2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator PLAYFORD laid upon the table tEe following paper : -
Further correspondence about the Federal Capital Site between” the Prime Minister and the Premier of New South Wales - -25th October to 3rd November.
AMENDMENTS INCORPORATION BILL.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Keating) read a first time.
PAPUA (BRITISH NEW GUINEA) BILL.
(Message received from the House of Representatives, stating that it had agreed to the Senate’s amendment upon its amendment in this Bill.
Tasmanian Newspapers and Election Addresses. Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania).- I desire to move -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 o’clock to-morrow, for the purpose of calling attention to a misrepresentation regarding a speech which I made in the Senate.
Four honorable senators having risen in their places,
Senator MULCAHY. - I have to apologize to honorable senators for taking up their time, at a somewhat late period of the session, with a matter which, although I feel justified in referring to it on personal grounds, has also, to my mind, an important public bearing. In dealing with a proposed recommittal of the Copyright Bill I made certain references to a press monopoly in Tasmania. My remarks were reported briefly by some of the newspapers in the State, and not reported at all by others. The newspaper to which I particularly referred as the one which tried to bring about .1 combination for the purpose of blackmailing candidates at elections - the Hobart Mercury - ‘has discussed the matter and sent a copy of its comments to every honorable senator. In its reference to myself there is an implication: that I have not been quite veracious. The article is headed “A, Veracious Senator.” That part of it is. quite correct.
Senator Millen.- We can all identify him.
Senator MULCAHY. - But if it had added the words “ And a Voracious Newspaper “ it would have .been still more correct. It reads as follows : -
Some, of our readers may have seen a statement by Senator Mulcahy reported as made inright Senate during the discussion on the Copyright Bill, to the effect that there was a newspaper monopoly in Hobart, which charged for the publication of election speeches. We did not notice the statement before, because we desired to wait for the Commonwealth Hansard, in order to prevent any dispute about correct reporting, as an allegation of having been wrongly reported is the refuge of those destitute of honour and veracity.
I stop here to inform honorable senators that the date of this publication is the 1st November, and that on the 21st October, I received from the proprietors of the Mercury a letter, in which they enclosed a cutting from the Launceston Examiner, giving an abbreviated report of my speech, and which reads as follows :-
Dear Sir, -
Although we cannot find any record of your speech reported in the Melbourne papers, still the enclosed cutting from the Launceston Examiner gives a short telegraphic report of remarks you are said to have made in connexion with the Copyright ‘Bill in the Senate on Friday last.
We shall be glad to know if you are correctly reported.
Kindly return the enclosed slip.
Davies Brothers Ltd.
I replied to this that the full report of my speech would appear in Hansard, yet the Mercury makes a virtue of waiting for Hansard, and speaks as if I had a design lo contradict the report on the ground that I was destitute of honour and veracity.
We now find that what Senator Mulcahy did say was : “ I, as a public man, have been compelled to pay for having reports of my speeches inserted in that journal [The Mercury], I have had a bill for £g presented to me on its account.” He said, further, that he had been waited upon by reporters - he does not say how many, or from what papers- rand asked how many inches of space he wanted at 3s. an indi. And, further, lie said that a colleague of his had been refused the publication of a financial statement unless he would consent to pay 3s. an inch. It is a pity that Senator Mulcahy’s notions pf fact are as crude as his notions of logic, or he would have said a great deal more - which I am about to do - or wisely refrained from saying anything at all on the subject. We deem it desirable, for the information of others, to state the facts. The well-understood rule is, that at election times the first speech of a candidate shall be fully reported.
Let me now state the facts upon which I based my statement. On the 14th February, 1900, Captain Miles, an exMinisler of the Crown, against whom very grave charges had been made, and whose case had been inquired info by a Select Committee, advertised in the Mercury that he would deliver a speech, which was to be a vindication of his character-
Senator Givens. - Was that about election time?
Senator ‘MULCAHY. - Yes. That speech, which was very largely an attack upon myself, the Select Committee of which I ‘was a member, and the Ministry to which I belonged, was reported in the
Mercury in eleven columns. On the following day, I announced in its columns that I would reply to the speech, and that morning I was waited upon by a reporter of the Mercury, who stated that he was instructed to tell me that my reply to Captain Miles would be restricted to’ two columns, but that if I wished to have a fuller report, I should have to “ arrange.” I was not quite so wise then as I am now. I did not think that Captain Miles had paid for the insertion of his speech, and I replied, with some indignation, that I would not consent to such terms, that they could report me or leave me alone, just as they pleased. Subsequently, the same reporter saw me, and in a friendly manner - not as a tout for the press, as he was made to.be in the first instance- - suggested that, inasmuch as so many serious reflections had been cast upon me by Captain Miles in his speech, it was desirable that I should have a lengthy report of my reply. I again declined to come to any arrangement. On the night on which I was to deliver my address in the Town Hall of Hobart, I was waited upon by the re. porters, who were present on behalf of the Mercury, to know whether they would give me two columns or more. As I realized the possibility of my speech being mutilated, and as I had to reply categorically to a series of statements, referring to al-“ most historic incidents, I told them to give me four columns. That was a fair contract, and, so far as the charge was concerned, I had no particular reason to complain ; I had given my consent. I was reported in nearly five columns, which also included the reports of other speakers, and I was sent a bill, speaking from memory, for about ^9 13s. The next instance was on the occasion of the general election in Tasmania. On or about the 27th or 28th January, 1903, the Lewis Ministry adopted a manifesto, which was sent to the press for publication. It was sent to the Mercury, but by accident it was not marked as an advertisement. . It was intended to be an advertisement, but it was sent as an ordinary communication, with the Premier’s compliments. The Government were very anxious that it should be published next day, because we knew that a very stormy election time’ was at hand. On the following day, however, the manifesto was not published, and, as the Premier was absent, the Treasurer, Mr. Bird, telephoned to the Mercury office to know the reason why it had not appeared. I ask honorable senators to carefully note the reply, which, was that the leading proprietor, Mr. C. E. Davies, was then in Launceston, arranging with the proprietors of the northern journals as to what matter should be admitted into the open columns of the Mercury and what matter should be charged for as advertisements, and that, therefore, the manifesto was not published at that time. My colleague, the Treasurer, immediately sent this reply - “ Put in the manifesto, and send in your account afterwards,” and thereupon it appeared. At the same time, he was announced to deliver the first address in the election campaign. His address was a statement of the finances of Tasmania, giving details and the reasons why the Government had had to resort to a rather severe form of direct taxation. The importance of it was generally recognised, and the newspapers, as is frequently done when an important speech is Fo be delivered in a country place, asked for copies of it in advance. Mr. Bird handed copies to the various newspapers’, and he personally handed to the editor of the Hobart Mercury, before the other newspapers got it, the manuscript of his address. On the afternoon of Thursday, the 30th January, when Mr. Bird was about to proceed to his constituency in order to deliver the address, the telephone bell rang. He was informed that there was a message from the
Mercury office, and those who telephoned said they were instructed to inform him that his manuscript would not be printed unless he paid for it at the rate of 3s. per inch. He replied, with very much indignation : ‘ ‘ Send me back my manuscript ; I will consent to no such terms.” His manuscript was returned to him. He went to his electorate and he delivered his address, but there was not a line of it in any newspaper in Tasmania on the following morning, with the exception of the Launceston Examiner, which published a fair and full report, occupying something like four or four and a half columns.
Senator Millen. - Does the honorable senator remember whether that was the first address given by Mr. Bird during that election campaign?
Senator MULCAHY. - It was his first address, and I venture to say that it was the most important address delivered by any candidate throughout the whole of the campaign. But a report of it was not published in the Mercury until a day or two afterwards, when they found that the Laun ceston Examiner, which had refused to join the combination, had published it in extenso, or nearly so. The Mercury then published a very abbreviated report, occupying about 15 inches. It was a most garbled report of a most important statement. . My assertion was that the Hobart Mercury charged candidates for inserting their speeches. I make that statement again. I say that the Mercury has, over and over again, contrary to its own statement, charged candidates for publishing their first election speeches. At the last election, it published in the same issue of the paper as the contracted report of Mr. Bird’s speech appeared, a report of an address by a young fledgling politician, who never even succeeded in entering active political life. His speech was published conspicuously, set out with capital headings, and so on, while the speech of the Treasurer of the State was given second place, and much less space. As a matter of fact, the abuse was so great that when the last Electoral Act was passed in Tasmania, members, resenting what had been done, inserted a provision making it an offence against ‘the Act to publish in any newspaper the speech of a candidate for the publication of which money had been paid, unless it was set out that it was an advertisement. The Act contains a provision relating to electoral offences, one of which is the following: - 9
Publishing in any newspaper the report of any speech of a candidate at any election for the publication of which any sum of money or other consideration has been paid by, charged to, or promised by any person unless the word “ advertisement “ shall be legibly printed at the head of each column of such report.
Senator Findley. - Did the proprietor of the Hobart Mercury vote for the insertion of that provision. ?
Senator MULCAHY.- I do not know what he did. I have now stated the facts of the case. I have taken this course of moving the adjournment of the Senate so that, if any honorable senator desires to make any comments upon this matter, he may have an opportunity of doing so. I did not wish it to be said that the newspaper had no possibility of being heard in the Senate. It has, as honorable senators know, every possibility of being heard outside. As a summary of my statements, I say first of all that the Hobart Mercury made touts of its reporters in asking them to go to a Minister of the Crown and inquire how many inches of space he was going to pay for in its report of my speech, and that I had to pay rather than have my speech garbled. Secondly, I say that the journal charged a Minister of the Crown over ^9 for publishing a reply to a lengthy attack upon him. Thirdly, I say that the conductors of the Mercury themselves gave the information that their proprietor was trying to arrange a combine in the northern part of the island. I am glad to hear from another newspaper that the exception that I stated the other day in the case of the Launceston Examiner was not the only one. The Launceston Daily Telegraph declared that it would not take part in the combine, although it did not at first publish Mr. Bird’s speech. My fourth statement is that the Hobart Mercury refused to publish the first election speech of the Tasmanian Treasurer - a most important speech - unless it was paid for at the rate of 3s. an inch, and that the newspaper returned Mr. Bird’s manuscript because he would not pay what was demanded. If any stronger facts are required than those, I think that honorable senators are rather exacting in respect of the evidence that will convince them. I say further that the Hobart Mercury has frequently charged public men who have been candidates for election to Parliament for inserting their speeches, and that it has been possible to form a very good estimate of a candidate’s power and willingness to pay by the length of the reports of his speeches.
Senator Findley. - There ds not much chance for the Labour Party there, then.
Senator MULCAHY. - In Hobart a poor man is at a disadvantage in this regard. They do not give him the same chance, as I think a public journal ought, as is given to a man who has money, and who is prepared to pay. I think these facts should be sufficient to indicate that I had full justification for making what I will admit were severe remarks; but I am now referring to them again because a general election is approaching in Tasmania, and I think that the ventilation of this question will do good to those who desire to enter public life.
Senator HIGGS (Queensland). - I rise for the purpose of saying that Senator Mulcahy’s experience is not unique in, the Commonwealth. The practice is growing amongst the newspapers, not only in his own State, but in Other parts of Australia, of taking advantage of those who aspire to appear in public life, by asking them topay for the reports of their speeches. The provision quoted by Senator Mulcahy,, which has been inserted in the Tasmanian Electoral Act, is, I think, a very good one. An instruction might very well have been given to the Committee of the Senate to insert a similar provision in the Electoral Act Amendment Bill which we had before us recently. The public are often to a great extent misled by the fact that a newspaper gives a certain candidate four or five columns of space, and perhaps reportsanother candidate only to the extent of a few inches, or even goes .=0 far as to refuse to report him at all, because he is unable to pay. Senator Mulcahy has done a very wise thing on his own account, and has also* done something which should prove advantageous to the Commonwealth, in ventilating the subject in the Senate.
Senator CROFT (Western Australia).I also think that Senator Mulcahy has done a very wise and useful thing in bringing thismatter before the Senate. Personally, hehas my sympathy in the position in which, this Hobart newspaper has tried to place him. I was prompted to rise, however, rather by the statement of Senator Higgsthat Senator Mulcahy ‘s experience is not unique. I certainly never heard of the practice of charging candidates for Parliament for inserting reports of their speeches until* I came to this part of the Commonwealth. In Western Australia, no matter who the candidate is, he is fully reported when he makes his first election speech, and if at any time during the campaign he touches or* any fresh matter,* or answers any attacksthat have been made upon him by opponents, he is just as fully reported on those occasions. I think it may be said that in> Western Australia it is always the case that the leading daily newspapers follow triepractice which I have described, and I have never heard of reputable newspapers anywhere pursuing the line of conduct which Senator Mulcahy has described in the case of the Hobart Mercury.
Senator PULSFORD (New SouthWales). - I think that Senator Mulcahy wasthoroughly justified in the course which he has taken this afternoon. I myself never before heard of such a procedure as he has. described. I did not know that it wasfollowed in any State; and I hope that the exposure which has been made in this matter will tend to terminate such an un- desirable state of things - undesirable in connexion with any candidate, and certainly very undesirable on the part of the press of any State.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - Senator Pulsford has just said that he was not aware that the practice of charging candidates for inserting reports of their speeches had existed in any other State than Tasmania. I can assure him that in South Australia our leading newspapers for years past have had an arrangement that every candidate for Parliament shall be reported to the extent of eight inches, and that any one requiring more space than that shall pay for it at about the same rate as that mentioned by Senator Mulcahy. So that the practice is not confined to Tasmania. I say emphatically that bo-h in connexion with State and Federal elections the press of South Australia has carried out this practice. Of course, the newspapers have a right to do what (hey like, but when they are being to a certain extent subsidized in the way of cheap carriage, cheap postage, and Government advertisements at a higher price than is charged to the general public as a rule, the system should be discouraged in the interests of the public. I am very pleased that the Senate, in its wisdom, determined, in connexion with the Copyright Bill, that in future these newspapers should not have the advantages they have enjoyed in the past. I am also glad that Senator Mulcahy has brought this matter before the Senate. The article in the Hobart *Mercury was an absolute disgrace. It was a discreditable thing to attack a public man as Senator Mulcahy was attacked in that article. Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Home Affairs, /upon notice -
Referring to the Honorable Minister’s answer :to the question of Senator Pearce “ as to whether instructions had been issued forbidding public -servants from accepting positions on municipal “bodies “ - Will the Minister say by whom such instructions were issued, and when?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as fol.lows : -
It was decided by the Government in August, 1902, that it was inadvisable in the public interest, for public servants to occupy positions in municipal councils, and on application being made by officers in the Trade and Customs and PostmasterGeneral’s Departments for permission to contest elections, the Departments named were apprised of this determination, which became an instruction.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Has any definite communication been received from the Secretary of State for the Colonies regarding the appointment of an Anglo-French Commission to inquire into and settle the land disputes between the different nationals in the New Hebrides?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -
The latest advices are that a reply was expected from the French Government to a British memorandum on the subject of the Commission. Since then a despatch dealing fully with this and other questions concerning the group has been sent by this Government to the Secretary of State, to which a reply is awaited.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from nth October (vide page 3378) on motion by Senator Playford -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-This Bill has been so much discussed by Parliament, by the different Chambers of Commerce, and other public bodies, and also so exhaustively dealt with by the press, that it is exceedingly difficult to raise any new points of criticism. Therefore, the points which do suggest themselves to me shall be dealt with briefly and tersely. The Bill, I understand, is founded on the Merchandise Marks Act of Great Britain, which, dealing with fraudulent trade descriptions, provides that the place of manufacture shall be stated. The Bill before us, however, goes much further, and I think that if regulations are framed to carry out the whole, or even half of its provisions, it will prove the most drastic legislation that any honorable member could well conceive. The Bill entirely depends on the regulations, on which, in turn, depends the entire administration. Honorable senators have at various times offered criticisms about too much being left to regulations, but with many of their arguments I do not quite agree, because there are certain matters which have no parliamentary significance, and which may safely be left to be dealt with in that way. The Bill before us, however, deals with the whole of the important export trade of the Commonwealth, and the regulations may do an infinity of harm.
– The Bill does not deal with the whole of the export trade.
– The Bill deals with the whole of the trade, so far as regards foods, medicines, fabrics, boots and shoes, and so forth ; and there is good ground for saying that the regulations should be assented to by Parliament before they are given the force of law. I admit that such a course has its drawbacks, and that if we commence to set out the regulations required under the Bill, we may do harm. We may thereby interfere with trade, and dictate to people on the other side of the world how they shall pack and deal generally with their goods - we may, in fact, impose regulation which will not be tolerated. The most serious criticism I know of in regard to the Bill is that it simply deals with the commerce with other countries, while! it does not apply to commerce between State and State. The whole of the States, except perhaps Queensland, have tolerably strict measures dealing with the sale of wholesome foods and medicines. I have here a Bill which has passed the Legislative Assembly of Victoria, and is now under consideration by the Legislative Council of that State; and a slight reference to it shows that we are entering on a dangerous path. The two Bills will overlap, and we shall find State inspectors, and Commonwealth inspectors doing similar work. I am afraid that exporters will be called upon to deal with two different Departments, and two separate lots of inspectors. The Victorian Bill is intended to prevent the adulteration of food. The definition of “ article of food “ includes - every article used-for food or drink by man, and any article that enters into or is used in the composition or preparation of food, and also includes confectionery, spices, flavouring substances, and essences.
Clause 5 of that Bill is as follows: -
Any authorized officer may at any time enter in or upon any wharf pier or jetty or any railway station or place of delivery or premises and there inspect any animals carcases or articles of food or drugs which he may have reasonable ground for believing are intended to be slaughtered or sold or used for food for human consumption.
We see, therefore, that the two measures have practically the same objects in view. I find that under the Victorian Bill there is to be what is called a Food Standards Committee, who have enormous powers. It is provided that the Beard of Health can only make regulations in regard to carrying out the purpose of the law with its consent. There is no such provision as that in the Bill now before the Senate. If it is the intention of the Minister to have, say, butter graded, will it not be necessary to appoint inspectors, or other officials ? The Bill makes no reference to that matter. What is not clone under the Federal law may be done under the State law. While we may think we are protecting the butter producers Or exporters from harassing legislation, they may find themselves exposed to the operation of the State law. The Ministers, in charge of the two measures may take either the most drastic, or the least drastic, law, and apply it. In my opinion, the Senate has no right to proceed further with this measure when there are grave reasons for supposing that the two laws may overlap, and one prove to be unconstitutional. Sub-clause c of clause 3 deals with trade description as to the manufacturer or producer of the goods, and sub-clause d as to the “ mode of manufacturing, producing, selecting, packing, or otherwise preparing the goods.” Mr. Wade, the Attorney-General ‘of New South Wales, has expressed an opinion which merits consideration. That opinion, as reported in the press, is as follows: -
Mr. Wade maintains that the Bill oversteps the limits of Federal action, and invades the rights of the States. The power to legislate in connexion with trade and commerce conferred by the Commonwealth, he believes, only enables the Federation to exercise control in securing smoothness and rapidity in and transport and exchange of commodities while the States retain powers to protect the health and safety of their citizens.
– From what is the honorable and learned senator quoting?
– From one of the morning journals.
– We do not know whether the quotation actually represents the opinion of Mr. Wade.
– I believe it does; in any case, I do not see that the Minister should insist on having Mr. Wade’s exact words. We have nothing to do with the mode of manufacturing or producing, but only with the export and import trade in the goods to which the Bill applies. Surely the Minister does not assert that we have power to interfere with the manufacture of goods in the States?
– No; but we can insist on goods intended for export being truthfully labelled.
– My honorable friend does not seem to understand the meaning of the words used in the Bill. This, apparently, is not a question of exporting, but a question as to the mode of manufacturing, producing, or selecting. At all events, I think Mr. Wade’s opinion is well founded; and he goes on to say: -
Another matter on which Mr. Wade lays stress is that since the Minister of Customs may fix a trade description by regulation, it is within his power to impose conditions which would prevent goods being imported to compete with the local trade. “ Supposing,” Mr. Wade says, “ some question arose with regard to the manufacture of agricultural implements. It may happen that a firm in some State of the Commonwealth was able to produce an article at a certain figure, but the tariff might be sufficient to exclude the article from Canada or America from entering and competing with the local manufacturer. The Minister might, in his proclamation, lay down the conditions with regard to the manufacturer of the imported article as to the mode of manufacturing
That is the point. or selecting or packing or as to the material of which it is composed, which would have the effect of either excluding the foreign article, or imposing heavy obligations upon the trader. Or again, sub-clause d, as I have said, provides that the trade description is to apply to the mode of manufacturing. The article may be made by nonunion labour, yet it is possible that the proclamation may prescribe that any goods brought to the Commonwealth which do not contain the union label specifying the mode of manufacture should “be prohibited articles. That any court of justice would allow this gross interference with trade in this case is not likely, but in the meantime business relations may be entirely paralyzed, and trade may be driven away for ever from the Commonwealth.
Under the term “mode of manufacturing,” the Government might insist on all goods which come into the Commonwealth bearing a trade union label. We thus have a second measure which deals with the very complicated subject of a union label.
– In that connexion. does not the provision merely mean that if the product be not that of union labour, it shall not be described as that of union labour?
– That is all. There must be a proper description of the goods.
– We have no right to require a man to say whether goods are manufactured by union or non-union, labour.
– The description must be a true one.
– That may be the intention, but we know there is a section in the Immigration Restriction Act which says one thing and is made to mean another.
– If a description is given it must be a true one.
– That is all right, but what does Senator Pearce make of clause 14? -
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.
Under the term “ trade description,” every article which leaves the Commonwealth might be compelled to bear a union label or some other mark.
– That would not be a trade description.
– I am afraid that Senator Best has not been following me.
– This is pure imagination on the part of Senator Dobson.
– I refer honorable senators to sub-clauses c and d of clause 3. I am suggesting what Ministers might do under that clause. We are willing to leave to Ministers the framing of regulations to deal with’ such ordinary matters as, for instance, the census; but the position under this Bill is very different. The Victorian Bill lays it down definitely that “trade description” shall include the measurement, number, and other particulars. There is” a lengthy clause dealing with the matter, so that the obligations imposed will be thoroughly well known. I should now like to deal with the Bill as it affects the fruit trade of Tasmania, and my remarks on this point will apply to trade generally. I understand that Senator Playford has received a copy of the letter written by Messrs. Jones and Company, but as the information has not been given to all honorable senators, I should like to quote the document. It is as follows : -
In our own business -
That is the fruit business -
In our own business, however, we would certainly be hampered by the working of this Act, in cases such as the following : - Firms in Africa are in the habit of having jams specially manufactured for them, the conditions of the order being that the label shall not state where the goods are actually manufactured, and that the labels shall bear no name beyond that of the actual importer and distributor of the goods in Africa. We enclose you labels used for such business. If this Act were carried through it would mean an actual loss in this business, not only to our firm, but to the Commonwealth at large, because the firms referred to are ‘ large importers, and if they cannot have their business carried on on their own lines, and in the manner they desire, they will simply go somewhere else, where they can have their instructions carried out.
