2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.36 a.m., and read prayers.
– It is stated in this morning’s newspapers’ that a letter-carrier was yesterday sentenced by Mr. Justice Hodges for stealing letters intrusted to him, and the evidence divulged the fact, that he was in receipt of only £1 per week. The Judge, commenting on this state of affairs, said that such an. amount was insufficient for a man to live on. I was astounded to read that a letter-carrier in the Commonwealth service was being paid such wages, and I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if the statement made was true.
– I have not read the newspaper account referred to, but
I shall be very glad to look into the matter. The Commonwealth has no desire to give its employes less than a fair living rate of wage.
– I wish to ask the Postmaster-General, without notice, whether his attention has been directed to the following paragraph in the Hamilton Spectator ?
Motor v. TELEGRAPH. - A striking instance of a motor bicycle outstripping a telegram was afforded here on Monday. A gentleman left Casterton for Hamilton on a motor at 10.30 that morning, leaving behind him a. telegram for despatch to this office. That message was lodged a few .minutes after his departure, but it did not reach the party to whom it was addressed till 12.3s p.m., or half an hour after the sender had arrived in Hamilton on his bicycle. In justice to the Telegraph Department, it should be added that the distance covered by the cyclist, 40 miles, was accomplished in 1 hour 40 minutes, which, considering the heavy state of the roads; was remarkably good travelling.
Can the Postmaster-General explain why the telegram arrived so soon after the cyclist ?
– Will the honorable and learned member give notice of his question?
– I wish to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the following telegram in to-day’s Argus : -
QUESTION IN THE NEW SOUTH WALES PARLIAMENT.
Sydney. - Thursday. - In the Legislative Assembly to-night, Mr. Anderson, member for Balmain, asked the Premier the following question : - “ In view of the statement made by the Commonwealth Prime Minister, that it is unfortunately true that Australia is losing her population through the defective state of the laws, and seeing that the State laws were passed by exState members, who are now members of the Federal Parliament, will the Premier submit a motion to this House, so that we will be able to discuss it, and give an expression of opinion as to the effect the Commonwealth laws, have had as a means towards the depopulation of Australia?”
Mr. Carruthers replied that in order to provide a safety-valve for the feelings- of State members in regard to Federal legislation, he would have to call a special session of Parliament, and he viewed with apprehension the prospects of a debate on this subject, knowing as be did the strong feelings of members of the House and of the people of New South Wales with regard to the effects of Federal legislation.
In view of that statement, is ‘the honorable and learned gentleman still of opinion that the reflections which he recently made in this Chamber on. the laws of the States are likely to conduce to proper relations between the’ States and the Commonwealth? Is if not a fact, as alleged by Mr. Anderson, that members of this House are mainly responsible for the land laws pf the States ?
- Mr. Anderson’s one statement is ridiculous. New South Wales,’ vhich., possesses a greater, representation in this House than any other State, sends here only twenty-six members of differing views, and at no time in the history of her Parliament could that number have constituted a majority. I- have to express my indebtedness ‘ to the honorable member for his many attempts to- foster a kindly feeling between- the Parliaments of the States and the Commonwealth. I have not seen the telegram in the newspaper from which he has read, though I have looked through the newspaper itself. If it is to be the practice to read here every morning for the benefit of inconsiderable persons like myself’, and in the interests of particular newspapers and particular irritations, the spicy paragraphs which appear from time to time, a- Commonwealth Political Press Cutting Agency, to supply all honorable ‘members with this information will be” found convenient. It would save the House these queries and me the trouble of criticism.
– The Prime Minister stated the other day that if. was because of the faulty land laws of Victoria that a large number of people have left this State.. Can he explain why those land’ laws are faulty, since he has been one of the great powers in the Victorian Parliament?
– If my political biography i9 of interest; ito’ th£ honorable member, let me Ceil him that I have at every opportunity voted for the liberalization of the land laws of Victoria, and was. the first to move for the. introduction of. the unimproved land Value tax. I have spoken times without number against unsatisfactory conditions in the land laws of the State, and have attempted their alteration by every means in my power. That I have nol: been morel successful than the honorable member was in his; State should show him how inconsiderable a. person I was in Victoria;
– I wish to ask the Minister representing’ the Minister of Defence a. question without notice. It is stated in the Tasmanian press that the sura expended on defence in. that State in 1900 was £I 7’000, , whereas last week I was informed that it was ,£27,000. Will the honorable gentleman cause inquiries to be made, so that we can get at the truth in this matter?
– If the honorable member will supply me with the newspaper statement to which he refers, I shall be glad to obtain correct information from the Minister of Defence. Every statement made on behalf of this Ministry will be found to be true.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 21st September, vide page 2647): .
Clause 10 - (1.) The Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the exportation 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 the regulations. (2.) All such goods to which the prescribed trade description is not applied, which are exported or entered for export or put on board any ship or boat for export or brought to any wharf or place for export, shall be forfeited to the King. (3.) Subject to the regulations the ComptrollerGeneral, or on appeal from him the Minister, may permit any goods which are liable to be or have been seized as forfeited under this section to be delivered to the owner or exporter, upon security being given to the satisfaction of the ComptrollerGeneral that the goods shall not be exported in contravention of the proclamation.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) pro-, posed -
That the words “ Governor-General may by proclamation,” line 1, be left out, with the view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ regulations may.”
– I wish to know if exporters will be given fair notice of the intended change in our law? There should be the fullest publicity in these matters. The mere laying of regulations on the table is of little use, because practically no one looks at them, and, if published only in the Government Gazette, they will be buried away from sight. Every man is supposed to know what the law is, but new legislation should be brought prominently under the attention of the public. If this is not done in the present case, honest exporters may .find themselves in difficulty through lack of knowledge of the requirements of our laws. I do not object to the substitution of regulations for proclamations, but I desire to know how exporters and importers are’ to be informed as to what is required of them.
– Apart from the publication of the regulations in the Commonwealth Gazette, there will be no means of giving publicity, except by advertising in the leading daily newspapers. I am afraid that that would involve too much expense. The regulations will be printed in pamphlet form, and notices will be published in all the leading newspapers with regard to them. I will take care to send copies of the regulations to the principal bodies interested, and if too much cost is not involved I shall be quite prepared to advertise them in the newspapers.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That after the word “ any,” line 2, the word “ specified “ be inserted, and that the words “specified in the proclamation,” lines 2 and 3, be left out.
Amendment (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the word “ true “ be inserted before the word “ trade,” line 4.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - If the amendment be agreed to, the wording of this clause will be different from that adopted in clause 7, and I must oppose it. I have already promised to bring the words “of such character” under the notice of the draftsman with a view to the adoption, if possible, of other words which will be free from the objections raised by some honorable members. I am prepared to make a similar promise with regard to this clause.
– I shall press my amendment, mainly on account of the remarks made by the AttorneyGeneral last night, to the effect that the Minister must have reserved power beyond the mere authority to require .1 true indication of the character of the goods. He pointed out that a trade description might be true, and yet not as prescribed. If an importer or an exporter mark his goods with a true trade description, what more should we require?
