendment which I intend to move, the Minister will not be able to forfeit them if the non-application of a proper description was merely negligent, though he will be able to forfeit them if it was committed knowingly. If goods are found without the proper trade description, they are to be held until it is applied, and my amendment will not prevent that. But it will prevent their forfeiture so long as the omission is not knowingly made. Our object should be to make sure that the proper trade description is applied to all goods before they leave Australia.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - I have already argued in connexion with the import clause against the extreme powers taken by the Minister in the Bill, and my arguments apply with far greater force to the export clause. While merchants and other business men connected with importation may be expected to accommodate their procedure to the provisions of the measure, farmers and other country producers who are exporters cannot be supposed to make themselves so thoroughly acquainted with Acts of Parliament, and will be liable to be put in false positions, and have their goods forfeited, for very slight cause. The Minister has spoken of the Acts dealing with exports in Victoria, New Zealand, and Queensland, and has declared that the results attained under such legislation have been highly satisfactory. And yet he is proposing to bring into operation provisions which are entirely different from those in those Acts. In the New Zealand Act it is provided -
No product shall be shipped or placed on board any ship for exportation to any place beyond New Zealand, unless it bears the prescribed stamp or mark, or the certificate in writing as to quality and condition, signed by the officer duly authorized in that behalf under this Act.
The penalty provided for a breach of the Act is ^25. The Victorian Act provides, in section 10, that -
No person shall stamp or mark any product or any crate case keg box or package containing any product packed for export with a stamp or mark unless such stamp or mark is approved by an officer appointed by the Minister.
It is further provided, in section 11, that if an exporter of an article, say butter, for instance, considers that his product should be approved for export, instead of being marked as “ pastry butter,” he can appeal to arbitrators in order to have the matter decided. In section 17 it is provided -
Any person who, in contravention of any of the provisions of this Act, ships or places on board any vessel for exportation to Great Britain and Ireland, or any European country, or is concerned in exporting or attempting to export any product to Great Britain and Ireland or any European country, or who contravenes or is party to the contravention of any of the provisions of this Act, for a contravention of which no penalty is expressly provided, shall be guilty of an offence against this Act, and shall for every such offence be liable on conviction to a penalty not exceeding Fifty pounds.
The penalties under the Victorian and New Zealand Acts have proved quite sufficient, and it appears to be altogether unnecessary to provide for the extreme penalties contemplated by/ the Bill. Goods intended for shipment, once thev are brought within the control of the Commonwealth officers, cannot be exported unless they bear the description prescribed bv the Minister. Surely the owner of the goods, if the prescribed mark is not on them, is sufficiently penalized by being compelled to retain his goods in the Commonwealth and to sell them in the local market. The Minister has) stated that; the results achieved in New Zealand are highly satisfactory, and yet he proposes to inflict unheard-of penalties. I undertake to say that if our producers’ have to work under such a law as that contemplated, many of them will be afraid to enter their goods for export, and will prefer to sell them in the local markets, in view of the harassing restrictions which it is now sought to impose. We do not wish to discourage our exporters, and yet the penalties proposed will certainly have that effect. Moreover, the power now sought should not be placed in the Minister’s hands. If certain goods are entered for export, and the Customs officials think that they should be described as of second quality, instead of first quality, the owner is to have no right of appeal against their decision. The Minister has power not only to prohibit the exportation of the goods, but to forfeit them, not merely to inflict a penalty of, say, £100 Surely it is undesirable that we should proceed to such extremes in connexion with our export trade. Then again, in cases where only negligence has been shown, the goods may not be released from forfeiture. If it be the desire of the Minister to prevent the exportation of deleterious goods, provision might very well be made for the forfeiture of such- goods. But where perfectly sound goods are involved, and the question is merely one as to whether they shall be marked as of first, second, or third quality, surely the penalty of forfeiture is excessive. Why is it necessary for the Commonwealth to provide for the forfeiture of the goods when the States have been able to get along without anysuch provision ? Perfectly wholesome goods such as are being daily consumed in Australia, and the consumption of which could not be prevented by any Health Act, should certainly not be forfeited merely because they are not considered to be of sufficiently high class for export purposes. It is not a crime for an owner to attempt to export wholesome goods under what the Minister may consider to be an inexact description, which goods can be sold in Australia under the same description. I know that the Minister will probably urge that we should trust the administration, but my reply is that no Minister should seek to have conferred upon him powers which experience under States laws has shown to be absolutely unnecessary. If we pass the Bill in its present shape, we shall inflict a great injustice upon our exporters, and shall probably seriously affect our export trade. I trust that honorable members will seriously consider this matter, and that, despite all objections on the part of the Minister, they will insist upon the withdrawal of provisions which, if carried into effect, will undoubted lv operate to the detriment of our export trade.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I wish to submit to the Minister an alternative proposal in this connexion. The more the debate proceeds the more abundantly clear it becomes that the one thing necessary to make this clause effective - assuming that it will serve a good purpose- is to insure that; goods shall not be exported from Australia unless a truthful trade description be applied to them. I, therefore, move -
That after the word “ as,” just inserted in subclause 2, the following words be inserted - “ contravening this section, and held until, the prescribed trade description be applied, or security be given to the satisfaction of the ComptrollerGeneral that the goods shall not be exported in contravention of the regulations.”
– The honorable and learned member might as well frame a new clause altogether. I will not agree to the amendment.
– Under the amendment, the man who endeavours to break the law would escape the consequences of his action.
– The object of the Bill is not to catch offenders, and to punish them for breaking the law, but to insure that exports from Australia shall bear a proper trade description. My amendment will give full effect to that object. Under it, goods may be seized and held until the prescribed trade description is applied to them, or until security is given that it will be so applied. Let us suppose that an individual endeavours to export goods to which he has applied no trade description whatever. His goods will be held until such a description has been put upon them.
– Under the amendment of the honorable and learned member, they would be liable to forfeiture.
– No, I propose that the words “ forfeiture to the King “ should be omitted.
– The honorable and learned member would omit the whole clause if he could.
– The Minister seems to think that the object of the clause is to confer the (right to forfeit goods to the King. That is not so. Its object is to prevent goods leaving Australia unless they bear a proper trade description. Under clause n, if a man attempts to export them under a false trade description, he is liable to a maximum penalty of £100, and under clause 12 he is also liable to have them forfeited to the King. That is the punishment provided in cases in which false trade descriptions are applied to goods. A proviso states that the Minister “ may,” if the error was not knowingly committed, remit the forfeiture of the goods. Clauses 11 and 12, I contend, provide ample punishment for the wilful application of false trade descriptions to goods. Clause 10 is merely intended to prevent goods leaving Australia with a wrong description upon them, or without any trade description whatever. Further than that; I maintain, the provision ought not to go. Under this Bill, curiously enough, the worst goods upon earth can be imported or exported, so long as they bear a proper trade description. The measure will not establish a standard for imports or exports.
– A little while ago the Opposition claimed that it would.
– At any rate, I did not complain. I should be perfectly willing to agree to a provision which would have the effect of preventing the export of goods which were not suitable for human consumption.
– Take the case of damaged wheat as an example.
– I do not say that because goods are not of the first quality they should not be exported.
– Then the honorable and learned- member would establish a standard.
– I say that the Act, and not the regulations under it, should prescribe the standard. If honorable members will take the trouble to determine the object of this clause, they will see that it is likely to be abused to the detriment of our producers. Under it, every Australian producer may be injured, and I speak as an Australian on behalf of those people whose interests should be nearest to us.
– We look after their interests, and the honorable and learned member does not.
– The assertions of the Minister do not amount to proof, because they are not made under a certain section of the Customs Act. The clause under consideration imposes all sorts of outrageous penalties. I say that it goes to its full limit when it provides that goods shall not leave Australia unless they bear a true trade description. The moment they bear a false trade description, the offender is punishable under clauses 11 and 12 of the Bill. I have no sympathy with the individual who wilfully applies a false trade description to his goods. I contend that he should be punished for so doing. But a man should not be punished for mere errors. I think that the Minister entirely misconceives the object of the clause, and I claim that my amendment will achieve its object quite as effectively as will all the drastic penal provisions in regard to forfeiture.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I can scarcely imagine that the Minister intends to make this clause as drastic as it is, seeing that it will apply to the exportation of all goods. The Minister knows that a farmer in his own constituency might secure a crop of wheat, one-third of which was of very fine quality, while another third, sown under the same conditions, and grown on the same farm, might be of only medium quality. The remaining third might be wholly inferior. Then, again, a lot of the wheat might be damaged by strippers. Does he mean to say that he should have power - as he would if the clause were passed as it stands - to prohibit the export of that wheat, and so inflict corresponding injury on a farmer.
– I am prepared to take all the risks.
– That is because the honorable gentleman does not understand the risks which exporters will run under this Bill. He ha’s really failed to grasp the scope of the measure.
– The honorable member is distinctly out of order in discussing the Bill as a whole, and the Minister’s appreciation of it.
– I was led to do so by the interjection which the Minister made. The effect of the clause may be to depreciate, to the extent of, perhaps, 3d. or 6d. per bushel, the whole of a farmer’s output of wheat. If it is not intended to exercise this power, why should we provide for it? The mere fact that it is given will have a tendency to depreciate the value of wheat and other produce, because only capitalists will be prepared to take the risk of having their exports forfeited. If a farmer determined to export his wheat through an agent, as many now do, the whole of his shipment might be forfeited, simply because of the failure of the agent, through an oversight, to apply to it an absolutely correct description. In his anxiety to deal with one or two unscrupulous men, the Minister is asking the Committee to pass a provision that will harass all the producers of Australia. Let me give another illustration of the point I wish to emphasize. We all know that the tastes of butter experts differ. That is shown by the awards made at various agricultural shows. And yet it is to be left to an inspector to say whether butter proposed to be exported is of the first or second grade. Is butter to be sent home condemned in advance? Because one class of butter will realize, say, is. per lb., and another only iod. per lb., are we to prohibit the exportation of the second grade? Goods may be absolutely forfeited because they are not up to a certain standard. A man who has had the misfortune to obtain a yield of inferior wheat, that may be worth only 2s. a bushel, whilst wheat of the first grade is worth 3s. 6d. a bushel, may have his output absolutely forfeited if he dares to seek tq export it. Does not the Minister recognise that, under the clause as it stands, men in his own electorate, who have often exported 30,000 and 40,000 bushels of wheat io one shipment, may be interfered with, and have their goods forfeited without any wrong-doing on their part?
– That is not likely to occur.
– But I hold that the Minister should not be given power to forfeit goods in such circumstances. The provision is a monstrous one. Although it is hardly likely to occur, it would nevertheless be open to the Minister administering this measure to absolutely levy toll upon exporters. If the Minister chose to go in for what is delicately described in America as “ graft,” he might, in the course of a few months - while Parliament was in recess - make himself independent, and choose to spend the remainder of his life in South Africa.
– The honorable and learned member does not seriously suggest that that might happen?
– Is not the honorable member aware that such incidents have occurred ? Does he imagine that no one would be prepared to accept a bribe - that all men are immaculate?
– The Bill has been introduced because every one is not immaculate.
– The Bill will create a class who will have to be bribed, because those who have business to transact under it will have to pay for peace, and in the long run it will be the producer who will be bled on every occasion. He is already handicapped by his distance from market, and in a thousand and one other ways, and the Minister now proposes to increase his difficulties, while objections to the proposal are treated as if they were puerile. No Minister who hari a proper understanding of his position would ask for the powers which are provided for in the Bill, and no Committee which understood what was due to the people whom it represented would dream of giving them. Under the Bill the Minister will be able to forfeit the goods of one farmer, while he allows the goods of another to pass out of the Commonwealth unchallenged. .
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I feel that I have ground of complaint against the honorable and learned member for Corinella, because of the action which he has taken in moving the amendment. It was distinctly understood between us, when I agreed to the amendment which he moved in clause 7, that the same words would be inserted in clause 10 ; but, now, although I have amended this clause because of the discussion which’ took place on it. originally, by striking out the words “ shall be.” andi inserting “may be detained by the collector, and may, by direction of the Minister, be seized,” the honorable and learned member has come down with this altogether different amendment. I suppose that there has been some consultation during the tea-hour in regard to the matter. I shall not accept the amendment. For the last three weeks honorable members have been talking on -the Bill continually, one relay relieving another.
– When speaking on the motion to recommit, I pointed out that a reason for not limiting the consideration of this clause to the amendment proposed by the Minister was that the object aimed at might be achieved by using different words.
– I should not have agreed to the amendment in clause 7 if it had not been for the understanding that the same words would be inserted in this clause. This is the way in which I am treated when I try to meet honorable members. If I had to take the Bill through Committee again, I would not accept any amendment, because when an amendment is accepted, other members of the Opposition come forward with shoals of amendments. I will not allow this improper manipulation of the Bill. It is about time that its discussion came to an end. So weary a debate on a measure of ten clauses is enough to try the patience of most men. The honorable and learned member for Corinella spoke of the possibility of exports being stopped up country in trains and forfeited, and prophesied all sorts of dire consequences from the provision in the Bill. But the statements which have been made to-night have bet,n founded on quite an imaginary set of regulations.