– They wish to conduct a dishonorable trade.
– No ; they do not.
– I refer to people exporting under those conditions.
– I dealt with the question in my second-reading speech, and showed that there was no foundation for those apprehensions.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that he is not going to prevent these men having their cases labelled in any way they like?
– No; not in any way they like. They must tell the truth in their labels.
– I have their two labels here, and they do not say on them that the jellies and jams are manufactured by them, but that they are manufactured for them ; and they wish to have their brand and name on the cases, so that the public in South Africa will know their goods.
– They say they are made for them and packed in Tasmania.
– That is on one of their labels, but not on the other.
– Does Senator Dobson object to goods being labelled, “ Made in Tasmania,” or “Packed in Tasmania”?
– That’ is a good advertisement for Tasmania.
– Certainly it is. What Mr. Jones points out is that’ if we Jay down regulations with respect to apples or any other exports, we cannot have regard to the way in which men all over the world with whom we do business carry on their trade. ‘ .
– We are not going to interfere with those people.
– He points out that whenever a regulation is made in connexion with the trade, a risk is run of interfering with the course of trade. We should open our arms to encourage all trade with the Commonwealth ; we should not lay down restrictive legislation. I defy any Minister to frame a set of regulations, and forecast exactly how they will affect trade. Mr. Jones goes ort to say -
We must confess that we entirely fail to see why the Commonwealth of Australia should attempt to say in what way a man in South Africa shall conduct his own personal business,
– That is not proposed.
– which is really the effect the Act would have if passed in its present form. This principle also applies to business done within the Common’ wealth itself. There are many large merchants who insist upon having their own label, and it would be a serious bar to business if the restrictions of the Act were to be applied within the Commonwealth as well as outside. We are not sure, however, whether the Act intends this latter, but just mention it.
The Minister must see that this Bill applies quite as much to imports as to exportsWhat I wish to guard against is an interference with trade by harassing regulations.
– It is not proposed to interfere with men who are carrying on their .business honestly, fairly, and truthfully.
– Every one must agree with the platitudes which the Minister utters so pleasantly.
– Then why object to the Bill ?
– I propose to give some illustrations to show the way in .which trade may be interfered with under this measure. Mr. Jones goes on to deal with exports of apples, and he says -
This is another industry that will be greatly affected by the passing of the Bill in its present form. At present apples are sold on their merits largely by public auction, unlike butter, which is bought under contract all the year round, and buyers are dependent on a standard quality to conduct their business. Apples, however, are opened and sold on inspection whether privately or by auction, and regulations that may be necessary for the butter industry are certainly uncalled for in connexion with apple shipments.
It would be to our mind an injustice to mark with a Government mark apples, sound in every respect, but which are smaller than the usual standard size.
– They could be marked “small.” We should not object if a man packed the biggest rubbish he could find in his cases so long as he said so.
Small apples of certain varieties when of good colour sell well in England to supply a certain class of trade,and for which there is a very fair demand, but such people would naturally be very chary of buying apples when the case is branded in such a way as to show the fruit is of inferior quality, which would practically be the effect were the same regulations carried into effect in connexion with these exports. If the sale of this class of apple is restricted in England, it simply means that the growers would have to waste a large proportion of their crop, as there is practically no demand for smaller apples within the Australian States, and we know of several growers who have at times shipped small apples, and received shillings per case more than they would have done had they tried to realize in the colonies. We, of course, do not want to see the practice of exporting small apples become general, but there is a demand in England for a certain quantity of these small apples, which are not saleable in Australia, and in the interests of this trade we think it would be detrimental to have such fruit branded by theGovernment here as inferior.
Again, the powers proposed to be given into the hands of inspectors seem to us altogether too arbitrary, and we certainly think that the Bill should limit these powers.
The Minister told us in his second-reading speech that it is not proposed to interfere with shipments of small apples. We are aware of the honorable gentleman’s knowledge of the trade, and he must admit that if the exporter marked hiscases “ small apples,” an intending purchaser would begin the inspection of those cases with a prejudice in has mind, and if the cases were marked “inferior,” the purchaser would certainly have that prejudice.
– A small apple is not necessarily an inferior apple.’
– We do not need to be told that.
– Then why should they be marked “inferior”?
– If, amongst thousands of cases in Covent Garden, there are two orthree hundred marked “ small apples,” and the rest branded as of first quality, the intending purchasers will naturally look at the former with some prejudice, and will say that they must have them cheap or not at all. I take the Minister on his own ground, and I say that if the Government are going to insist that small apples, when exported, shall be marked as small, he will do infinite harm to the trade.
– Is not this done in South Australia and in Tasmania at the present time?
– They could be marked, “ Ripstone large,” “ ripstone medium,” or “ ripstone small.”
– The Government would never dare to make regulations providing for three grades in fruit. If they did, they would do infinite injury to the industry.
– I understand that garding is the law in Tasmania now.
– It has never been carried out.
– Does not Mr. Jones say that small apples sell well for a certain trade at the present time?
– Perhaps honorable senators will allow me to give my illustration. In one instance, some Scarlet Permaine apples of beautiful colour, but somewhat small, were rejected by Peacock and Company for shipment to England. They would not go through the ring of two and a half inches, and did not quite come up to their standard. The grower sent them to England on his own account. They were very glad to give them the space they had already applied for. Peacock and Company would not run the risk of sending them to England, but small as they were, they were beautifully coloured and splendid apples for dessert, and they brought more in England than any of the apples in Peacock’s shipment.
– They were of excellent quality, I have no doubt.
– The point is, that if they had been marked “small,” I am satisfied that they would have brought a less price.
– Very large apples do not sell well in England for dessert.
– The Government may very well propose to grade butter into first, second, and third class, and pastry butter, but they cannot in the same way grade articles such as apples, which cannot be interfered with or adulterated, and which are bought practically from the trees, as nature has supplied them, after personal inspection. Can Senator Playford. with his great practical experience of this industry, pretend to compare apples with butter, cheese, medicines, and commodities of that description?
– Has the honorable senator never seen a case with good apples on top and inferior apples beneath them?
– I suppose we have all seen that sort of thing, but the honorable senator will not contend that the inspectors at Hobart will open all the cases for shipment to see whether the only good apples are those on’ top,?
– They will open a case to see whether the description is correct.
– Apples are sold in the open market at Covent Garden. They are subject to inspection there, and if a single case of inferior fruit is shown, intending buyers are put on their guard in dealing with the whole shipment, and it may bring but a very small price indeed. I say that this is a trade which protects itself. ,
– It is one of the trades which, above all others, requires regulation. No industry has been injured as much as has the fruit industry by careless packing.
– I can assure the honorable senator that we have been carrying on the trade in Tasmania very successfully for the last ten or twelve years, and some of the brands of our fruit are as well known as is the honorable senator’s brand as a politician.
– That is because the goods-t. ave been carefully selected and well packed.
– It is because they are open to inspection- by the buyer. Thev may open half-a-dozen cades, and will buy the rest according to the sample. Surely the Minister will make some difference between an article which can. ‘ be adulterated in such a way that a scientist only can discover the adulteration, and apples which it may be said the buyers purchase off the trees.
– The firm to which the honorable senator has referred would be injured by the action of any careless or dishonest trader.
– I was coming to that. If a dishonest trader and careless packer of fruit in any way injures or prejudices the market, that can be found out from the reports we shall get from Covent Garden ; and I could see no harm in his being made a marked man, and in regulations being applied to his trade. Let me mention one or two facts to show that it if. absolutely impossible to successfully carry out any regulations such as the Minister has lately suggested in connexion with the apple trade. We have sent 35.000-. 45,000, and I am told that in a little time we shall be sending 70,000, 80,000,. or 100,000 cases, by one ship. Suppose for example, we are sending 50,000 cases by one ship. There is sometimes great difficulty in having the apples brought down: week by week. They are brought from theUpper Derwent, and through the Huondistrict, to Hobart, on a Friday, for instance. The big steamer hopes to get away on the Saturday afternoon. There is but a little time given for the shipment of these thousands of cases of fruit.
– All those cases, before they reach the side of the ship, are branded in some way.
– That is so. Does the Minister propose that these 50,00c cases of fruit shall be inspected during the bustle of transhipping them from the small boats that have brought them up or down the Derwent to the big steamer?
– It would be impossible.
– It is not necessary. Say there are a thousand cases of ripstone pippins, marked “ medium,” the inspector would open one case to verify the description, and would pass the rest.
– Are the Government going to issue regulations under which the growers will be compelled1 to brand their cases of apples as first or second class, or medium-sized, before they leave the orchard ?
– I cannot say.
– I should think they, would not. If they do propose such regulations they will hear more about it than they imagine, for that would absolutely ruin the trade.
– Ruin the trade to tell the truth about it?
– There is no question of telling the truth about it. The remark only shows that the Minister is exceedinglyignorant of the provisions of the Bill which he has charge of. How does he dare to impute that we oppose this Bill because we do not wish the truth to be known? Will not the truth be known to every man in England who buys a case of apples? A buyer can inspect all the cases of apples submitted for sale, and can open as many cases, as he likes.
– They do not dothat. I have been in Covent Garden, and’ buyers do not open every case;
– The Minister in his second-reading speech referred to the fruit trade of South Australia. He referred to the Government brand being put on fruit, and I interjected, “ Is not some fruit sent from South Australia without any inspection at all?”
– Hear, hear.
– I understood the honorable gentleman to say that inspection was insisted on in South Australia.
– There is no compulsion. A man may send fruit away without inspection.
– I will not say that the truth is coming out now, but we are getting an approach to accuracy, and we learn that the system in South Australia is absolutely voluntary. Every case can go away without a mark or an inspection.
– I said all that go through the depot are inspected.
– unintentionally I am sure - misled me. As his statement was opposed to facts, which I knew, I wrote to the Premier of South Australia, and in reply was told that the proceeding is absolutely voluntary, that if a man wants the Government stamp he can get his apples branded, but if not, he can send them away without the Government inspector seeing them. If Senator Playford will consent to deal with fruit in the same way, but with a proviso that if a man should export inferior fruit he shall suffer, I shall have no more to say on the subject. But he has hinted that he intends to deal with fruit in a most drastic Way - a way in Which the Parliament of South Australia has not dared to deal with local fruit.
– The larger proportion of the growers in South Australia, being very intelligent men,, do not send away apples until they are properly graded, and marked with the Government brand. They get a better price than other1 growers.
– The Government brand is not put on all South Australian apples.
– With the exception of very few, it is.
– I doubt if the brand is put on one-half of the apples
– On nine-tenths of them.
– Hardly 10 per cent.
– This is the second time that my honorable friend has been absolutely wrong. He said a while ago that all the apples; in, South Australia were inspected.
– No, I never said anything of the sort.
– My honorable friend said “Hear, hear,” when I said that on a previous occasion he mentioned that all the apples exported from South Australia ‘ were inspected. I do not think he knows anything of the Bill or the South Australian trade.
– I think that the honorable and learned senator has got completely mixed up.
– I object to that statement. My honorable friend is so wrong that in order to excuse himself he hurls charges at me. I do not know how the apple trade of South Australia is carried on. Sir William Lyne said that Tasmanian apples were shut out of South * Africa because they were badly graded, and very inferior. That is a slanderous statement to go abroad. Messrs. Jones and Company who know something about the subject, say -
In a report given in the Argus of a deputation to Sir William Lyne, that gentleman is said to have stated that Australian fruit is absolutely prohibited in South Africa on account of the inferior stuff that has been forwarded there. In reply to this, all we cay say is that we have shipped apples to Africa every month since April last, and up to September, and we have never heard any complaints or objections, nor do we know of any fruit being refused admittance.
Senator Playford is following the bad example of his colleague, and is endeavouring to slander our fruit trade. That is one of the arguments which Sir William Lyne used to the deputation for insisting that these goods should be branded and marked, but his statement turns out to be absolutely without foundation. In South Africa, and to some extent in Western Australia, the regulations about insects and pests are so hard and fast that verv often fruit is rejected, which in other respects is absolutely sound. If there is a sign of black spot to be seen with a microscope the fruit is condemned. If my honorable friend, instead of meddling with an enormous trade, would try to bring about uniform legislation on the lines of the Victorian Pure Foods Bill, he would do far more good than by introducing a measure which absolutely overlaps the legislation of certain States.
What is intended to be done with regard to the grading of goods? In another place one Minister said that there was to be no grading ; another. Minister said there was to be grading to some extent, and another Minister declined to express an opinion on the subject. That illustrates the state of mind into which this irresponsible Cabinet has drifted. It is very important ‘that we should know to what extent grading is to take place. I can understand that, properly done, grading may effect some good. I can understand that men who deal in first-class articles may like to have such articles graded as first class. But my honorable friend will find to his sorrow, if he tries to put this Bill into force too much, that the regulations will hamper trade in a way of which he little dreams. Are the shippers and the exporters of apples to pay the cost of inspection and grading ? I see no such provision in the Bill.
– The cost of inspec- tion will, I imagine, be borne by the Commonwealth, but the cost of the grading, if there is any cost, will be .borne by the grower, as he will get the benefit of a better price.
– It is very hard that a grower should have his fruit graded against his will, and be charged with the cost thereof.
– I do not know that he will.
– There is not a word in the Bill about making a charge for this service. I have looked carefully through its provisions, and I doubt very much indeed whether the Commonwealth could, by regulations, impose upon the shippers and exporters the cost of inspection and grading. I have an extract on the question of grading, which is well worth reading, because it shows how in Victoria the authorities are afraid to make very drastic regulations. Mr. Crowe says -
In grading butter for export, however, in addition to covering all that is required under the provisions of the Exported Products Act, the examination goes much further, and embraces valuable educational features. Three boxes of each brand are taken at random, the bottoms of boxes are removed,- boxes are placed end to end, so that all brands on the outside are hidden. This is done so that the expert does not know where the butter comes from or whose it is. It may be best factory or the poorest dairy butter. Each box is examined for what it may disclose, and no chance of even unconscious bias exists. Points are carefully arrived at and noted, and later on the same butter is examined by a second inspector. A consultation is held, and in the case of any dif ference a further examination is made. All butter scoring 90 points and over is branded .proved for export, first grade,” &c, and, although the method provides for the stamping Of “second” and “ third “ grades, such butter is branded “ approved for export” only.
In Victoria they do practically what is done in South Australia. A man can have his butter graded if for export “first class,” but if it is not of first-class quality, it can be branded’ “ Approved for export.” There is no “ second1 class “ or “third class,” or “pastry” brand put on the article.
– Could not the same thing be done with apples?
– No. Some of the White Star liners take away from Hobart 50,000 cases between Friday and Sunday. Last season Messrs. Jones and Company had not enough fruit to fill the space for which they had contracted at 3s. 6d. per case, and therefore they telegraphed to a grower at Bushy Park, who has a large orchard, to send down 900 cases within a few hours. Every man was put on to pick apples, and by 12 o’clock on the following night 900 additional cases were put on board the steamer. Does the Minister contend that there would have been any time available in which to inspect or grade those apples?
– Would it nol be a true trade description if thev were marked “ungraded”? That is all the Bill provides for.
– My honorable friend, although he is a free-trader, tries to fetter everybody.
– Is not that a fact?
– The inspection which my honorable friend and the Minister favour would kill the apple trade which is carried on in Tasmania.
– Does the honorable and learned senator think that the grower should be allowed to mark his apples “grade No. 1”?
– In the instance to which I have referred an inspector would have had to be sent, with the wire, to Bushy Park to see the apples picked and packed.
– Would the honorable and learned senator allow the grower to mark the apples “grade No. 1”?
– I should not allow the apples to be interfered with in any way. Fancy an orchardist who is asked to send down 900 or 1.000 cases of apples at a moment’s notice being compelled, be- cause there was no time available for doing anything, to have them marked “ ungraded” !
– It would be true.
– Does my honorable friend imagine that if a buyer went into Covent Garden, and saw 10,000 cases marked “ graded,u arid 1,000 cases marked “ungraded,” his mind would not be prejudiced immediately against the latter?
– He would be prejudiced against all the others if one lot was marked as “graded,” and it was not.
– In the case of every packet of merchandise which is marked, I think that the statement should be absolutely true. I can understand that no man should be allowed to send away a tin of jam marked 16 ozs. when it doesmot contain that weight. I can understand that if a man pent home cases of apples supposed to contain a bushel each, and they did not, he should be hauled over the coals. But that is very different from what the Minister thinks he will do with the apple trade of Tasmania. The more the Bill is examined the more clearly it will be found that any regulations for the grading of different articles, will create no end of trouble. It ought to contain some clause under which a man, if found out in cheating or dishonorably marking or grading his goods, may be punished. But to set to work to make regulations against innocent exporters and importers is a thing which I do not think the Cabinet will dare to do. »
– As I listened to the Minister when he introduced the measure.. I could not help seeing that he was talking without his book. For instance, he said that all fruit in South Australia is graded.
– Most of the fruit which is exported from South Australia is graded.
– Out of 87,000 cases exported from South Australia only 9,600 cases were examined.
– Out of 85,000 cases 25,000 were examined; that is the truth.
– No ; I find (hat I was wrong.
– The statement was handed to me.
– I have information which is beyond question that only 9,600 cases out of 87,000 were in spected for export. I will show the account to the Minister if he wishes. I think this shows that the honorable senator was not quite sure of where he was when he introduced the Bill.
– I thought there was a larger proportion; that is all.
– The general impression regarding this Bill is that it is wrongly named. It is not a Commerce Bill at all. It was originally a Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, and if it had been confined to fraudulent trade marks a great deal of the objection I have to it would have been removed. Why should we go out of our way to help foreign buyers who do not ask for our assistance, especially when we are told by the fruit-growers and by the Chambers of Commerce that the measure will actually injure them by forcing them to put brands upon their goods?
– It is not so in South Australia, where . the producers are unanimously in favour of it.
– I have information from buyers in London, who state that they pay no attention whatever j to a Government brand. They examine for themselves the goods that they buy. Moreover, a considerable proportion of the fruit that is exported to England is purchased by English buyers in this country. Naturally, they inspect the goods before they buy them, and consequently there is no need for Government inspection. And, further, if goods were marked as “inferior,” it would tend to depreciate their value in the eyes of purchasers.
– They would not be marked as “inferior.”
– This is an instance of how Ministers differ. The Minister in charge of this Bill in another place said, in regard to apples, for instance, that if they were small they would possibly be branded as “ inferior.” If the measure is to be left to the regulation of a Minister who entertains that idea, it will be particularly injurious to the interest of our exporters. It is for us to do all we can to help the producers of Australia. The fruitgrowers of New South Wales and Tasmania and the Chambers of Commerce have said that, judging the Bill in the light of their experience, it will injure the export trade. They are the people who will suffer. They are men of experience, and surely they are better judges of this matter than we are. I may say at once that a large body of people who are interested in this subject, and who speak from knowledge, condemn the Bill entirely. They say that it will not benefit them, and, therefore; will not benefit the purchasers. Senator Dobson has quoted extracts from the letter of Jones and Company, copies of which have been sent to most of us. That is one of the largest exporting firms in Tasmania. This year, my State will export something like 750,000 cases of fruit. There are applications for space to that extent. The whole of that trade, which has increased by leaps and bounds, has been developed without any Government interference whatever.
– It has had a little Government interference in Tasmania.
– The people interested asked to be left alone. It is true that there is an Act on the statute-book of Tasmania, but it was found not to be workable.
– The information supplied is -
This Act has been practically inoperative from its inception owing to want of funds.
That is the statement of the Government.
– We may take that for what it is worth. The real fact is that exporters objected to the measure, and if it meant’ an additional charge on them that was another reason for objecting.
– The Tas.manian Act contains stiffer provisions than does this Bill.
– The Minister stated, in introducing the measure, that in his model State apples, realized from 3s. to 4s. per case higher than Tasmanian apples. I take the liberty to doubt that statement.
– The honorable senator can doubt it as much as he likes, but I can give the figures.
– South Australian apples, are ready for export earlier than Tasmanian apples, and look a little better Our Tasmanian apples are shipped unripe. They have to be. They improve on the voyage. They do not carr so well if they are sent away fully ripe. I know something about the trade, because my firm was the first in Australia to export apples,. Twenty years ago we shipped 4,000 cases to England, and realized as much as 30s. per case for them, without any cool storage, simply good ventilation. Since then our trade has expanded to such an extent that this year 1 suppose there will be close on 1,000,000 cases of apples available for export. I understand that sufficient space is not to be had in Victoria, New South Wales, or even in South Australia to meet the demands of the shippers,. That trade has grown up without Government interference, and there is no need for it.
– Does the honorable senator say that there was no Government interference in “Victoria?
– Not in regard to apples,, I think.
– Yes, there was ; there was examination, and the fruit was branded.
– I never heard of it before.
– It is true. I know a man engaged in the trade.
– 1 should like to see the exportation provisions of the Bill removed altogether. Their only effect can be to protect the foreign buyer when he does not ask for protection. He protects himself in buying his, fruit. I will give one reason why the Government brand is of very little use. A buyer who purchases fruit from a private individual considers that he has a right to some compensation if there is anything wrong with the consignment, or it does not turn out well. He has no confidence in the Government brand, because if anything went wrong with fruit branded by the Government he would get no compensation. An instance was given in another place, where a gentleman. speaking from his. own experience, stated that he had 150 lambs frozen for export. The inspector in Victoria declined to allow them to be branded. His neighbour, however, had an equal number of lambs from the same district branded by the inspector. The two lots went by the same ship, and were sold at the same time in London, but the unbranded lambs were sold at a higher price than the branded. That shows that the Government inspector was not correct in his ideas.
– That must be an isolated case, or it would show that the inspector was not fit for his work.
– It shows that the Government brand is of no value. That is the reason why I contend that in attempting to do this sort of thing we ought to look to our own buyers, and help our own people in every way. We ought to protect our Inter-State trade. But to attempt to benefit foreign buyers and consumers seems to me to be the height of absurdity.
– This Bill is in-‘ tended to benefit our own producers by gaining a character for their produce that it has not now.
– Our producers say that it would not benefit them, and they ought to know. If the Bill goes into Committee, I intend to move a provision in order to allow goods to be exported unbranded. If that is done, and the Bill is, for the rest, made a fraudulent marks Bill, so that 00 inspection shall be directed unless the inspector has good reason to believe that there is a false description, or false packing, or that there is a false intention somewhere, when he can inspect and act accordingly, the measure will be improved. No one desires to in any way to excuse fraud or to help it. To my mind, to provide that goods shall not be exported and sold without a Government guarantee of quality is the height of foolishness. It will only recoil upon ourselves, and will not help us in any way.