According to the Attorney-General, however, the trade description must be as prescribed, and of such character as the regulations require. For instance, the manager of a butter factory might be compelled to mark his produce as coming from a particular factory, or a particular district, or through a particular agency, and the regulations might prove harassing to the last degree. Moreover, if a word were omitted, or a word were added, to a trade description, it might be held that the law had been contravened, and that the goods were liable to forfeiture. All we need concern, ourselves about is that goods shall be in accordance with the description attached to them. That was declared to be the real object of the measure, and if a true trade description is applied to goods, there should be no necessity for the Minister to prescribe the very words that shall be used in such description. The Minister might prescribe that butter should be marked as coming from the North Coast, or the South Coast of New South Wales, or elsewhere, or he might insist that even the name of the particular dairy in which it originated be indicated. The provision in the clause, as it stands, appears to be quite unnecessary, and therefore I shall press the amendment.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- If we allow the Bill to pass in its present form, our exporters and importers will be seriously harassed. The States Governments are doing all that is required, and the powers proposed to be conferred under this Bill are not necessary in the interests of our export or our import trade. Wherever possible we should avoid legislation by regulation, and abstain from conferring large powers upon Ministers and officials. We have fallen, into the habit of passing skeleton Bills, and leaving almost everything to be provided for by regulation. The honorable member for Franklin recently mentioned the case of apples being exported from Tasmania before they were thoroughly matured in order to catch the London market at a time when high prices were ruling. I should like to know what the Minister would do in such a case. Would he insist upon marking the apples as unripe? I do not think that he would be called upon to do anything of the kind. The question whether such’ apples -are fit or unfit for use should rest entirely upon the decision of the consumer, and if he chooses to purchase them well and good. Every producer and manufacturer should put his own brand on the goods he sends to market, and should stand upon his own reputation. If he sends articles of good quality to market his reputation will insure him good prices, whereas if he forwards articles of bad quality he will have to put up with low prices. We know that goods are sold on the strength of the reputation of the brands applied to them. Why should consumers be denied the opportunity to purchase goods of low quality, when they cannot afford to pay the prices asked for the superior article? We know that so-called shoddy goods are manufactured, not necessarily with the object of deceiving the public, but in order to supply a low-priced article to meet the requirements of persons of sma means. So long as every producer places his own brand on his goods and stands bv it, we can do no more for the consumers of our produce beyond the Commonwealth. I should not object to grant the Minister extensive reserve powers if the right were conceded to persons charged with contravening the law to appeal to a Court of Justice. I endeavoured to induce an honorable and learned member to drafta clause which would make provision in thaidirection, but he represented that the provisions of the Bill were so complex that it would be difficult to meet the case. This Parliament, which regards itself as occupying a position of superiority to the States Legislatures, should be the last to strip citizens of their right to be tried bv judicial authorities when they are charged with evading the law. It may be urged that if one exporter sends out goods of bad quality he will injure the reputation- of our products. There mav be a few cases of that kind, but I do hot think that they will have any appreciable influence upon our markets. If, on the other hand, an importer brings goods into the country under a wrong description, he alone will be the sufferer. MrDavidson, a large buyer in London, who was examined before the Butter Commission the other day, distinctly stated that Australian butter was not purchased upon the strength of a Government brand, but upon its quality. Will’ any man: of common sense purchase butter at an auction sale in England without -first having a sample box opened? That would, indeed, be a foolish proceeding. The same remark is applicable to apples. They are *not purchased in the London market in sealed. cases. It is absolutely foolish to talk about men buying goods with their eyes closed. They have to use their own judgment in matters of this sort. All that we should do under this Bill is to compel a man to put his own name and that of his factory upon his goods. If we do that, every article - within a very short time - will receive its proper price. I do trust that the Minister will make the Bill very much less drastic.
– I think that the Minister might very well accept the amendment. There is no person who is better qualified to give a true trade description of goods than is their owner. I do not believe that we should leave it to the Minister to declare by regulation what shall constitute a true trade description. The owner of any goods should be held responsible for placing such a description upon them. Tomy mind, we are asked to trust the Minister and the Department altogether Too much. I am entirely opposed to the imposition of undue restrictions upon exporters. The onus should be upon the exporter himself to give a true trade description of his goods. My experience has been that the judgment of practical men is infinitely preferable to that of socalled experts. The exporters of apples or of butter will take every care to see that their brands are not injured by any trade description which they may put upon: them. A man would not, for example, place his best brand upon goods of inferior quality.
– He will put a different brand on, and, if he can dispose of the butter as being of the best quality, he will do so.
– The honorable and learned member for West Sydney knows very little about the matter.
– But I can read of the condition of affairs which was disclosed by the Butter Commission.
– I am speaking of the men who are engaged in the trade, and who are exporting their own goods. At the present time, two-thirds of the butter exported from New South Wales is being shipped by the farmers themselves. They have had to cut their own pathway to success, and in doing so, they have been severely torn by thorns and brambles. Despite the disabilities under which they laboured, they have achieved their object. I trust that the Minister will agree to the amendment.
– It is rather amusing to hear the honorable member for Cowper insisting that the words “ a true trade description “ should be embodied in the Bill. He has altogether overlooked the fact that the words “ trade description “ are already defined in the measure, as will be seen by reference to clause 3. Honorable members opposite were parties to the acceptance of that definition.
– We do not require the words “of such character.”
– A trade description must give the information required by the Minister.
– We object to the Minister being allowed to determine the precise form of any trade description.
– Honorable members opposite wish to embody in the Bill a provision which may have the effect of obscuring the origin of certain goods. We know what the words “of such character” imply. We do not want a repetition of the condition of affairs which was disclosed by the Butter Commission.
– Some of the worst butter that was sent to London had the Government brand upon it.
– The factory brand had been removed by the shippers at their own sweet will–
– Will not the phrase “true trade description “ overcome the difficulty ?
– I prefer to rely upon the definition which is contained in clause 3. Honorable members should not assume that the sole object of the Bill is to harass the honest trader. It rather constitutes an attempt to bring the dishonest trader into line with the honest one.
– This clause deals exclusively with exporters.
– The provision will not harass the honest exporter in the slightest degree.
– What is the objection to the insertion of the word “ true “ ?
– To my mind, a trade description is all that is required. If we attempt to supersede the definition of “ trade description,” which is contained in clause 3, we shall inevitably create confusion. That is my objection to the amendment.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The honorable member for Moira appears tobe under a curious misapprehension as to the object which we have in view. There is nothing in the amendment that would interfere with the right of the Minister to prescribe a trade description in any way he thought fit, so far as its substantial accuracy was concerned. The definition of “trade description” in the interpretation clause, is wide and vague, and under it the Minister may prescribe that goods shall be so branded as to show the country of origin and the country of destination, their nature, measure, quality, gauge, and every other particular. The point is, however, that under the clause, as it stands, a man might accurately describe his goods in all these respects, but if the description contained a word different from the verbiage dictated by the Minister, his goods would be liable to forfeiture. If that be permitted, we shall make the Minister a despot of a kind who ought not to be tolerated. I do not wish it to be the law of the land that if a man happens to place a description on his goods which is not exactly in accordance with the words dictated by the Minister in relation to a matter about which there is really! no dispute, he may be liable to have those goods held up and forfeited. The Attorney-General argued last night that it was not sufficient that a trade description should be true. He urged that it should be given in the exact words prescribed by the Minister. That would be an injustice to honest traders who have nothing to gain by hiding the truth. It would leave them liable to the risk of having their goods confiscated simply because some one who had been told to brand them omitted from the description a word that it ought to have contained. I think the Minister should instantly accept the amendment”.