– Why are widerpowers needed in this Bill than are given in the Victorian or New Zealand Acts?-
– Those Acts do not deal with all the matters which will come under the Bill. The Queensland Act deals with dairy produce, and the Victorian Act mostly with meat and foods, while the New Zealand Act is mainly concerned with dairy produce, too.
– And with food.
– It does not, I think, deal with all kinds of food. It must be remembered that the individual exporters who will come under the Bill are very few.
– Nearly all the fruit that is exported is sent away by the growers.
– The honorable member has fruit on the brain. Nothing will be done under the Act when it comes into force to which he will object, though one or two of his constituents who have done more harm to the export trade than all the rest of the exporters of the island if they continue doing so will be dealt with.
– I challenge the honorable gentleman to name them. 4
– I will not name them, but I know them, and so does the honorable member’s colleague. The cases in which producers export directly are very few. In most instances exportation is carried on by companies which purchase from the producers, and by factories which manufacture for export. Do honorable members suppose that regulations will be framed which will in any way restrict exportation ?
– If the honorable member thinks that, he must hold the opinion that the officers of the Department do not understand their business. The regulations which will be framed will give every facility for exportation. I have explained what happened in connexion with the clause, and I think that I have yielded to the desires of honorable members to the fullest possible extent. Now honorable members seem to have banded themselves together with the idea of forcing upon me something which I cannot accept. I desire to carry this measure as far as the third reading stage this evening, and I trust that honorable members will adopt a reasonable attitude and enable progress to be made with the business before us. I propose to amend clause 13 by omitting certain words to which exception was taken, and substituting others which will simply provide for affixing to goods the prescribed trade descriptions. 1 had a conference to-day with one or two persons who are interested in the export trade, and told them what I intended to do with regard to the adoption of trade descriptions. So far as I could judge they were satisfied that the trade descriptions would be of such a character as would adapt themselves to the conditions of the trade to which they related, and prevent friction.
– But another Minister might take an entirely different course.
– I can only answer for myself. In spite of all honorable members may say, a great deal will have to be left to regulation and administration in connexion with a measure of this kind. The more stringent provisions of the Bill have been modified in the direction of making them permissive instead of arbitrary, and I do not think that I can make any further concessions to honorable members without detracting from the effectivenessof the measure.
– The length to which the debate upon this proposal has proceeded has been largely due to the action taken by the Minister. On Friday last the clause was allowed to pass through Committee only on the understanding that the Minister would look into the subject and afford honorable members ample opportunities for further debating it. No precedent can be found in any legislation for the action of the Minister in seeking power to confiscate goods intended for export. I challenge the Minister to produce any precedent for his proposal. He quoted at length from the Queensland and Victorian Acts, but had to admit that neither of them contained any provision for the forfeiture of goods bearing improper trade descriptions. The Minister then hinted that in New Zealand goods intended for export were forfeited if they did not comply with the regulations, but, as a matter of fact, the New Zealand Acts contain no such provision. The exportation of improperly branded goods is guarded against, and provision is made for imposing fines upon those who attempt to export such goods. Surely that is all that is sufficient. Not only does the Minister propose to fine the producer, but also to confiscate his goods. I trust that this measure will not be rushed through in the way the Minister desires, because I think that an opportunity should be given to the agricultural societies of Australia to enter their protests against the obstacles which it is proposed to place in the way of our export trade. The Minister told us that the produce export trade was being carried on entirely by large agents or corporations. No more incorrect statement was ever made in this Chamber. The number of individual exporters among our farmers and producers, who send their goods away without the intervention of any middlemen, is increasing year by year, and if the Minister is unaware of that fact, he is unfit to occupy the position he holds. The number of co-operative butter factories in Victoria is increasing yearly, and it is the policy of the State to foster these organizations of farmers for farmers, which control a large proportion of the export trade. Such exporters would, under the proposal of the Minister, be liable to have their property confiscated if they did not comply in some way or other with the regulations. Fruit-growers also are entering upon the export trade upon their own account to a greater extent every year. Some of the most enterprising of our producers, whom it should be our desire to encourage in every possible way, would be most seriously affected by the operations of the Bill. No more infamous proposal has been placed before this Committee. I hope that pressure from outside will be brought to bear on several honorable members who, unfortunately, are supporting this iniquitous provision, and that the Bill will be so modified as to rob it of its present potency for evil.
Mr. ISAACS (Indi- Attorney-General). - I am really surprised at the language used by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. The object of the clause is very plain. It is to prevent free-trade in deception. I desire to show why the provision, as suggested by the Minister, does not bear the infamous character that some honorable members seek to attach to it. The desire of the Government is that Australian productions shall possess a character for honesty and reliability. We know full well that in the majority of instances they already deserve that character, but we are also aware that in some instances - we trust comparatively few - that character is imperilled by carelessness–
– I wish to know, Mr. Chairman, whether you will permit the discussion to proceed on the lines now being pursued by the AttorneyGeneral. I have no objection to the course he is adopting, but I do not wish to be pulled up in the event of my following a similar procedure.
– The honorable member has no right to make a remark of that kind. So far as I can gather, the Attorney-General will be quite capable of connecting his remarks with the amendment before the Chair. Every other honorable member will have the same liberty that is accorded to him.
– Before we can decide whether a proposed amendment should be adopted, it is necessary for us to understand the meaning of the clause. I propose to explain the meaning of the clause, and, as far as I can, to indicate its probable effect. I shall also show why, in our opinion, the proposals of the Minister are better calculated to give effect to the intention of the clause than is the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. If we desire to preserve, and, in some cases, to create for Australian productions, a character for honesty and relia bility, we must protect the producers, who are putting on the market a good article subject to proper representations. The clause, in the amended form to which my honorable colleague has agreed, provides that a regulation may be made prescribing certain products and the trade descriptions to be affixed to such products. We all know that the object of the Minister will be, and that the effect of his regulations will be - seeing that his actions will be under the control of both Houses - to offer facilities to exporters, and not to place fetters upon our export trade. Therefore, when he frames his regulations we may be perfectly assured that they will be of the simplest character.
– The Minister said that he was going to make it very hot for some Tasmanian exporters.
– I hope that he will do so if they deserve it, and that he will, by such means, protect the vast majority of the exporters of that State. The clause provides that all goods prescribed in the regulations must bear the trade description that is required by the Minister. If it is found that goods are about to be exported without a proper and honest description upon them, the Minister can detain the goods, and, in the event of his being satisfied that the exporter has attempted knowingly to export produce under a false description, or has shown wilful carelessness, he may forfeit the goods. The amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella would have this effect. It would practically tell every exporter : “ You may, if you like, deliberately evade this law, and the worst that can happen is that, ifyou are found out, you will have to comply with it.”
– Not at all.
– That is absolutely correct. The sub-clause would read -
All such goods to which the prescribed trade description is not applied, which are exported or entered for export, or put on board any ship or boat for export, or brought to any wharf or place for export, may be detained by the collector, and may by the direction of the Minister be seized as contravening this section, and held until the prescribed trade description be applied, or security be given to the satisfaction of the ComptrollerGeneral, that the goods shall not be exported in contravention of the regulations.
That is to say, whether it is done deliberately, or whether it is the result of the grossest negligence, does not matter. Whilst most men will earnestly endeavour to comply with the law, we know that there will be others who will seek to take advantage of it. In effect, the amendment says to these few individuals, “ You may endeavour to evade the law if you choose. If the Customs authorities happen to detect you in so doing, the worst that can befall you is that you will be placed in the same position as the honest exporter.” That, I contend, would be offering a direct premium to deception.
– This clause exists for that purpose.
– My honorable friend knows that that is not a fair representation. It no more exists for that purpose than the provision for fining a man in the case of drunkenness exists for the purpose of gaining revenue. My honorable col league has already agreed to an amendment which provides that if a man can show that his attempted evasion of the law was not due to wilfulness or negligence the Minister shall allow his goods to be marked and exported.
– Provided that the Minister is “ satisfied.”
– Who else should’ be satisfied?
– Why not an impartial Court ?
– Honorable members must not believe that the Minister of Trade and Customs will be other than impartial.
– But we do believe it. What about the valuation of imported harvesters ?
– I thought that my honorable friends had sufficient confidence in their own arguments to induce them to listen to others. Do they seriously believe for one moment that the Minister of Trade and Customs entertains any feeling of antagonism to the producers? I know that they sometimes think that he is hostile to the importers. But in their wildest flights of imagination, do they believe that whoever may fill the office of Minister of Trade and Customs - no matter to what party he may belong - can possibly entertain any feeling of opposition to the producers of Australia ? I do say that thev must be very hard up for arguments if they think that there is any weight in the contention that the Minister will endeavour to penalize exporters. It will be the desire of every occupant of that office - irrespective of whether he belongs to a protectionist or to a free-trade Government - to put no obstacle in the way of our exporters. It will rather be his ambition to increase the volume of our exports, and all that he can ever hope to do is to protect those exporters who honestly mark their goods. We should not be true to our positions if we consented to place upon the statute-book a provision which would compel, by force of conscience, the honestlyinclined exporters to go to all the trouble of marking their goods, and which would saddle those who wish to run the gauntlet with no responsibility whatever, except that of having their goods marked in the event of their attempts to evade the law being discovered. With all” respect to those who support the amendment, I submit that its adoption would bring about a condition of things which would cause the Bill to become a subject for derision.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral name any dishonest exporters?
– I do not regard that question as one which is worthy of an answer.
– The honorable and learned gentleman has been indulging in vague generalities during the past quarter of an hour. Will he be good enough to give us some specific instances?
– Doubtless my honorable friend would say that there is no necessity for this Bill. I rose for the purpose of saying that this is not a clause to which the term “ confiscation “ can be truthfully applied. It is intended to protect the reputation of the producers of Australia, and I am sure that it will effect that object, and will not provide an open door for deception, such as would be afforded by the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). - We have just listened to a characteristic speech by the Attorney-General in defence of this clause. He commenced bv soaring into the high heavens like a rocket, and he concluded by coming down like its stick. He started by abusing members of the Opposition, anc ended with an obsequious appeal to them to assist him in passing this Bill. He told us that the object of this clause is to prevent free-trade in deception ; but his own speech was the best sample of that commodity we have yet seen. If this clause’s object is to .prohibit the export of goods which do not bear a proper trade description, I. contend that the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella will achieve that result. Its whole purpose is to insure that innocent mistakes on the part of an exporter who is not familiar with every letter of the regulations shall not be punished by the forfeiture of his goods. One would imagine from the furious tirade in which the AttorneyGeneral has indulged that the amendment was absolutely contrary to the spirit of the clause itself. That, however, is not the case. We know very well that the Minister has not considered this clause, or he would not have opposed the amendment.
– I have considered it.
– In what way does the amendment reflect upon the spirit of the clause? It is in strict accord with the clause’s own short title in the margin. The Minister has not attempted to refute any of the arguments advanced bv the honorable and learned member for Corinella. He has simply, stubbornly refused to accept the amendment. His remarks in. reference to throwing the Bill under the table-
– I never said a word about any such thing.
– The Minister made some statement which could be interpreted to mean that he had finished with the Bill. He said that he was sick of it.
– I said that I was tired of the talking of honorable members opposite.
– That is not what I understood him to say ; but, if so, who is to blame for that but the Minister himself, seeing that he has never been able to reply to any of ‘ the arguments adduced by members of the Opposition ? This clause provides that goods which are negligently described may be seized- by the Customs authorities. What constitutes “ negligence “ ? Under its provisions we fmd that the Minister is to be the supreme judge as to whether goods have been negligently described. Thus a prohibition may be imposed upon all goods at his sweet will. The honorable gentleman wishes us to believe that if he remains in power he will administer this Bill in a certain way. The appeals which he has thus made, by inference* to allow him to continue in office in order that its administration may be perfect in every particular, have been almost indecent. We are not ‘ concerned with what Minis ter may be in power. We ought only to deal with the letter of the law. I do not wish to conjure up any unhappy visions of the future, but it is quite possible that the Minister may not be in office very much longer. The AttorneyGeneral has declared that it is wrong to suggest that any Minister will deal unfairly with importers or exporters. At the same time we are told that exporters and importers need watching. If one party to a transaction requires to be watched, surely the other party needs attention. I believe that so far the public departments of the Commonwealth are above suspicion; but honorable members know, without any invidious references, that there are in Australia to-day public departments whose administration of various Acts has not been, in the public mind, absolutely above suspicion. I do not wish to reflect on the present administration of the Department, but does the Minister mean to say that we should afford loop-holes for maladministration, instead of seeking to so amend the clause that such a thing will be impossible? If honorable members agree that we ought not to allow loopholes for maladministration, they should support the amendment, which clearly lays it down that goods shall be impounded only where the regulations have been wilfully infringed. Surely that is not too great a concession for the Minister to make. I wish now to deal with another phase of the address de: livered this evening by the Minister of Trade and Customs. He told us that had he known that the Opposition would seek to secure the passing of further amendments designed to make this measure a workable one, he would not have accepted those which he has. That was an extraordinary statement to make. Surely the Minister does not accept an amendment unless he believes that it is designed in the best interests Of the measure. His attitude would seem to indicate that his desire is not so much to place this measure on the statute-book in a workable form as to obtain for himself the advertisement that he has been instrumental in passing another Bill. We should not lend ourselves to any attempt by the honorable gentleman to obtain a personal advertisement. Whatever his views may be as to any amendment that may be submitted, we should address ourselves to the amendment itself, and endeavour to ascertain whether its passing will facilitate the proper working of the Bill. The
Minister has told us that certain exporters in a neighbouring State will be singled out for special treatment as soon as the Bill has passed.