– I have been hearing so much about apples that I am reminded of the fact that apples were the cause of original sin. We heard of very little else than apples when we were discussing the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill. If we do not mind, the Minister will get this measure through under the disguise of its being an apple Bill. But I can assure the Senate that this is very much more than a mere apple Bill. It is a Bill of a very far-reaching character. Indeed, it is a terrible Bill- It is one of the most serious Bills ever introduced in the Senate. It proposes practically to put the commerce of Australia under the heel of the Minister of Trade and Customs for the time being, whoever he may be. The Bill gives extraordinary powers. Senator Macfarlane has spoken of it as being a fraudulent marks Bill. I wish it were. Then it would be something like a copy of the English Ad, which simply says to the trade, “ If you put a mark on any goods it must be an honest mark ; if you are guilty of fraud in any way, you must suffer,” But that is not what the Bill before us proposes. Under this measure, a man may be made to suffer if he marks goods falsely, but the extraordinary principle of the Bill is that the “Government propose to take out of the hands of the people themselves the trade that belongs to them, to say what description shall be given to goods, how the goods are to be. graded, how they are to be divided, and how they are to be marked. In these proposals there is the very gravest possible danger to the prosperity of Australia. The measure deals with quite a number of things - how many, honorable senators will understand when I have enlightened’ them somewhat. When the Bill was passing through the other House, in the small /and early hours -of one fine morning, some additions were made to it. that altogether altered its scope, and made it applicable _ to an immensely larger area of the commerce of Australia. The Minister, when approached by a deputation from the Chambers of Commerce, confessed that he was much impressed by the representations made to him, and he said he would take care that the Bill was made applicable only to articles of food, drink, and medicines. The Bill, however, as it stands, applies, I suppose, to something like three-fourths of the commerce of Australia ; and that is a statement which I have no doubt will cause some surprise to honorable senators. The Bill applies to - articles used for food or drink by man, or used in the manufacture or preparation of articles used for food or drink by man.
Well, there is no end to the machinery and metal-wares of all kinds which are used in the manufacture and preparation of “ articles used for food or drink by man,” not to mention the raw material. It appears to me that the far-reaching character of the words used in the Bill has not been observed. In another place, apparel was included amongst the manufactures to come under the Bill; and apparel includes boots and shoes and “ the materials from which such apparel is manufactured.” I believe that apparel is sometimes manufactured from wool, and, therefore, the whole of the wool trade of Australia is comprehended in this measure. I have here a return showing the imports through the Customs for last year. The value of the total import of merchandise was 35.8 millions sterling, and the value of the goods indicated by the Bill would come to 17.3 millions. But if we have to include the articles which would be embraced by the words “ used in the manufacture or preparation of articles used for food or drink by man,” trie total is brought up to at least 25 millions sterling. When we come to the exports, which, in value, total 39.7 millions sterling, we find that the goods indicated in the Bill represent 30.2 millions; and when we bear in mind the proviso “ used in the manufacture or preparation,” the figures are larger still. In fact, we may say that coal is used in the preparation of articles of food, and will, therefore, come within the operation of the Bill ; and some fine morning we may find the Minister issuing regulations as to how coal shall be graded. I have made out a list of the articles which come under the Bill, and the number is verv great. I shall not inflict the whole list on honorable senators, but merely draw attention to one or two. For instance, there is sulphur, which is mainly imported as an article of trade for the manufacture of sulphuric acid, and so forth. Sulphur, however, is to some extent used in medicine, and, therefore, under clause 15, sulphur is brought within the operation of the Bill. The same remark may be made in regard to turpentine, which is used not only as a liniment, but as an internal medicine. Of course, it may be said that all these matters depend on how the Bill is read and administered, and to a large extent that is true. But when we have a first-class linguist at the head of the Customs Department anything may be read into an Act of Parliament. The gentleman who fills the post of Minister of Trade and Customs to-day can read a good many things into an Act of Parliament which legislators could scarcely have expected.
– Can the honorable senator give us one instance, after making so general a charge?
– The statement of Senator Pulsford is as comprehensive as the Bill.
– The position is something like this : If the total imports and exports of merchandise amount, in value, to 75-5 millions sterling, no more than ^15,000,000 worth can escape being brought under the Bill, if the Minister in charge thinks it desirable to take steps to that end.
– Does the honorable senator complain that a large amount of commerce will escape the Bill?
– We have been told that the commerce affected by the Bill is, comparatively speaking, a small quantity, but I think I have shown that the great bulk of the commerce would be affected by it.
– We cannot have too much of a good thing.
– We ought to have as little as possible of a bad thing. If we cannot put this Bill into the wastepaper basket, let us mitigate its evils as far as we can. I should agree with the measure if it were simply a replica of the British Fraudulent Trade Marks Act; under these circumstances, it would have a swift and easy passage through the Senate. I object to the title of the Bill, which describes it as “ an Act relating to commerce with other countries.” In my opinion the title ought to be much more restricted, and if it is not called a Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill the measure ought to be called a Trade Description Bill, or something of that sort. To give it the dignified titled of “ an Act relating to commerce with other countries “ is a little too absurd.
– There has not been much dignity about the commerce of which we have heard in the Courts lately.
– A matter of that kind goes a long way with some honorable senators. If a case of fraud occurs there are people who will say that the trade of Australia is rotten to the core; and that is the view taken by those very people who are for ever girding at others who have published similar statements in the English press. If honorable senators would begin at home, and, contenting themselves with actual cases, would say less about the alleged iniquities of merchants in general, it would be well for the country.
– This Bill is to protect honest merchants.
– I desire to call the attention of honorable senators to clause 2, which is as follows: -
This Act shall be incorporated and read -is one with the Customs Act 1901.
That is a very small clause, but it is pregnant with great meaning and possible results. It means that the whole of the highly penal sections of the Customs Act are incorporated in the Bill.
– Hear, hear.
– The clause means that if a man makes a small mistake he may be fined £100, aand that the minimum penalty cannot be reduced below £$. A mistake of the kind may occur in regard to an article only worth a shilling, and I have in my mind the case of some lascars from an Orient steamer in Sydney, who sold about ten sticks, worth is. each, and were, in the aggregate, mulcted in penalties amounting to^’50. That clause subjects the whole of the producers for export to penal exactions for small mistakes, apart altogether from fraud. Let me direct the attention of honorable senators to the definition of “ trade description.” In the English Act trade description deals only with number, quantity, measure, gauge, and weight. Under the Bill before us, however, we are asked to consider the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, and weight. It would appear that any indefinite word open to dispute has been inserted in the Bill, which sets forth that “trade description “ means any description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect. Thus we have several different divisions. There is the description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect, and then the description is applied to the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, and weight. Under the circumstances, he would be a poor Minister who could not catch a merchant in some way. There are, in fact, eleven divisions, each of which may be tested in eight different ways. Bearing in mind the first subdivision, there are no fewer than eighty-eight ways in which the accuracy of a trade description may be questioned.
– The exporter is given plenty of scope !
– As if that were not enough, “trade description “ means any description, and so forth, as to the country or place “ in or at which the goods were made or produced,” and, further, as to the manufacturer or producer of the goods, “ or the person by whom they were selected, packed, or in any way prepared for the market.” ‘ Then particulars have to be given as to the mode of manufacturing, producing, selecting, and packing, and also as to the material or ingredients of which the goods are composed. These drag-net provisions are capable of catching the most innocent. Any’ man who imports a small shipment of goods, and has not made himself fully aware of their nature, mav make some slight mistake, and’ on that he is to be branded as a fraudulent trader. The Minister must remember that the whole of the trade of Australia is open to the power of inspection.
The Bill provides that an officer may inspect and examine all prescribed goods which are imported. Power is taken to inspect all goods, whether imports or exports. So that the whole of the commerce of the country is affected by the Bill. It is only the proportion to which I have referred that comes under the special clause, and is the subject of prohibition. When we consider what I have been pointing out, that for a slight difference in description, slight errors or omissions, almost any goods in connexion with threefourths of the trade of the country may at amy time be prohibited-
– No, no.
– The honorable senator says, “No, no,” doubtless because he is ashamed of the Bill. He is not willing to’ readily admit all its iniquities, but it will be quite enough if the honorable senator is induced to admit them little by little.
– The words of the Bill are, “which makes the. description false or likely to mislead in a material respect “ - not in a little matter.
– That is to be according to regulation. I have of late been calling attention to the way in which we have been governed by- regulations. I have said again and again that we are having too much of it; but the worst phase of government by regulation to which we have so far been subjected id before us in this Bill, in sub-clause 3 of clause 7, and sub-clause 3 of clause 11. Sub-clause 3 of clause 7 provides that - the Comptroller-General, or on appeal from him the Minister, may in any case, and if in his opinion the contravention has not occurred either knowingly or negligently, shall 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 Comptroller-General that the prescribed trade description will be applied to the goods, or that they will be forthwith LXported.
That is an explicit provision, but what do honorable senators think of these words being preceded by the words, “ Subject to the regulations.” We are here to legislate^ - subject to regulations ! Surely the Commonwealth Parliament has fallen indeed to a very low level if it is prepared to’ submit to that sort of thing !
– The regulations will say_ what trade description shall be applied in each case.
– We are to have this power, “ subject to regulations.”
– Is it practical to put what the honorable senator requires in the Bill? What is the use of fighting shadows ?
– I wish to direct attention to a report made on this Bill by the Sydney Chamber of Commerce. The members of that body have spent a considerable amount of time in studying the Bill, and whatever may be the views of honorable senators, the report which they have adopted is marked by so much insight, and is so well put, that I think it worthy of very close attention.
– They look after their own interests.
– In their report they say -
The Chamber would hail with satisfaction a well considered measure safeguarding the public health, and applied to food and drugs -
I must go back for a moment to refer to Senator Playford^ interjection, because I think it insulting. The honorable senator said that the members of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce look after their own interests, but I say, most emphatically, that the interests of all Chambers of Commerce are concerned with honest trading, and there is no Chamber of Commerce in Australia that will not be found ready to stand by the Government in passing simple measures for promoting honest trading.
– Where is the insult? The Minister merely said, “ They look after their own interests.” Do they not do so?
- Senator Pearce is well aware what was meant, and what was behind the words as used by the Minister. It is not at all necessary that I should explain the interjection further. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce report as follows : -
The Chamber would hail with satisfaction a well-considered measure safeguarding the public health and applied to food and drugs, but as these are already provided for here, and possibly in other States, by legislation, we cannot see the necessity for any such Act as the present one. It is evident, from the list of goods stated by Sir William Lyne as being most likely to be affected by the Act, that the measure is not to be regarded as one to safeguard health, but that it is one which affects all classes of the trading community. In their opinion the Commerce Bill travels too far, and in its possible restrictions might very injuriously be used, and seriously embarrass the operations of both importers and exporters.
In the next place, if such an Act is considered necessary in the public interests, we think it should embrace all trade operations, and not deal with imports and exports only, leaving manufacturers and producers in Australia severely alone in their transactions between States of the Commonwealth.
It is only when a manufacturer or producer becomes an exporter to countries beyond the Commonwealth that he comes within the provisions of the Bill, which is entitled “ An Act relating to commerce with other countries.”
Honorable senators must remember that the title of this Bill ‘is, “A Bill for an Act relating to commerce with other countries.” The Chamber of Commerce- further reports : -
Seeing tha! the measure, if passed into an Act, is to be “ incorporated and read as one with the Customs Act I 9OI,” it appears possible to have been designed as a “ drag-net “ to give extended powers to the Customs never anticipated or authorized by Parliament when the Customs Act 1901 was passed.
The main effects of the measure, if passed into an Act, will primarily be to harass importers, and, secondly, producers and manufacturers when they wish to become exporters.
Clause 7, sub-section 1. - The GovernorGeneral may, by proclamation, prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia of any goods specified in the proclamation unless there is applied to them “ a trade description of such character relating to such matters, and applied in such manner as is prescribed by the proclamation Or by regulations.”
In addition to the very wide powers sought tobe conferred on the Governor-General by proclamation, there is the insidious and dangerous (judging by past experience) power by regulation.
If we turn to the definition of a trade description we find - “ Trade description,” in relation to any goods, means any description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect -
Then they give, the six different divisions, and they point out that it - includes a Customs entry relating to goods;, and any mark which, according to the custom of the trade or common repute, ls commonly taken to be an indication of any of the above matters, shall be deemed to be a trade description withinthe meaning of this Act.
The definitions, “ direct or indirect,” under (a), (), (r), (d), (e), (/), are full enough, one would think, but are added to by the inclusionof “ a Customs entry relating to goods,” and, further, “ any mark, &c, shall be deemed atrade description within the meaning of this Act.”
On any one of the above items a proclamation, could be issued, or regulations promulgated - but this is not sufficiently drastic; it is made toinclude any description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect, in connexion therewith.
It is clearly evident that almost any articlecould be prohibited on one or other of the above grounds, and that in the hands of a Minister with such powers of restriction, importations of a most ordinary nature could be forced to prohibition.
Let honorable senators think of that. This Bill, if it becomes an Act, can be used to prohibit importations on fiscal grounds. There is absolutely no doubt about that.
– Does the honorable senator think it would be so used? .
– I have not a shadow of doubt about it, and I will tell the honorable senator why.
– It would be so used by both” sides.
– It could not be so used by free-traders. In Germany and in the United States, regulations, framed ostensibly for the preservation of the public health and other such reasons, have been used for years, and notoriously used, to prevent the importation of goods.
– In the case of meat, swine fever and all sorts. of diseases have been introduced. The Americans have altered that now by Government inspection, and the goods are allowed to come in.
– I am glad that I am at last getting a little support from the Minister. The honorable senator admits that these measures can be used as adjuncts to a Tariff. There is no possibility of doubt about it. The Bill before us can be turned into a second Tariff.
– No, no; it is only for the preservation of the health of the people.
– I say that it can, and honorable senators cannot very well dispute what I say, bearing, in mind the experience in the United States of America and in Germany. The report of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce goes on to say : -
Then, further, in passing an entry, an importer is faced with a false trade description. “ False Trade Description “ means a trade description which, by reason of anything contained therein, or omitted therefrom, is false or likely to mislead, in a material respect, as regards the goods to which it is applied, and includes every alteration of a trade description, whether by way of addition, effacement, or otherwise, which makes the description false or likely to mislead in a material respect.
In the majority of instances it is impossible for .in importer to know of his own knowledge, say, for instance, the “ measure “ or “ “purity,” the “ country “ or “ place “ in or at which goods were made, by whom they were selected and packed, the “ material “ or “ ingredients.” Yet any error or omission under clause 8 renders an importer liable to a fine of £100, or three months’ imprisonment, under clause 260 of the Customs Act 1 901.
-Col. Gould. - There is the assumption that he has committed an offence as soon as he is charged with it.
– The report further says: -
It is, however, provided in the same section - “ It shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this section if the defendant proves that he did not knowingly import the goods in contravention of this section.”
But the onus of proof is on the defendant, and under the Customs Act 1901, with which this measure has to be read, the proof must be to the satisfaction of the Customs.
It is not, then, of very much use to say that a man has a defence if the Customs Department is not willing to accept it. The report further says: -
That is a most difficult task at the best of times, but under certain conditions it is absolutely impossible.
We must now refer again to clause 7. Subsection 2 provides for forfeiture. Sub-section 3 says - “ Subject to the regulations, the ComptrollerGeneral, or on appeal from him, the Minister, may permit any goods which are liable to be, or have been, seized as forfeited under this section, to be delivered to the owner or importer upon security being given to the satisfaction of the Comptroller-General that the prescribed trade description will be applied to the goods, or that they will be forthwith exported.”
We do not know what regulations there’ may be, but the Council see grave objections to putting the terms of the “ trade description “. as applied to a particular article in the hands of the Comptroller-General.
It is not a matter of the probity of the Comptroller-General. We all know that, in that respect, he is worthy of all our trust. But the knowledge of that gentleman, or of any successor in the office, must be limited. There is no man who, unless he is a walking encyclopaedia of knowledge, is able to deal effectively and righteously with every article of commerce. There is always a clanger that, even in his desire to do what is right, he may, from lack of knowledge, do what is wrong.
The Council fear that under clause 5, which provides that an officer shall inspect and examine all prescribed goods; and clause 6, which provides that notice of intention to export must be given, the export trade will be seriously hampered, and the expenses incurred in the supervision for carrying out the provisions of the Act will fall very heavily on the producing interests of the State.
-Col. Gould. - I call your attention; sir, to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.]
– On the subject of the export of fruit, the honorary secretary of the Fruit-growers’ Union in New
South Wales has written a letter, in which he objects to being called upon to give notice in this way. He says -
I have been instructed by the Executive of the Fruit-growers’ Union of New South Wales, to respectfully draw your attention to the provisions of the Commerce Bill, which will, in our opinion, prove very injurious to trade in general, and particularly such perishable articles as fruit, &c. The clauses requiring certain notice to be given with description of goods is unreasonable. The matter of inspection is also most objectionable. We would earnestly request that you do your utmost to oppose the Bill, or to have it so amended so as not to cause us undue injury.
The fruit-growers in New South Wales object to be called upon, by regulation, to give notice when they are about to make a small shipment of apples, which may have to be despatched within a few hours from the time they were picked. The report to the Sydney Chamber of Commerce continues - >
If the provisions of the Act mean that the goods have to be graded prior to export, no provision has been made for the appointment of graders or for their emolument, nor has any -charge been authorized on the exporter ; but, per,haps, all this will be attended to under the sweeping conditions of clause 14 - miscellaneous. Certainly producers ought to be apprised of the intentions of the Government under the clause in question.
I am afraid that if I were to ask Senator Playford what the intentions of the Government were, he would shrug his shoulders, and say, “ I do not know.”
A -curious anomaly seems to exist in connexion with sub-section 3 of clause 7, and sub-section 3 of clause ro. Under the former, goods imported and seized as being prohibited may be exported. In the latter, goods prohibited may not be exported. Clause 15 states -
Whoever knowingly aids and abets, &c, shall be deemed to have committed that offence, and shall be punished accordingly.
An indentor, ship-owner, drayman, Customs clerk, all might assist in importing a prohibited article unknowingly, but the onus of proof being on accused, they will, under the Customs Act of 1901, have to prove their innocence.
That is, I think, rather a serious matter.
– The honorable senator wants to amend the Customs Act ?
– The Customs Act is bad enough as it stand’s. We do not want to bring any more poor unfortunates under its wheel if that can be helped.
We fancy under the Customs Act, any officer, at any rate on shore, would require a warrant for breaking into a store - it does not seem so here.
Clause 6. Notice of intention to export. This could only work to the detriment of exporters.
Under clause 3 it would be absolutely impossible for an importer to give the details enumerated from A to F, -
I am quite certain that it is absolutely impossible. There is no man living who could fill up all the details of the trade description of any goods.
– Does the honorable senator say that that has to be done?
– That may have to be done, if it is called for by the Government.
– Does the honorable senator, as a reasonable man, think that it would be called for?
– I am quite certain that under the Bill there will be regulations of which neither -I nor the honorable senator will approve. I feel that there is a possibility of regulations being brought in distinctly with a view to stop the importation of goods. I object to .the prohibition of imports by regulation, but if Parliament chooses to prohibit the importation of any goods well and good - and it would appear that many pitfalls are provided for traders ; and they object to the effect of this Bill, which will be to standardize goods.
We should leave our producers a little freedom to move in the direction) which, as the result of long experience, may seem to them to be the best -
According to the Interpretations Act, any regulation or proclamation will require two months’ notice ; this was considered quite inadequate, as a sailing vessel often takes from three to four months to come from England, and we would suggest that six months’ notice of regulation or proclamation should be given.
That refers to one clause under which three months’ notice of certain regulations is required to be given - a period which, is utterly insufficient.
No proclamation or regulation should take effect in respect of orders placed or shipped before the issue of such proclamation. It is often necessary to place orders twelve months or more before execution. It is felt it would be a hardship to ask any manufacturer to divulge the secret of his manufacture, and to guard against this as much as possible, we think that any patent medicine or other compound, unless proved to be deleterious, should not be subject to description. In answer to our objection to being governed by proclamation and regulations, it is urged by departmental officers that this Act was much more elastic under such rule, and that any mistaken regulation would be upset by Parliament. How this could be done when Parliament was not sitting does not appear.
Analysis : - It was argued that the importer should have the right to have the goods analyzed, and that in case of a difference between his analyst and a Customs analyst a third should be appointed as arbitrator. Should not some amendment of clause 14 be made in this direction ?
A Customs entry could be deemed a trade description. Wool adulterated with cotton would be entered as “ wool,” but Would be a false description. How can this be reconciled.
A large number of graders and inspectors would have to be appointed at very considerable expense.
To sum up, your committee is of opinion that this Bill is unnecessary, ample powers in the same direction being already possessed by the different States; that the effect of the Bill would be to interfere with and restrain trade, that the standardization and grading of manufactures and products would be harassing and inimical to progress and improvement, and that the cost of proper administration would be enormous.
In this report to the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, there is ample evidence as to the danger of the Bill, and plenty of ground for the most careful consideration of its statements by the Senate. On the 16th August, the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce passed the following resolution : -
That, in the opinion of this Chamber, the Bill relating to commerce with other countries, introduced by the Honorable Sir William Lyne in the House of Representatives, is an unnecessary embargo on the trade of the Commonwealth, and its tendency will be to restrict the free exchange of commercial commodities to the detriment of the producer, manufacturer, and importer.
That the power vested in an officer of Customs under the Bill is despotic and unreasonable.
That if, as the Bill proposes, it is to be “Government by regulations,” the proposed regulations should be scheduled with the Bill.
That a strong protest be entered against the Bill being proceeded with.
The Brisbane Chamber of Commerce has pointed out what I have been pointing out so often, and that is that the Bill is practically “government by regulations.” They see that what is stated on the face of the Bill is as nothing to what may be brought about by the regulations made thereunder. Therein lies the greatest danger. The trade of Australia has, I think, quite enough difficulties to contend with already. Not long ago I elicited, in reply to a question, the information that up to date under the Customs Tariff 10,000 decisions and definitions have been given, and the number continues to increase. Here is a Gazette in which fifty or 100 new definitions are given, and seventeen definitions cancelled. Here is another Gazette containing five pages of new decisions, and notifying the cancellation of twenty-seven decisions. The game goes on merrily; the difficulty of a man knowing where he is gets greater than ever, and under this Bill it is to be intensified. Let it be remembered, in connexion with all the difficulties I have pointed put, that a rival in trade is not only at liberty, and perhaps under a temptation, to give information, but is encouraged to do so. Then with regard to the inspection of goods. The Bill, as drafted, gives power to inspect all goods coming in and going out. That could scarcely be done. It has been pointed out by Senator Macfarlane and Senator Dobson that the very mass of exports makes anything like a thorough inspection almost a work of impossibility. Therefore, it is of no use to put upon trade conditions which cannot be carried out. Besides, in regard to fruit, I may ask honorable senators whether it is of any use to inspect fruit at this side of the world, and to declare whether ft is sound, considering that when it arrives at the other side of the world it may be rotten ? A declaration that ‘ fruit was sound in Australia would not make it any sounder when: it arrived in England.