– I am opposed to the clause altogether, and am therefore prepared to support any amendment that will limit it, or at least make its terms definite. It seems to me that the words “ of such a character “ are not only indefinite, but unnecessary. I approve of the word “ true “ being inserted in their stead, so that a true trade description will be all that is required. If the clause be passed as it stands, it willgive the Minister power to provide for any description that he pleases.
– I am astonished at the attitude of many honorable members in regard to this amendment. The ostensible object of the Bill is to provide that our imports and exports shall be true to name, but when an amendment is proposed that will more effectually carry out that object, we find honorable members declaring that what is needed is not a true description but a description to be prescribed by the Minister of Trade and Customs for the time being. During the last twelve months, we have had three different Ministers in charge of the Department of Trade and Customs, and each of those honorable gentlemen might have issued different regulations. Our object should be to make this measure as clear and as definite as possible; but we are now proposing to pass what is really a skeleton Bill, which will place very wide power in the hands of the Minister. I protest against the Minister being given power to say what shall be a true description. The clause, as it stands, does not provide that goods imported or exported shall be true to the labels they bear.
– The Bill gives a definition of “ trade description,” and the regulations cannot go beyond that definition.
– The proposal to eliminate the words “of such a character” must be considered in connexion with the proposition to insert the word “true” in their stead. What we desire to do is to provide that a trade description shall be a true one. If a man exports or imports goods bearing what is an absolutely true description, nothing more should be required of him. The Attorney-General said last night that the Minister must have some reserve power over and above that provided” in the Act itself. I do not think that it would be wise to give the Minister such a power, and I shall support the amendment, so that all regulations framed under the Bill will require that goods imported or exported shall bear a truthful description.
– The honorable member for Moira, whose opposition to the amendment is, I am sure, based on a misconception, should be one of the first to support a proposal to insure a fair deal to the producers of Australia.
– That is what I have been looking for.
– The honorable member will not insure a fair deal to the producers if he allows the clause to pass in its present form.
– I am not going to support any proposal that would really nullify the object of the Bill.
– The honorable member has laid stress on the definition of “ trade description “ given in clause 3, but I would point out to him that under this clause a landing waiterwould have a right to say whether the description placed on any goods was not merely true, but “ of the character “ prescribed in the regulations. He would have the right to say, not only whether it was substantially correct, but also whether the statement of the technical details was in the order and sequence required under the regulations. Let me give my honorable friend an illustration of what I mean. Butter, for instance, would certainly require to bear the factory brand, and a description showing whether it was factory, creamery, or dairy butter. Then perhaps the place of origin, and the State from which the butter had come, would also be required. But unless the clause be amended in the way proposed, a landing waiter will be able to say, simply because any one of these essential items of information has not been given in the order prescribed by regulation, that the butter shall be seized, and in the end it might be forfeited. Surely that is not a position in which the honorable member would like to see the producers of his constituency placed. If the departmental regulations said that the particulars of a trade description were to be set forth in the following order : Brand of factory, description of butter, place of origin, and State of origin, and the producer placed on his packages a description in which the particulars ran : State of origin, place of origin, brand of factory, description of butter, thus transposing the order, a landing waiter could refuse to allow the goods to pass.
– The officers of the Department are men of common sense.
– Not all of them. If the intelligence of the Department were so extremely high as to enable us to trust to the judicial intelligence of every officer drawing £2or£3 per week, it would not be necessary to propose the amendment, because the administration of theAct would be as we wish to insure it. In view of the inconvenience which may be caused to his constituents if the clause remains unaltered, the honorable member should be only too anxious to assist those who are supporting the amendment. We ask for a “ true “ trade description ; and surely insistence upon a true trade descrip tion will prevent roguery. But the honorable member objects. He says that the clause as it stands will not affect any honest exporter. That being his position, I cannot understand how he can contend that the insertion of the word “true” would affect any honest exporter. The Minister tells us that the words which we propose to omit should remain in the clause because they are in the clauses which deal with imports. That is an extraordinary remark for the representativeof a producing constituency to make. Although the contention of the minority, that the Bill should seek to protect only our consumers, has been overborne, and we are being asked to deal with exports as well as imports, I should like to know if the health of the people of the countries to which we export should be of more consideration to us than the welfare of our producing classes.
– We have our reputation to study.
– Is it not often stated that the manufacturers of Great Britain are losing ground because they consider their own tastes in the methods of their manufacture rather than the tastes of those for whom they are making? Are they not blamed because they make their goods, not for their markets, but according to the methods which they think best, without consulting the wishes of those for whom they are intended ? And yet the Government is now asking us to commit the same fault. We must consider the markets to which we send our produce.
– In the matter of the size and get-up of packages, and so forth.
– Under the Customs Act the size of packages may be prescribed.
– The Minister asks for still further powers. Packages may be refused for export unless they bear a trade description setting forth particulars in a certain sequence.
– The clause deals only with the description.
– The whole controversy centres in the words “of such character.’’ We wish to provide simply that the trade description shall be a “true” one. and leave it to the Minister to decide whether it is “ true.” Surely that would give him power to prevent fraud, and to maintain the quality level of our exports.
– The question is : Should the Minister have power to forfeit goods merely because the words of a trade description are misplaced?
– I had a consultation with the Comptroller-General on the subject this morning, and he has written the following memorandum : -
In cases where an Act provides for forfeiture the Department takes the view that forfeiture is not complete unless as the result of action in a Court or in cases where no claim has been made. In any action( in Court the defendant has his defence, and it is his own fault if he makes no claim for the goods when seized.
In all cases of forfeiture there is a case at law, and the forfeiture is hot held by the Department to be complete until the Court has decided that the action of the Department was right.
– That explanation gives us the strongest reason for insisting on the amendment. Is a box of fruit to be permitted to miss a steamer because a landing waiter or other Customs official objects to the sequence of the wording of the description upon it ?
– Forfeiture is not intended to apply to such cases.
– Seizure involves forfeiture.
– Forfeiture proceedings must commence with seizure.
– We wish to remove this dangerous provision, as it may interfere with our growing exportation of perishable commodities. Although the ComptrollerGeneral may not consider the forfeiture complete until the Court has held that the Department were right, if the goods are held back pending inquiry, injury is done to the person who wishes to export them. We have been informed by honorable members who have special knowledge on the subject that sometimes fruit is hanging on the trees within twenty-four hours of its departure in the mail steamers in which it is shipped.
– Will the clause apply to fruit? We do not brand fruit.
– We do not brand jam, but we brand the packages in which it is put up, and it is the same in regard to fruit. All perishable products are to be branded. If that is not to be done, why has there been all this talk about grading? In view of the fact that we are trying to protect the export trade of Australia, I ask the Minister to allow this reasonable amendment to pass.