– What I said was that certain exporters, who had done serious injury to the export trade of Tasmania, would be dealt with if they continued their old practices.
– If the honorable gentleman assures me that he used the words “ if they continued” I must accept his assurance. But the Bill is not designed to cope with questions of history. I would suggest to the Minister that if this clause be amended so that it will be a good workable one, he should see that no man is singled out for special treatment because of past offences, respecting which he is not in a position to defend himself. I trust that the honorable gentleman will administer the Bill in that spirit. From what he said this evening, however, it might almost be surmised that he did not intend to do so. There is only one other point that I wish’ to make, and that is that I expect some serious answer to be given by the Ministry to the arguments that have been advanced by the Opposition. We have had a certain amount of declamation, but not one of the arguments addressed to the Committee by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and the honorable member for North Sydney, have been met from the Government side. We have a right to expect that the Minister, instead of relying on his majority, will at least attempt to reply to these contentions. If he thinks that it is not judicious to clearly explain the intentions of the Ministry, or feels his incapacity to do so, some other member of- the Government should come forward. I think the country will expect from the present Ministry a proper regard for the producing and exporting interests of the Commonwealth. If they have no regard for the producers and exporters, in whose interests have they introduced this measure? We were told, first of all, that it was in the interests of the consumers of Australia. We have already proved that it is not. Is it because this clause is designed, say in the interests of the consumers of China, that provisions embracing the confiscation of export goods for technical faults must necessarily be included in it ? I think some definite answer is clue from the Ministry before Ave are asked to divide.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio). - I regret that the Minister of Trade and Customs should have suggested that much of the discussion that has taken place to-day has been indulged in solely from a desire to delay the passing of the Bill. I have sat here da,y after day for the last three weeks, sometimes merely to keep a quorum, but never to take part in the debate from a desire to waste time, and I must say that the arguments that have been advanced this afternoon in connexion with this Bill have certainly been reasonable and honest. I regret that the Minister considers that as soon as he declares that he does not like a certain amendment, and will not accept it, it is the duty of the Committee to reject it. When clause 10 was under consideration last week, I proposed to offer some objections to it, but as the Minister promised that it would be recommitted, I consented to defer my remarks. I was, therefore, surprised to find that the clause was to be so recommitted that no discussion could really take place upon it. I am glad that the clause was finally recommitted without conditions. My desire is to prevent the clause from being unduly restrictive, and any amendment which has that object in view will have my support. I am here as a protectionist, and as one who desires both the manufactures and products of Australia to be exported. It would be foolish to impose restrictions that might destroy the very trade that Ave all profess a desire to foster. It must be recognised that
Ave can only hope to pay the interest on our loans by .means of our exports, and consequently it should be our desire to increase our export trade to the greatest possible extent. I should be very sorry to see any restriction of the trade. I heard only a day or tA’o ago that an attempt Avas about to be made for the first time to export Australian-made flannels. But if the amendment, of which the honorable member for Yarra has given notice, be passed, all apparel will come under the operation of clauses 8 and 10. What chance will our exporters “of flannel have to compete against the exports of Germany. England, and America if they have to stamp the words “woollen and cotton” on their goods, or state what percentage of cotton they contain ?
– Order ! That question is not before the Chair.
– My desire is that Australian flannels and woollens shall be ex- ported without a trade description. If the clause be passed as it stands, however, it will be impossible to make such exports. The exporters of Australia would not feel safe if it were left to the Minister to say at his own sweet will whether or not their goods should be forfeited merely because of a mistake in a trade description. According to the ordinary dictionary interpretation of the word, “flannel” means “pure wool” ; but in view of the fact that in Australia and everywhere else a certain quantity of cotton must be used in woollen manufactures, I think we shall incur a risk in passing this clause. If I had the power I should certainly water down the clause so that it would apply only slightly to exports of the kind to which I have referred, because I think that the provisions of clauses 11 and 12 are sufficient to meet the position. The AttorneyGeneral adopts the view that no Minister, whether protectionist or free-trader, would do anything to injure Australian exports. I venture to say that the honorable and learned gentleman has not read the evidence of the Tariff Commission. A VicePresident of the Free-trade League of Victoria went before that body - not to give evidence in regard to imports, but to seek to damage Australian flannels and woollens by showing that they contain a large proportion of cotton. Judging by his actions, if that gentleman - who has twice sought election to this House - were Minister of Trade and Customs, he would consider it his duty to put this or any other iniquitous provision into operation to damage our exports. I object to the clause, as it will enable the Minister of the day to play tricks with the trade. The Minister has given no really good reason for accepting the amendment, and therefore we shall have to vote against him. M. de Witte, speaking of the Japanese plenipotentiaries, said that one might as well talk to graven images as talk to them, and we might say the same of the Minister. He has no right to treat all amendments as adverse. Many of us wish to see a reasonable Bill passed into law, but do not wish to vote for a measure which will do harm to our exporting; trade. What Australia should strive to do above all things is to increase her export trade, so that she may ultimately become a lender instead of a borrower. I shall vote for any amendment which will modify the clause.
Mr. GLYNN (Angas).- The AttorneyGeneral seems to fear that if the amend- ment bs carried men will send away goods to which proper descriptions have not been applied, on the off-chance that they will not be discovered, because, if discovered, all that will happen will be that the goods will be detained, and an opportunity given to apply to them the prescribed trade description. But goods which it is attempted thus to send away will, under sub-clause r of clause 10, be “prohibited exports,” and section in of the Customs Act of 1901, with which the Bill is to be incorporated, declares that no prohibited export shall be exported.
– Prohibited within the meaning of the Customs Act. The honorable and learned member should read the next section.
– Section 229 declares that certain goods shall be forfeited to the King, and included among these goods are all prohibited exports put on any ship or boat for export, or brought to any wharf or place for the purpose of export. It is quite open to argument, therefore, that if goods are brought to a wharf without having a proper trade description applied to them, they will be prohibited exports, and liable to forfeiture, even though an opportunity may afterwards be afforded for ap plying the prescribed trade description. We know, too, that a trade description includes a Customs entry, and there is no limitation in the Bill as to what such entries are to cover. By the regulations, entries may be made to cover all that trade descriptions are required to specify. The suggested limitation has not been put into the Bill.
– It was promised.
– Goods must be entered for export, and the regulations may prescribe that all the particulars of a trade description must be given in the entry, and then the penalties set forth in section 234 of the Customs Act, which deals with false statements on entries, and statements likely to mislead, will take effect. Under the Act a penalty of .£100 may be inflicted.
– If the honorable and learned member’s contention is right, there is nothing in the amendment, because these goods will be forfeitable in any event.
– Yes; but I am replying to the objection that the amendment, if adopted, will lead to an evasion of the Bill, because persons will try to export goods without applying to them the prescribed trade descriptions, knowing that if they are detected the consequences will not be serious. As a matter of fact, they will be serious, because the exporters will be liable to the forfeiture of their goods and to other penalties. Then clause 6 - the penalty! for non-compliance with” which is £20 - requires that notice must be given before goods intended for -export are brought to the wharf. The amendment does not dispense with the giving of such, notice, and, as soon as the notice is given, the inspection can take place. Finally, there is the check imposed by the Customs entry.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I have already pointed out ito the Minister that there is no valid reason why he should not accept the amendment. I would ask him, in the first place, why so much care should be taken to prevent people living on the other side of the world from getting Australian mutton and lamb of anything but a certain quality, while our own people are allowed to buy meat of much poorer quality, so long as the health authorities do not condemn it as unfit for human consumption? With regard to the proposed grading, I would ask how the Minister would grade merino and crossbred mutton of various kinds ? ‘ Many “people in Australia prefer merino to other mutton; but the Customs inspector might say, “ I will not allow merino mutton to be exported as first class. Only crossbred mutton shall be exported as of that quality.” Or the inspector might allow only merino to be branded as first class. What is happening now is that our exporters are using all means to ascertain exactly what the people in the English market desire, and are taking pains to supply their wants. Hitherto the Minister has not shown such a tender regard for the foreigner, but now he appears to think the foreigner the only person worthy of consideration.
– Grading is dealt with in a subsequent clause.
– I am pointing out that, if certain trade descriptions are not applied to various kinds of goods, they will be liable to forfeiture, and I wish to know how the grading is to be done? The Minister cannot answer my questions, and yet he expressed his willingness to draw up regulations dealing with exportation, so drastic in their nature that any producer infringing them may have his goods forfeited. A farmer sending 500 lambs from the Hume electorate for export must allow them to be labelled exactly as the inspector thinks fit, so that our exportations are to be brought down to one monotonous level. I do not” know why the Minister should be given this power. It would be sufficient for the Government to reserve the right to place its brand only on such goods as met with the approval of its officers, leaving the exporters of other goods to do as they please with them, but preventing the application of false descriptions. One member of this Committee lost some thousands of pounds because he and others decided wrongly as to - the stage at which apples should be packed and sent away to reach the home market in the best condition. At the present time lemons are being exported from Sydney, and I have sent some from my own orchard. The fruit is cut, instead of being plucked, from the trees, about six weeks before it is ripe, and anyone who did not understand the business would say that it was then unfit for export. It is unfit for consumption at that time, but just at the proper stage for export. Now the exportation of all fruit will be affected bv the Bill. An army of officials will be required to carry out its provisions, and the expense involved in this connexion will eventually have to be borne by the producers. Furthermore, every obstacle placed in the way of the exporter will lessen the amount returnable to the farmer for his produce. It is monstrous that the Minister, who represents a country electorate, should bring forward a measure which is utterlyopposed to the best interests of the farmers of the Commonwealth. It is proposed to place the producers at the mercy of a number of officials, who will have their own ideas with regard to the quality of the produce that should be approved for export. We know very well that the quality of most products varies according to the district and the seasons in which they ‘are grown, and all sorts of diversities of opinion may arise as to what should be .classed as of first or second quality. Is it reasonable that a farmer in one district who honest] y marks his produce as of first quality should have his goods forfeited, because they do not come up to the higher standard prevailing in some other district? It would be grossly unfair to interfere with our producers in that way. The less power we place in the hands of the Minister the better. There cannot be any consistency in the administration of a measure such as this by succeeding Ministers. The regulations laid down by one Minister may be entirely altered by his successor, and goods similar to those passed for export one day may be rejected the next day, or vice versa. As a matter of fact, the whole of our export trade will be subject to the exercise of Ministerial caprice. It is absurd to lay down conditions which will render liable to forfeiture goods of average quality which would be permitted to pass into local consumption. No goods intended for export should be forfeited, unless they are absolutely unfit - for human consumption. In the harvester case, two Ministers adopted entirely different views, and we have also had evidence that Government officials are disposed to fall in with the wishes of the Minister for the time being, irrespective of consistency in their own administration. Consequently there will, from time to time, be unconscious variations on the part of officers in the direction of what they believe to be the views held by the Minister. I shall certainly support the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I was no party to the agreement which the Minister alleges was entered into with him by some honorable members. I should never have agreed to the clause in its present form. Why should a man, having second quality goods, be debarred from securing the best price obtainable for them in foreign markets? Yet, under the proposal of the Minister, he would have power to stop all such exports, and to practically throw upon the local market all the inferior produce, reserving for export only the very best procurable. Honorable members, who have claimed to be desirous of encouraging our primary industries, and of protecting our producers, are now displaying a very delicate regard for the tastes and sensibilities of the foreigner, upon whom they have so frequently heaped the most violent abuse. I trust that honorable members will insist upon the modification of the monstrously unfair proposal of the Minister.
– The honorable and learned member for Angas spoke of ‘the deterring influence which such a clause as this might exercise upon our exporting trade. I- wish to relate to the Minister a specific instance which I think will illustrate the risk that mav be incurred in this connexion. Upon one occasion, a member of the Victorian Parliament appealed to me to assist the then Minister of
Lands, Mr. Taverner, to engage in an experiment in the export of lambs from this State. He intimated that if I would send down a truck-load- of 120 lambs to be frozen at the Government works for export to the old country, he would do. likewise. I agreed ‘to his suggestion, and duly forwarded the lambs. Later on, I met Mr. Taverner in the street, and he expressed regret that they were not fit for export. He added that the Government expert had told him that they were old ewes; I mention this matter to show how an exporter may be placed at the mercy of an ignorant “ expert.” I laughed at Mr. Taverner’s remarks, and assured him that the consignment in question was certainly not made up of old ewes. I further stated that I had no desire to interfere with his experiments in any way, and asked him what action I had better take under the circumstances. He advised me to endeavour to sell the lambs in Melbourne. At that time their carcasses were in the freezing works. I endeavoured to get rid of them, but was unable to do so. Finally, I went to the Minister, and informed him of my dilemma”. He. stated that it was impossible to put the Government brand upon those lambs, and I replied, “Very well; send them to England without the Government mark.” He did so, and about three months later, when the returns came to hand, it was found that my consignment which had been rejected by the Government, and which had been condemned by the Government expert as old ewes, had realized a higher’ price than the lambs sent Home with the Government brand upon them.