– It may prevent unsound fruit from being sent.
– If Senator Styles had 100 cases of rotten fruit, would he pay 3s. 6d. a case to send it to England? Would he spend £20 in exporting 100 cases of rotten fruit? That is an answer to his interjection. Under this Bill a man may also be required to show on his goods the place of production. Goods may be imported which may be marked as “ Made in Liverpool.” Upon their arrival in Australia it may be said that they were not made in Liverpool, Liverpool being a place in New South Wales. The description might be’ held to be wrong. Then every one knows that there is a great suburb of London called Paddington. One of the greatest of the Sydney suburbs is also called Paddington. Goods may be marked as “ Made in Paddington,” and it might be held’ that ibm was a misdescription because the goods were made in Paddington, England, whereas people in Australia might take it to mean made in Paddington. Sydney. All these pit-falls exist in the Bill. ‘
– Could not such, a misunderstanding be avoided?
– When a man is landing a shipment of goods, would he like to be called upon to pay ^1,000 to send them back to England to be redescribed. or to have them forfeited, or to have to go through any formality at all in connexion with them? Then again, goods which are imported, and are largely used in connexion with one line of commerce may be used in another. For instance, alcohol is an article which probably has a great future before it as a fuel. It is known mainly as an article of drink. It might be all right to use it as an article of fuel, or it might be all wrong to ‘use it for drink. There are possibilities of divergence in its use. Senator Dobson has referred to a statement made by the AttorneyGeneral of New South. Wales, Mr. Wade. I propose to read it. It contains some very weighty matter -
In the first place, while the Constitution enables the Federal Parliament 10 deal with matters affecting trade and commerce with other countries and among the States, the primary and the reasonable purpose of that power was 10 enable the Federal authority to exercise supreme control in securing smoothness and rapidity in transport and exchange of products and traffic not only between component parts of the Commonwealth, but also between the Commonwealth and outside countries. On the other hand, the States were supposed to retain those necessary powers, insuring the safety, health, and morals of the people within its boundaries. The police power of the State is one thing, but very different from the commerce power which has been surrendered to the Commonwealth. But if one is to gather anything in this Bill now before the Federal Parliament, it would look as if they proposed to entirely usurp the police functions of the various States. Again, the jurisdiction of the Federal Government in respect to commerce can only arise at a point where the article has been produced or manufactured within a. State, and it is about to start upon its journey elsewhere. Looking at the matter from the ordinary common-sense point of view, the method of manufacture, the name of the manufacture, the source of the product are matters in which the commerce power is hot concerned. Yet we find clause 3 in the Bill declares that the trade description which has to be attached to articles of commerce has to contain some reference or information with regard to the manufacturer or producer of the goods or the person by whom- they are selected, packed, or in any way prepared for market. As I say, all these matters are wholly antecedent to that point in time when the goods that have been manufactured are despatched on their journey out of the State.
Again, sub-clause D provides that the trade description is to govern the mode of manufacturing, producing, selecting, &c. Sub-clause E deals with the material or ingredients of which the goods are possessed, or from which they are derived. I have not had an opportunity of examining the authorities upon this point, but it does seem worthy of deeper investigation as to whether these conditions being absolutely irrelevant to the transportation or export of goods are not unconstitutional. Then sub-clause A provides that the trade description is to apply to the quality and purity of the goods amongst other things…..
These are matters affecting the constitutionality of the proposed measure, but. quite 1 apart from that there are elements in the Bill of a character, I think, both unprecedented and highly dangerous. For example, the general outline of the Bill is to the effect that trade descriptions shall be applied to all goods, either exported or imported, and the adoption of a false trade description involves some person or persons in a penalty. Now, the definition of a trade description is left very vague in the Bill, and is capable of all manner of extension at the caprice of any person. Yet the Bill provides that the Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit either the importation or the exportation of any goods which are specified in the proclamation unless there is applied to those goods a trade description of such a character and applied in such a manner as is prescribed by the proclamation or by the regulations. This is legislation by executive Act with a vengeance. There is no provision in the Bill for imposing any check on the regulations or upon the terms of ‘the proclamation itself. The proper place to interpret the Act is the law courts, yet this provision I have just mentioned practically gives the Executive the power of interpreting in their own way these wide variations of the term trade description. Great complaint was made in regard to the Customs Act where it empowered the Executive to prohibit certain goods being imported into the Commonwealth, but in that Act it is only fair to say that in nearly every instance the class of prohibited imports was Specified, and the grounds of prohibition were declared to be some characteristic of the imported article, which operated against either the safety or the morals or the health of the Commonwealth. Under this Commerce Bill it is left entirely to the Executive to state on what grounds goods may be prohibited, either for exportation or for importation. The Minister may prescribe the goods that do not comply with the ordinary requirements of health or decency to be prohibited. That would not be sO bad as to give rise to the question suggested above, as to whether such an action was constitutional or not; but if we give to an elastic mind the opportunity of interpreting an elastic definition of trade description, it is open to the Minister to practically control the inward and outward trade of the Commonwealth.
Mr. Wade says truly that the Bill puts the trade and commerce of the Commonwealth; under the heel of the Minister.
– At whose instance did he give that opinion?
– At his own instance.
– As a rule, lawyers do not give opinions for nothing.
It may mean this : The Customs Act and the Tariff Act in combination impose an obligation on the importer of goods, whereby the duty imposed may prevent successful trade inside the Commonwealth in competition with the local article. If legislation fails to keep outside the
Ting any particular class of goods, I can see no reason, as this Bill is now drawn, to prevent the Minister of the Commonwealth imposing prohibitive conditions as to character, make, description, or quality, and so giving to the Executive the power of excluding goods indirectly which, by the direct means of the existing law, could not be shut out.
Take an example again. Supposing some question arose with regard to the manufacture of agricultural implements. It may happen that a firm in some State of the Commonwealth was able to produce an article at a certain figure, but the tariff might not be sufficient to exclude the article from Canada or America from entering and competing with the local manufacturer. The Minister might, in his proclamation, lay down the conditions with regard to the manufacturer of the imported article as to the mode of manufacturing or selecting or packing, or as to the material of which it is composed, which would have the effect of either excluding the foreign article or imposing heavy obligations upon the trader. Or again, sub-clause D, as I have said, provides that the trade description is to apply to the mode of manufacturing. The article may be made by non-union labour, yet it is possible that the proclamation may prescribe that any goods brought to the Commonwealth which do not contain the union label specifying the mode of manufacture should be prohibited articles. Whether any court of justice would allow this gross interference with trade in this case is not likely, but in the meantime business relations may be entirely paralyzed and trade may be driven away for ever from the Commonwealth.
It is further possible to conceive that for pure blackmailing purposes the suggestion might be made that some article of food so described contains injurious ingredients. The Minister might prohibit goods with such ingredients from export. Now we see the arbitrary powers given to the officials under this Bill. Under clause 5 an officer is enabled at any ship, wharf, or place to break open any packages and do all things necessary to enable him to carry out his powers and duties under this clause. If any person offends against the measure the goods may be forfeited, and the individual owning the goods may be made a criminal, although there is a magnanimous provision that the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs may permit any goods that have been so forfeited to be returned to the owner on security being given. Meanwhile the owner may have lost his ship, and possibly may have lost the profit in respect of the goods so seized.
Here is another instance of the gross interference wilh individual liberty. Clause S provides that no person shall import any goods to which a false trade description is applied. Certainly the defendant may show that he did not intentionally import the goods in contravention of the clause, but that can only be established by himself giving evidence of the fact. It is no part of the Crown case, for all the prosecution need prove is that the goods have been imported with a false trade description attached to them. Now, a false trade description means a description which, by reason of something obtained therefrom, is false, and, irrespective of whether it is likely to mislead in a material respect or not.
In referring again to the definition’ of trade description, it is found to refer to the number or quantity or the size of the goods. It has been the law from time immemorial that a purchaser should take the risk of seeing that he obtains the goods he bargains for. There is no reason why the transaction should not be completed and the goods delivered, and the purchaser ascertain if the goods comply with the contract, and if they do not, bring his action accordingly for damages. What possible harm can be done by allowing the law to operate in this manner, 1 don’t know ; but the inevitable result of passing this Bill will be to harass and delay the consignor of the goods at each stage. One effect of the Bill will be to hand over to the Federal authority the power of determining all conditions with regard to butter export.
To my mind this Bill seems to point to two directions : First of all, to destroy all external trade ; and, secondly, to bring us one long stage nearer to unification of the Continent by vesting the Federal Parliament and Executive with the sole control of all the small details of commercial life, which should, and in accordance with the Federal bond must be, left to the component parts of the Commonwealth.
I do not feel inclined to apologize for the length of the quotation, which I regard as very weighty, and worthy of record in Hansard, containing, as it does, arguments which I fancy Senator Playford will find it exceedingly difficult to answer. I trust that the Senate will be careful, and not be misled into accepting the Bill as it now stands, even if we consent to have it read a second time.
– This Bill is perhaps one of the most important that has been introduced into the Federal Parliament. It deals with the export and the import of goods, amounting in value to millions of pounds, and embodies a principle which, so far as I know, has never been observed in any other part of the world. I must confess to a feeling of deep disappointment that the Minister has, as it were, flung this measure at us without the slightest explanation of its full meaning.
– The Bill was prepared by the late Ministry, which the honorable senator supported so strongly.
– It is the duty of a Minister to show himself master of the details of a measure of the kind, and to place the position fully before honorable senators. As a matter of fact, the Minister, either owing to ignorance or to a lack of belief in the Bill, simply presented it to us in a ten-minute speech, only five of which I heard, having to obtain the balance from H Hansard
– The Bill was passed through another place, and surely the honorable senator does not want me to repeat all the arguments?
– I presume that in matters of this kind the Senate doss not take cognizance of what takes place in the House of Representatives, and it is absolutely necessary that a Minister in charge of a Bill should give ample explanation asto its meaning and effect. Even with my limited parliamentary experience, I may say that I have not hitherto seen important Bills introduced in this way. The Minister who moved the second reading evidently knew very little about the question. When he was asked what he meant by “grading,” he informed us that he would divide all the goods contemplated by the Bill into “first-class” and “inferior.”
– I never said anything of the sort.
– I defy the Minister to disprove my statement, which I feel certain will be borne out by the Hansard report.
– I never said that goods should be graded as “inferior.”
– It was in answer to a question put by myself that the Minister gave the explanation ; and that was the only interpretation we had of “grading.” This, of all Bills, is, one that ought to have been investigated by a Royal Commission. The ramifications of such a measure can only be properly explained! by business men of experience in different branches of the trade affected.
– We might have had an expression of opinion, for instance, from the Butter Commission.
– I have no doubt that that Commission, like other Commissions, elicited much information, and did a great deal of good. If that Commission was the success which some honorable senators seem to think, it merely affords an additional argument in the favour of the position which I now take up in regard to the Commerce Bill. The Minister of Defence gave us absolutely no information as to the reasons for the introduction of this Bill.
– Ask the late Government.
– I have nothing to do with the late Government; I am addressing myself to the Minister in charge of this Bill.
– We found the Bill in the pigeon-holes, and thought it a real good thing.
– A member of the late Government in another place has distinctly repudiated the Bill as it now appears. Does the Minister mean to say that the Bill now before us is the Bill that was found in the pigeon-holes ?
– Yes; to all intents and purposes.
– An ex-Minister in another place stated that there was in. the pigeon-holes some manuscript bearing on the Bill.
– The Bill was not in manuscript, but in print.
– At any rate, the ex- Minister in another place states, that the Bill now before us is not the Bill which he says was left by the late Government.
– The Bill we found was a good deal stronger than this Bill, and we toned it down.
– I do not know that the fact of the Bill having been prepared by the late Government affects the position. If I believe that this Bill will be injurious to the interests of the State which I represent, I should not be asked to accept it simply because it may have been prepared by a previous Government. I think I can account to a certain extent for this Bill being found in the pigeon-hole. I cannot give any Minister of the present Government credit for the business knowledge and experience necessary to the preparation of a measure of the kind ; in any case, the Minister of Defence seems to be claiming credit to the Government for having copied the bad points of a Bill they found, and incorporating still further bad points ku it on their own account. Where has been the public outcry for this Bill ?
– Ask the* previous Government.
– The Labour Caucus Party have not asked for a measure.
– To which party does the honorable senator refer?
– The Labour Party.
– That is better !
– The Bill has not been asked for by the commercial, manufacturing, or producing classes^ Who have asked for the measure?
– Dishonest traders have not asked for it.
– Who are the dishonest traders ? Are they inside or outside of the Commonwealth ? If this measure is intended to make dishonest traders honest, it should be applied to the Inter-State commerce cj Australia. Last week in Sydney it wa-; stated at a meeting of bootmakers that a large proportion of the boots made in New South Wales were branded with other than the true names of the manufacturer - that they bore Victorian1 and other names, or mo name at all, owing to the prejudice which existed against the locally-made; article. Is that not the sort of false description which ought to be stopped?
– The Commonwealth cannot stop that sort of thing.
– Does the Minister mean to say that this Bill cannot be made to apply to Inter-State commerce?
– Of course it can, but we cannot interfere in the case of articles manufactured and consumed within a State.
– Can the Bill not be made to apply to manufacturers of boots in New South Wales who dishonestly brand their goods as having been made in Victoria ?
– If those manufacturers exported the goods to Victoria we could interfere.
– That is what I mean. Boots made in New South Wales, and branded with false names, are exported to other States. Is that not dishonest dealing?
– It is dishonest dealing. The State can deal with that.
– I say that if the Government are honest they will make this Bill apply to Inter-State commerce as well as to commerce with other countries.
– One thing at a time. We are dealing with the bigger matter first.
– Simply because the Government dare not do it. They have not the pluck to do it.
– They are a weakkneed lot !
– There is not the shadow of a doubt about that. That is the truest remark I have heard from the Minister since he took office. This is a Bill which will absolutely limit the natural exchange of goods between the Commonwealth and other countries, and it will affect goods to the value of millions of pounds. It is an autocratic measure, inasmuch as it givespower to the Minister and his officers todecide as to the different classes of goods and their quality. The men who are tocarry out this work should, if it is intended that this Bill shall be thoroughly carried out. be experts, and if they are not. a responsibility will be placed upon themwhich will bring them under the influence of great temptation, and may lead to corruption, such as we have not hithertoknown. I make that statement advisedly. We shall require to have officers stationed in every port to which goods are imported - _ at Townsville, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Melbourne,. Hobart, Launceston, Adelaide, and Fremantle.
– Are there not officersstationed at each of those ports now?
– We have Customs officers stationed at those ports now ; but surely the Minister will not say that the Government propose to intrust all the important duties imposed on officers under this Bill to Customs-house officers who have no knowledge of the grading of goods or of their quality? He surely does not mean to tei! honorable senators that, in the administration of this Bill, the Government will not have experts stationed at the different portsof the Commonwealth who will be competent to properly gauge the value of poods imported ?
– It is not a question* -f the value of goods, but of the true description of goods.
– The inspectors under the Bill must be competent to speak .as to at varying qualities of goods. That will be absolutely necessary. I have a word or two to say on the question of grading.
– The Honorary Minister, Mr. Ewing, said that no sane man could call this a “ grading “ Bill. Two other Ministers differ from him.
– I am not concerned with what Mr. Ewing has said, but with what has been said by the Minister who has charge of the measure in the Senate. As the honorable senator said very little, it is. possible that I shall be able to get but very little out of him; but he certainly did’ commit himself to the statement that under this Bill goods will be graded. I first of all take wool. The wool industry is the largest industry in Australia, and it is: also the most important, in the matter of” value, and by reason of the fact that wool is produced in a very large part of Australia which cannot be utilized for any other industry. I venture to say with respect to wool that there is no other class of goods which has been brought to such a state of perfection by those concerned in its production, sale, and purchase. The industry has been developed in Australia to such’ an extent that at the present time, the wool markets of New South Wales are the largest in the known world, and yet we have never had, so far as I know, a single Complaint in regard to the manner in which wool is handled in Australia.
– Does the honorable senator think that this Bill is intended to include wool ?
– I can only go by what it says.
– But it does not specifically include wool.
– The Bill includes all materials required in the making of apparel.
– It may be loosely drafted, but does the honorable senator think that it is intended that wool should be included?
– I cannot really fathom the intention of the Government in the matter.
– Ask the Minister.
– I shall be very pleased if the Minister will answer the question, but, at the same time, I ask him to do so with a sense of the weight which his reply will have. I do not desire that he should make a reply based on his own opinion solely, but only upon knowledge ascertained from the Minister who introduced the Bill’ in another place as to what its provisions will be interpreted to mean. If, with these conditions,, Senator Playford will say that wool is not intended to be included in this Bill, the producers and all who have the handling of the wool will be considerably relieved by the statement. The difficulty is not that under certain conditions and circumstances this Bill might be so administered as to injure the wool industry, but that it will be at the discretion or the caprice of any Minister of Customs to make use of this Bill in order to interfere with the industry. Every bale of wool brought to Sydney or Melbourne has a specific brand upon it. which may be termed a trade mark. The brand indicates not only the quality of the wool, but also the station from which it comes, and in every sense it may be accepted as the trade mark of the owner of the wool. Its value as a trade mark will be seen from the fact that when wool bearing a certain brand is brought into the stores, it is recognised by all buyers, whether French, German, or English, that wool so branded is so consistent in character and quality that perhaps only one bale out of one hundred will be examined. The buyers will take it for granted that wool bearing a certain brand can be so relied upon as to consistency in quality that a whole consignment will be bought on the brand or trade mark alone. It is almost foolish to imagine that such a thing would be done, but under this Bill a Government inspector, at any one of our ports, would be able to delay a ship in order to examine a consignment of wool. The consequence of this might be that the whole ramifications of the shipment of wool might be at the mercy of inspectors under this Bill. The same thing applies to butter, and to every other article of export. The delay of a ship for even a few hours may involve a loss of hundreds of pounds, and if it is to be at the discretion of one of these Government officials to delay a ship in the way referred to, I appeal to honorable senators to say whether such a power will not place very great temptation in the way of those intrusted with it. In connexion with the shipment of butter, honorable senators, must remember that when it is brought .to the stores at the port of shipment it is sometimes kept there for two or three days. During the hot weather the mail steamers will only ship butter after sunset. It may be taken from the stores after 7 o’clock, and shipped up to perhaps 12 o’clock at night. It is loaded as fast as possible, and the steamer leaves on the following day. I ask honorable senators to imagine the power which in these circumstances every one of these officials will have under this Bill. He can demand that he shall be allowed to inspect the goods in the ship, or to stop the butter going on board. The sailing of the vessel or the shipment of the goods will be absolutely at the mercy of a Government official, who, at his own sweet will, may say whether he will pass the goods or not. I. do not say that in ordinary circumstances this kind of thing would be done, but I say that a temptation to do such things is thrown in the way of these officials by the Bill, and that should not be allowed. If we consider again the grading of butter, I may inform honorable senators that last week I had a conversation with the manager of the largest dairy in New South Wales. He gave me some illustrations of the grading of butter. In one case, he told me that he had graded butter as first and second class, and when the returns came in he found that the second-class butter had brought 2s. per case more than that which he had graded1 as first-class. In the grading of butter there are very many things to be considered. The exporters of this article must take into account the varying conditions of the best markets for the article. Salt . butter is required in certain parts of England, whilst in other parts people will not have butter if there is any quantity of salt in it. Cheese?, must be made in certain sizes and of a certain colour for certain parts of England, whilst the same cheese would not sell in other parts. Then, again, in the matter of weight, a cheese weighed in the dairy will weigh so much, and after it has been seasoned for two or three months will weigh so much less. This applies to very many articles, and I might mention soap amongst others. It has been said that the man will make his fortune who makes soap stand upright. What does that mean ? It means that soap made today will weigh so much, that in two months’ time it will weigh so much less, and in four months’ time so much less again. I can remember the time when my mother used to cut up soap and put it over the door in order that it might lose weight and become hard. How are all these little details in connexion with trade to be dealt with? On the question of grading there is a difference of opinion in New Zea.land, and perhaps as many are in favour of it as are opposed to it. In Denmark butter is graded, not at the ship’s side, but before it leaves the dairy, and it has to go through the Association. The same rule could be applied to New Zealand, because of its compactness. It is 1,500 miles long and 200 miles broad. ft has six shipping ports - Auckland, Wellington, Napier, Lyttleton. Dunedin, and Invercargill - each of which is within fifty miles of the dairies, and therefore the inspection of the butter could easily be carried out. Undoubtedly, the production of butter is the great business of Denmark. The pro ducers have made such headway that their butter brings 5s. or 6s. a cwt. more than the butter from any other country. Like Tasmania, Denmark is a small country with a limited population, but it has one great industry. No country in Europe or elsewhere, not even England, has ever followed Denmark in. its butter administration, simply because the conditions are not favorable. Through the efforts of the Government of Denmark, the industry is a decided success. In Australia, however, the conditions are such as to prevent the inspection of butter at the ship’s side.
– It is carried out in this State.
– I am informed by a butter expert that in this State there is no power which will allow a Customs officer to examine a cargo of butter in the hold of a ship, and, if necessary, stop her from leaving port.’ If the Minister will tell me where that power is granted, I shall be pleased to know. If he will take the advice of a man who, if it were practicable, would be only too glad to bring about the proposed change, he will eliminate the reference to the ship, and provide that all inspection shall take place in the stores, and, if he likes, that no butter shall be sent therefrom for shipment unless it bears a brand. But I hold that the branding or grading of butter will do more harm than good. I believe that every large buyer of butter in. England knows more about the quality of the butter which is manufactured in these States than does perhaps any honorable senator. It is his business to study the values of butter. He cannot be taught anything in regard to the purchases which he makes, or the butter which is sent to him to be sold in the ordinary course of business. In the warehouses of Tooley-street almost every kind of butter which is made in America, Canada, and Denmark will be found assorted and valued. If you inspect the books of any one of the large firms in Tooley-street, you will find that the maker, who is of any note in this Commonwealth will have a mark in that book as to the Quality of the butter which he exports, and the value which is attached thereto, subject to market fluctuations. Our producers get far better hints as to the values of butter, and the conditions under which it will have the best sale from the large business firms in Tooley-street, than from the firms on the spot here.
– Is not the competition for our butter restricted when that knowledge is in the hands of only a few firms? We want everybody in England to know its value by grading the butter here.
– Assuming that the butter is graded in Victoria, what is the value of that grading?
– Nearly all the Victorian butter is graded.
– Will the Minister state what is the value of that grading in England ?
– lt causes Victorian butter to bring a price close up to that of Danish butter.