– I do not know whether the clause will have the effect of enabling the Department to pre vent the export of produce in certain packages or boxes, but I do not think that an attempt should be made at absolute uniformity in this matter. It may be most desirable that the butter sent to England shall be packed in a certain way, and that sent to other markets in another way. I was very much struck on reading the report of a British Consul on the Continent of Europe by the statement that the English manufacturer has failed utterly to take the advantages which belong to him, and has lost his market by declining to pack his goods in the manner considered to be most suitable by those who wish to purchase such goods. I expect that before long we shall become large exporters of fruits, dried and otherwise, and the question of capturing markets will depend upon the most delicate details, such as the particular mode of packing adopted, the labels affixed to the goods; whether, for instance, prunes are packed in thin syrup or thick syrup, or without syrup at all, and so on. It is neither necessary nor desirable that the Department should interfere with the packing of the goods. All that they can say is that they are advised by their agents in other countries that such and such methods of preparation and packing are most likely to find favour in the markets! The exporter must be as- sumed to be thoroughly advised from all sources as to the-best methods of preparing his goods. If he is not so advised, he will have to pay a very heavy penalty in the shape of losses on his shipments. Therefore it should be sufficient for the Customs authorities to satisfy themselves that the goods bear a full, true, and particular description. For instance, an exporter of jam ought to include in the description on the label a statement that the contents weigh 16 ozs. gross, or net, as the case may be. He ought not to deceive the consumer as io the actual weight of the contents, but at the same time he should be free to pack his goods in such a way as to cater for the public taste. He should be permitted to affix to his goods any label he pleases, so long as he does not misrepresent their character by making false statements, or telling only a part of the truth. We should He careful to avoid imposing conditions which would have the effect of harassing our exporters. We are already an exporting country, and within a few years almost the whole of our profitable trade will be carried on with people outside. We cannot hope to find a remunerative home market for one-fiftieth part of what we can produce, and we must look to the world’s markets. If an exporter described butter as first-class, or secondclass, as the case might be, and stated that it contained preservatives in the form of so many grains “of salicylic or boric acid, I take it that he would comply with all reasonable requirements.
– The point is that, under the regulations, the exporter might be required by a landing, waiter to give the particulars in their proper sequence, according to the prescribed description.
– At first I was inclined to think that the amendment would effect an improvement in the clause ; but upon looking into the matter more closely I do not think it is desirable to alter the clause in the direction proposed. If the honorable member for Wentworth had had any practical experience, he would know that a question such as he has referred to would not be decided by a landing waiter. Such an officer, if he thought that certain articles should be stopped, would refer the question to head-quarters, where the whole matter would be speedily dealt with. I can quite conceive of a trade description which would be technically true, and at the same time misleading. I have known of many cases in which only part of the truth has been told, or statements have been made in such a form as to be misleading. The intention is to enable the authorities to insist that the trade descriptions shall not only be true, but definite and clear. Where the Department is satisfied that mistakes have been made through inadvertence, they will allow the descriptions to be altered; but if they think that fraud has been attempted, they will visit punishment upon the guilty parties. As a rule, the departmental officers deal reasonably with those as to whose bona fides they are satisfied. I do not think that the provision in the clause will prejudicially affect exports such as fruit. If a case of oranges, for instance, were marked as containing 120 fruits, whereas it contained only 100 fruits, the departmental officers might insist upon the mark being altered in accordance with’ the truth, or being obliterated altogether. I do not think the clause will affect primary products to the same extent as manufactured articles. I am doubtful as to the necessity of the Bill, and I commend the efforts of honorable members to prevent unrestricted power being conferred upon either the Minister or his officers. I do not think, however, that the amendment would improve the clause.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I am disinclined to press the amendment if the Minister sets his face against it. But I would direct the attention of the honorable member for Mernda to the fact that he has dealt with the amendment only from the point of view of the Department ; whereas I am approaching the subject from the stand-point of the exporter. As the honorable member has said, a trade description might be technically true, and yet misleading. But such cases are already provided for in clause 3, which enacts that a false trade description may mean a trade description which, by reason of anything contained therein or omitted therefrom, is likely to mislead. Therefore the Minister would have reserved to him all the necessary power. All I am contending for is that in cases where a man may happen to omit from a trade description a word which does not detract from the truth of that description, his goods shall not be liable to seizure by the Minister.
Mr. BATCHELOR (Boothby).- I intend to support the amendment. It has been contended by experts in Victoria that wine grown in certain parts of South Australia has been “ salted,” when as a matter of fact its saline properties are derived from the soil. No sensible man would deliberately salt his wines.
– I know a man who did that.
– They do worse than that. Some of them add methylated spirits to their wine.
– I am speaking of the product of the pure juice of the grape. Experts in Victoria have declared that the wine in question has been “salted.” I mention this matter because the Minister is seeking to acquire power to compel exporters to furnish a trade description of the materials or ingredients of which their goods are composed. Under this provision, if the wine to which I have referred were exported, its owners would require to include in its trade description a declaration of its salt ingredients, and that declaration would injuriously affect its sale in the London market. The adoption of the amendment of the honorable member foi Parramatta would overcome that difficulty.
– If the wine contained salt its trade description would not be true if it did not state that fact.
– Not only would its trade description be true in the absence of such a disclosure, but the wine would be perfectly wholesome.
– It is not necessary to include in a trade description any natural constituent.
– But analysts differ as to whether the salt contained in the wine to which I refer is a natural constituent. It is very difficult to determine whether it has been derived from the soil or whether it has been added to the wine. The circumstance emphasizes the danger of intrusting to men who cannot possibly be fitted to adjudicate upon all the varieties of exports which will come under their notice the power of prohibiting the export of certain goods. If we provide that a true trade description of all exports shall be given, that ought to be sufficient.
– In this discussion we are really “ traversing the same ground that was covered last night in debating the provision relating to imports. If these particular words were objectionable in a clause dealing with imports, which affect our own people, surely they are doubly objectionable in a provision relating to exports. I admit that it is very desirable that we should raise the standard of our exports as much as possible, so as to encourage their consumption. It seems to me, however, that we shall unnecessarily interfere with the development of that trade if we apply to it the arbitrary restrictions which are imposed by this clause. I shall support any amendment which will have the effect of making it less objectionable than it is.
Question - That the word “ true “ proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- I move -
That after the word “ matters,” line 5, the words” not being inconsistent with the definition section of this Act,” be Inserted.
The object of my amendment is to surround this provision with a safeguard, so that the Minister will be unable, in framing regulations, to go beyond the definitions for which we have provided in the Bill.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the words “ by the proclamation or by the regulations,” lines 6 and 7, be left out.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I move -
That after the word ““King,” line 12, the words “ unless the owner or importer satisfies the ComptrollerGeneral, or on appeal from him, the Minister, that he did not knowingly so misrepresent the goods,” be inserted.
I do not propose to argue the question. It is of the utmost importance that when a trader proves that he has not knowingly misrepresented or misdescribed his goods and is willing to make all amends that the Government require, it should not be in the power of the Minister to forfeit his goods. That is the whole case in a nutshell.
SirWILLIAM LYNE(Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I have already read a statement by the ComptrollerGeneral bearing directly upon this point. It is to the effect that goods would not be deemed to have been actually confiscated under the provisions of this clause until their forfeiture had been determined by the Court. They might be in process of forfeiture, but they would not be deemed to have been forfeited until the matter had been decided by the Court.