– If this Bill had been law at the time, the honorable member might have got into gaol.
– I would not consent to export stock which required to be subjected to the decision of any Government expert who might be appointed. No man engaged in the export trade will wittingly ruin that trade by exporting bad produce.
– They do it.
– Can the Minister cite one single instance in support of his statement ?
– I have seen meat sent from Sydney which it was a disgrace to put on board ship.
– Meat may be shipped in rather a low condition, but it does not necessarily follow that it is unwholesome.
– The cargo to which I refer consisted of “ lanterns.”
– If the operation of the Bill were confined to preventing the export of diseased meat I should be found supporting it. But many lambs are exported which are called “ fox-coloured,” and which, though not of the best quality, form perfectly wholesome food. I regard this clause as a most dangerous innovation. It is part of my business to grow lambs for export, so that I know what I am speaking about. If a season turns out worse than is anticipated, notwithstanding that contracts, for the supply of lambs have been entered into, the growers often say to the purchasers, “ We do not wish you to take produce from us which will not be profitable to you.” We are now building up a trade in the export of Iambs which is enhancing the value of the lands in our northern district by pounds per acre. If the people who purchase from us are to have the produce subjected to the decision of a Government expert of the character I have indicated, their trade will be very seriously affected. The shipments of lambs to which I first alluded were made by the same vessel, and the carcasses were consigned to the same firm, and sold upon the same day. Surely a specific instance of that kind is worth any numberof theories. That incident conclusively proves that the judgment of the inspector who refused to allow those lambs to be exported with the Government brand upon them was entirely at fault. Are our exporters to take the chance of having an absolute prohibition imposed upon their goods at the caprice of officers who do not understand their business? I repeat that I can only regard the clause as a most dangerous one to our export trade.
– The Attorney-General commenced his address by using a most unworthy argument. He said that this clause was intended to prevent free-trade and deception. I have always understood that it was the free-trade importer who is guilty of deception. The honorable and learned gentleman, however, has referred to the exporters of Australia as deceivers although the great bulk of them belong to his own. fiscal cult, in that they are protectionists. But I would point out that this amendment emanates, not from the free-trade section of the House, but from the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who is as strong and firm a protectionist as is the Attorney-General himself, and whose intellect is quite as clear as is that of the honorable gentleman. In this matter I support the honorable and learned member for Corinella. It is outrageous that we should allow a man’s goods to be forfeited simply because he has fallen into an error. When the Government oppose a reasonable amendment of this kind, we cannot help thinking that they must have some ulterior object in view. Surely a provision that goods coming under this clause shall be retained only until they are correctly described, or security is given that that will be done, should be sufficient. Do honorable members mean to say that goods should be forfeited simply because a proper trade description has been negligently omitted?
– Or deliberately.
– Nothing is said about trade descriptions that are deliberately omitted.
– But they would be covered by the amendment.
– Clauses 11 and 12 deal with deliberate attempts to deceive.
– They deal with” a different matter altogether.
– Clause 10 simply deals with goods that do not bear the prescribed trade mark. I say at once that - to paraphrase the words of the AttorneyGeneral - we should have to forfeit the goods of the protectionist deceiver–
– The honorable member has entirely misquoted me. I spoke, not of free-trade “and” deception, but of freetrade “in” deception.
– In doing so the honorable and learned gentleman levelled against the protectionists of Australia the charge that they were prone to free-trade in deception. All that we ask is that goods shall not be forfeited under this clause simply because, owing to negligence or an innocent mistake, they do not bear a correct trade description. TheAttorneyGeneral says that the desire is to take care that only sound goods are exported. He must know; however, that the Bill will not have that effect - that any goods may be exported so long as they bear a correct trade description. Reference has been made to a statement by the Government expert of New Zealand that a local measure dealing with these matters has had a good effect on the export trade of that Colony.
As a matter of fact, however, the inspection carried on under that Act takes place to a large extent in the factories, whereas under this Bill goods will be inspected only when they reach the wharfs. Even then nothing but a superficial examination is likely to be made. It will be impossible for the officers of the Commonwealth to inspect goods in factories unless the persons concerned permit them to do so. If butter be sent down for ‘shipment, will every box be opened on the wharfs in order that its quality may be Jested, or will the inspectors simply determine the question by a glance at the boxes and thereupon proceed to brand them? I hold that the States themselves can carry out this work far better than the Commonwealth could hope to do. If we agree to the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, we shall go as far as we ought to go. I do not wish to labour the question. I have opposed the Bill from the first, and shall continue to do so. All that we need to do is to compel an exporter to place his own name or that of his factory on his produce. We have quite enough to do in looking after our own people, and we should let those of other countries take care of themselves. If that course be taken, every exporter will find his own level in the markets of the world. The butter of New South Wales and Victoria, although not graded compulsorily, stands as high in the estimation of buyers in the old world as does that of any other country. It is true, as has been said, that New Zealand butter at times realizes higher prices : but in the months of .September, October, and November, that exported from Victoria and New South Wales is at the top of the list. It is very much a question of seasons. I trust that the Minister will accept the amendment, and that the Attorney-General will not push his ideas in regard to free-trade and deception to an extreme. I do not wish to discuss the question, because I have very strong opinions about the political cult to which he belongs. I shall do all that I can to prevent the passing of the clause as it stands.
– I listened with interest to the explanation made by the Attorney-General, but would remind the Committee that he has altogether overlooked one of the strong points that several members of the Opposition have sought this evening to emphasize. It seemed to the honorable and learned gentleman a small matter that a shipment of fruit should be detained, pending the decision of the Minister as to whether it had been dealt with in accordance not with the Act itself, but with regulations framed under it. I have pointed out again and again, however, that the export trade in fruit would practically be destroyed if consignments had to be detained in that way, until the opinion of the Minister - who might be living in a distant State - could be obtained. I am conceding the point that the regulations will be_ framed with the desire to deal fairly with the trade, but the Attorney-General made a mistake when he pointed out that if the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella were carried’, a man .would be at liberty to wilfully place a false description on goods without fear of punishment. 1
– I did not say that. What I said was not that he might put a false trade description on goods, but that he might deliberately omit to put a prescribed trade description on them.
– If a man wilfully omits to describe His goods, he will be liable to a fine of £100 under clause n.
– That is a different matter altogether.
– My point is that if a man were guilty of wilful deception in connexion with any shipment, he might be fined .£100, whereas, if a man made an honest mistake, the penalty imposed under this clause might be ten times heavier.
– That is expressly guarded against by the amendment which the Minister has moved.
– The amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella is in the direction of making the penalty as light as possible in the case of an honest mistake. I do not think that any honorable member has attempted to water down the drastic provisions of the Bill in respect of those who wilfully seek to export goods under a false name. But the Minister of Trade and Customs is laboring under a mistake if he imagines that the export trade is carried on for the most part by large companies. It has been said that I have fruit on the brain. I confess that I have dealt with the objectionable features of the Bill from the stand-point of the fruit-growers, but that is because I am familiar with the trade. I am convinced that if the clause be passed as it stands, the export trade in fruit will be ruined unless the Bill is to be practically inoperative. I would remind the Attorney-General that the London market for Australian fruit is practically limited to a few weeks, and that therefore the detention of a shipment pending the settlement of a dispute might be a very serious matter. Every suggestion made by the Opposition has been advanced with a desire to protect the consumers and producers of the Commonwealth. I have been surprised and shocked to find how little sympathy the great bulk of honorable members have for our primary producers. Surely the Minister will have ample power to carry the provisions of the Bill into effect, even if the amendment is agreed to. He will have power to detain goods, and to practically throw the onus of proof on to men living miles away in the country, who will have to take long journeys up to the capital to satisfy him that a mistakehas been made. The Bill gives the Minister power to frame regulations which will greatly hinder our export trade. He has asked, “ Do you think that I will make regulations which will injure exportation?” But we are legislating, not for this Minister, but for all future Ministers. The trade description that may be required to be applied to goods is not the true description which some of us sought to have applied, but a description to be prescribed by the regulations, which may be altered from time to time. It is because I believe that the Bill, if passed as it stands, will do serious injury to one of our most promising primary industries that I have taken up this position. If the measure is passed as it stands it will either have to be a dead letter, so far as the exportation of fruit is concerned, or the fruit exporting industry will be ruined. The Minister declared that he wants to get at two or three of my constituents.
– What I wished to convey was that if they continued in what they had done, they would be dealt with.
– No industry in Australia has done more for itself, and has had less from the Government, than the fruit-exporting industry. It has not been assisted by bonuses, but has opened up markets for itself and worked out its own salvation, until now it will bear comparison with any industry in Australia.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs and the
Attorney-General should take a reasonable view of the amendment. If they will not accept it, it must be because they wish to hamper the export trade of Australia, and to hinder 111 particular the small producer, who is the man requiring consideration in this matter. If the amendment is not agreed to, the small producers and the small butter factories, instead of being able to export directly, as many of them do, through the banks, will have to employ agents. The clause, as it stands, forces business into the hands of agents. The honorable member for Grampians has explained what happens in connexion with the grading of lambs for the English market, and I will give a similar example in reference to the export of butter. The Western District butter is generally considered to be of first grade, and that from Gippsland of second grade; but on one occasion last season, when Western District butter was shipped as first quality creamery butter,” and Gippsland butter was shipped without any such description, the two consignments on arrival in London obtained the same price, because the Gippsland butter had improved so much on the voyage. In that instance the grading here was of no advantage at all to the Western District consignment. If the restrictions in the Bill are insisted on by the Minister, small producers andsmall factories will be prevented from shipping their produce Home, and will have to sell locally to middlemen, which means that they will have to give big concessions, instead of getting the best prices offering in the London market. The practical effect of the measure will be to help the middlemen, and to hamper the producer. Even if the amendment is passed, theMinister will have power under clauses 11 and 12 to punish attempts to export under a false description. But why should the goods of a small producer who negligently omits to place the prescribed description on them, or makes some other slight mistake, be forfeited? We know that the small producers and small factories work in a haphazard way, and do not make it their business to read every Act of Parliament ; but why should slight neglect on their part be so severely punished ? We shouldassist our primary producers as much as possible, as the rulers of other countries assist their primary producers. The Minister is acting unwisely, in the interests of Australia, of his constituents, and of the Government, and so is the Attorney General. Both Ministers represent constituencies populated mainly by primary producers. If the amendment is not accepted, it will go forth to the primary producers of Australia that the Ministry are not disposed to assist them. The Labour members, too, are acting unwisely in assisting the Government to carry a clause which will force business into the hands of the middleman and the big exporter. The small co-operative butter and cheese factories, of which there are a great many in the Western District, and in parts of Gippsland, wish to be placed in the most favorable position for getting rid of their produce; but the measure as it stands will hamper them in every direction. I urge the Ministry and the Labour Party to assist these people, instead of throwing every obstruction in their way.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- There is one more point which I should like to bring under the attention of the Minister. In a conversation which I had with a buyer for the Rochedale Proprietary Company, which is probably the greatest co-operative company in the world, he informed me that he did not want lambs of what we call prime quality, as his people did not care for carcasses with too much fat on them. I agree with him in the matter, though most exporters and Government inspectors would certainly declare that lambs to be of first quality must have an inch of fat across the loins, and the Bill would give the Government power to prevent the export of carcasses which are not of that quality. Does the Minister think it right to take power to prevent the exportation of produce of which the buyer has approved, merely because the Government inspector holds other views on the question of quality ?
Questibn - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I move -
That, after the word “ may,” line 8, the following words be inserted : - “ in any case, and if in his opinion the contravention has not occurred knowingly shall.”
That is the same amendment that was inserted in clause 7, save that the words relating to negligence do not occur. I consider that forfeiture should not be the possible result of negligence, but only of the very worst of knowing non-compliance. I do not propose to discuss the amendment, but I can hardly believe that this Committee will declare that Australian exporters shall be liable to have their goods forfeited because of negligence.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I intend to carry out my part of the bargain, and I extremely regret that the arrangement I made with the honorable and learned member has been systematically broken.
That the amendment be amended by the insertion of the word” either “ after the word “ occurred.”
My intention is to afterwards insert, after the word “knowingly,” the words “or negligently.”