– The value of the butter in the English market has. no relationship to the Government brand. If a. large pastoralist gets known in the market as a man of absolute integrity his brand wiLl be accepted. In the same way, if a dairyman will go to the trouble to see that no butter shall leave his dairy unless it be of a certain quality his butter will be accepted by large buyers in England upon the basis of the private brand which is placed thereon. If all the Victorian butter were exported with only the brand of the Government upon it, I venture to say that that brand would not be worth a snap of the fingers. I have had twenty years’ experience of business life in England, and I am in a position to say that the butter which arrives at London, Liverpool, and Glasgow is sent throughout the country not with the brand which it bore as it left here, but as first, or second, or third, or fourth, or fifth class, without reference to the country of production. It is sold just according to its value in the market. The Government brand is of absolutely no value as soon as the shipment arrives in England, although it may be of value here. Victorian butter only gets an increased value over New South Wales butter because the former is of better quality.
– Does the honorable senator say that the Government brand is of no value to the wholesale buyer?
– The Government brand is of no value to the first buyer, because the buyers in England know more about the value of butter than the individual who brands it. They know what they are doing. The butter would also bear the brand of the dairyman, and to that brand a value may be attached by the buyers. It is the same with other conditions of trade. Trade is simply a natural process between the producers, the buyers, and the sellers; they dovetail into each other, and we cannot get away from that fact. Take the question of weights. Why should we pass a measure which will prevent us from competing with other countries for the trade of the East? There are conditions of trade there which may not be quite in accord with what we believe to be absolutely right, although I do not believe that they are half as bad as some of the conditions prevailing in these States. But having regard to the maudlin sentimentality underlying the Bill, I assume that they would excite sufficient suspicion to cause them to be brought within its provisions,. Take the article of glycerine. It is well known in this country that whilst a manufacturer makes bottles to contain so many ounces, glycerine is bought in bulk by weight. Why? Because the retailers want more profit than they could get if the bottles came from the manufacturers labelled as containing so many ounces. In New South Wales, the chemist buys in bulk, and resells in small bottles, for which he charges 6d. each, having to give long credit; but the grocer who gets his supply from the manufacturer sells, a bottle at perhaps 3d. According to the Minister that is not honest. That is exactly what is done in Japan, China, and Singapore. The firms want to buy goods as they wish, not as other persons wish. They think that they know their own business best, but the Government propose “to teach them that it is wrong for them to do as they do. Do Ministers think that business men in the East will buy our goods only on the conditions they choose to lay down ? How are we to compete with the manufacturers who do a large business with these thriving countries, whose people, as they become civilized, gradually need a larger supply of the goods made by the civilized powers ?
– We are not going to stop them from buying our goods.
– The Bill provides that the goods must be exported under certain conditions. In the East they will not buy glycerine in bulk because they have not the bottles themselves.
– All we say in the Bill is that if a man sells a bottle he must put the true contents thereon.
– That is just what the business men in the East do not want.
They are absolutely masters of the market. They will say : “ If you are going to teach ns how we shall conduct our trade we shall buy from America, or from Canada or England.”
– Let them buy the stuff in bulk and do the bottling themselves.
– In the East, the buyers will not have the stuff in bulk. The Minister knows a good deal about apples, but he does not seem to know that to some Eastern countries the cost of importing, small bottles would come to more than the value of the article which they were intended to contain. In New South Wales, the chemists do not have glycerine bottled, because they wish to sell to the public at their value. In the East, the buyers want the glycerine in bottles, but they do not want the bottler to put on a label saying that the bottle contains 8 or 10 oz.
– Do they want the bottles to contain a less quantity than is represented ?
– They do not want to give the natives information as to how much the bottle contains. I am not saying that the practice is right. I am only saying that the conditions are there, and that if we are going to do business with these people we must do it under their conditions, and not under ours. I say, with all the strength I can command, that it is absolute hypocrisy for the Ministry to take upon itself the task of teaching people outside Australia what is right and under what conditions, they shall trade, while at the same time they have not the courage to take notice of what is being clone within the Commonwealth. There is ten times more unjustness, so-called - though it may be that the practices referred to are not unjust at all when they are examined - done by manufacturers in these States than the Government could prevent. If it is such a matter of righteousness, that, we should impose conditions on those outside the Commonwealth, I maintain that we should also put our own house in order, and see that those who manufacture in and for the Commonwealth do not do things which we object to other people doing. Again, in regard to the shipping of goods, no one, perhaps, knows better than the Minister in charge of this Bill, who has had considerable experience in the export of fruit, that it is of vital importance that all perishable goods shall be quickly despatched. It is vitally important that no impediment shall be placed in the way of those goods being carried swiftly to their destination. Now, under this Bill, a Minister with a political bias might act in a manner that would not only cause great injustice to the producers, but also to buyers. Honorable senators are aware that in England, as well as elsewhere, there is a great deal of what is called forward buying. Manufactured goods, and other articles are bought, perhaps, six months in advance. Sometimes it is a matter of speculation. If thos.e goods are to be detained at the sweet will of any Customs officer, who may not be an expert, a great deal of injury will be caused. But there is yet another aspect of the question. Whilst it may be easy to administer this Bill as applied to large dairies, how is it going to be applied to small farmers and dairymen ? There are many such men who have risen from the ranks - who began as working men. They are not a bit the worse for that, but rather the better. How are small producers of that kind to be affected in regard to the export of their butter ?
– I have to announce that His Excellency Sir Gerald Strickland, Governor of Tasmania, desires to visit the Senate ‘this afternoon, and that I propose, with the concurrence of honorable senators, to extend to him the courtesy of a seat on the floor of the Chamber.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear.
Second Reading. Debate resumed.
Senator GRAY (New South Wales).There is another important aspect of this Bill to which I direct the attention of the Senate. It has relation to the export of hams, bacon, and pork. This is one of those industries that we are all pleased to know is advancing. The value of producing by means of a better system than has hitherto been pursued is being recognised, especially by those who have little dairies and the means of feeding pigs with their spare products. Now, it is well known in England that the value of hams and bacon is to a- very great extent dependent upon the brand which is placed upon them. Take what are termed York hams. They are recognised as being the best in quality upon the English market. In” fact, there is scarcely a shop concerned in the produce business that does not sell hams labelled as York hams. But, as a matter of fact, not one ham in a thousand that is so labelled came out of York. The Canadians, with an astuteness that does them credit, recognising the quality and value of York hams, cut their hams exactly similarly, and sent them to England, where the large produce merchants in Tooleystreet sent them round to the centres of population in Great Britain labelled “ York hams.”
– It is still done.
– Does not the honorable senator think that that practice ought to be stopped? Does he think that it is honest ?
– I do not think that it is strictly honest, and yet I do not find fault with it. 1 will tell the honorable senator why.
– It is equivalent to obtaining money under false pretences.
– I do not think so. It is a practice that has been recognised ever since I was a boy, forty years ago. There is not one person in ten thousand who does not know, when he is buying a so-called York ham at a certain price, that he is not buying an actual York ham. By decades of use, the term has become a trade term, or a brand that is universally recognised as denoting a certain class and quality of article. No doubt it is a terrible thing to the Minister, who wishes to purify the commercial atmosphere of the Commonwealth, to know that such’ a practice is carried on in the old country, but I may tell him that it is pursued throughout the world.
– There is plenty of lying in the world, but that does not make lying a proper thing.
– Does the Minister consider that a brand used under such circumstances is a lie?
– Undoubtedly, and the law recognises that.
– I repudiate the allegation..
– A man could be prosecuted for selling as a York ham in England one that was not a York ham.
– I bow to the Minister’s superior knowledge, and can only say that it is quite different from the information which I have. I can tell him, moreover, that hundreds of kinds of goods are sold in England, and every buyer knows exactly what he is’ buying, under brands that designate the goods as being made in certain places, or under certain conditions, when as a matter of fact they were not made iri those places or under those conditions.
– What is the use of a brand?
– The use of a brand is that it gives to an article the stamp of a certain quality. If a man buys goods under a certain brand he does that because he knows that what he is buying is good stuff. One of the reasons why British trade with this country had a set-back some time ago was that the English manufacturer became rather conservative. Somehow or other he got it into his head that he knew better what was required in the Colonies and throughout the world than did the people who bought his goods. Merchants in Australia sent orders to England for goods of a certain character to be made up according to requirements. Instead of the English manufacturer meeting the requests made to him he made up and sent out other goods. But America and Germany were only too glad to conform to the desires of buyers in different parts of the world. The consequence was that the English manufacturers were ousted for the time being from many markets. But. fortunately, so far as my knowledge goes, they are fast regaining their position. English goods are found to be superior to foreign articles, and now that English manufacturers have seen the wisdom of conforming to the wishes of the purchasers of their goods, English trade is likely still further to increase.
– But do the English manufacturers agree to send out goods under false descriptions?
– It all depends upon what the honorable senator calls a false description. I should like him to particularize and tell me how, with the tens of thousands of pounds of butter and cases of fruit that are sent out of Australia, fie is going to make sure that every case exported is branded according to the exact conditions that he would like to impose? He knows well enough that there are plenty of people who will pack a case of goods so that the outside articles are very different from those inside. If foreigners wish to do that, and to introduce their goods into this market, the Minister, I suppose, would prevent them by means of this Bill. But it is possible that injustices may be done to persons who are quite innocent. Warehouses in Sydney sometimes receive as many as”1 2,000 or 3,000 cases of butter or other produce, and the warehouseman is, as it were, at the mercy of any dishonest producer. The expense of opening and examining the cases would be too much ; and, in some instances, the cases are sent out again directly to the steamer, so that there is no opportunity to ascertain the quality. Yet in such’ instances, warehousemen would be punished under this Bill if there was any false description given or dishonesty practised. As a matter of fact, the measure asks the warehousemen to perform an impossibility, and, for any failure, he, the ship-owner, and everybody concerned, may be punished. In my own experience, I have known cases sent in which, on the face of them, looked all right, but which, on examination, were found to contain inferior produce.
– Will the honorable senator explain how inferior goods are distinguished when they arrive in England ?
– I thought the honorable senator would have understood the explanation which I am endeavouring to make. The purchaser at home buys on the brand of the dairyman.
– Why cannot the man in Sydney do that also?
– When a pastoralist exports wool, it bears a certain brand, which may be called a trade mark, and on that the purchaser buys, because he knows the pastoralist to be a man of integrity, who would mot sell an inferior article.
– Can the man in Sydney not buy in the same way ?
– No purchaser will buy on a Government mark; at any rate, if I were a Tooley-street merchant, I should not do so. No Government expert can possibly examine every case; if he did, the chances are he would miss the ship. No man in England will buy on a Government brand unless he opens and examines the contents of every case, and in this connexion the Bill will place the small producer at a great disadvantage. From a party point of view, nothing would be better than the passing of this Bill into law, because I believe that, from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, it will prove to be absolutely impracticable. So far as the small people, to whom I have referred, are concerned, I believe there will be a universal outcry against the measure.
– You will find there will be nothing of the sort.
– As a business man, I cannot support a Bill which dees not contain the elements of success. My own opinion is that it might as well be put into the waste-paper basket. Doubtless the Government, if they pass the measure, will boast about the steps they have taken to prevent dishonest trading; but, so far as practicable business is concerned, I am afraid it wiM be a dead letter. It is possible the Government may have a bias in favour of putting it into operation so far as concerns importers; that may answer their purpose better than applying it to the exporting business.
– That is hardly fair.
– I am only expressing, my own opinion, and I. cannot help the fact, if it does not appear to be fair in the eyes of the honorable senator.
– If I make an insinuation of that kind, the honorable senator regards it as something fearful.
– I do not think I regard anything that the Minister has said as fearful. I know that the honorable gentleman has a very happy temperament, but he has shown either (hat he knows, nothing about the Bill or that he does not wish the Senate to have the benefit of his knowledge.
– -Surely the honorable senator does not defend a man who sells. Canadian ham as York ham?
– I am not defending such a nian. I simply say that if the Minister of Defence were a shopkeeper in England, he would do exactly as shopkeepers there do.
– It is not the Minister’s integrity, but his ability, which the honorable senator questions.
– The career of the Minister of Defence (–.peaks for itself, and I should be sorry to say anything to minimize the credit which is his due. I think, however, that the Minister is rather coolly disposed to the Bill. The honorable gentleman, by his smile, conveyed the impression that in his opinion Mr. Wade, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, is not a person whose opinion on a Bill of this character is of much value. My cwn knowledge leads me to the conclusion that there is no abler or more honest gentleman than Mr. Wade, who could be trusted to represent the interests not only of New South Wales, but of the Commonwealth as a whole. Mr. Wade is absolutely independent in politics, and the people of the mother Stale have a verv high opinion of him. Personally, I regard him as. the ablest Attorney-General there has ever been in New South Wales. In any case the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral of the mo ner State should be received bv the Senate with respect ; but the Minister of Defence went so far as, to ask. “Who Mr. Wade?” That question, in my opinion, implies a sort of contempt.
– Wirt I asked was, who had requested him to give an opinion.
– New South Wales has the largest population of any of the Spates, and will, more than any other, be affected bv the operation of this Bill. New South Wales is th» largest exporting State.
– Not in proportion to population.
– - New South Wales has the largest import trade.
– That is so, and it is unfortunate for us..
– I am surprised to hear that remark from the Minister of Defence. 1 regard this as a Federal Parliament, which only knows the interests of the people of the Commonwealth as a whole. The Minister ought not to insinuate that the Government of New South Wales, or the officials of New South Wales, have no right to an expression of opinion on this matter.
– I did not say they had no right.
– That was the implication.
– I took it that the Minister asked. “Who is Mr. Wa.de?” because lie regarded it as an impertinence on the part of the Attorney-General of New South Wales to express an opinion on a Bill of this character. Mv own hope is that the States generally will take more interest in Commonwealth legislation. There if, no doubt that this Bill, to some extent, interferes with the States rights of New South Wales, and on such a question I much prefer the opinion of the. AttorneyGeneral of that State; who speaks, as a trained barrister, with a due appreciation of the words he uses. If Mr. Wade tells us that the Bill interferes with privileges hitherto enjoyed by New South Wales. I s.hall take his word before that of the Minister.
– I very respectfully differ from Mr. Wade.
– I feel very strongly about this Bill. The powers conferred on the Government are of such a character-
– Autocratic ! Senator GRAY. - The Bill is autocratic - it creates a sort of Star Chamber. It places in the hands of one man almost absolute power as to the manner in which the business of the Commonwealth, with all its ramifications, shall be conducted. The Bill places it in his hands alone, there being no appeal. His word is as the law of a Caesar - above all other laws.
– The honorable senator contends that the Bill is ultra vires, and there will therefore be an appeal to the High Court.
– No doubt there will, but surely the Minister does not contend that it is desirable that the Senate should pass a measure quite unnecessarily, which will give rise to more friction than already exists, simply because the Government have made up their mind that it is one which will please a certain party. I honestly say that I trust the Bill, if passed, will be for the advantage of the Commonwealth. I do not look upon it as a party measure. It should be considered as a practical business measure, and its provisions should have been investigated by the many experts throughout the Commonwealth who possess an intimate knowledge of the interests likely to be affected, and who would know that t will affect exports and imports to the value of millions of pounds. Much as I object to Royal Commissions on many grounds, I say that if ever there was a Bill submitted to Parliament which should first have been considered by a Royal Commission, iit is this Bill. _ I defy any man to say definitely what will be ‘its full effect. When_ we consider that in the Commonwealth we have 10,000 miles of coast-line, and that this measure will have to be administered by Customs House officers at every port, who must be experts in their knowledge of the goods with which they will have to deal, it must be patent to every practical man that it is one which should be thoroughly considered and sifted in every detail before it is passed into law.
-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I thought that some honorable senator on the other side would have had something to say in defence of what the Minister probably considers a very much abused measure. If there is a determination on the part of honorable senators op,posite to support a Bill of this character, it would be as well if we heard from them some of their reasons for that support. If one thing more than another has become noticeable in the government of the Commonwealth, it is that, not only the present but preceding Ministries, have displayed an unhappy facility in placing the Commonwealth in antagonism with the different States. From the very inception of the Commonwealth we appear to me to have been engaged in passing measures which have provoked such antagonism. If there ever were a body of men who did all they possibly could to destroy the Federal spirit throughout) Australia, the men who have been at the head of affairs in this Commonwealth for any lengthened period are those men. Senator Playford has been in office but a short time, and cannot perhaps be charged directly with the sins which can be charged against his predecessors, except in so far as he has given them a constant and consistent support. Have Ave heard one reason why this Bill is considered necessary ? The only defence of it which I have heard has been that the Reid-McLean Government drafted a Bill of this character. But honorable senators must know that the members of that Government repudiated that Bill, and have said that they never approved of it ; that an officer in one of the Departments was instructed to draft a measure, but it was never considered by the Minister of Trade and Customs of that Government.
– It was not finally considered by the Cabinet.
– It embodied a totally different principle.
– No; here it is, I have it before me.
-Col. GOULD.- Of what use ils it for the Minister to hold up a Bill, and say, “Here it is,” when he must know very well that it was repudiated, and that there was simply a draft of a measure made for the consideration of the Cabinet ?
– I was merely answering the statement that it was of a different character to this Bill.
– It never received even the approval of the Minister in whose Department it was prepared-
– It was not finally revised. »
– It was not revised at all. I have stated the only reason which I have heard advanced for the introduction of this measure. Were there not many other matters of importance to the interests of the Commonwealth which might have been attended to? I say that this Bill has not been called for. I go further, and1 say that every responsible body that has considered it has condemned it as unnecessary and mischievous. What are our objects with respect to trade and commerce? Surely we desire to promote trade and commerce with: other countries? We do not desire to live entirely upon and within ourselves, and if we do desire to promote trade and commerce who are the people who can best advise us as to the wisdom of measures submitted to this Parliament for such a purpose? Are they not the men who are engaged in trade and commerce?
– They consider only their own interests.
– There, again, is the insult which is always levelled at these men. Does the honorable senator consider only his own interests in this Parliament, or does he consider the interests of the Commonwealth at large?
– I do.
– I say we have a right to give these men credit for the same desire to do what is right and proper that we claim for ourselves.
– They are not elected.
– What men does the honorable senator refer to?
.- The members of various Chambers of Commerce.
– Are they representative men ?
.- They are.
– They are representative of a very small class.
.- What does Senator de Largie know of trade and commerce? He does not enter this Parliament as an expert on this question, but as a man selected to voice the opinions of the electors who returned him. He has not been sent here because of any special knowledge he possesses of any particular matter. He has a general knowledge of various subjects, and it is his duty, as it is the duty of every other honorable senator, to take advantage of the special knowledge which other people may .possess, and1 which thev are willing to impart to him to enable him to determine what is best in the interests of the Commonwealth. I deny that the Commonwealth Parliament possesses all the wisdom of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator possesses a fair share in his own person.
– I do not claim that. I do not claim to be an expert upon every matter which can possibly come before us for legislation. The various Chambers of Commerce in Australia are, in my opinion, doing a great work for the Commonwealth. They give their services in connexion with the Chambers to which they belong gratuitously, and with the object of promoting the trade and commerce of the country. From personal knowledge of many of these men, I know they are anxious to do what is right in the interests, npt only of merchants, but of the community at large.
– The honorable senator says that they are responsible. To whom are thev responsible?
-Col. GOULD.- Senator de Largie is responsible to his constituents, and. if a body of them had special knowledge of some matter with which we were called upon to deal, would he not be prepared to accept their advice?
– Certainly I should .; but the honorable senator speaks as though the members of Chambers of Commerce were the only people to be consulted, or as if they were responsible bodies.
– Chambers of Manufactures are also opposed to the Bill.
– The views expressed by members of Chambers of Manufactures will commend themselves to some honorable senators, and those expressed by Chambers of Commerce will commend themselves to others.
– The Chambers of Commerce desire only to conserve their right to cheat.
.- These cheap insults are, in my opinion, contemptible when uttered in a Parliament of this kind.
– Does ;the honorable senator say that anything I have said is contemptible ? If he does, I answer that he is contemptible.
– Order !
.- I say that these cheap sneers and insults are contemptible. I propose to make one or two quotations from the report of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce on this Bill.
– I shall give the honorable senator an independent opinion by and by.
– I must ask honorable senators not to interject. The practice does not lead to any good result.
.- The Sydney Chamber of Commerce say in their report -
In the majority of instances it is impossible for an importer to know of his own knowledge, say, for instance, the “ measure “ or “ purity,” the “ country “ or “ place “ in or at which goods were made, by whom they were selected and packed, the “ material “ or “ ingredients.” Yet any error or omission under clause 8 renders an importer liable to a fine of £100 or three months* imprisonment, under the Customs Act 1901.
I will ask honorable senators to say who is better able to state whether it is possible to comply with the requirements of clause 8 than the men who are absolutely earning their living in carrying on the trade and commerce of the country ?
– Would the honorable senator ask a body of burglars to pass an opinion on a Bill to suppress burglary?
– I do not suppose I should.
– I did not suppose the honorable senator would, either.
.- But if I required a little information as to how to manage a burglary, I should expect to get more from a burglar than I suppose I would be able to otherwise obtain myself, or than any honorable senator could supply. The report further points out that -
It is, however, provided in the same section - “ it shall be a defence to a prosecution for an offence against this section if the defendant proves that he did not knowingly import the goods in contravention of this section.” » Senator Millen. - I think, sir, that we ought to commence the evening sitting with a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
– In their report to the Chamber of Commerce of Sydney the committee go on to say : -
But the onus of proof is on -the defendant, and under the Customs Act 1901, with which this measure has to be read, the proof must be to the satisfaction of the Customs. That is a most difficult task at the best of times, but under certain conditions it is absolutely impossible.
They proceed to point out the liability to forfeiture, as well as the punishment which is provided for, where a person does not give the required trade description; and. then they go on to say -
The Council fear that under clause 5, which provides that an officer shall inspect and -examine all prescribed goods; and clause 6, which provides that notice of intention to export must be given, the export trade will be seriously hampered, and the expenses incurred in the supervision for carrying out the provisions of the Act will fall very heavily on the producing interests of the State.
Previous speakers have indicated how difficult it would be to observe the obligation with regard to the export of perishable commodities. It has been pointed out how necessary it is to ship apples with great rapidity, and how difficult it would be to have the whole of the fruit examined before it was put on board ship. If a ship had to be detained for a considerable time in order that this examination might be made, she would have either to charge a very greatly enhanced rate, or to leave the cases on the wharf. It would mean ruination to the producer if his produce had to be left on the wharf to take the chance of a later steamer picking it up, and of course there would be the difficulty of making a satisfactory arrangement with’ that vessel after he had paid for the space which he had contracted to take in the previous vessel. I do not wish to weary the Senate by reading all the reasons which are given in this report. I find that the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce have also raised their voice in protest against the Bill. They say : -
Under clause 3 it would be absolutely impossible for an importer to give the details enumerated from A to F, and it would appear that many pitfalls are provided for traders; and they object to the effect of this Bill, which will be to standardize goods.