– The view of the legal position taken by the Comptroller-General may produce a remarkable state of affairs in regard to our exports. It must be remembered that we are dealing now with Australian makers and producers. The Minister tells us that goods seized under sub-clause 2 will not be forfeited until they are declared by the Court to have been forfeited.
– I said that the forfeiture will not be complete until then.
– But the Department may seize the goods, and hold them until the owner brings a lawsuit.
– They are not forfeited when seized.
– A consignment of 1,000 cases of apples may be seized, because the owner, through some accident or oversight, has not had placed on them the exact brand required by the Department. According to the Comptroller-General of Customs, they will not be declared forfeited until the Court has declared that they shall be forfeited; but I would like to know what will be the condition of the fruit when the matter is settled, even if the owner issues his writ on the day of seizure ?
– The honorable and learned member is stating an impossible case.
– I am not. Let us suppose that the Department may prescribe that no apples which do not come up to a certain standard shall be exported. That is a reasonable supposition, and the object of such a prescription would be an excellent one. Apples may be brought to a wharf for export, and the officials in charge may say that they are not up to the prescribed standard, or are not branded with the proper description.
– Let us divide.
– Whatever the rights or wrongs of these proposals may be, the Minister and his friends have a majority behind them, and so they say, “ What is the good of contending for the right view when the decision is predetermined?” Even though the view which I am expressing may be quite wrong, it is one which is entitled to be put, and which should be considered by the Committee, instead of being voted against mechanically. All that the honorable member for Parramatta proposes, adopting the words which I moved last night in regard to importers, is that the exporter who satisfies the ComptrollerGeneral or the Minister that the nonapplication or inaccurate application of a trade description has been the result of an accident, or, at any rate, was not an attempt to defraud or to break the law, shall have his goods returned to him. As the clause stands, goods which have been seized will not be released unless the Minister or Comptroller-General chooses to release them.
– Would either choose otherwise ? ‘
– The establishment of the fact that there has been no intent to defraud should give the owner the right to receive back his goods. Their return should not be left entirely to the discretion of the Department. But the Minister refuses to give that right to the man who proves that his violation of the law has been accidental. The reasons for that refusal are beyond my comprehension.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that a standard for apples will be prescribed?
– Yes. The Bill applies to the export of foods, medicines, and manures. Are we going to export medicines? We may before long export manures, because of certain recent developments in the trade ; and we are already exporters of foodstuffs. Those of us who have taken an interest in the export of fruit know that harm may be done by the export of fruit of poor quality, and the Bill will be a dead letter unless it is applied to all our staple exports of foodstuffs. I am appealing to the Minister, not in the interests of the importing class, but in the interests of the producers, as a protectionist to a protectionist. If a man proves to the satisfaction of the Minister that his violation of the law is accidental and a mere error, he should have the right to get back his goods.
– Suppose the Minister is not satisfied.
– If the Minister refused to accept the statement of facts laid before him he could, under the amendment, be charged with maladministration, and the merits of the case would then be thrashed out. Under the clause as it stands, however, he could allege a thousand reasons for refusing to return the goods, none of which could be challenged. If the exporter places before the Minister in justification of, or excuse for, what has occurred, statements which any reasonable man would believe, and the Minister or his officials refuse to deliver up goods which have been seized, it should be possible to make them responsible for their action. But under the Bill as it stands the return of goods which have been seized will be entirely a matter for the discretion of the Minister. We are entitled to ask for this protection of the producers, no matter how implicitly the present Minister may be trusted by both importers and exporters. Are the producers to be unable to challenge departmental action, when they have proved beyond reasonable doubt that they are entitled to the return of their goods? If the Minister will not accept the amendment, the producers of Australia will know that he is determined that, even where a man proves his innocence to the satisfaction of the Minister or the Comptroller-General, the Department shall have uncontrolled and unlimited discretion to refuse to return the goods. Such a provision is a monstrous one.
– I hope that the Minister will reconsider this matter. I am quite in favour of conferring upon the Minister power to prohibit the exportation of products if they fall below certain standards, and I would not vote for any amendment that would have the effect of curtailing the Minister’s authority in that direction. At the same time, we should not impose any unnecessary disabilities upon our producers. The amendment does not seek to limit the Minister’s power to prohibit exports that do not reach the prescribed standard, but it fixes the responsibility for any decision that may be arrived at upon him. If the original wording of the clause be adhered to, it will permit of the white-washing of those who may be guilty of lax administration, and I do not think we should lend ourselves to anything of that, kind. I am sure that the Minister does not wish to avail himself of any such power, and I trust that he will see his way to accept the amendment.
– The amendment will not alter the effect of the clause, because it will still rest with the Comptroller-General or the Minister to decide whether or not the goods shall be confiscated.
– The amendment will make the Minister slower to be careless.
– We would, not tolerate any Minister or any ComptrollerGeneral who confiscated goods without just cause. It is not to be supposed that the Customs authorities would confiscate goods without satisfying themselves beyond all doubt that fraud had been attempted.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - In view of the difficulties experienced in the early stages of the administration of the Customs Act, we should be verycareful to insure that all matters involving the forfeiture of goods, or the infliction of heavy penalties, shall receive the prompt attention of the Minister. Under the Bill as it stands all kinds of obstacles will be placed in the way of our producers. Not only will merchants be obstructed, but those who are working on the farm, in the orchard, or in the dairy factory will find themselves hampered at every turn. I do not suggest that the officials of the Customs Department will deliberately inflict injury upon our producing interests, but our experience in the past is sufficient to justify us in insisting that the fullest safeguards shall ‘be provided against harsh treatment being meted out to those who may innocently contravene the law. We have no desire whatever to facilitate the operations of dishonest traders or producers, but we should protect by every means in our power the interests of those who make honest mistakes. Those who are supporting the Government in this matter are deliberately acting in a manner inimical to the best interests of the producers and manufacturers of Australia.
– Nonsense. That is absolutely unfair.
– It is absolutely true.
– If we go on piling up regulation after regulation which will impose unnecessary burdens upon and seriously obstruct our trade, we shall inflict great injury upon those classes of the community who , deserve most consideration. We want to get rid of the dishonest trader, and at the same time to interfere as little as possible with legitimate trade and commerce. It was pointed out by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney that our export trade is steadily expanding, but an effort is being made by means of this Bill to impose all kinds of undesirable^ restrictions upon it. Apparently, honorable members opposite regard every man as a rogue, but I have not such a poor opinion of the people of Australia. I believe that we have in the Commonwealth an overwhelming majority of honest people, whom we should encourage and protect by every means in our power. The object of the amendment is to conserve the interests of the honest producer and manufacturer, but the Minister seems to desire that the Bill should be framed in such a way as to expose our primary producers to the gravest injustice.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I am very sorry that the honorable member has expressed himself in terms which were quite uncalled for with regard to honorable members who are supporting the Government. If the honorable member looks after the interests of the producer as well as do the honorable members to whom he has referred he will perform very good work. He seems to think that we are endeavouring to hamper our export trade by imposing all sorts of unnecessary restrictions, but I would direct his attention to an article which was recently published in the Review of Re views, according to which the majority of producers in New Zealand are submitting to restrictive measures, such as those provided for in the Bill, with a view to placing their export trade upon a sound and satisfactory footing. An article recently published in the Sydney Morning Herald reads as follows : -
As State supervision and the grading of dairy products extends, the unqualified success which marks its progress is causing its opponents more anxiety.