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I think that the Minister might reasonably accept the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Exporters should not be penalized for mere negligence. If the persons who had to work under this Bill were all lawyers, or possessed of highly-trained minds, we might adopt the strictest wording ; but when we consider that our farmers and producers are not accustomed to construing Acts of Parliament, and that in many cases their perfectly honest acts may be considered by the experts in the Customs Department as involving negligence, we should be careful not to expose them to the risks of heavy penalties. This is not a question of preventing fraud upon the revenue, and we should not treat our producers as if they were all criminals in embryo. The Customs officials have been trained to detect fraud, and they will probably imagine that a fraudulent intent has prompted many really innocent acts. It is amazing that those honorable members who most loudly proclaim that they desire to encourage and assist our producers are now assisting the Minister to pass provisions which will have a most detrimental effect upon our export trade.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - I merely wish to point out the very ridiculous position at which we have arrived. Under this provision, whilst goods which bear no Trade description whatever, or to which a trade description different from that prescribed by, the Minister has been applied, may be forfeited if the error has been wilfully or negligently committed, it is only when a false description has been knowingly attached to goods that their forfeiture is compulsory.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I should like to ask the Attorney-General what case can possibly arise which will not be covered by the term “ negligently.”
Question - That the amendment be amended by the insertionof the word “either” - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment of the amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the amendment be amended by the insertion of the words “ or negligently “ after the word “ knowingly.”
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I for one desire to enter my protest against a clause of this kind, which for many years will affect the export trade of Australia, being passed. I wish it to be distinctly understood that I car.not agree with it, and that if a division were taken I should vote against it.
– I also desire briefly, but as emphatically as possible, to enter my protest against the passing of this clause.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- -I have already made many protests against the passing of the Bill, and now desire to enter my emphatic protest against this outrageous clause. Those who imagine that it will assist the producers can have no true idea of its scope and intention. The day will come when the producers will deal very decisively with those who have so far neglected their interests as to assist in. passing such a measure as this.
– I rise to enter my emphatic protest against the action of honorable members of the Opposition, who have wasted so much time in opposing a provision designed to serve the best interests of the producers of Australia. The desire of the Government is to raise the reputation of our products in the old world, and to open up new markets for them. I protest against the opposition that has been shown to a clause that must be of value to the consumers of various imports.
Mr. KELLY (Went worth). - I also desire to enter my emphatic protest against the honorable member for Gwydir rising from the Opposition benches to address himself to this question. We are a small but’ a select body, and I object to the honorable member speaking from our side of the House.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang).- I wish to protest against the criticism of the honorable member for Gwydir. It was apparent that he did not know what provision was under discussion, because he referred to a matter that is entirely foreign to the clause. I trust that the Minister will not proceed with it.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa).- I agree with the honorable member for Lang that the honorable member for Gwydir quite misapprehended the question before the Chair. In. common with other members of the Opposition, I enter my protest against this clause.
– I wish to enter a protest against the unwarrantable statement that the honorable member for Gwydir is not familiar with the provisions of this clause. As a matter of fact, I have discussed it with him, and know that he is thoroughly cognizant not only of its purport, but of what has been done in the direction of amending it.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- The honorable member for Gwydir spoke of imports.
– The opinion of the honorable member for Gwydir is not before the Chair.
– I have only to say that when honorable members attempt to take to task those who have been honestly endeavouring to improve the Bill, they should know what we have been discussing. When an honorable member suggests that the clause now under consideration has any connexion with imports, it must be seen at once that he does not know what is really before the Chair. I was therefore justified in saying that the honorable member for Gwydir did not understand the purport of the clause.
Mr. WILSON (Corangamite). - I understand that it is not the intention of the Opposition to call for a division. In these circumstances I think it my duty, as a representative of a very large section of the producers of Victoria, - to enter my emphatic protest against this iniquitous clause.
Question - That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Any goods intended for export which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act may in manner prescribed be marked with any word, figure, or mark for the purpose of indicating the quality, class, or grade of the goods.
– I move -
That the words “any word, figure, or mark for the purpose of indicating the quality, class, or grade of the goods,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “the prescribed trade description.”
If the amendment is agreed to, the clause will read -
Any goods intended for export, which have been inspected, in pursuance of this Act, may, in manner prescribed, be marked with the prescribed trade description.
I propose in this amendment to meet the fears of a number of speakers the other night, and particularly because it has been explained to me that great care must be taken to provide against interference with trade arrangements’ with eastern countries. Under the clause, as I propose to amend it, the Minister will have all necessary power, and perhaps a little more discretion than he would have under the clause as it stands. To-day I met some persons connected with the Eastern trade, and told them that it was my intention, when the Bill became law, to invite the leading merchants connected with that trade to recommend to the Department a proper and effective trade description.
– Will this be done only in regard to the Eastern trade ?
– No; in regard to all trades. I mention the Eastern trade as an example, because it was referred to in the debate the other night. I shall endeavour to get the representatives of reputable firms to advise the Department as to the easiest trade descriptions which can be prescribed, so that there may be no trouble or fricion in carrying out the provisions of the measure.
Amendment agreed to.
– I wish to know what powers the clause as amended will confer, in addition to the powers given by clauses 10 and 12? Clause 10 allows the Minister to prevent exports from leaving the country unless they bear a certain prescribed trade description, and clause 12 says that goods bearing a false trade description shall not be exported. I do not see the contingency for which clause 13 is intended to provide.
– This clause gives power to the Department to mark packages after they have been inspected, and before exportation. It is to provide for exceptional cases. Its provisions may never be used, but it is desirable to have them, in case they may be needed.
– The Department can prevent goods from leaving the country unless a true trade description is applied to them, and it does not matter who applies it, so long as it is applied. The Minister has told us that he will prescribe “trade descriptions,” which will conform more or less to honest trade usages. In the Eastern trade, the difficulty is in marking the individual packages that go out. It is not in regard to the goods themselves, but the packages containing them, that the markets of that trade are most concerned. I have no doubt that the present Minister will exercise, as he has promised to do, the discretionary power conferred upon him, and that he will differentiate between goods sent to the East and the same class of goods intended for export to Europe; but we have no assurance that his successor will adopt the same practice, and I am rather apprehensive that the regulations may be applied with prejudicial results. It seems to me that the clause which gives the Department the power to apply its own mark will be useless, because the Minister already has the power to prevent goods from being exported unless they bear the mark prescribed by the regulations, and it really does not matter whether the goods are marked by the departmental authorities or by the intending exporters. Therefore, the clause might very well be excised.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) pro posed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 13A. Sections seven and ten of this Act shall not apply to any goods other than -
articles used for food or drink by man, or used in the manufacture or preparation of articles used for food or drink by man ; or
medicines or medicinal preparations for internal or external use ; or
– I desire to ask the Minister to agree to the addition to the clause of a new paragraph relating to apparel, including boots or shoes, and the materials from which such apparel is manufactured. It is not necessary for me to add to the observations of the honorable member for Darling and others, who have emphasized the necessity for exercising some control over imports of the class referred to. Whilst I have been anxious that the Bill should become law, I have recognised that its provisions are not so comprehensive as could be desired, since we in this Parliament cannot legislate for home production and home trade-and I regret that we cannot. I feel sure that the States Governments will tell us that unless we prohibit the importation of shoddy articles of apparel and materials for the manufacture of such goods, it will be useless for them to attempt to prevent fraudulent practices on the part of local manufacturers.
– We are not prohibiting them.
– I shall surely have the assistance of the honorable member, who, so far as I could understand him does not object to it so long as it is useless. I have listened to him for hours, but I admit that I have not been able to obtain much enlightenment.
– That is not my fault.
– No, it is the honorable member’s misfortune that he is not able to convey an intelligible meaning to those who listen to him. I trust that the Minister will accept the amendment. I move -
That the following new paragraph be added : - ” (d) Apparel (including boots and shoes) and the materials from which such apparel is manufactured.”
– If the honorable member for Yarra could, by means of this amendment, prohibit the importation of undesirable articles, it might be a good thing to agree to it. But he must know that it can have no such effect. If he has any common sense, he will be aware that any goods that have a proper trade mark upon them can be imported, no matter how inferior they may be. That affords no protection to the public. There are many things the importation of which ought to be prohibited, but this Bill does not prohibit them.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - The words that the honorable member for Yarra proposes to add to the clause will make it rather extensive in its effect, but even in that form it will not by a long way go to the extent the Bill, as first drafted, did. The first draft of the Bill went to the extent of dealing with leather and textiles, and no end of other articles. When I was in Sydney the other day, I made inquiries at the Customs as to whether they knew of shoddy or other useless articles being sold for woollens, or as being what they were not. I have a report from the departmental expert in Sydney to the effect that there are such cases. He refers, for instance, to a quantity of socks that were brought in, purporting to be woollens, and sold as woollens. But when they were examined, it was found that they were nothing but an inferior cotton on to which woollen dust had been blown, and afterwards ironed in. The wool, as a matter of fact, would not last the first washing. I have seen other articles that were equally deceptive. The amendment can do no harm, and certainly does not go to anything like the extent that the clause did as first drafted. Under the circumstances I shall accept it,
. The amendment of the honorable member for Yarra really carries the Bill much further than the Minister gave us to understand was intended. Most honorable members on this side of the House are agreed that it is a good’ thing that articles used for food or drink should be included in the Bill. But the inclusion of the word “ apparel “ opens up a very wide question, and carries the Bill a good deal further than it ought to go. The amendment ought not to be accepted.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). - I . am absolutely dumbfounded that this amendment should have been accepted by the Minister. He started by saying that the Bill was intended to embrace absolutely all phases of commercial enterprise. He was then approached by the Chambers of Commerce, and in answer to the views put forward by their deputation he stated definitely that he would limit the Bill to foodstuffs and medicines. In order to show, I suppose, how loyally he could adhere to his word of honour, he then intimated that he would submit an amendment. At the time he forecasted the clause which he has now submitted, he informed the House that although he was acting in accordance with his definite promise to the deputation, it was at perfect liberty to en large the scope of the Bill if it so desired. Consequently, although the honorable gentleman proposed the amendment, he was preparing, perhaps, even at that time, to prove false to the pledge which he had given. Now, we find that he is perfectly willing to change his attitude, to go back upon his promise, and to tamely accept any proposal which emanates from the Labour Corner. Surely that is a most extraordinary state of affairs. Is a Minister of the Crown to be regarded as a man whose morality is upon a plane apart from that of the average individual ?
– The honorable member for Darling notified his intention to submit this amendment a fortnight ago.
– That was after the Minister had made the promise to which I refer,
– It seems as if it were a few years ago.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Bland is the type of man who would make a promise to-day, and break it a fortnight hence. I say that the country will agree that the Minister has violated his pledge by tacitly accepting the amendment. This Bill does not protect the consumers of Australia against the importation of inferior goods. It merely provides that goods shall not be imported unless a true trade description be attached to them. What will happen under its operation ? It is true that toots made of shoddy may not be imported, but the shoddy itself will be introduced in the form of piecegoods, and will afterwards be manufactured into boots.
– The importation of shoddy can be prohibited under the Customs Act.
– I recognise from the seriousness of that interjection that it is futile to attempt to change the opinion of honorable members opposite. Time after time, the weight of argument has been against the Minister, but they have backed him up. If ever an amendment was founded upon principles of equity it was that which was submitted the other evening by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. Nevertheless, it was defeated. Now an amendment has been proposed by the honorable member for Yarra - an amendment which can accomplish nothing apart from fostering the local manufacture of bogus articles, with intent to deceive the poorer class of consumers. It is a most extraordinary proposal to emanate from a member of the Labour Party. No doubt its adoption would tend to foster the manufacture of shoddy goods in the constituency that is represented by the honorable member for Yarra.
– Does the honorable member imagine that the manufacturers “ barrack “ for me ?
– The manufacturers of shoddy will certainly do so the moment that the full significance of the amendment is appreciated. The Minister of Trade and Customs ought not to be permitted to execute this extraordinary change of front without considerable attention being directed to it. I do not think that honorable members upon this side of the Chamber wilt allow him to so far forget his high office as to completely ignore the promise which he gave to a deputation only a fortnight ago. This evening we have had repeated assurances from him as to the manner in which he will administer this legislation. If he persists in the attitude which he has now taken up, I shall absolutely decline to trust his administration.
– The honorable member should move a motion of want of confidence.
– If the Minister could be dissociated from the Ministry, such a motion would be carried almost unanimously. He has never trespassed so far before ; but he should have considered whether, in doing this, he would be acting as a man of honour.
– Is the honorable member in order in abusing one of His Majesty’s trusted Ministers, and holding him up to the indignation of the community ?
– I do not think that the honorable member has overstepped the bounds of criticism, but I think that he should confine his remarks to the amendment.
– The new point in connexion with the amendment is its acceptance by the Minister, after he had given his promise that the operation of the Bill should be confined to foodstuffs and medicines. That is the position which will attract most attention throughout the country to-morrow morning. It will be recognised then that the Ministry are prepared to do anything at the dictation of the Corner party.
– It is a powerful party.
Mr.KELLY. - Yes; it is able to concoct schemes in the lobbies and secret places of the building–
– The honorable member is not in order.
– Will I be out of order if I suggest that the acceptance of the amendment was entirely voluntary on the part of the Minister?