They conclude their report with the following words : -
To sum up, your committee is of opinion that this Bill is unnecessary, ample powers in the same direction being already possessed by the different States^ that the effect of the Bill would be to interfere with and restrain trade, that the standardization and grading of manufactures and products would be harassing and inimical to progress and improvement, and that the cost of proper administration would be enormous.
If I could be convinced that in the interests of Australia it is necessary that a Bill of this character should be enacted, I should not raise any objection on the ground of cost. The Brisbane Chamber of Commerce also entered a protest against the Bill, on the 1 6th August, when they passed the following resolution : -
That, in the opinion of this Chamber, tlie Bill relating to commerce with other countries, introduced by the Honorable Sir William Lyne in the House of Representatives, is an unnecessary embargo on the trade of the Commonwealth, and its tendency will be to restrict the free exchange of commercial commodities to the detriment of the producer, manufacturer, and importer.
The Fremantle Chamber of Commerce have made some representations, but I am not in a position to say that thev have expressed an opinion so definitely in opposition to the measure as have the similar bodies in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. The Adelaide Chamber of Commerce is also against the measure, and to-day the representatives, of Tasmania have made strong objections to its enactment. I find that a petition to the Senate from the president and honorary secretary of the Fruit-growers’ Union of New South Wales contains the following statement: -
The provisions of the Bill requiring exporters to give notice of the particulars of articles for export, as well as that regarding the inspecting of such articles, will prove most harassing and injurious to the exporters of perishable articles, such as fruit, and will also, we believe, be to a great extent unworkable. We, therefore, respectfully and earnestly pray that you will see fit to reject the measure, or, failing that, to so amend it as to cause it to press as lightly as possible on traders.
I have quoted from the bodies in each State who are peculiarly able, from special training and knowledge, to say whether the Bill is necessary or not. There is a universal objection to its enactment. I asked the Minister to say whether any petition has teen presented in its favour. Although it has been generally known that the Chamber of Commerce in each State has been protesting against the Bill, yet not a single petition in its favour has been presented to the Parliament. I do not profess to have a special knowledge of the subject with which it deals, but I am prepared to listen to the opinions of those honorable senators who know what they are talking about before deciding whether it shall have my support or not. If I were asked by an honorable senator this question: “Are you in favour of insisting upon honesty in connexion with trade?” I should at once answer “Yes”; but I do not believe in unnecessarily hampering trade. We have been asked to say why we should allow goods to be exported which bear the impress of an incorrect description. We have no business to require a description to be impressed upon any goods when it is unnecessary. If this Parliament is going to attempt to teach the nations of the world how they arc to carry on trade, it is, taking on a very .hard task. We are all seeking to obtain trade. We know that trade in the East requires certain conditions to be observed. We cannot dictate in the matter of conditions. We may say to our own people-. “We shall not allow you to sell 12 oz. of an article to people in the belief that they are getting 16 oz.” But if a buyer from the other side of the world says : “ We want you to forward to us certain articles packed in a certain way,” we ought not to hamper the trade by imposing unnecessary restrictions. Let it be borne in mind that Australia is not the only country which can export goods. We heard some remarks to-day in regard to the jam trade. ‘In their letter, Messrs. Jones and Company say: -
Firms in Africa are in the habit of having jam specially manufactured for them, the conditions of the order being that the label shall not stale where the goods are actually manufactured, and that the labels shall bear no name beyond that of ‘he actual importer and distributor of the goods in Africa. We enclose you labels used for such business. If this Act were carried through it would mean an actual loss in this business, not only to our firm, but to the Commonwealth at large, because the firms referred to are large importers, and if they cannot have their business carried on on their own lines, anil purchase supplies in the manner they desire, they will simply go somewhere else where they can have “their instructions carried out.
Why should we say to this firm: “If you Wish to export your jams your name must be placed on the tins, and the place of manufacture”? That will not guarantee the purity or the value of the goods. If the firm were to attempt to say that their marmalade was made out of Seville oranges when it was really made out of some other material, we might very properly forbid its export under that trade description. But suppose that the firm were to receive an order to forward marmalade made of turnips or carrots to another part of the world for the purpose of being labelled and distributed there.. What concern is it of ours? We do not sanction or counsel any misrepresentation. But surely we are not going to hamper the men who are really bringing money into the country and who are employing labour. Surely, as sensible men, we are not going, to place restrictions upon their trade. It was originally understood, from the statement of the Minister in charge of the Bill, that the system of grading and marking fruits was followed in Tasmania and South Australia. The Minister has now admitted that that statement was made under a misapprehension, and that the grading is purely a voluntary matter. People cam please themselves whether they grade their goods or not. I believe that the Minister made his original statement in all good faith, and I accept his correction. He corrected it as soon as he found he had made a mistake, as he was bound to do. But do honorable senators imagine for a moment that men who are growing fruit in Australia will send it away to Great Britain with the prospect of having it condemned? I am informed that it costssomething like 7s. per case to get fruit placed upon the London market. If the growers get us. or 12s. per case they consider it a very good price. Is it expected that sensible men - and I take it that these growers are sensible men - will send stuff to London if it is unfit for sale? I recognise that honorable senators who are supporting this Bill do so because they believe that it is honest legislation which would benefit the Commonwealth. We all want honest legislation passed. But do not let us make our legislation an instrument of oppression of such a character as to hamper, instead of facilitating, trade and commerce with other nations. If the Chambers of Commerce are mot reliable bodies to guide us in matters of this kind, who are? When we were dealing with the black labour and the sugar bounty questions, we received petitions f rom, persons who were able to speak with authority. They were considered to be men whose views were worthy of acceptance by Parliament. We relied upon them. I am sure that no member of the Commonwealth Parliament would claim that we are experts in everything as towhich we are called upon to legislate. But, as men who are possessed, presumably, of good, sound common sense, if we have noi expert knowledge, we have, at all events, sufficient knowledge to put to good use the expert knowledge of other people in regard to the subjects we have to consider. The opinion of the Attorney-General of New South Wales has been quoted. Some of us thought that that was pooh-poohed by some supporters of the Bill, as though they considered that it was a piece of impertinence on the part of a State Minister to express an opinion on the Bill. But I welcome an expression of opinion from any State Ministry upon proposed legislation that would affect the whole Commonwealth. «We meet here to pass legislation that will operate throughout Australia. We do not wish to hamper any particular State ; and if each State will give us the benefit of its opinion, we shall have a fund of information which will enable us the better to discharge the duties cast upon us under the Constitution. We ought to be careful not to do anything that will cause friction Or do injury.
– Why make any taws at all? Why not let people do as they like?
– We make laws because we think it is necessary under certain, circumstances to legislate for certain purposes. But we do not pass laws upon every subject we have power to deal with at one time. It is only as circumstances arise that we should attempt to pass laws, and when we do so we should be careful to ascertain how ‘they will affect various interests. If Senator Henderson were interested in something that affected his constituents, would he not take the opportunity of ascertaining their views as to how it affected them?
.- So ought we to ascertain the opinions of the various States upon proposed legislation that affects them.
– Does not the honorable and learned1 senator think that Mr. Wade misconceived the whole purpose of this Bill?
.- I do not believe that he misconceived it.
– Does Senator Gould think that he even read it?
.- I am quite sure that he read it.
– It does not look like it; it looks as if he gave his opinion upon a precis of the Bill as it appeared in the Sydney press. -
– I am sure that Mr. Wade would not have given his opinion on such information. It will be noticed, for instance, that he mentions the definition of trade description, and criticises it as particularly comprehensive, so that evidently he had read as far as clause 3 of the Bill. ‘ Mr. Wade at a later date, in writing about the Bill, says -
As the Bill is drawn, the Minister may, in a proclamation, declare that unless certain goods have applied to them a description of such character as is prescribed by the proclamation, these goods may be excluded from entering or prevented from leaving the country. For instance, it is open to a Minister to prescribe in a proclamation that the trader must state the mode of manufacture, either whether the method is by machinery or by handwork, or under the provisions of the Factories Act, or an Arbitration Court award, and also whether the goods are made by union labour or non-union labour. He may state that unless the goods comply with those conditions, they shall be prohibited goods, liable to forfeiture, and the owner thereof be liable to punishment.
– Does the honorable and learned senator believes that that is a fair interpretation of the Bill?
.- I do.
– Then he is very gullible.
.- If Senator Pearce will read, the Bill with an open mind, he will find that any one of these things may be prescribed by the Minister; and if a man fails to comply with’ a particular requirement, his goods are to be subject to forfeiture, and he is to be liable to a penalty. It is monstrous that we should seek to preclude men from dealing honestly and fairly with their own goods in their own interests ; and measures that do so are oppressive. There can be but one justification for such an enactment, and that is to show that it is absolutely necessary in the interests of the community at large. That has not been done in regard to this measure. I will read another paragraph from the same statement by Mr. Wade -
Another indispensable matter is that the Merchandise Mark- Act of £887 in no way deals with the quality, purity, class, or grade of goods. Here, again, these matters are introduced into the .Commerce Bill. As the measure is drawn, I see no reason why the Minister, perhaps, in all good faith, may not lay down a standard of purity for any article. That standard may be of such a character that the trade cannot comply with it, or it may be that the local manufacturer can comply with the standard, yet it would be impossible for the importer to do so, and in this way I see it is possible under this Bill, when the duty under the Customs has failed to exclude manufactures, to lay down a standard which the importer -cannot comply with, and so drive that particular kind of trade away from the Commonwealth.
Do honorable senators not realize - and I especially appeal to Senator Pearce in this matter - that this Bill contains a power under which the Minister may give more direct protection to a particular class of goods that may be. made in Australia than he could do by any Customs Act that Parliament could pass ? If a Customs Act imposed a duty of 100 per cent, upon particular articles, it would not give a greater power of exclusion than this Bill does. Some honorable senators may say that that is rather a far-fetched instance. We are aware, however, that there has lately been a great agitation with regard to harvesters. It has been suggested that a duty of ^25 should be placed upon these machines, in order to protect the locally-made harvester, or, as the Minister of Trade and Customs puts it, to prevent these goods from being dumped down and destroying an industry of the Commonwealth. But under this Bill the Minister could prohibit the importation of those articles by exercising the power of making regulations.
– Under this Bill ?
.- Yes; and the honorable senator should also bear in mind that even now in Western Australia there is an Act dealing with diseases in fruit, which is used more for the purpose of keeping out fruit from other States than for anything else.
– I deny that.
– I say that in the administration of that Act an effort has been made simply to keep out certain classes of fruit, in order to protect the local products.
– A diseased class, unfit for human consumption.
– I will call Senator Playford as a witness of the accuracy of my statement.
– He is biased, .because he is an exporter.
– They were probably his apples.
– I am afraid that Queensland has been doing something of the same kind.
– The same thing is done in New South Wales.
– No State is immaculate. Some time ago there was some talk of establishing an Inter- State Commission to stop such interference with trade by States. We, however, are proposing to give power to a Minister to interfere with trade far more seriously. Though the Minister may be the most honest man who ever existed, it is an evil to place such drastic powers in the hands of an individual. No doubt a Government that exercises power wrongly may be turned out of office. These regulations become law at once unless, on appeal, the High Court declares them ultra vires. True, the. regulations have to be laid on the table of either House if the Parliament is in session^ but, in recess, we have to wait until Parliament meets, when, within the prescribed time, they have to be submitted. These regulations have force until they are disallowed by either House, and in the time which elapses, an industry may be ruined. Where there are such drastic powers under regulations, time ought to be allowed so that we may know what we are doing. Regulations should be made only in reference to subsidiary matters which cannot conveniently be dealt with by this Act under which they are framed, and should in no way interfere with the objects of the legislation. I take it that no Minister or honorable senator will attempt to say that the Bill is for any other than the honest purpose of protecting the trade and commerce of the country, both import and export. It is perfectly plain that the Bill can be absolutely prostituted from the purpose which it is. designed to serve, and I hope that honorable senators, if they are prepared to accept it, will make such amendments in Committee as will render it more acceptable to the people of this great country. I hope and trust that Ministers - whether of this or any future Government - will, when considering legislation of this kind, have regard to the views and opinions of the various States affected ; otherwise we may do damage that it will take many years to remedy. If we are struggling now for trade in the outside parts of the world it behoves us to exercise every possible care that we do not unduly or improperly interfere with people who are prepared to do business with us. I take it for granted that we all desire to make Australia a great nation, and to promote the prosperity of ever individual by assisting in the expansion of our trade and commerce. Earlier in the evening I expressed the belief that
Australia could not live on herself, and I desire to disabuse the minds of people in other parts of the world of the idea that we have here no room for any one else or do not wish to trade -with the people beyond our own borders. We ought, by our legislation, to show that we desire to do everything we can to increase the greatness of Australia, and with that end in view to assist to the fullest possible extent both our export and import trade.
– Will honesty prevent our achieving that end?
– If the honorable senator merely desires to have honest dealing, I am with him.
– That is what we do want.
– But this Bill goes further.
– No, no.
.- Why could we not follow the English Act?
– Why slavishly follow any Act?
– There is no reason to slavishly follow any Act, but we ought to take into consideration the reasons which actuated those who framed the English legislation.
– There are obvious reasons why we could not slavishly follow the English Act. For instance, the word “quality” was found defective, and we framed our Trade Marks Bill to meet the defect.
.- We dealt then with a particular provision.
– And cured the defect.
.- This Bill calls upon us to deal with the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, and weight of goods. There are only half of those requirements in the English Act, and, as we cured one defect in our Trade Marks Act, we do not need to re-enact a similar provision here.
– What is the objection to the .provision in this Bill?
.- I object to going beyond the limits which this Bill ought to observe.
– There were obvious defects in the English Act, as shown by the provisions of our Trade Marks Act.
.- I do not consider that these are necessary provisions in a Commerce Bill.
– Does the honorable senator think that honesty in business is necessary ?
– Then why not support the Bill?
– Because the Bill, in my opinion, gives an opportunity to work gross injustice.
– Because the Bill is in favour of honesty !
.- The Bill also provides that the “trade description” shall give information “as to the country or place where the goods were made or produced.” I have already pointed out that, p.o far, at any rate, as jam manufacture is concerned, there is very serious objection to this clause.
– That is English legislation.
.- There has been ample reason given why we should not insist on this provision.
– That provision was inserted in the English Act on the recommendation of a Select Committee of the House of Commons.
– Is clause 7 of the Bill English legislation?
– We are not talking about clause 7.
– If an order came to Australia for goods of a certain quality, I ask whether it would be dishonest to send those goods without information as to the place at which they were manufactured ?
– The House of Commons Committee held that to be so.
– The Committee held it to be undesirable, but not dishonest.
– The House of Commons recommended, for instance, that German goods should be labelled “ Made in Germany.”
.- That was in order that people should not buy German goods when they thought they were buying English goods.
– The object was to prevent adulteration.
– I have heard it stated that the label “ Made in Germany “ was one of the best possible advertisements for German goods.
– Why object to telling the truth?
– I do not object to telling the truth, but there is no need to call upon a man to make a statement which cannot in any way affect the purity or quality of the goods. I quite agree that a man has no right to say that goods are of a certain quality when they are not.
– That is all the Bill seeks to do.
.- The Bill seeks to do a- great deal more, for instance, information has been given as to the mode of manufacture, and 1 quoted Mr. Wade’s opinion on that point. Senator Pearce seemed to regard it as ridiculous that the view of Mr. Wade should be entertained, but it is supported by experts. There is no honorable senator who would say that he desires to hamper the export trade of the country, or that he is not willing to do anything possible to increase trade. But it has been pointed out by experts that the Bill is likely to inflict an injury on our export trade, and there is not one tittle of evidence in support of the Bill, except the views of honorable senators, whom I decline to recognise as authorities in a matter of this sort.
– Are mercantile experts of the same class as mining experts ?
.- I know that mining experts have not the best .reputation in the world, but we are not now discussing them. The experts whom I have mentioned have a good reputation for honesty and straightforwardness, and I have, personally, always found them willing to discuss questions of the kind from all points of view. One of the bodies whose opinions I quoted to-night, would have been accepted by Senator Givens and others on the question of cool storage for goods in transit; and I suppose it is the old position, that when experts agree” with us, they are right, but not otherwise. In regard to imports, certain information is required under the Bill, or may be required, that it will be absolutely impossible to supply, and it may be worked by an astute Minister in such a way as to involve a departure from the honest object we have in view. It is exceedingly dangerous to pass a Bill under which that is possible, and, if it be passed, it ought to be amended. I have called attention to the danger of allowing a Minister to prescribe all the regulations contemplated under the Bil?. According to clause 7, which deals with imports, the regulations may prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia of any specified goods, unless there is applied to them “ a trade description of such at character, relating to such matters, and applied in such manner as is prescribed.” Clause 11 empowers similar regulations in. regard to exports, and clause 14 provides -
Any goods intended for export which have beer* inspected in pursuance of this Act may in manner prescribed be marked with the prescribed trade description.
Why cannot we have a Bill of a simple character. A Bill of that kind would,, doubtless, do a certain amount of good, if there was a recognised necessity for it, and if it did not cover the whole ground, it could speedily be amended.
– There could not be a much more simple and direct Bill than this.
.- No Bill would more readily give an opportunity to a Minister to work it to the detriment and injury of Australia. We cannot say that it is impossible to find a Minister who would administer a measure of the kind in such a way. This Bill has to be read with the Customs Act, and the latter has to be read with’ the Tariff Act.’ Are We to have a hotch-potch, composed of Customs, Tariff, and Commerce Acts? I suppose that before long we shall have half-a-dozen other measures, all to be read with, and controlled by the Customs Act. Why should this Bill be read with the Customs Act? Is it because there are certain drastic powers under that Act which honorable senators aire prepared to see exercised by the Minister? We have had experience of the working of the Customs Act.
– It has been fairly administered.
– Nothing could have been more discreditable than the working of the Customs Acf in its early days, when it was used as an instrument of oppression.
– Nothing of the sort. Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD.- The Customs Act was the means of working gross injustices on the people of the community, and when protests were raised in Parliament against the powers proposed to be given to the Minister Ave were lulled into a sense of false security - or, at any rate, a majority were - on being told that it was necessary to rely on the discretion of the Minister.
– Give one instance of bad administration under the Customs Act?
– Instances innumerable were given in Parliament.
– Name one.
– Before the honorable senator came to this House, instances were quoted in which a simple error, which it had been sought to rectify even before the ink was dry, had led to legal proceedings and a fine, and the trader was held up to those outside Australia as a dishonest person. ,
– How is it that all the mistakes were on the one side?
.- Men of the highest reputation in this community were brought before the Police Courts for merely nominal offences, and although the Minister knew perfectly well that they had no intention to commit an offence, and that the errors of inadvertence committed by their clerks were rectified as soon as possible.
– Are such cases brought before the Police Courts now?
– I am pleased to be able to say that I have not noticed any recently. But what I have stated was done constantly. If a clerk .went to a Customs House officer and said, “ I am in a little bit of a fog as to how I shall pass this entry,” the Customs officer would say, “ I can give you no assistance, you must find out how to do it for yourself,” and then, if the man made a mistake, his employer was fined.
– The man who initiated that system is the best man in Australia, bar none.
– He may be. I do not wish to discuss that point. Mr. Kingston is a man who came here with a very great reputation, but the right honorable gentleman is not well now, and I prefer not to say anything about him. I have no desire that my remarks should be regarded as an attack upon any particular Minister, but I say that to place such’ powers as are included in this Bill in the hands of any Minister is most dangerous. They might be exercised unfairly, and to the detriment of the Commonwealth. My voice and vote will never be used to confer such powers on any Minister, even though he should be appointed from my own side in politics. If I were a Minister, I should be sorry to have such powers placed in my hands, though I might exercise them in a manner different from that which would be adopted by other Ministers. Judging by the way in which the debate has gone on, the Minister of Defence evidently considers that this Bill is quite safe, and we are onlybeating the air in opposing it.
– It is quits as safe as is the Customs Act, and it is not more drastic.
– The intention evidently is that the Minister under this Bill shall have the same powers as he has under the Customs Act, otherwise it would not be necessary that it should be read as one with the Customs Act. Again I say that I regret that the present Government should be doing just what some of their predecessors have done, and that somehow or other, whether by accident or not, they are proposing legislation which has the effect of setting the whole of the States of the Commonwealth by the ears. There are many matters of importance and urgency which we might discuss rather than this measure, and which would not give rise to all this friction and trouble.
– Has there been any protest from any State but one against this Bill?
.- I have read protests from the Chambers of Commerce of Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. I understand that the Chamber of Commerce of South Australia has also protested against the measure, and that the Chamber of Commerce of Western Australia is not satisfied with it.
– I was referring to the States Governments.
– We referred only to Mr. Wade’s statement.
– - And that expresses only his private opinion.
– Do we not know that certain members of this Parliament consider it an impertinence on the part of a State Minister to offer an opinion on proposals submitted in this august Commonwealth Parliament? It really appears to be the idea of some members of this Parliament that we are superior to those men in power, position, and intelligence. I wish honorable senators would bear in mind that not a single public body in any of the States has said a single word in favour of this measure, whilst many of them ha%’e spoken against it. Senator Best will bear me out when I say that the members of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce are intelligent, honest men.
– Their views are certainly entitled to consideration.
.- I say. they are also, and members of this Senate will do well to be guided by them in dealing with this class of legislation.
– At the commencement of his speech Senator Gould complained that honorable senators on this side had not, so far, availed themselves of the opportunity to speak on the Bill. We heard the Bill introduced by the Minister of Defence, and we knew something of what was said about it in another place. We desired to hear what honorable senators opposite had to say against it. I listened to two or three speakers without gathering very much, but I anticipated’ that before Senator Gould sat down he would have filed such an indictment against the Bill that there would really be something to reply to. It seems to me that what honorable senators who oppose the Bill are doing is this : They are creating a Bill clause by clause, which seems to be in some way distantly related to this Bill, and they are arguing against that Bill. They are creating a Bill in restraint of and calculated to hinder and ruin commerce, and, having done so, they proceed to point out how inadvisable it would be to pass it. If this Bill were what honorable senators opposite describe it to be, I should heartily join with them in throwing it out on the second reading. But I say that they are entirely misreading the Bill, and they have been assisted in so doing by the quotations they have given us this evening from Mr. Wade, the New South Wales Attorney-General. It seems to me that Mr. Wade not only upon this, but upon all questions, has constituted himself the cheap adviser to the Federation generally. Whenever any question is brought forward, whether involving States rights or not”, one has only to pick up a Sydney newspaper to find that Mr._ Wade has offered an opinion upon the action of the Federal Parliament, and upon the action of the Federal Government. In fact, it seems to me that if we are to satisfy Mr. Wade we must appoint him Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, or else this Parliament must abdicate and as.k him to run the Commonwealth himself. We might then get legislation which, while it might not be acceptable to the people of the Commonwealth, would be entirely acceptable to Mr. Wade. I venture to say that I have never previously listened to such a travesty of a legal opinion as that which Mr. Wade purports to have given on this Bill. Senator Dobson was the first to quote this cheap advice. The honorable senator quoted a statement made by Mr. Wade that, in the case of goods coming in from a foreign country the product of non-union labour, the Minister could compel -a union label to be affixed to those goods as a trade description.