– I rise to a point of order. We are not discussing the question of grading or branding of produce for export, and we have nothing whatever to do with what has taken place in New Zealand. Therefore I submit that the Minister is out of order.
– I understood the Minister to be replying to the general remarks of the honorable member forKoovong. As the Minister was specially attacked, I do not consider that he is overstepping the bounds of order.
– The quotation which I was making when I was interrupted reads -
As State, supervision and the grading of dairy products extends, the unqualified success which marks its progress is causing its opponents more anxiety. The improvement in Queensland butter which followed the introduction of Mr. Denham’s measure of legislation, is now making serious deminds upon the ingenuity and imagination of the anti-graders.
What is the nature of that legislation? It contains” this provision -
It shall not be lawful to export beyond the Commonwealth any dairy produce, the produce of a State, until the same has been inspected, graded, and marked, under this Act, and no butter shall be shipped at a higher temperature than 40 degrees. Dairy produce, requiring to be inspected and graded, shall be graded according to quality, and shall be marked by the inspector, according to the classes into which it has been graded, in accordance with the prescribed mark.
That is the legislation which has been operative in Queensland during the past four months, and the quotation I have made is taken from an article which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 1 8th September, of the present year, dealing with the result of the compulsory grading and marking. ‘
– Do the Government favour compulsory grading?
– I am replying to the remarks made by the honorable member for Kooyong in regard to the attitude taken up by Ministers and their supporters towards the compulsory provisions of this Bill. I claim that the legislation which is operative in Queensland is practically identical with the Government proposals in this measure. I hold in my hand a copy, of the Review of Reviews for the present month, which contains an article upon the New Zealand grading system. In that country the Government have adopted even more stringent measures than we propose to take with regard to the grading and general treatment of produce which is intended for export. The article states -
I- rom this searching investigation, and complete form of instruction, New Zealand butter has risen in value beyond the most sanguine expectations. You will understand that when I tell you that the supervision has been able to raise the standard of our exports to such an extent that 97 per cent, of the butter is first grade.
– Who says that?
– The author of the article is Mr. John Holmes. He continues -
Indeed, I might go further, and tell you that the confidence which this grading has secured is established by the fact that produce merchants in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Bristol, and other places in the United Kingdom, regularly purchase for cash the whole six months’ output (a season’s shipment) at fixed price, f.o.b., shipping port in New Zealand. No evidence could be stronger of the efficacy of the grading.
– I scarcely think that the matter which the Minister is discussing is before the Chair.
– I haw made the above quotations with a view to rebutting the statements of the honorable member for Kooyong with respect to the probable effect of imposing restrictions upon the exports of Australia. I could cite a great many more authorities, showing that the action taken, not only by New Zealand and Queensland, but also by Victoria and South Australia, has had the effect of insuring the landing of their produce in the markets of the world in a better condition than has characterized the products of other States where the supervision exercised is less stringent.
– Does the Minister make that statement seriously ?
– For a considerable time the price commanded by New Zealand produce has been higher than that realized by New South Wales exports. However, I shall not pursue that aspect of the subject any further. I have simply made these remarks with a view to rebutting the statements of the honorable member for Kooyong. It has been declared that the object of the amendment, which is a very similar one to that which was proposed in clause 7, is to prevent the Department from acting in a way which’ might prove injurious to the exporter. But does anybody suppose that the Department would in any way restrict the export of the produce of Australia? It is simply absurd to imagine that either the officers of ths Department or the Minister would lend themselves to anything of the kind. In spite of all that has been said in regard to my administration, I say that there is nobody who is prepared to do more to assist in developing the export of the natural and manufactured products of Australia than I am. An attempt has been made by some honorable members to place a fanciful interpretation upon the words of this clause. The Customs Department will meet the exporters in every possible way. Tha clause is designed to protect the producers generally from the injurious consequences of acts committed by persons who do not care whether thev destroy our commerce or not. As was stated by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the object of the amendment is to prevent the Department from seizing any goods for export, if the Minister or his officers - either one or both - are satisfied that the owner of the goods has unwittingly allowed a false trade description to be placed upon them. Does anybody suppose that the Minister or the Department - if thev were convinced that there was no intention to deceive - would attempt to detain perishable goods?
– Then why does not the Minister agree to the amendment?
– It is the duly of the Minister in charge of any Bill to s<;e that it is not manipulated in such a way as to render it unworkable.
– How would the amendment make the measure unworkable?
– It might not make it absolutely unworkable.
– It would minimize the chances of oppression.
– No oppression is likely to be resorted to. At the same time, the -Minister has a right to say whether the law has been complied with. So long as it is complied with, there is not the slightest danger of any restrictions of an arbitrary character being imposed upon our export trade. Only a year or two ago I had to deal with the marking of certain packages or tins which were imported into Australia by one or two tobacco firms. Those firms complied with the provisionsof the Customs Act, but they did so ira such a way that it was necessary to use a microscope in order to discover the letters upon the tins. If the Department had not possessed power to compel them to mark those tins in a proper way, they would have complied with the law ; but the public would not have been protected.
– That shows the necessity for the Bill.
– One of these firms was a large one, and its memberswere very angry with me because I compelled them to alter their labels uponthe tins so that the public could see them. All that the Department desire is that our exports shall be of a standard quality, so that no injury may accrue to the trade. I am just as strong as is the honorable member for Gippsland in my desire to do nothing to hamper the business of the exporters. If the Committee will agree to the clause in its present form, and I subsequently find that, without injuring its effectiveness, we can alter its wording insuch a way as to dissipate the dread which is in the minds of some honorable members, I shall be pleased to recommit it. It has been said that the Bill put’s great power into- the hands of the Customs officials-. But I would ask honorable members to bear in mind that, if effect were given to all the powers conferred by the Licensing Act, it would be impossible for anybody to conduct an hotel. In the same way, nobody imagines that if the provisions 06 the Customs Act were carried out in their entirety the commerce of the country would not be terribly hampered. When honorable members cast aspersions on mv administration of the Customs Department, I may tell them that I have received from the commercial community of Australia, and from the Chambers of Commerce; the most flattering references to my administration.
– Hear, Hear.
– The Minister can also obtain the reverse testimony.
– In connexion with the regulations which will be framed under this Bill, and which will require to be submitted to Parliament for its approval, I merely desire to say that the Customs officials will not have an opportunity of dealing harshly with the exportersreven if they were so inclined.
Mr. McLEAN (Gippsland). - I venture to say that the Minister has wholly misconceived the object that I have in view in supporting the amendment. I am as strongly convinced as he is of the necessity to fix proper standards for exports. In that respect I may differ from many of my honorable friends of the Opposition: but had I not been thoroughly convinced of the necessity to fix standards of purity and excellence for exports, I should not have given instructions for the drafting of this Bill. I believe that I am really more convinced than is the Minister himself of the need to take action in this regard, because in certain respects he has already weakened the measure in a way that I should not have clone had I remained in office. My intention was that the Bill should provide the nucleus of a Department of Agriculture; but my honorable friend has transformed it into something of the nature of a Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill. I would point out to him that if the amendment be carried, he will still be the supreme judge of whether the goods in question comply with the regulations. I am speaking from personal experience of the working of the Department.