– The honorable member said more than that. ,
– I wish to reiterate my protest against the amendment. If it is carried, it will lead to the local creation of bogus manufactures. The acceptance of it by the Minister has cast a slur on our Parliamentary institutions, from which it will take us a long time to recover, because action of this kind is very far reaching in its consequences. The reputation of our prominent men should be very dear to us, and what the Minister has done is not to the honour of the House.
– The same objection applies to the amendment as applies to the provisions already in the Bill - that it will not be effective in protecting the consumer. For that reason. I am against any present extension of the Bill to goods other than those originally indicated by the Minister. We had the assurance from him that he intended to maintain the position which he adopted when interviewed on this matter by a deputation to whom he distinctly mentioned the articles to be brought within the scope ofthe Bill. Subsequently, he said in this Chamber that, in view of his promise to that deputation, and because of his own opinion that at the beginning we should not go too far with this kind of legislation, but should first test its effect on certain lines of importation and exportation, he was not prepared to accept the amendment. He told the honorable member who was responsible for it that he must take his own course, but that the Government could not support it. Surely that was a definite assurance of the position of the Ministry, and when a Minister has given his word, not once, but twice, and to two different bodies, he should be prepared to keep it. Because of this undertaking, some of the provisions of the Bill have been passed–
– Every provision in the Bill has been passed by force of numbers, and with no assistance from honorable gentlemen opposite.
– Do not Ministerial promises and indications as to how a measure is to be applied affect the votes of honorable members?
– They did not do so in this case.
– One or two members who supported the Bill were, I think, affected by the Minister’s statement.
– Who were they?
– T. shall not give names, but I think, from the statements I have heard, that one or two were affected.
– What about the tactics adopted by the Opposition - halfadozen members leaving the Chamber in the attempt to secure a count-out?
– Was the honorable member never concerned in a protest against the prolongation of a sitting beyond midnight by. ascertaining the number of members present. He seems to think that .his Government should have privileges which he would not allow to any other Government. He may be thankful that no stronger steps have been taken in regard to this long sitting, for which the Opposition are not altogether responsible.
– Members of the Opposition intimated at 9 o’clock last evening that the House would sit until 3 this morning.
– This- is one of the most astonishing surrenders I have known a Minister to make, and an honorable gentleman who would deliberately break his word, both to people outside the Chamber and to honorable members, would submit to any humiliation. The proposed’ extension of the provisions of the Bill will be utterly ineffective in regard to the securing of the objects aimed at. It is attempting to do what cannot be done, instead of limiting the measure to its really legitimate purposes, ‘the exclusion of deleterious imports, and of goods ineffective for their purpose. I admit that there is no reason why the Bill should not be applied to apparel as well as to any other article.
– Food and apparel affect the health of the people.
– So do a great many other things. I could name a number of articles to which the scope of the Bill might be applied with far better reason. I regard the Bill as so ineffective, and yet so disturbing and troublesome, and as so likely to prove injurious in many ways, that the more its scope is limited the better I shall be satisfied. The public will have every right to complain of the failure of the Minister to adhere to his promise that he would confine its operation to foodstuffs and patent medicines.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- We should not be at all surprised at the action of the Minister in this matter. We have been told throughout this discussion to trust him, but what has occurred this evening has afforded the fullest justification for the indisposition shown by many honorable members to place any more power than was absolutely necessary in the hands of the administrator of the measure. It may be right to extend the scope of the Bill to apparel, but if that be so, the Minister should not have promised to exclude it from the operation of the measure. Having once given his promise, he should have adhered to it, and then, if the amendment had been inserted in spite of him, he would have no cause to reproach himself. Unfortunately, when the Minister made his promise to the deputation representing the Chambers of Commerce, he had not with him the master of the political situation. He afterwards found that he had made a mistake, and he has had to show his obedience to those who have the power to drive the Government in whatever direction they please. It must be humiliating for Ministers to reflect that when they give a promise they cannot be certain that they will be able to fulfil it. The proposed amendment will widen the scope of the Bill, to which honorable members on this side of the Chamber had slackened their opposition owing to th’eir reliance upon the promise made by the Minister. It now appears that that promise was made only to be broken. I desire to enter my strong protest against the Minister’s action, and to call attention to the fact that he has demonstrated in the plainest possible way that he is not to be trusted.
– I emphatically protest against the breach of faith of which’ the Minister has been guilty. His action shows how little reliance can be placed in him. He promised that the Bill would not be made to apply to other than certain goods which he distinctly specified, and yet he has readily agreed to a suggestion, emanating from a member of the Labour Party, that the operation of the Bill should be extended far beyond its intended scope.
When we have such an exhibition of breach of faith on the part of the Minister, we are perfectly right in refusing to trust him with the administration of the regulations which he is asking the Committee to empower him to frame.
– When the honorable member makes a charge, he ought to quote his authority.
– If honorable members require me to make a four-hours speech, I am perfectly prepared to accede to their wish. The Minister distinctly promised a deputation that he would limit the operation of the new clause to food stuffs and medicines.
– When and where?
– Has the honorable member been living in a Cave of Adullam or out of the world? If he had read the newspapers he would know all about these matters without requiring to be informed in detail.
– When the honorable member makes a charge, he ought to give his authority.
– The honorable member can find my authority from the Minister’s own statement, made in this Chamber, wherein he reported his promise made to the deputation. He reiterated that promise to this House scarcely more than a week ago. I protest most emphatically against this action on the part of the Minister, and also against this attempt to force the measure through by means of a late sitting. If this course be persisted in, I think that the Opposition, who have been very forbearing in view of the action which they could have taken under the Standing Orders, will have to take another course; and I do not think that it will advance the measures of the Government far in the direction of securing their inclusion in the statute-book.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- Perhaps the more briefly our protests against a change of front such as we are protesting against tonight are made, the more emphatic they will be. Before a division is taken I desire to ask whether the Ministry, individually and collectively, are behind the Minister of Trade and Customs in the extraordinary action he has just taken ? We have had no expression of views from them. They are silent, and, therefore, perhaps they have no explanation to offer for the extraordinary conduct of their colleague.
– He does not need any defence.
– I can understand the members of the Labour Party not caring much about spoken pledges, because their own constituents do not trust them that far, but insist upon having, written pledges, and that is apparently what we shall have to require in future from the Minister of Trade and Customs. Apparently he is forsaken by his colleagues, for they can find no words to defend him. I think they show their wisdom by their silence, for there is nothing which can be said for the Minister that will set him right in the eyes of all honorable men.
Mr. DUGALD THOMSON (North Sydney). - Two honorable members stated just now that a charge should not be made without the authority therefor being quoted. Allusion has been made to the Minister’s statement to a deputation which has appeared in the press, and also in Hansard. I propose to read the statement which was made in the Chamber.
– That should have been done before the charge was made.
– The statement was referred to as having been made, and this extract will corroborate what was said. On the 20th September, 1905, at page 2518 of Hansard, when the Minister gave notice of the articles to which , he proposed to apply the new clause, the honorable member for Yarra interjected, “What about apparel”?. To that interjection the Minister replied as follows : -
When the insertion of the proposed new clause is moved, honorable members can take their own course in regard to it. So far as I can judge, there is some need for dealing with wearing apparel ; but I intend to propose this new clause to carry out my promise to the deputation, and its wording substantially embodies that promise, so that I may not be accused of making one statement at one time, and another statement at another time.
Question - That the words “ apparel, including boots and shoes,” &c, proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new paragraph be added : - ” (e) Seeds and plants.”
The two items which I have just mentioned require just as much watching when imported into the Commonwealth as any other commodities that have been included in this clause. We all, I trust, believe that the agricultural industry of Australia will be extended to a great many products that are not now grown to a considerable extent. We hope, for instance, to produce on a considerable scale coffee, cotton, and other plants of that description. It is important to safeguard the Commonwealth against the introduction of pests, which, we know, prevail in other countries where such crops are grown.
– As long as there is a “proper trade description,” pests can be imported.
Mr.WILKINSON.- I am aware that the States themselves are exercising some supervision at present, but it appears to me that we might also very well institute supervision on the part of the Commonwealth. Additional watchfulness can do nothing but good. It will result in protecting our producers to a still greater degree against the introduction of what would be tremendous evils. I may refer to two pests which have involved great loss in the United States - bollworm, and what is termed the cotton army, namely, caterpillars that destroy everything in their path. The larvae of these pests may be introduced in seed. The Agricultural Department of Queensland has considered this matter quite recently, and some of the experts in conversation with me have expressed an anxiety that every possible means should be exerted to prevent the introduction of such evils into Queensland.
– How could seed be tested ?
– It would be examined to see whether larvae are contained in it. The application of the test is, however, a matter for experts. I believe there are means available. Some kinds of sugar cane are liable to disease, and there are vine’ diseases which are liable to work great havoc. 1 hope that the amendment will be unanimously agreed to.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).Would it be wise to add to the amendment a provision to the effect that goods not complying with the law in respect of their description, shall be forfeit to the King unless shipped from the country ?
– That is provided for.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang).- This amendment is a sample of the unwisdom of the Minister in accepting the first addition to this clause. Where are these additions to end? We had a definite promise on the part of the Government that the clause would be limited to certain articles; but proposal after proposal is being made to add other goods. The fault is that of the Minister in backing down upon the first amendment. The whole Bill will be absolutely ineffective, so that, from the point of view of principle, it really does not matter whether its operation is extended to one article or to many. I merely wish to point out the unwisdom of the Minister’s action in violating the promise which he gave to this House and to the deputation which waited upon him from the Chambers of Commerce - a promise to confine the operation of the Bill to foodstuffs and medicines.
– I trust that the honorable member for Moreton will not press his amendment. I would point out to him that it is scarcely wise to include plants in a measure which is intended to deal with’ other matters. To my mind, plants are quite outside its scope, and ought properly to be provided for in an Agricultural Bill. I would further point out that, if seeds are imported which do not correspond to their description, the person to whom they are offered has his legal remedy.
– I think that we ought to know the Government attitude towards this proposal. I notice by refer- ence to Hansard that, on 20th September, the Minister said -
I shall have something to say on the application of this measure to apparel and other articles when the proposed new clause is under consideration.
I do not know whether the articles specified in the amendment which is now before the Committee comprise those to which the honorable gentleman referred, but I certainly think that we should be informed of the attitude of the Government towards the proposal.
– The amendment of the honorable member for Moreton is one which the Government are justified in accepting. During the course of this debate a great many questions have been asked as to what the Bill will accomplish for the producers. The proposal which is now before the Committee is of the greatest importance to those who are engaged in production. It insures that they shall be supplied with good, honest seed, and also that our fruit-growers shall be supplied with good, honest plants. The honorable member for Moreton has mentioned that if cotton seed bearing a trade description is introduced into Australia, we should insist upon it corresponding with that description. He asks that the agriculturists–
– Do not indulge in any cant. Let us pass the amendment and get home.
– As soon as I begin to speak on behalf of the agriculturists I am accused of indulging in cant. I repeat that the amendment is one which commends itself to the Government, and therefore we propose to accept it.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- When the consideration of this Bill was resumed in Committee last Wednesday, the honorable and learned member for Angas said -
I think that the Minister of Trade and Customs should now tell us what particular goods he proposes to include in the schedule. The clause gives him absolute power to say what goods shall be inspected, and provides that such goods must be inspected. Whether the Department could carry out such wholesale inspection is another matter. I do not think it could. It has already been pointed out that a tremendous staff of experts would be required to do the work provided for by the Bill. Under this clause there is no limitation as to what goods shall be prescribed, and the officers must inspect and examine all prescribed goods. A great deal of discussion would have been saved last night if we had been informed whether the Minister’s promise to the deputation from the Chamber of Commerce, which waited on him, would be carried out, and I think debate will be saved now if the Minister will at once say whether he proposes to limit the Bill to the extent indicated in his reply to the deputation.
Then the Minister of Trade and Customs said -
I propose to circulate this afternoon notice of a new clause, of which I intend to move the insertion. I made a certain promise to the deputation referred to, and I intend to keep it by submitting this clause.
I take it that these words mean that the promise and the clause are to be considered as co-extensive, and that the clause carries out neither more nor less than the promise implied. I do not think the Minister could have meant that he would propose a clause and then accept a series of additions to it, and contend that that was carrying out his promise. He went onto say -
The new clause which I have had drafted will stand as clause 13A,and reads as follows : - “ Sections 7 and 10 of this Act shall not apply to any goods other than -
articles used for food or drink by man or used in the manufacture or preparation of articles used for food or drinkby man ; or
medicines or medicinal preparations for internal or external use; or
– Does not “ seed “ come under food?
– Then why move the amendment if it is already covered by the clause? The honorable member for Yarra interjected, “What about apparel?” andt he Minister continued -
When the insertion of the proposed new clause is moved, honorable members can take their own course in regard to it. So far as I can judge, there is some need for dealing with wearing apparel, but I intend to propose this new clause to carry out my promise to the deputation.
And here follows what I think the Minister meant -
And its wording substantially embodies that promise.