– So he could.
– Let us examine that statement. If the Minister had any such power it would be a power to direct a person to affix a misdescription to his goods. The only true description of such goods would be, in this connexion, that they were made by non-union labour. Do honorable senators who have advanced these arguments believe that the question whether goods are the product of union or nonunion labour will be taken into consideration at all under this Bill ?
– Would any sane man believe that the honorable senator considered a union label a trade mark?
– I am not going to be led off the track. I am dealing now with the objections urged against this Bill by Mr. Wade and his admirers in this Parliament. Mr. Wade has said that under this Bill the Minister could exercise the power conferred on him to give effect to his views on union or non-union labour. As, I read this Bill, it provides that if a man applies a description to his goods, introduced to this country from a foreign country, that description shall be a true one.
– Is that all it provides ?
– The description is covered by the definition clause, and I take it to mean that the description shall be true as regards the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, or weight of the goods. It must be accurate in these respects. Then if no description at all is applied to the goods the Minister is given power under the Bill to call upon the importer to fix a trade description “ as prescribed.” I point out that the regulations under which’ a trade description will be prescribed must be in conformity with the Bill which contains the provisions for those regulations. That is to say, the Minister, in prescribing a trade description to be affixed to goods imported without any trade description, must act in conformity with clause 3 of this Bill.
– Has the honorable senator read clause 7 ?
– I shall come to clause 7 by-and-by. I prefer to deal with the question in my own way if the honorable senator will allow me. I am pointing out that where goods are imported without any trade description affixed, or with a description so scanty as to be liable to mislead, the Minister has power to prescribe a trade description, but that power is fettered and defined by tlie clause defining a trade description.
– And by clause 7.
– Clause 7 is the clause which gives the Minister power to prescribe a trade description.
– It gives him power to make a fresh trade ‘description, quite apart from the definition clause.
– The question is : What is a trade description?
– The Bill defines a trade description. It sets out certain elements of a trade description, but no one will contend that every trade description shall include the whole of the matters referred to in the definition clause. For instance, no one will contend that the trade description of woollen goods shall set out the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, and weight of the goods. Gauge has nothing whatever to do with woollen goods, but we must have in the definition clause words which will cover every class of goods. The word “quality” is required, for instance, to cover woollen goods, and the words “gauge” and “measure” to cover liquids, and so on.
– If is impossible to fix a standard of quality in woollen goods. The greatest experts in the world have been unable to do so.
– If it is not possible for the Minister to fix a standard of quality he will not attempt to do so, but I can tell Senator Mulcahy what the Minister can, and I hope will, do under this Bill : If shoddy goods are imported with a trade description affixed to them, stating that they are woollen goods, the Minister will be able to decide that that is a false trade description. I am sure Senator Mulcahy would approve of that.
– Yes; but the Minister would require to import the man who made the goods to tell him whether the description was false or not.
– I do not think so. An analysis will disclose the quantity of cotton in so-called woollen goods. It i.« remarkable that honorable senators opposite, in dealing with clause 3, have stopped short in reading certain portions of it. They have not read the definition of a false trade description. Why have they not dilated upon the iniquity of that provision?
– We are all agreed that the practice of using false trade descriptions should be put down.
– In order to understand the effect of clause 3, it is necessary to read, not merely the definition of “ trade description,” but also the’ definition of “ false trade description” - “ False trade description “ means a trade description which, by reason of anything contained therein or omitted therefrom, is false or likely to mislead in a material respect as regards the goods to. which it is applied, and includes every alteration of a trade description, whether by way of addition, effacement, or otherwise, which makes the description false or likely to mislead in a material respect.
By the definition of “trade description” and “ false trade description,” the Minister is so hedged round that he could not use the power in the way in which certain honorable senators have endeavoured to make out that he could.
– Wherever the power is used, he will be bound by those definitions.
– Yes. ‘He will also be bound by those definitions in drawing up the regulations, otherwise the first prosecution under the measure might fail. I am free to admit that clause 7 is a very difficult one to deal with. I am not altogether satisfied with the provision, but I ask honorable senators to say how we are to make it entirely satisfactory, except by leaving, the prohibition of imports to be dealt with by regulations. It is quite patent that the clause has to be applied to a number of different sets of circumstances. If it is desired to have a clause which would be applicable to every set of circumstances which might arise, it would be necessary to have, not one clause, but seventy clauses. All that we can do is to lay down the main principle to be observed by the Government, and to leave the details to be prescribed by regulation. It will be out duty to amend or reject the regulations when presented.
– How often do honorable senators look at the regulations? Hardly ever !
– The honorable and learned senator is entitled to speak for himself, but I can assure him that there are honorable senators who, having been interested in the passage of a Bill, have anxiously awaited the publication of the regulations.
– Does not the honorable senator recognise that the regulations will take effect until a motion has been passed to the contrary?
– Not under this particular clause. The regulations made under the Public Service Act were keenly perused by some honorable senators, and, as the result of a discussion in the Senate, many substantial amendments have been made. It is beside the point to say that the regulations to be made under this Bill will not be keenly perused. It will be the duty of honorable senators to see that the regulations, when framed, are not of such a character as to hamper the trade of Australia. Senator Dobson, who is keenly concerned about the apple trade, seems, to think that it will be injured by this legislation. I differ from’ the honorable and learned senator. According to his argument, the apple trade of Australia is going to be injured as the result of inspection, to say the least, and of grading, to say the most. According to honorable senators, the most that will happen under the Bill is that the export trade in apples will be made subject to a system of grading, and the least that will happen will be that it will be made subject to a system of inspection. I take it that the object of inspection is to prevent rotten or damaged fruit from being sent away, and that the purpose of grading is to place on the foreign markets fruit of uniform size, and perhaps uniform quality. If the argument of ‘Senator Dobson ‘has any force, it outfit to be confirmed by the results in those places where the system of inspection and grading has. been in operation. But, as a matter of fact, the results, have been beneficial to the apple trade amongst others. Although it is true that the system of grading has been voluntary, still in Victoria it is almost universally applied to apples.
– It is applied to a verv small proportion of the apples exported.
– Almost all the apples which . are exported from Victoria *»re graded, and I speak on the authority of a friend who is employed by one of the biggest firms. Honorable senators spoke as if a whole shipment of apples were taken and inspected case by case. Nothing of the sort is done. A case is taken here and there, sometimes only one case is; taken at random, and if the fruit passes the test the brand is put on the whole shipment. The results which have accrued from this system have been so satisfactory that the Victorian apple trade has become a very valuable one, and an increased area has been put under apple cultivation.
– Does the honorable senator think that the fruit-growers of Victoria should be subject to both Acts, and to both- inspectors?
– I feel sure that wherever a State has a system of grading or inspection in operation the Government will adopt the local test.
– I said so in my speech on the second reading of the Bill.
– Senator Dobson instanced a ca’se in which Messrs. Jones and Company said that some kinds of small apples sell in England because they suit a certain trade, but that if we adopted a grading system, and the apples were labelled or graded as “small,” or “No. 3,” or “No. 2,” their sale would be spoilt.
– I said that it would prejudice the buyer at once.
– The honorable and learned senator’s argument is contradictory. In the first place he said that the buyer buys the small apples because they suit a certain trade, but in the second place he said that if the apples were branded as small the buyer would! not buy them.
– No. I said he would be prejudiced immediately he saw the word “small” on the case.
– Surely The honorable senator knows that for dessert a reasonably small apple is more suitable than a large one, and brings a better price.
– If the case were branded “ Dessert apples, small,” or “Des?sert apples, first class,” I might agree with the honorable senator.
– The honorable and learned senator boasted that in the apple trade Tasmania has acquired her present position without adopting a system of grading, and that the grading is voluntarily done by the growers. It is not a singular fact that im Victoria the grading has ber come universal, although not compulsory, and that the Government brand is a guarantee? Any one ‘has only to watch the London market to know that apples from South Australia and Victoria bring a higher price than apples from Tasmania.
– - Because they are riper when the first shipment comes.
– The apples from South Australia and Victoria top the market, and Tasmanian apples are at the bottom.
– Only for a very limited quantity.
– New Zealand - that country to which we go for so many successful experiments - has adopted an almost universal system of grading, with eminently satisfactory results. It is a singular fact that there is only one case in which it has not been adopted, and it bears the strongest possible testimony to the value of the system of Government grading. Why were rabbits excepted from compulsory grading? Because the land-owners did not want to encourage the growth’ of the export trade, and by so doing possibly restrict the efforts being made to get rid of the pest by poison and other methods. It was urged in the New Zealand Parliament that if the rabbits were not excepted there would be a clamour against all efforts being made to rid the country of them.
– And without grading the export of rabbits has increased more rapidly than the export of sheep.
– The honorable senator is mistaken, because the export of rabbit’s has decreased.
– Only during the .last two years.
– For that very reason, the land-owners, and their representatives in Parliament, opposed the Government grading of rabbits.
– Does the honorable senator wish rabbits to be graded when exported ?
– I do not care whether it is done or not. I am merely quoting the opinion which was held in New Zealand, where they have had the greatest experience of the Government grading of exports. At page 563 of the New Zealand Year-Book for 1904 the following’ passage occurs : -
It must be admitted that with cheaper land and a closer proximity to the markets of the world, Argentina must necessarily be a very formidable rival to Australasia. The only way to keep command of the market is to ship nothing but first quality graded mutton and lamb.
Speaking of the dairying industry, it says -
The industry continues to flourish throughout New Zealand. The Government still spend large sums of money in teaching the art of butter making. . . . Graders are employed examining all butter and cheese for export, who brand each packet with its proper quality.
Then, dealing with the question of the export of poultry, it says, at page 566 -
The Agricultural Department intends to seek legislation to prevent the export of any poultry unless it has been graded by a Government official. This is a step in the right direction.
Is Senator Gould listening to that? Then again, at page 568, it says -
Our dairy produce is now second to none, which is largely due to the system of manufacture and Government grading. n the face of there quotations, how can honorable senators opposite put forward the argument that even if the Government were to adopt the system of grading, which is one of the powers under this Bill - and it by no means follows that they will-
– If it is such a good thing, they ought to do so.
– I hope they will. But even if they do, the honorable senator’s prophesies will have no foundation ; because the experience of New Zealand has proved that, so far from injuring industries, grading has benefited them, and has resulted in their expansion. So far as the apple trade is concerned, I ask Senator Dobson what injustices would result? He quoted a case where 900 cases of apples were rushed down to the wharf at the last moment and put on board. No time, he said, was left for grading. I say that if there is anything that is. calculated to injure the export trade of Australia, it is conduct of that kind. I will guarantee to say that our President, who knows something about this question, could tell us that that is not the way to ship apples if they are to be landed in good condition for the London market. As far as mv reading on the subject has gone, my information shows that they should be kept some time before being packed, and not rushed into the freezing chamber in such a hurried fashion. But let us see what injustice would be done in that case. No time was allowed for grading there. The Government brand would not be put on them as graded apples. All that would have to be done would be to put on the brand “ungraded,” and then they would sell for what they really were.
– It would depreciate their value.
– But does not the honorable senator see that the cause of the depreciation would be the want of business, aptitude on the part of the firm in not having the shipment ready ?
– The honorable senator does not know the conditions of the trade.
– I say that in that particular case no injustice would be done, because a truetrade description could be put on the goods by explaining thatthey were ungraded ; in which case they would sell for what they were worth.
– What about clause 6, which says that notice shall be given?
– What is to prevent the shipper from giving notice? He knows that he has the goods, and he knows that he has the space. I take it that he could inform the Minister at the outset that he was going to send away so many apples.
– He does not know it at all; he gets a telegram, and acts upon it.
– It seems to me to be a complete reply to Senator Dobson’s speech that the Bill does not compel the shipper to grade his fruit. It does nothing of the sort. It gives power to the Minister to carry the regulations to that extent ; but the Bill does not insist upon grading. What the Bill does is this : It says that if the shipper marks his goods as being graded, they shall be truly graded, and that a false description shall not be put upon them. That is to say, if he is going to send Australian apples to the English’ market as graded Australian apples, they shall be so graded. And I say that that is in the interests of the shippers themselves. It is not in the interests of Australian shippers that some shall be allowed to send to the English market goods which profess to be of an uniform grade, leaving thebuyer to. discover that the cases’ contain all grades, from thevery small to the very large. Senator Macfarlane has askedwhy we should feel called upon to assist the foreign buyer. “ Why worry ourselves ?” he says. My reply’ is - because that is the best way of assisting the Australian seller. If any one wants to injure the Australian seller, the best way is to “ take in “ the foreign buyer, as, for instance, by sending away leather loaded with barium. The leather export trade of Australia has practically been killed by the leather manufacturers themselves - not by all of them, but by a few - who. for the purpose of making more immediate gain, loaded their leather with barium. They placed their adulterated leather in the English market, and made more profit, but with the most unfortunate results for the trade.
-That leather was for local consumption.
– No. For years past the splendid reputation that Australian leather formerly had has been destroyed. These few importers not only destroyed the market for their own leather, but for all Australian leather. That is the trouble. Why do not honorable senators apply themselves to the question of whether this Bill meets such a case as that? It seems to me to be a flaw in the measure that it does not. I have looked through it carefully to ascertain whether it is possible by means of it to meet such cases, but I do not see that it is. In my opinion, where leather. is entered for export, power should be given to make an analysis of it, and if it is found that it is loaded with barium, its exportation should be prohibited. I commend that point to the Government, and ask the Minister in charge of the Bill to consult with those who are responsible for drafting it, and to see whether the evil to which I have called attention cannot be met. That seems to me to be the true answer to Senator Macfarlane’s query as to why we shouldbe anxiousaboutit the foreign buyer. Coming to Senator Pulsford. he says that the merchants cannot give all the particulars laid down as necessary in the definition clause. But “before I go further I should like to have aquorum present. [Quorum formed.”] I ask Senator Pulsford why he did not give us some instances. Take woollen goods. Does he mean tosay that the importers cannot determine whether goods are woollen or cotton? Take boots : Does he mean to say that importers cannot tell whetherthey are made of cardboard or leather? Take an adulterated food product. Does he mean to say thatthey cannot define the difference between adulterated and pure food? The honorable senator makes a sweeping statement, and expects us to accept it without analysis.
– There is a great deal of difficulty.
– Will the honorable senator give us instances where the importer cannot give a true description of goods, instead of making general statements? Let him nail it down. Then Senator Pulsford - with the aptitude for, I was going to say, misrepresentation, for it almost amounts to that, in which he has become so proficient lately - says that the meaning of this clause is that a merchant importing any particular article would have to fill in all these particulars.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– I took the honorable senator’s statement down, and these were his words : “ All these details of trade description will have to be filled in. Ridiculous.”
– That is the whole of the argument of Mr. Wade.
– Of course it is ridiculous. Senator Pulsford knew it to be ridiculous. He quoted Mr. Wade as backing him up.
– The whole of Mr. Wade’s opinion is based on that assumption. Mr. Wade asserts that importers have to give all these particulars.
– I say that any honorable senator who makes such a statement must put out of his mind altogether the well-known parliamentary idea of a definition clause. We all know that a definition clause has to be ample; that it has to cover the whole scope and ambit of what is aimed at in every one of the clauses, nut no one in his senses would take it to mean that under any particular regulation all these conditions have to be complied with.
– The honorable senator will admit that by regulation the Government could compel the importer to do it.
– By regulation a Government might commit political suicide, but I do not think that they would be such fools. I give Governments credit for having sufficient common-sense to make regulations which will work, and not such as will bt unworkable. If they do not. they will soon find themselves in Queer-street. I direct Senator Pulsford’s attention to a fact that should have occurred to his own mind. Indeed, he may have had it in his mind, but he never mentioned it. He asked Senator Playford a question as to the ingredients which the tobacco manufacturers of
Australia were using in the manufacture of tobacco, and which were supplied to them duty free. Judging from the quantity of those ingredients used, I should say that if imported tobacco is made of the same material as local tobacco, it might be held to be a case of misdescription if it were entered as being manufactured from tobacco leaf. There is an instance in which it might be very necessary to compel importers to enumerate the ingredients of which they made their goods.
– Especially in patent medicines.
– Senator Gray asked what call there; had’ been for the introduction of this Bill, and why the Government had pushed it forward. I think there are two words which supply the, answer, and those words are - Butter Commission. When the evidence given before that Commission was ‘being published, the newspapers of Australia were filled with appeals to the Federal Parliament to pass a Bill such .as this. Appeals were also made to the States Parliaments to pass Pure Food Bills and Secret Commission Bills; and legislation of the kind was framed at the request of the Butter Commission.
– The matter was also brought up at the Hobart Conference.
– That is so, and Mr. Carruthers, who is Mr. Wade’s commanderinchief, raised no particular objection.
– And the complaints were most pronounced in Victoria, where there is grading of butter.
– The trouble arose through the action, not only of Victorian exporters, but also of New .South Wales exporters.
– The Butter Commission originated in Victoria, and did most of its work here ; it) was only at the tail end of the investigation that it went to New South Wales.
– I am glad that Senator Millen made that interjection, because it only shows the necessity there is for Federal legislation. The Butter Commission was first appointed bv the Victorian Government, but it had not gone far in its investigation, when it found that the scope of its inquiries were Federal ; and it was at the request of the Butter Commission itself that it was converted into a Commonwealth body. Senator Millen has inferentially attempted to condemn the
Victorian grading system. We must not forget, however, that inferior butter was brought from Sydney to Melbourne, and there placed in boxes bearing the Victorian Government brand, and exported to England. Could there be any stronger tribute to the value of the grading system, or the value of the Victorian Government brand on the English market ? Senator Gray took up a. very peculiar position in this connexion : He condemned the Bill, lock, stock, and barrel, so far as it applies to the export trade, but blamed the Government because it does not apply to the Inter-State trade. Surely if an honorable senator believes that legislation of the kind will ruin our export trade, he should not ask to have it applied to the Inter-State trade. I must say that, in my opinion, it is a weakness in the Bill that it does not apply to our Inter-State trade.
– That is what Senator Gray pointed out.
– But if the Bill be bad. is it not fortunate that it does not apply to the Inter-State trade?
– But Senator Gray argued that if the Bill was a good one, it ought, mote particularly, to be applied to the Inter-State trade.
– Senator Gray objected to the Bill on the ground that there is no necessity for it. In my opinion the Bill is even more necessary in our InterState trade than in the foreign trade ; but I accept the present measure as an instalment. Senator Gray referred to the inquiries of ‘ a Select Committee in New South Wales into the reasons why people there will not buy Australian made articles. It has been found that a very good reason exists for a Bill of this kind, in. that boots are being imported, not only from other States, but, as Senator Gray forgot to mention, from England, and sold in New South Wales as American boots. At any rate, the Bill will prevent practices of that kind, so far as English goods are concerned, and if we had a measure covering the Inter-State trade, it would also prevent the other class of fraud. In my belief, if the boot manufacturers were alive to their own interests thev would sell Australian goods as Australian goods.
– Even after what the honorable senator has told us about leather?
– Yes, because the Australian manufacturer is not compelled to buy the inferior leather which is now sent to England, to the detriment of our export trade. Senator Gray reiterated the statement that Government assistance of any kind does not assist the dairying industry. As a matter of fact, Australia owes her dairying industry entirely to Government action. It was Government action that built up the industry, not only in Victoria, but in every other State.
– Not in New South Wales.
– -While in New South Wales there has never been a bonus, Senator Millen cannot deny that the dairy farmers there owe much of their success to the admirable assistance given by the Agricultural Bureau, in the shape of informative journals and experimental farms.
– There has been no direct Government assistance.
– Is what I have described not direct Government assistance? In New South Wales at the present time the State Government are doing more to assist the dairying industry than is being done by the Government of any other State; indeed, the New South Wales Government have gone to the length of importing stock, with a view to improving the dairy herds. Senator Gould empha-, sized at great length the protests of the Chambers of Commerce against this Bill, and argued that, as no one had petitioned in favour of it, we should therefore reject it. But are the consumers not to be considered? Are we to consider only the suppliers, who are in a minority? Personally, I consider the consumers first, and the suppliers afterwards.
– This Bill does not help consumers.
– Why should Senator Gould attempt to make capital out of the fact that the consumers have not loaded the table of the Senate with petitions ? But the consumers have no need to petition ; thev can judge by the tone of the debates that the Federal Parliament is in favour of this measure. In my opinion, the petitions from the Chambers of Commerce, and the opinion of Mr. Wade, are founded on an erroneous conception of the purpose and effect of this Bill. One has only to read the petitions in, order to see at once that they are practically a repetition of the arguments used in the leading articles of the conservative press of Australia.
– How can the Chambers of Commerce be blamed in the light of the published statements of Mr. Wade? Nothing could be more misleading.
– We can hardly blame non-experts when we find a legal legislator falling into the error. The criticism of the Chambers of Commerce is, as I say, founded more on those leading articles than on the Bill itself. They have created for themselves a fictitious Bill, and they argue against a measure which does not exist. There are short-sighted individuals in the commercial community as elsewhere. We find people prepared to sacrifice the trade in which they make their living for the sake of a little immediate profit. The leather trade and the butter trade afford us illustrations of this fact. When the butter exporters put the inferior New South Wales butter into Governmentbranded boxes in Victoria, did they not know that they would thereby injure the butter trade of Australia? Of course they did ; but they went for the immediate profit. We have to recognise that the impelling force behind our competitive system is immediate profits, to the disregard of the ultimate effect of questionable practices ; and the kindest act we can do is to save those people from themselves. I do not take the guidance of the Chambers of Commerce in these matters, because, in the first place, they have been misdirected, and, in the second place, they are interested parties, who have shown a disposition to seek immediate gain even at the risk’ of damaging trade. Our object should be to protect the consumers in Australia - to see that they are not sold shoddy goods instead of woollen goods, or cardboard boots instead of leather boots.
– How can we prevent that? Every pair of boots cannot be stamped.
– Such practices can be prevented by the Minister, under the power to make regulations. The stamp can be put on the samples imported.
– On the outside covering, which the purchaser does not see?
– An honorable senator, who is too ill to be present to-night, on one occasion showed us samples of children’s imported boots which were absolutely made of cardboard. This was a fraud on the parents, and endangered the health of the children. We also’ desire to prevent a buyer from getting ten ounces of glycerine in bottles .reputed to hold twelve ounces.
– This Bill will not help in that matter.
– Senator Gray suggested a very peculiar standard of commercial morality. He contended that, because such a practice was permissible in Eastern nations, similar liberty ought to be allowed to pur manufacturers, in order to enable the latter to compete; in short, that we ought to allow our manufacturers to cheat and be cheated.
– The honorable senator is doing Senator pray a gross injustice. That was not Senator Gray’s meaning.