– And I pay the greatest respect to the honorable member’s opinions.
– My honorable friend knows that, although the ComptrollerGeneral is named in the clause, the administration of the measure will have to be intrusted to officers at the various ports from which exports are made. While I was Acting Minister of External Affairs, a case came under my notice, in which the Commonwealth had been brought into disrepute in the eyes of the world, owing to an error of judgment on the part of an officer stationed at a distant port. I refer to the case of the blind man, Mcintosh. The matter never came under my notice until the harm had been done, and the consequence was that, owing to this slight error of judgment - an error into which an officer might naturally fall - great harm was clone to the reputation of the Commonwealth. In the same way, trouble might arise under this clause. A producer might send his products to a port for export, and an officer of the Department, either from mistaken zeal or because the goods did not strictly comply with the requirements of the law, might proceed to forfeit them, leaving the exporter no opportunity to put his case before the Minister. Such an incident would be quite possible under the clause as it stands. The amendment, however, proposes that the Minister shall give the owner of products which are threatened with confiscation the right to put his case before the Department. The Department is still to be the supreme judge. If the Minister considered there had been an evasion of the law, he would naturally support the action of the officer ; but in that event he would act with full knowledge of the case, and would accept the responsibility for his action. If the clause were allowed to remain as_it stands, an officer at a distant port might forfeit, say, perishable goods without bringing the case under the notice of the Minister, and it might subsequently be found that a serious mistake had been made, with the result that an individual had perhaps been ruined. The Minister would then come down tq Parliament, and say, “ I never knew anything about the forfeiture,” and Parliament would whitewash him. That should not be possible. I desire to protect the producer, as far as he can be protected, consistently with strict compliance with the law, as the Minister wishes it to be administered. I simply wish to give the producer a right to state his case in such a way that it must come before the Minister, so that the latter will have a full knowledge of the circumstances, , and accept the responsibility of any action he may take with regard to it. ‘ If he considered there was an evasion of the law, he could proceed to confiscate the goods, while if, on the other hand, he was satisfied that an error had been innocently committed he would save the party concerned from the loss of his goods. The amendment is a reasonable one, which will insure proper inquiry before drastic action is taken. My honorable friend should not object to such a safeguard in the interests of the producer, seeing that his power and that of his Department will not be weakened. His opposition to. the amendment suggests that he is afraid of the responsibility which it would impose upon him ; but I think he is too strong a man to be influenced by such considerations. He must remember that it is a very serious matter that a producer should run the risk of having his goods confiscated without being heard, and perhaps in the absence of a valid reason for their confiscation. I confess that, although the equities may be the same, I feel much more strongly with regard to this amendment than I did in reference to that proposed in the clause relating to imports. It may be that I am more familiar with the position of our exporters : but I know how they will regard such a clause as this. It is the imposition of unnecessary restrictions that frightens the producers, and causes many of them to be opposed to supervision of any kind. I am strongly in favour of Government supervision over exports and the fixing of standards, for I know that the system has raised the reputation of the products of the United States of America in the markets of the world to such an extent as to more than justify the application of a very stringent law. Such laws, indeed, have been more than justified, wherever they have been brought into operation; but let us, in mercy’s name, refrain from encumbering a Bill providing for Government supervision with oppressive provisions that are not essential to its proper administration.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I know that the honorable member for Gippsland is in full sympathy with the producers, and I should like to meet him as far as I possibly can. At ‘the present moment I do not feel ‘disposed to accept the amendment ; but in view of the honorable member’s statement, and because, like him, I am anxious that the producers shall not be unduly alarmed at the provisions of the Bill, I shall have the matter thoroughly investigated, and shall probably submit an amendment calculated to remove all fears in this regard, if such an amendment can be drafted. I shall be quite prepared to recommit this part of the clause, so that after I have inquired whether it can be modified to meet the views of honorable members, they will have another opportunity to vote upon it, provided that we cannot come to an agreement.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - Judging from some remarks made this afternoon by the
Minister, the honorable gentleman is under the impression that certain observations which I made this morning with reference to the administration of his Department had a personal application.
– I did not think so.
– I wish to assure the honorable gentleman that I did not intend in any way to reflect upon him. He was quite justified in saying that the Chambers of Commerce recognise that his first accession to office as Minister of Trade and Customs was followed by a moderate, rational, and business-like administration of the Department. I do not make that statement with’ any desire to cast reflections on his predecessor ; but I do say that the mercantile community recognise that he has administered the Department on equitable lines. They also recognise that he showed a desire to meet the wishes of the deputation from the Chambers of Commerce, which recently waited upon him. I wished to make it thoroughly clear that the remarks which I made this morning had no personal application.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance; as a matter of fact, I was not referring to him.
– I think that the Minister should agree to postpone the clause.
– As the clause has been amended, it cannot be postponed.
– I understand that the honorable member, for Kooyong will in any event ask that it be recommitted.
– I have already said that if I can secure the framing of an amendment that will allay the fears of the producers, I shall be glad to submit it to the Committee. In any case, if requested, I shall recommit this portion of the clause, in order that we may deal with this particular question.
– I desire an amendment of this kind to be made, as much in the interests of the Department as in those of the produce’rs themselves. It seems to me that the only circumstances in which the Minister will be able to avoid forfeiting goods coming within the provisions of this clause are those set out in sub-clause 3; but if the word “shall” were substituted for the word “ may,” the position would be altogether different. There is a great difference between the amendment now before the Chair and that which it was proposed last night to make in clause 7.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).- I am satisfied with the assurance given by the Minister. I wish’ him to understand that there are no such provisions as these in any Acts of the States. Fines and other penalties are provided for, but there is no such drastic provision as is contained here. I am sure that when the Minister looks into the matter he will come to the same opinion that we hold.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Sir William Lyne) agreed to -
That the word “ proclamation,” line 20, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ regulations.”
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - As the Minister proposes to redraft the clause, I would direct his attention to the inconsistency between the mode of procedure here ,provided for in regard to exports, and that provided for in. regard to imports.
– I will look into the matter. I think that there is a reason for the difference.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 (Penalty for applying false trade description to exports).
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- -The penalty provided for in the clause is to be imposed, not only for knowingly applying any false trade description, but also for knowingly exporting, or entering for export, or putting on any ship for export, goods to which a false trade description is applied. Does the word “knowingly “ in paragraph b apply to each of these actions or only to knowingly exporting goods to which a> false trade description is applied?
– To each df these actions.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Exportation of falsely marked goods).
– I hope that tha Minister will consider the promise he made in regard to clause 10 in connexion with this clause also.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 13 -
Any goods intended for export, which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act, may in manner prescribed be marked with any word, figure, or mark, for the purpose of indicating the quality, class, or grade of the goods.