As I have just said, the clause and the promise are substantially co-extensive. In other words, the Minister promised the deputation that the matters dealt with in this clause should be embodied in the Bill, and that other matters would not be contained in it. He says -
So far as I can judge, there is some need for dealing with wearing apparel.
As much as. to say that he had made a promise and would keep it, although he thought he had better not have made it. The honorable gentleman continued - and its wording substantially embodies that promise, so that I may not be accused of making one statement at one time, and another statement at another time. I shall have something to say in reference to the application of this provision to apparel, and other articles, when the proposed new clause is under consideration.
I do not think that the Committee or the deputation that waited on the honorable gentleman supposed that the something that he would have to say would be that he was prepared to accept extensive amendments to the clause. The Minister of Home Affairs, if I may say so without offence, indulged in some special pleading as to the necessities of agriculturists in the matter of getting seed true to sample. We are all agreed that agriculturists and horticulturists in this and in the other States, have suffered through not getting seed and plants true to sample. But that is a matter with which the States Legislatures can very well deal.
– With importations from abroad ? 0
– I did not say the importations.
– That is what we are dealing with in the amendment.
– I am aware of that, but it is possible to achieve the same object in more than one way. It is a sham to speak of getting things true to sample for the benefit of agriculturists under this Bill. The Minister of Trade ‘and Customs went on to say, with respect to the time at which the new clause would be considered - which will not be until the remaining clauses of the Bill have been dealt with.
He then went on to speak of detailed information sought as to the method of administering the law. I have quoted, I believe, every word which the honorable gentleman said at that time with regard to his promise to the deputation. What I wish to’ say to the Government is that, whilst we cannot complain of “the addition proposed by the honorable member for Yarra since the honorable member’s amendment is in print, and has been circulated, though if came as a great surprise to me that it was accepted by the Government, the amendment now before the Committee is one of which we have had no notice.
Mr. Isaacs. The honorable and learned member cannot blame the Government for that.
– I can blame the Government if they do not recognise the fact. The majority of the members of the Committee have had no notice of the amendment now proposed, or of the intention of the honorable member for Moreton to move it, and many honorable members have gone away in the faith that only matters of which notice had been given would be dealt with.
– The honorable and learned member must be aware tha? no honorable member is entitled to go nome” with that understanding, in view of the fact that any honorable member may move an amendment.
– This afternoon it was proposed that the Bill should be recommitted for the purpose of reconsidering certain clauses and considering specified new clauses. There was in circulation an amendment on one of the proposed new clauses, but general leave to move new clauses was refused, and honorable members had the right to assume that an important amendment would not be sprung on the Committee after we had been sitting here for over eleven hours. I do not -blame the Government because the amendment has been moved without notice, nor do I blame the honorable member who moved it for not giving notice of it, but I will consider the Government deserving of blame if they take advantage of their majority to have it passed, seeing that it affects the whole operation of the measure.
– Can the honorable and learned member suggest any objection to the amendment? That surely is an important consideration when an adjournment is asked for.
– I ask the Government to follow the ordinarily recognised rules in connexion with the conduct of business. I want other honorable” members to have an opportunity to discuss the amendment.
– We shall be sitting here until Christmas if they do.
– I have never been a friend to the wasting of time bv the making of unnecessary speeches, but I ask Ministers if they think if fair to take, it this hour of the morning, an important amendment which has been moved without notice. Until an hour ago, it was not expected that apparel would be added to the proposed new clause, although notice of that amendment had been given ; but now the Government are proposing to push on with another important amendment, of which no notice has been given. The legitimate course to pursue would be to get the honorable member to withdraw it, and move the recommittal of the Bill for the purpose of considering the amendment only. A minority has its rights, and one of them is to be informed of the business to be brought on, so that every honorable member may decide for himself whether he will be present or not.
– The honorable and learned member’s remarks would apply to every amendment that could be moved.
– No ; because this is not an ordinary amendment. It brings a new class of goods within the operation of the measure. My objection would not apply to an amendment relating to the machinery provisions of the Bill.
– If we reported progress now, and to-morrow some one else moved another amendment, the; honorable and learned gentleman would! have an equally good reason for asking for a still further postponement.
– Yes, if the new amendment were moved without notice, at one o’clock in the morning. Why cannot the Government get the honorable member to withdraw the amendment, and recommit the clause for the purpose of’ considering this specific addition, and no other, or, if other honorable gentlemen wish to add other classes of goods, for the purpose of considering additions of classes? If those who are now sitting on the Ministerial side of the Chamber were in opposition, the two Ministers who are so skilled in that branch of civil engineering, which deals with bridgemaking would be raising their voice in a very emphatic protest against the proceedings.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Batchelor). - Does the honorable and learned member not think that he should now discuss the amendment?
– The honorable and learned member can put himself in order by moving that the Chairman do now leave the chair.
– I do not wish to do that, though the Opposition, whatever its offences mav have been, is not receiving reasonable treatment. It is not fair that this important proposal should be sprung upon us at this hour of the morning. I recognise that honorable members on this side of the House are in a minority, and that we shall have to submit to whatever the majority may choose to do, but if the Minister insists upon proceeding with this proposal now his action will not be calculated to increase that friendly feeling which, apart from purely political differences, should prevail among honorable members.
– I am entirely in sympathy with the honorable member for Moreton in his desire to protect our agriculturists in every possible way, but I cannot support his amendment. The States Governments have adopted special precautions against the introduction of plant diseases and pests, and they have perhaps accomplished all that can be well done in that direction under present conditions. It appears to me that it would be impracticable for the Government to exercise any efficient supervision over the introduction of plants and seeds. They would be unable, for example, to satisfy themselves that imported seeds or plants were true to name. For instance, how could they determine whether certain cotton seed was true to name, unless they followed it to the plantation and kept the resulting plants under careful supervision until a crop had been produced ? I should be glad to support the honorable member for Moreton, but unfortunately I cannot regard his proposal as practicable.
– I am surprised that the Government should so readily have agreed to accept the amendment. We are all anxious that the producer shall be in a position to procure seeds and plants true to name, but a provision such as that now proposed will, I am afraid, fail to achieve that object. Who could decide whether certain seeds were true to name, or whether certain fruit trees were properly described? .In the latter case there would be no means of obtaining definite information until the trees had absolutely borne fruit.
– My object is to prevent the introduction- of pests.
– That matter is beyond our province. The States are now doing all that can possibly be done in that direction, and the varying conditions prevailing in the different States render it undesirable to apply uniform regulations. It seems to me that if the Commonwealth enters upon a domain which peculiarly belongs to the States^ it will probably do more harm than good. It cannot be for one moment said that the Minister of Trade and Customs has any considered plan for giving effect to the amendment, and my objection to this Bill from the outset has been due very largely to my impression that the Minister is anxious to do something in some way to help somebody, without any very clear idea as to what he can accomplish. Every one who is in sympathy with the primary producers wishes to see a proper measure of protection given to them, but the question is whether this is the right way in which to accomplish that object. I do not think adequate protection can be given to them until a well-digested scheme has been evolved.
Mr. CONROY (Werriwa). - I would again ask the honorable member for Moreton to withdraw his amendment. Section 108 of the Constitution reads as follows : -
Every law in force in a Colony which has become or becomes a State, and relating to any matter within the powers of the Parliament of the Commonwealth, shall, subject to this Constitution, continue in force in the State; and, until provision is made in. that behalf by the Parliament of the Commonwealth, the Parliament of the State shall have such powers of alteration and of repeal in respect of any such law as the Parliament of the Colony had until the Colony became a State.
The regulations which are to be made under the authority of this Bill will have the force of law, and it is arguable that a State which has a law dealing with these matters may thereby be prevented from making an alteration thereof when a new disease, which perhaps was peculiar to that State, and the danger of which it alone might recognise, sprang up.
– In the Customs Act we have the power to prohibit certain importations.
– There’ is a danger in inserting the amendment in the Bill.
– What is the difference, if the power is taken in this Bill and the power already exists to a larger degree in the Customs Act ?
– Under the Bill, as it is drawn, the regulations will have the force of law, and this amendment, although moved with the best intentions possible, may have the effect of preventing the Parliament of, say, Queensland from altering its law dealing with these matters whenever the occasion may arise. The Department of Agriculture in that State, as well as in other States, is quite competent to deal with all these matters from time tO’ time. Full power is given to the Commonwealth in sections 52 and 56 of the Customs Act to prohibit by proclamation the importation of any deleterious or noxious seeds. But by inserting thisamendment, we may prevent a State from amending, its law on these matters, and thereby bring about a very different result from what was intended by its mover. Some members of the Ministry have expressed their intention of accepting theamendment, and therefore it is hard for them to recede from their position, but it could, with great propriety, be withdrawn by its mover.
– I have moved the amendment, because I believe it will have a good effect.
– Does not the honorable member see that if a seed is bad or noxious, its importation can be prohibited by the issue of a proclamation under the Customs. Act? If, however, in this Bill we legislate on the point, then to that extent we may interfere with the power of the Parliament of a State to alter or repeal any legislative provision in that behalf. Al-° though the effect of our legislation may be overlooked for a time, still a smart lawyer - perhaps years hence - may take the point I am raising, and get the legislation of the State declared invalid. So far from the honorable member benefiting the producers by the amendment, as he desires to do, he may cause great injury to them.
– What harm can it do?
– In Western Australia there is a Department of Agriculture which has regulations concerning the introduction of seeds and plants. If this amendment be inserted in the Bill, and any regulations be made under its authority, then there will be Federal legislation on the subject, and, in accordance with section 108 of the Constitution, the legislation of the State will cease to have effect, because its Parliament can only alter or repeal a State law until the Commonwealth Parliament exercises its legislative power.
– I can see no danger in the amendment.
– The right honorable gentleman does not seem to appreciate the full force of my point. Say that the State Parliament of Western Australia passes a law dealing with this subject.
– Let us have a uniform law throughout Australia.
– -Does the right honorable gentleman suppose that the same kinds of seeds and plants will be imported into all the States ? It is not proposed to create a new Department to administer this provision. What machinery will the Federal Government have for the purpose? Is it proposed to take over from the States the inspection of imported plants? Otherwise the provision will be a dead letter. But if we are not extremely careful we shall be interfering with the powers of the States to deal with the subject; and a smart lawyer may be able to submit an argument to a Court which will lead it to hold that, in consequence of the passing of the Commonwealth law, the States laws are invalid. We ought not to be dealing with so important a. subject when honorable members are lying upon the benches in a dozy state, unable to gather the meaning of what is addressed to them. The least that can be done is to accept the suggestion which has been made from this side of the Chamber. If we, by any chance, curtail the powers of the States in this respect, we may inflict a great deal of harm, and may interfere with the good work that is now being done by the Agricultural Departments. I urge the honorable member for Moreton not to press his amendment. If necessary, he can have it proposed in another place, where it can Le discussed in all its bearings, and where, I am sure, the constitutional aspect will .receive that consideration which it is not likely to get from this Committee at the present time.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England). - I am impressed with the argument of the Attorney-General that this amendment can do no harm. If it can do no harm in the Bill, it can do no good, and may therefore just as well be left out. It has been shown by those who understand the question that what the honorable member for Moreton desires is at present being effectively done by means of State legislation. If we pass a law that comes into conflict with State legislation, the Commonwealth law prevails. There is therefore the possibility of a conflict of laws. If we had an Agricultural Department to look after such subjects, there might be. a reason for inserting the provision. But I do not suppose that it is intended to take over that work from the States. I cam see no value in the amendment. It will be safer to leave it out of the Bill, because it may do harm if it is inserted. I cannot understand why the Government should refuse to accede to the request so reasonably made by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The Minister has deliberately broken the promise which he made to the House, and yet he has the temerity to ask us to trust him to administer this Act. Of course, I thoroughly understand his position. The fact is that he has been driven to adopt his present attitude by the members of the Labour Party.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). -After the speech of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, I cannot understand why the Government persist in dealing with this question at such a late hour. The last speaker has referred to the difficulties of the position occupied by the Minister. He implied that the honorable gentleman is compelled to accept any proposal which may emanate from the Labour corner. There is no doubt Chat the Minister is under certain obligations to the Labour Party in order that he may be retained in his present place. But I venture to submit that there are some things which should be regarded as of more importance than mere considerations of place - I mean the honorable undertakings of honorable men. The Minister has already departed from a promise which he made to confine the operation of this Bill to foodstuffs and medicines. Now he proposes to still further depart from it, by accepting the amendment which has been submitted.’ In so acting-he ‘is deceiving those honorable members who have gone home in the belief that no fresh proposals would be considered. The amendment of the honorable member for Moreton is of a very far-reaching character. The honorable member for Boothby and the honorable member for Herbert have already addressed themselves to the practical difficulties which stand in the way of its adoption. We all know that under this proposal the most highly qualified experts will not be able to determine whether or not certain seeds have been properly described. The honorable member for Moreton has declared that the amendment is intended to deal primarily with pests. If that be so, the fact is not clearly stated.
– The amendment will have the effect of laying open to inspection all seeds which are imported.