– Senator Gray pointed out that bottles which contained only ten ounces of glycerine were sold amongst Eastern nations ‘as containing twelve ounces. I am now simply dealing with the cases actually quoted bv Senator Gray.
– But the honorable senator is not quoting Senator Gray fairly
– I am endeavouring to quote the honorable senator fairly, and I took a note of the cases as he cited them.
– The honorable senator cuts away the context altogether.
– Senator Gray said that Canada was producing hams which were labelled and sold as York hams on the markets of the world.
– Senator Gray said that not one York ham in a thousand sold in London is a York ham, and he excused the practice.
– We want to protect our consumers.
– What does the honorable senator propose to do?
– I am going to place the onus of risking a prosecution for false description on the importer. That is to say, if an importer knowingly imports hams from Canada, and labels them “York Hams,” I propose to render him liable to -a prosecution for a false description.
– Suppose he puts the labels on them here, and after they have passed the Customs?
– That would be a matter for the States Government to deal with, and Senator Millen would be the first to raise an outcry if we endeavoured to trench upon the rights of the States in regard to it. We desire to prevent the importation, or I should say, perhaps, the return to Australia of Australian wine adulterated in France and sold here as French wine. We desire to prevent the importation of red lead under the title of cayenne pepper.
– How are we to prevent the importation of the wine? It may go home in bulk, and come out in bottles.
– I do not know that we can stop it ; but we can at any rate make the practice difficult and risky. We know that in these cases there is often collusion between the importer here and the manufacturer or adulterator abroad ; and if the importer knows that he is liable to be mulct in a penalty of f.200 for putting a false description on his goods, he may not be so anxious to do it. He may, perhaps, believe that it will pay him better to be honest. We are told that this Bill is going to injure the jam industry. I am reminded in this connexion of a little incident which occurred in Western Australia just prior to the establishment of Federation. A number of manufacturers in that State were strongly anti-Federal. They argued that their productions would be swamped by those of the manufacturers in the other States. One of the strongest of these antiFederalists was a manufacturer who had acquired some reputation as a maker of fig jam. Honorable senators may be aware that the fig grows luxuriantly in Western Australia, and very good fig jam is made in that State. This man contended that with Federation and Inter-State free-trade his jams would be swamped by cheap Victorian and South Australian fig jam.
– Then there were some protectionists in Western Australia?
– Yes ; all the manufacturers were protectionists at that time. The gentleman to whom I have referred had a most unfortunate experience. After he had appeared before a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the question of Federation, and had recited his tale of woe, one of his employes prosecuted him for wages, and when the employe was asked what his duties were, he told the Bench that they were to cut up pie melons for the purpose of making fig jam. I do not know whether Victorian jam is made from vegetables or from fruit, but I do know that it has earned a very good name. I do not believe that Tasmanian jam would be injured in the slightest degree if it had to be sold as
Tasmanian jam made from fruit. I believe that the jam industry of Australia can compete with the jam industry of any other country, and when our jams are exported to the markets of the world, they should be labelled as Australian jams. We should not label them as French jams or as “Scotch marmalade.” We should label them as Australian jam., and our manufacturers should sell them on their own reputations, and not on a borrowed reputation. I think that this Bill is necessary. It does not accomplish all I desire, but it goes a long way in that direction. I refuse to believe that the Government, by introducing it, are endeavouring to sneak in protection.
– The honorable senator has become very trusting of late.
– I remind honorable senators that a Bill of this character was introduuced by the Labour Government. Senator McGregor introduced in this Chamber a Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, which was practically this Bill.
– That was a Bill of a previous Government.
– That is so; but it was adopted by the Watson Government, and, later on, by the Reid-McLean Government. Senator Symon announced that the Reid-McLean Government intended to take up that Bill also. So that, if this is an attempt to sneak in protection, an attempt was made by the Reid-McLean Government to sneak in protection.
– Surely the honorable senator does not say that the two Bills are the same
– I think they are practically the same. This Bill goes further, but I read in it the same provisions, slightly extended, as are contained in the Bill to which I have referred. I believe it will have a beneficial effect. It will minimize dishonest practices in connexion with our export trade, and secure for our products the reputation that, wherever the mark of the Commonwealth Government is found affixed to goods, that is a guarantee of their purity and quality. The effect will be that our producers will get higher prices for their products, and their products will also sell more readily in competition with those of other countries. On the other hand, the effect of such a measure will1 be to protect our consumers against the inferior and adulterated goods of other countries, sold here as reputed pure goods. As on the one hand it will serve to protect our producers, and on the other hand our consumers, I intend to support the second reading of the Bill.
– I welcome this Bill as an instalment of the legislation which is necessary to insure, not only commercial, but also national, honesty. I fail to understand how anybody who desires to see trade honestly conducted can have any real objection to this Bill. Honest merchants who conduct their business on pure and clean lines, should, above all other persons, welcome such a measure as being calculated to protect them from the unfair competition of merchants who do not so conduct their business. Every honorable senator who is animated by a desire to see honest merchants given a fair show will assist in passing the Bill. We have heard a great deal about the evils likely to follow, but I ask honorable senators who have argued in that way to show how any person who conducts his business fairly and honestly can be injured. I have no sympathy whatever with, and no generous feelings to throw away upon, the man who conducts his business dishonestly ; and I refuse to consider the Bill from his point of view. Let us examine and analyze the Bill, no matter how closely, and what is its object? It is to secure, as far as this Parliament can, that in the case of Commonwealth commerce - fortunately, or unfortunately, we have no power to deal with State commerce
– We could deal with Inter-State commerce.
– If Senator Millen will assist me by his vote I will give him an opportunity to deal with Inter-State commerce in this Bill.
– I will do so if one clause is struck out of the Bill.
– It is not necessary to strike out any clause. We have only to insert about three words to make the Bill apply to Inter-State commerce, and I challenge Senator Millen to give me a vote in that direction on an amendment which I propose to move when the Bill gets into’ Committee. The Bill provides, so far as this Parliament can regulate the matter, that Commonwealth commerce shall in future be conducted on pure lines. There can be no question as to the need for a Bill of this description. The revelations of the Butter Commission which recently sat in Victoria, and whose findings should be familiar to every honorable senator, showed that in that particular branch of commercial life corruption was rampant, that the trade was reeking with fraud, and that cheating was the rule and not the exception. This Bill will tend to minimize that corruption, fraud, and cheating; and it is urgently required to effect that object if it can be effected. We know that in connexion with the butter trade our good name as exporters was being ruined by the malpractices of certain merchants of Victoria, and perhaps of other parts of the Commonwealth’. We know that in Victoria the Government stamp was used by exporters without the knowledge of the Government. To put it in plain language, the Government stamp was stolen and used wholesale by those people.
– It did more harm than good, then?
– Of course it did, when fraud was used. The honorable senator is a banker, and will he say that the issue of bank notes is a very bad thing, because certain fraudulent notes are circulated from time to time?
– That is not a fair parallel.
– It is absolutely fair. What is it that gives value to a bank note? Is it not the stamp which is a token that it is a genuine bank note issued by a particular banking company ? If a forger comes along and issues forged notes he deceives the bank and the people on whom the forged notes are palmed off. In exactly the same way the exporters of butter from Victoria, who fraudulently put the Government stamp on their goods, were guilty of forgery, and their conduct was equally reprehensible.
– It was a genuine Government stamp.
– It was a genuine Government stamp fraudulently used. Will the honorable senator tell me that if a man can get possession of the plates used for stamping notes of the Bank of New South Wales, of which he is, I believe, a shareholder and director, he will be justified in using them to issue false notes wholesale?
– The honorable senator does not understand anything about the matter. A signature is required as well as the stamp.
– I am aware that a signature is required as well as the stamp. The honorable senator, who is now posing as the champion and advocate of corrupt practices, must surely be a different individual altogether from the honorable senator who has posed as the moral and upright director of a bank. If the honorable senator were a merchant in the old country relying upon the Victorian Goverment stamp as a guarantee of purity, and bought 100 boxes of butter branded1 with that stamp, he would sing a different tune it., when he opened the boxes, he found that they contained axle grease.
– I think the Government should be responsible in a case of that sort.
– I entirely agree with the honorable senator, but that is no excuse for the dishonest action of the people who fraudulently used the Government stamp. We know from the revelations of the Butter Commission that when boxes of prime butter were sent into the stores with well-known brands affixed to them, the butter was emptied out of those boxes, and inferior butter was sent home in the boxes branded with the reputable brand. These are some of the practices which this Bill will put a stop to, and I think it ill becomes any member of this Senate to constitute himself the apologist for such practices. The Bill will not prevent any person from exporting goods of any description he likes provided that he accurately describes them.
– Why should he describe them? .
– In order that he shall not commit a fraud upon any person.
– If he puts no mark on the goods, there is no fraud.
– The Bill will not prevent a man from exporting 100 boxes of butter, if it is marked according to its grade - as prime, or number two, or number three, or pastry. I will go further than some honorable senators, and say that if any butter is not fit to be exported as pastry butter, it can be sent home, if it is called axle-grease. Therefore, no hardship is inflicted on any person. All that a man has to do is to accurately describe his goods. It is time for this Parliament, as well as every other governing body in Australia, to see that everything possible is done to protect the good name of Australian products in the markets of the old world. The honest producer, as well as the honest exporter, will be robbed every time of a certain amount of his legitimate profit if our good name suffers. If we are in the habit of sending home apples of inferior quality, so that Australian apples come to be regarded as inferior generally, then the man who sends home first-class apples will only get a secondclass price. The same result will happen with butter, jam, and every other article that we can send home. An Agent-Gene-
Tal of Victoria has stated that frozen lambs have been sent home from the State which would have been more correctly described as frozen skeletons.
– Is the honorable senator speaking of an instance where the lambs which were refused the Government stamp brought more than lambs which received it ?
– No. I am only concerned in trying to prove that every export should bear an honest description. Senator Macfarlane said that a man should be allowed to export any article he likes without giving a description. Suppose that the honorable senator were allowed to send home 100 boxes of butter which was only suitable for pastry butter, and that it was marked as “ Tasmanian .butter.” What would be the result when it was put on the English market? The shipment might be divided amongst 100 different buyers. As soon as it was found that it was not fit for ordinary use, and that it could be best used as pastry butter, for all time those buyers would look with the utmost suspicion upon all other Tasmanian buffer, and all the honest producers would suffer merely because the honorable senator had desired to get the highest possible price for butter of inferior grade.
– Why should not each butter-maker have his own brand?
– There is no provision in the Bill to prevent each man from having his own brand.
– What more does the honorable senator want?
– I want the buttermaker to insure to the exporter that, in addition to the butter bearing his own brand, it shall be free from adulteration, and correctly described. In Australia, we have instances on record where articles have been put up not only for. local use, but for exportation, which contained not a particle of the stuff of which they were supposed to be produced. We had a case tried in the Police Court, in which it was shown by a
Government analyst that an article which was sold as raspberry vinegar was innocent of raspberries, that an article which was sold as “jam was made of pumpkins or of turnips, with clover seeds put in to represent raspberry seeds. Last year, when the health inspectors went round Melbourne, they found sixty-eight samples of that mysterious compound generally described as sausage, and there was not one sample that did not contain deleterious adulterants. These are some” of the frauds against which we desire tb protect the consuming public so far as we can. __
– Will this Bill guarantee pure sausages?
– At least it will guarantee that the prime Frankfort sausages which are introduced here-
– And which are made here.
– Some of them are made here, perhaps, but I know that some are imported. The Bill only goes as far as the Federal authority to legislate goes. We have no power to interfere with State matters. We also have evidence that our export trade has been ruined in another way. It is a fact borne out by sworn evidence that people in the old country look with suspicion on our manufactures owing to the dishonest and fraudulent practices of certain manufacturers. I would not for a moment say that all our manufacturers follow these pernicious practices, but I do submit that those who follow an honest method of doing business - those who, as far as they can, never attempt to do anything which is fraudulent - should be protected from the undue and unfair competition of those who go iri for dishonest practices. We know that in the old country our leather has received a verybad name on account of the pernicious practices of some tanners,’ who load the article with a substance known as barium, which is of no use except to add weight. Weight for weight, barium is of very much. less value than hide. Therefore, by the addition of that adulterant, the tanners get an undue profit, and the whole trade of Australia suffers because of that fraudulent practice. Will any one say that the perpetuation of that practice is desirable? No.
– I think that the Bill will still allow that adulterated leather to be exported.
– Only by the connivance of the Government.
– No,’ by the man describing the article accurately.
– That is so; but the consumers in the old country are properly protected, because the importer will know exactly what he is buying. All we say to the Australian manufacturer is : “ You can manufacture and export any stuff you choose, and the only condition we impose upon you is that you shall correctly describe the article.”
– Just while it is going through the Customs.
– That is as far as we can go.
– We cannot follow our products into the consumers’ houses in England, or Germany, or France. That duty is cast upon the Government of each importing country, and I trust that it will be fulfilled faithfully and honestly. In the same way we, in Australia, impose certain conditions upon importers. A person can import any article he chooses, provided that it is accurately described. This Bill will not prevent him from doing so. Unfortunately this Parliament cannot follow the imports into the consumers’ houses, but the States Parliaments can do so, and that duty is cast upon them. All we should be concerned about is “to do our duty in the fullest measure possible, and trust that the States Governments, will in like manner fulfil their duty. In almost any shop in Melbourne, if a person asks for ten yards of imported flannel or ten yards of locally-made flannel, very often, unless he goes in for an absolutely superior article, he will, :get an article which is not flannel in the proper meaning of the term, but half cotton and half woollen. The Bill, so far as the Federal authority goes, will prevent that sort of fraud from being perpetrated upon the consumers. It will allow the importation of woollen goods, flannels, tweeds, and clothes of every description, but it will not allow the importation of any goods as being of pure wool unless that is the case. If cotton has entered into the manufacture of any goods, they must be described as a mixture of wool and cotton. To that extent this Bill merely provides for common honesty. I cannot understand how “any honorable senator can oppose a provision which must commend itself to everybody on account of its agreement with the laws of equity. Senator Pearce also spoke of shoddy boots. We know that a large number of shoddy boots are imported, which are supposed to be made of leather. If you go through the whole gamut of importations in the same way, you will find that the same practice is carried on. Goods are imported as steel, although they do not contain a particle of steel. Goods are imported as being composed of certain substances, although absolutely foreign to them. These are all methods by which a proportion of the trading community cheat the public. I would not for a moment insinuate that the whole of the trading public pursue these methods, but those who do not are subject to an undue and unfair handicap, and ultimately, unless some step is taken to protect them, will have to go to the wall. To-day we have heard a great deal from Senator Gould about the protests of Chambers of Commerce against the Bill. He has also told us that they are the only experts whose guidance should be accepted by the Parliament.
– No, the honorable senator also referred to the Jam Manufacturers amd the Fruit-growers’ Union of New South Wales.
– Admitting for the sake of argument that Senator Gould brought forward every trader in the community as a witness against the Bill, I ask what does that prove? It has been proved up to the hilt that fraud, cheating, forgery, almost every crime in the calendar, has been committed by portions of the trading community. But I say that a large proportion of the trading community has been guilty of those offences, and that it is our duty to protect the honest against the dishonest. I should like to direct the attention of honorable senators to a passage on the ethics of trade, from a: book by the celebrated German poet and philosopher, Heinrich Heine. In volume VI. of the English edition of his writings, in which his work, “ The Gods in Exile,” is printed, he says, speaking of the god Mercury -
I have already ventured, despite their crafty disguises, to surmise the names of the important mythological characters who appear In these traditions. This one is nothing less than the god Mercury, the ancient leader of souls, Hermes Pyscopompos. Yes, under that shabby overcoat, and in that sober shopman’s form, the most brilliant and youthful of the heathen deities, the crafty son of Maia, is disguised. On that three cornered hat there is not the least .sign of a feather which could recall the wings of his divine head-covering, and the heavy shoes with steel buckles do not at all suggest pinioned sandals; this heavy Dutch lead is different from the mobile quicksilver to which the god gave a name, but the very contrast betrays the identity, and the god chose this disguise to be the more securely concealed. Yet it may be that he in no wise chose it from mere caprice. Mercury was, as you know, at the same time the god of thieves as well as merchants, and it was natural that in choosing a garb which rendered him incognito, and a calling by which he could live, he had in mind his antecedents and talents. Therein he was experienced, he had discovered the tortoiseshell lyre and the helioscope, he robbed men and god, and even as a babe he was a little Calmonius who slipped from his cradle to steal a yoke of oxen. He had to choose between the two occupations, which are in reality not very different, since in both the aim is to obtain the property of others as cheaply as possible; but the shrewd god reflected that thievery does not stand so high in public opinion as trade, but that the former is interdicted by the police, while the latter is even protected by law, that merchants reached the top rung of the ladder of honour, while those of the thieving fraternity must climb a ladder of a much less agreeable description, that the latter stake liberty and life, while the merchant only risks his capital or that of his friends; and so the cunninvest of gods became a merchant, and to be as perfect a* one as possible, Dutch at that.
There the celebrated’ poet and philosopher points out that the people who adopt the profession of merchant, and carry on trading, simply do so because it is safer than the ordinary practice of thievery.
– Does the honorable senator believe that nonsense?
– I do not believe ft is nonsense. It is absolutely true. The methods of some merchants, some exporters, and some operators on the stock exchange, would shame the vilest thief in the community. One only needs to look at the recent revelations in New South Wales in connexion with the administration of the Lands -Department to see what the mercantile community will descend to.
– The mercantile community was not concerned in that.
– It is a matter of trade absolutely, and I only refer to it in that way. Every day in the week, brokers on the stock exchange will sell scrip which they have not got, and under circumstances in which they may never have it, and may never be able to supply it.
– The honorable senator virtually says that merchants are thieves of a higher class.
– I say that incidentally to the pursuit of commerce and trade fraud and cheating are rampant, and that it is necessary for us to protect the honest merchant from the unfair competition of those who pursue the pernicious methods I have described.
– The honorable senator’s quotation went to show that a merchant was a thief.
– My quotation was from the work of an author who will be remembered when most of us are forgotten. It is our duty, so far as we can, not only to protect our trade in the markets of the old world, but also to protect the interests of the consumers in Australia. We can only do that by means of some such Bill as we are now considering. The Bill will not restrict honest trade in the slightest degree. It only goes so far as to compel merchants who import or export goods to describe them truly and accurately. We know that our good name has suffered through the practices of the dishonest. We know that firms have been in the habit of exporting meat, jam, and other goods, in tins which did not contain the weight which they were reputed to contain. Do we not know that jam and butter have been exported in twelve-ounce tins when the buyers thoroughly understood that they were getting one pound of goods ? I say that that is a palpable fraud, which has acted detrimentally to the whole trade of Australia. I have bought reputed pound tins of certain articles produced in the old country, and afterwards found they did not contain a pound weight of goods. I have tried them. We also have the evidence produced by the Butter Commission in Victoria, “to the effect that butter was exported in tins that contained only twelve ounces, though they were reputedly pound tins. It is the duty of the Australian Parliament to protect the good name of Australia, and to help to maintain the reputation of the honest trading community. It is our duty to help to build uo a good name for Australian goods, not on] v for the sake of the community as a whole, but for the benefit of honest merchants. This is a Bill to provide for honest trading, and I cannot understand how any one has the unblushing effrontery to get up and oppose it in this Chamber. We are told bv Senator Gould that it is a very drastic Bill. He viewed it with disfavour, because he said it would be read and taken in conjunction with our Customs Act. The objection to that course being pursued seemed to be because certain very drastic punishments were provided in the Customs Act which were, in his opinion, too severe for any offence that might be committed under this measure. I do not hold with that view. I believe that anybody who fraudulently places a wrong trade description on goods which are exported, and who thereby injures the good name of Australia and inflicts a wrong on our producers, does something for which mo punishment is too drastic In cases, also, where merchants import goods which are of a deleterious character, to the detriment of the people of the Commonwealth, no punishment which I can think of that is capable of being imposed by the Customs Act would be too severe. A little while ago a reputable firm in this city - I believe one of the most reputable firms - was hauled before a justice of the peace for selling tinned milk which was not of the quality described. What did the evidence in that case show? There was not a particle of butter-fat in that milk, so that a young child fed on it would be absolutely starved. Many people have to depend upon condensed milk for feeding their children. If the merchant who sold that milk did it knowingly, he was guilty of little short of murder; and if he did it unknowingly, it was an act of culpable negligence by which the lives of young children might have been sacrificed. I have no objection to such goods as that milk being imported if they are accurately described.
– I have a considerable objection.
– How can the honorable senator reconcile that with his conscience and still be prepared to allow goods to go from Australia to the old country which are not even fit for axle grease?
– The honorable senator does not know what my views are yet.
– I have a very fair idea. I undertake to say that the honorable senator would not prohibit the exportation of the lowest quality of wool, or of tallow.
– That is very different from a thing being sold as food, which is really poison.
– I do not say that the milk which I have referred to was poison. It was wholesome as far as it went, so long as it was used as an adjunct to food consumed by grown-up people. It was when used as food for young children that as it contained no animal fat it was equal to poison. If this milk had been properly described, no mother would have thought for one moment of feeding her child upon it. The milk was put up as the best condensed milk.
– Whose milk was it? Was it Nestles?
– No, but it was a Swiss brand. The firm was greatly to blame, because the milk was sold for the sake of a little extra profit, and it was bought at a price at which the genuine article could not have been supplied. I suppose that thisfirm also sold it at a lower price ; but, fortunately, the law of Victoria stepped in and a conviction was secured. This firm, which is that of Moran and Cato, one of the largest, and, I believe, one” of the most reputable in Melbourne, could not have been deceived if a Bill of this kind had been in operation. For the protection of the honest merchant such legislation if, necessary ; and for that reason I shall vote for the most drastic clauses of the measure now before us. I am strongly in favour of this Bill, because I believe this Parliament cannot go too far in legislation of this kind - no action could be too drastic to compel honest trading in Australia so far as lies within our jurisdiction. A Bill of the kind is necessary for the good name of Australia in the countries with which we trade, and also for the protection of consumers. The Bill has, in one form or another, been under consideration of the two preceding Governments, and more or less, Isuppose, has met with their approval. I hope now thatthe measure will be rapidly passed into law.
– Does the honorable senator not sec any danger in the power to make regulations?
– There is. always danger in such power, but I regard Parliament as the safeguard in this connexion. I do not like government by regulation, and I have asked honorable senators opposite on more than one occasion to assist me in making actual provisions, rather than trust to the discretion of the Minister for the time being. I should go a long way in that direction ; but Parliament is supreme, and it any regulation inflicts, a hardship, the Government may be called to account.
– The honorable senator knows the factors which come in.
– I quite agree with the honorable senator. I welcome this Bill as astep in the right direction, and, notwithstanding any danger there may be in the power to make regulations, it must inevitably do good.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulcahy) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051108_senate_2_28/>.