– If it is intended to deal with fruit pests it is clear that its adoption will seriously interfere with the very valuable work which is now being performed by the States Departments. The honorable member has been told that nobody can determine how certain kinds of seeds will turn out until the plants are fully grown. It reminds one of the story of the small puppy which was bought as a toy terrier, which eventually proved its origin had been an international romance. Seeds may grow into anything. After all, this Bill has so far been considered only in the light of the Minister’s promise to the House to limit its operations to certain articles. If the honorable gentleman goes beyond that promise, the whole measure should, in common fairness, be reconsidered. If he is not prepared to allow the entire Bill to be reconsidered he should postpone consideration of a matter with which the Committee is not now in a fit state to deal.
Mr. WILSON (Corangamite). - The honorable member for Boothby has very succinctly pointed out some of the dangers likely to arise if this amendment is accepted. The only object we can have in passing this Bill is to secure uniformity in the method of dealing with these matters throughout the Commonwealth. We. know that at the present time the various States Parliamentshave adopted very stringent laws dealing with the introduction of bad seeds’, and plants infected with pests. Every one of the States are already doing this work, and doing, it very well indeed.
– That is not correct. It is not being well done in New South Wales.
– I know that plants sent from Victoria into New South Wales have been stopped on the border or at the port to which they were sent. The honorable member for Boothby has shown that South Australia has adopted more stringent regulations to prevent the introduction of bad seeds and pest-infected plants than has any of the other States. If the amendment now before the Committee is accepted, the result will be that the stringent regulations in South Australia must be relaxed.
– What regulations?
– The regulations in force there against the introduction of bad seeds and plants infected with pests.
– This only provides that the right name shall be attached to them.
– Then South Australia will be left open to the introduction of plants infected with pests.
– Not at all. The honorable member mistakes the nature of the Bill.
– I point out that if by our legislation we come in any way into conflict with the work already being done under the States Acts in this matter, our legislation will supersede that of the States, and, as a consequence, in some cases States regulations must be relaxed. It is very possible that the amendment will not carry out the intention of the honorable member for Moreton, and the honorable member and the Minister will do well not to press it.
Question. - That the words “ seeds and plants,” proposed to be added be so added - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- After the protest which I made against the action of the Government in accepting this proposal at one o’clock in the morning, when no notice had been given of it, I shall, as the majority have agreed to it, merely content myself by drawing attention to the fact that we had the specific promise of the Minister of Trade and Customs that no additions would be made to the clause. I think that honorable members generally have not been fairly treated in this matter; but if my friends on this side will take my advice they will say nothing more about the matter this morning.
Proposed new clause, as amended, agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 7b. All imported goods to which a trade description is bv this Act or the regulations required to be applied, and which are found in Australia in any package or covering in which they were imported, and without the prescribed trade description, shall until the contrary is proved be deemed to have been imported in contravention of this Act or of the regulations as the case may be.”
I do not think that there will be any objection to this amendment, because honorable members have unanimously expressed themselves as anxious to protect the consumer, and it is not of much use to insist on true descriptions being attached to goods at the time of their importation, unless thev can be followed as far as possible on their way to the consumer. The proposed new clause will not accomplish all that I desire to accomplish, but it will meet objections similar to those which have been made by the honorable member for Wentworth to-night. He said that the Bill would not protect the consumer against the use of shoddy material imported for the manufacture of boots and other goods, to the danger of the public health. If such material is followed up. and found to be without the prescribed trade description, it can be seized. No other “penalty is attached to the removal of the prescribed trade’ description, but I think that what I have provided will insure the retention of these descriptions. As the hour is so late, and honorable members have had several days’ notice of the amendment, I do not feelfied in making a lengthier explanation of its object. I believe that it will have the support of the majority.
– What are the intentions of the Government in regard to the proposed new clause?
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I at first thought that the proposed new clause might be unconstitutional, but I have been informed by the Attorney-General and the Parliamentary Draftsman that it is not so. In my opinion, it will meet some of the objections which have been raised during the debates on the Bill to the effect that when once goods got into the Commonwealth’ the importers could do what they liked with tHem, in remarking or adulterating them, and that our legislation would be of no protection to the State consumers. The clause will enable us to follow unbroken packages, and to seize any from which the prescribed trade description has been removed. I admit that the provision does not go so far as I should like it to go, but I do not think it would be constitutional to go further.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I do not see any great objection to the amendment on principle. It appears to me legitimate, if goods are prohibited to be imported, unless prescribed trade descriptions are applied to them, to find evidence of importation in contravention of the measure in. the removal of the description from packages after they have passed through the Customs. I was at first inclined to doubt the constitutionality of this provision, but I think that the Attorney-General struck the true key-note when he explained to us across the table that this was merely a question of evidence. I am not, however, sure that the proposed clause does not go further tha)n is intended. It is Fr0” posed that all imported goods to which a trade description is required to be applied, and which are found in any package or covering in which they ware imported without the prescribed trade description, shall be deemed to have been imported, in contravention of the Act. The “covering “ might embrace all kinds of things. For instance, the goods might be imported with a trade description affixed to the outer covering, and not to the inner packages. It appears to me that the words are too general, and that some more specific provision is necessary. I do not object to the principle of the clause.
– I am glad that the honorable and learned member for Corinella agrees with me that the provision is constitutional. I have no doubt whatever on that point. It is simply a rule of evidence, and it will have the very salutary effect of deterring persons from formally complying with the law, and afterwards evading it. I have considered the point mentioned by the honorable and learned member, and I shall give it further attention. At present I do not think that the clause goes further than is required, because provision is made in the Bill that the trade description shall be applied in the manner prescribed in the regulations.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). - Although this amendment is designed in the interest of the consumer, it will not afford the same protection as would have been extended if the former proposal of the honorable member for Hindmarsh had been adopted. The provision will not affordone-thousandth part of the protection that the consumer should enjoy; but, as it is a step in the right direction, I shall not oppose it.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- The clause will afford little or no protection to the consumer, but, as it will do no harm, I shall not oppose it.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move that the following new clause be inserted : - 7A. (1) Any manufactured or prepared article of food -
in which (in the case of an article usually sweetened with sugar) there is contained any sweetening substance in addition to or in lieu of sugar - unless there is applied to it a printed mark indicating the sweetening substance so contained, is prohibited to be imported into Australia.
in the case of goods made up into packages for sale by retail, “ applied “ means applied to every such package in the same manner and with the same permanency as other printed marks or indications of the goods.
What I desire is that all goods dishonestly manufactured, and all adulterated articles, shall be prohibited from coming into Australia. The honest manufacturer has no possible chance of competing against the dishonest manufacturer, who adopts all sorts of devious, immoral, and damnable methods. We have been engaged in legislating for the protection of the foreigner, and I propose now to protect the Australian consumer against the impure manufactures introduced from other parts of the world. What is good for the Britisher, the American, the Chinaman, the Bulgarian, the Hottentot, and the Africander, should also be good for Australians. In making this proposal, I am merely following the English Act of 1899, which provides that all imported goods must be legibly described. The Act applies, among other things, to such articles as margarine, margarine cheese, adulterated butter, impoverished butter, milk and cream, condensed, separated, or skimmed milk, and any adulterated or impoverished articles of food specified by an Order in Council. The penalties provided for are, for the first offence, £30, for the second offence £50, and for the third offence , £100, or three months’ hard labour. Under the head of “Trade and Finance,” the following passage appeared in a newspaper, which I shall not now name: -
In connexion with the Commerce Bill the AttorneyGeneral may find a striking illustration of his comments in support of its provisions in the recent attempts to introduce under standard cornsacks into the Commonwealth. In discussing the question of trade marks, the Times, in a recent article, points out that the purchaser of goods has in almost every instance to rely upon his own inexperienced judgment or on the integrity of the vendor to determine quality. The result is that inferior goods are in many instances accepted as standard. The farmer who orders his cornsacks from the country storekeeper or city merchant is in no better position than the housewife when purchasing household commodities, few being able to tell without trial what sort of sugar, coffee, starch and the like yield the best value for their money. “ Substitution and imitation “ are, it is asserted with considerable truth, the outcome of the rage for cheapness, and to such an extent have these systems been carried that legal enactments have become necessary to protect the public. It is to meet this demand that branding or marking is so much in request. If Mr. Isaacs will .read up the history of the light make bag substitution, for the Australian standard cornsack he will find further arguments in favour of the Commerce Bill.
That extract is taken from the Melbourne Age of the 27th’ September. “We should empower the Government, not by regulation, but by statute, to say to a man who brings in adulterated or short-weight goods or shoddy, ‘ We shall confiscate these goods unless you ship them out. of the country.” When the Australian shippers took their margarine to San Francisco, they were very soon told that they could not sell such articles to the Yankees. The American Government, however, did not confiscate the imports, but allowed them to be shipped to another country. If these goods are allowed to be imported into Australia, and get into circulation, the Government cannot do anything. The importers will laugh at the Government, precisely as the butter gentlemen of Melbourne are now laughing at the people of Victoria. The prosecuting Attorney for Victoria says that there is no law to reach these gentlemen at all. There is a law to reach the poor man, but not the rich man. Let us take the power iri this Bill for the Commonwealth Government to say to this class, “ If you do not describe your goods properly with your labels, you cannot bring them in.” When the merchants know that the importation of these goods will be stopped at the Customs Ho-use: they will become as careful as possible, and every manufacturer will see that his wares are properly put up and packed. It will be remembered that after the Right Honorable Charles Cameron Kingston prosecuted a few of the big swells of Australia for sneaking in goods in improper ways, they soon ceased to send down boys to the Customs House to pass their entries. I want the Minister to have power to say to these importers, “ If you are careless or negligent the Commonwealth will not permit you to sell goods which are injurious to its citizens.” Why should we allow any goods to come in, no matter how they are labelled or branded, or packed, unless they are wholesome, are capable of benefiting our people, and are of full weight. I ask the Government to accept the new clause I have moved. They have accepted new clauses from other honorable members to-night, and I suppose that I shall be the one who will have to face the music because I come from the little State of Tasmania.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (HumeMinister of Home Affairs). - J am altogether in sympathy With the. amendment which the honorable, member has moved, and were it not that I think it would come into collision somewhat with other, clauses we have passed, I should feel very much disposed to accept it. So far as I can judge from reading other clauses, the Bill, in conjunction with the Customs Act, provides for nearly, if. not everything that is provided for in the proposed new clause. The Customs Act, in conjunction with the regulations under this measure, will enable effect to be given to all that the honorable member desires. It Would be unwise to accept an amendment which would involve a virtual duplication of what is already contained in the Bill, lt is only for that reason that I think it would be unwise to accept the honorable member’s proposal. But I can promise him that I will take care that the regulations are so framed as to carry out his intentions to the full. I am sure that he will see that it would be dangerous to insert an amendment which would be a duplication. I entirely concur in his action in proposing the amendment, and if I had1 to deal with the Bill over again, I am not quite sure that I would not adopt some pf the words of his proposal instead of the language of the Bill as it stands. Under these circumstances, I hope he will accept mv assurance.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY (Darwin).- In the State of Nevada, in Western America, the reply of the Minister would be called “ poulticing the kid.” However, I accept the honorable gentleman’s assurance. I have remained in my seat since half-past two o’clock yesterday afternoon in consequence of the interest which I take in this Bill, and in order to move this amendment. But circumstances over which I have no control compel me now to withdraw it.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I quite admit that the amendment .would be unnecessary. Personally,. I am With the honorable’ member in seeking to prohibit the importation of anything that is deleterious to health. But there is nothing in this Bill which will have that effect, arid the amendment would not have remedied the deficiency.
– As showing what can be done nowadays, I may mention that only this week I received an advertisement from a London firm which stated that it could supply pure cream without preservatives of any kind to purchasers in this country.If a London firm can send pure cream all the way to Australia without preservatives, it is certainly unnecessary for them to be used.
Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I may mention that I have been reminded by the honorable member for North Sydney that I had agreed to make an amendment in paragraph c of clause 3. I had forgotten the partial promise that I made, and have to state that I shall take advantage of an opportunity to have an amendment made in another place. It is merely a matter of definition.
– The honorable member for Kooyong made a request that regulations under the Bill should not come into force until after six months, instead of three” months, as provided. Is there to be an opportunity for an amendment to that effect to be moved?
– The honorable member for Kooyong moved the recommittal of a. clause for the purpose of considering such an amendment, but his proposal was negatived.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - In view of the long discussion which has taken place upon this Bill, and of the good feeling which has been exhibited by most honorable members. I trust that no obstacle will be placed in the way of the adoption of the report. Of course, I understand that the Bill can be advanced to its third-reading stage only with the unanimous consent of honorable members.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion for the adoption of the report should be taken forthwith ?
– I object.
Bill returned from the Senate without requests.
– As I fear that -we cannot deal with any further business at this hour, I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to inform us of the order in which he intends to proceed with business when we re-assemble this afternoon ?
– We propose, first, to complete the consideration of the Commerce Bill, and then to resume the discussion of the Census and Statistics Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.53 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050927_reps_2_27/>.