– I hope that there will be some debate, and a division, on this clause. On the second reading the Government were asked as to whether it was intended by the Bill to provide for the Commonwealth grading of exports. One Minister denied that the Bill would have any such effect, and others said that it would have that effect, while the AttorneyGeneral said both that it would and would not have that effect. This clause provides beyond all manner of doubt that goods intended for export may, in manner prescribed, be graded. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, in speaking of -this matter, is reported to have said - page 1035 of Hansard -
Is there anything in the Bill which can be construed by a sane man as a provision for the compulsory grading of butter. . ‘. . No sane man out of Parliament would’ think that such a thing is possible.
It is plain, however, that the clause gives the Government power to grade. The constituents whom I represent get their livelihood wholly from the soil. They do not believe in the grading of produce, and they expect me to voice their feeling on the subject. I did sd. in the State Parliament, and I intend to do so here. I shall divide the Committee against the clause. It does not seem to me that the branding of exports with the Commonwealth, brand will enable a higher price to be obtained for our produce, and the system of grading may cause a good deal of 1 rouble.
– I understood the Minister to say that there was to Le no Commonwealth grading, but the clause provides for grading, and the Minister some time ago read a number of articles and letters to prove that the grading of our exports is the proper thing to provide for. In Victoria, I believe, grading is done by officials of ‘the State, though I do not know that it is compulsory ; but in Queensland State grading is compulsory, and the Minister read an extract from a letter published in a newspaper, in which the writer tried to show that beneficial results are obtained from it. In South Australia, too, there is State grading, and the people seem to be satisfied with the system. In New South Wales, however, there is no Government interference.- There is a system in vogue there which is far before any system of Government interference, co-operative companies taking the work of distribution into their hands, appointing their own salesmen, and sending their butter to the markets of the world themselves. On the 4th August last, at the most representative conference of butter factory delegates yet held, the following resolution was unanimously carried, and signed by the delegates for submission by deputation to the Premier of the State:-
That, while this representative gathering of delegates from thirty-one co-operative butter factories approves of any legislation for safeguarding the health of the people, it considers that the compulsory grading of butter by Government officials is unnecessary, and an undue interference with an important industry.
Those delegates represent factories which produce over 10,000 tons of butter a year, the approximate value of which at 9½d. per lb. exceeds ,£900,000.
– They have not compulsory grading in Victoria.
– The Minister tried to prove that the superior quality of New Zealand butter is owing to the Government grading there, and that 90 per cent, of that butter is now first-class because of that grading; but at Earl’s Court, London, as the result of a test, butter from a New South Wales factory beat the New Zealand and Victorian butter which was exhibited. In order that grading may be efficient, every churning should be graded. That is what is done in New Zealand. But how would it be possible for a Commonwealth official to grade 4,000 or 5,000 boxes of butter which had been brought to a wharf for export? The provisions of the measure would be unworkable, unless the Department took the guarantee of the factories or the shipping companies that the butter was of good quality. My experience is that many of the Government experts are incompetent to properly grade. A dairy expert who says that it is sufficient to send cream to a factory twice a week proves that he is incompetent. So opposed are the people of New South Wales to grading that the State Government has not dared to bring in a Dairy Bill to provide for grading, and the Commonwealth would be acting unfairly if it, by this back-door method, interfered with the business methods of that State against the wishes of its people. Those engaged in the dairying industry there have built it up without Government coddling or assistance. The State has not voted them even sixpence. Why, then, should the Commonwealth now try to take the control of the industry out of their hands? Is this proposal made to provide billets for officials? Several of the States have already made arrangements for grading.
– Which “States?
– South Australia and Queensland, and there is a Bill before the Victorian Parliament to provide for grading.
– Such “a Bill is to be introduced. In providing for grading, the Minister is entering upon a task which he will be unable to carry into effect, and is acting unjusTly “towards those who are carrying on their industry in their own way.
– The clause is somewhat difficult to understand. It says that-
Goods intended for export, which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act, may in manner prescribed be marked.
I wish to know “by whom the goods are to be .marked. Is The owner to be permitted to attach his own mark in. accordance with the regulations, or is it intended that the Department shall place a Government grading mark upon the goods? If it is intended that the owners shall grade their own goods, without any Government indorsement, the clause will become inoperative. If, on the other hand, the Government are to be entitled to place their grading mark on the goods, a system of grading pure and simple will be introduced.
– The intention is to arrive at some understanding with exporters as to the trade description to be adopted, but the Government will have the right to say what that mark shall be.
– Is it intended to grade the goods in different classes, or merely to fix a standard ?
– It is intended to attach to the goods a trade description. I have always held that the system we propose to adopt will, to a certain extent, involve grading. Possibly the Bill confers power to grade the goods into different classes, but it is not proposed to carry out that system at present. The intention is to adhere to the trade descriptions that may be agreed upon after consultation with the persons interested.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- I contend that the provision as lt stands conveys no such meaning as the Minister has indicated. I understand that the intention is to attach trade descriptions which will indicate not only the kind of goods but the class to which they belong. For instance, butter would be branded as butter class 1 or class 2, as the case might be. I have always agreed with the view that a minimum standard should be fixed, and that goods falling below that standard should 1101 be exported. As the clause stands, goods of any quality may be exported, provided they are properly marked. I am quite prepared to empower the Minister to fix a minimum standard, but once that standard is complied with, sellers should be allowed to determine how far they would go above that standard. If exports are graded, buyers will never pay more than a certain price for a particular grade, no matter how high the quality, but if goods fall below the grade they will pay less for them. Therefore the seller will never gain, but may be subjected’ to serious loss. The clause as it stands does not convey what the Minister desires. It means something which neither the Minister nor the country want. I would urge the Minister to abandon the clause, and substitute a provision for fixing a minimum standard. No one can determine what the clause means until the High Court has given its decision, and that tribunal will know only because it will be the last to speak. Will the Minister accept an amendment providing for a minimum standard?
– If the Minister desires to pass the clause as it stands, honorable members are entitled to know what it means. At present it is so vague that it is impossible to ascertain what is intended by it, how it will be interpreted, how the officers of the Department will construe it, or what will be done. In one aspect of the clause it would be possible to do anything in the way of grading goods. The Government might establish ten or twenty grades of butter. The Minister must know from his experiences of grading how expert opinions vary. There is no difficulty, however, in determining whether an article is, or is not, good enough for export. The Minister has, on the whole, been very reasonable, and I ask him not to spoil a good record by taking up an attitude of obstinacy in this matter. Will he undertake to recommit the clause for the consideration of amendments ?
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I would point out to the honorable and learned member for Corinella that grading is in operation at the present moment in Victoria. According to the statement I read the other day, a number of products are being systemati cally graded. Ira regard to mutton and lamb it is stated -
Mutton and lamb : prime, good’, and plain. In each of these qualities there are the following distinctions of weight : -
Then again in the case of rabbits the grading is carried out as follows : -
Rabbits are branded in Black, signifying “ best,” and in Red, signifying “ seconds,” and words “second grade.”
Each quality is divided according to weight, into -
But in “seconds,” instead oE “large,” &c, they are numbered size 1, 2, or 3.
– Is not that voluntary grading ?
– I do not see that that makes any difference. It only shows that . the. producers are voluntarily submitting to the grading of their goods. I cannot see the force of the arguments of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The clause reads as follows: -
Any goods intended for export, which have been inspected in pursuance to this Act, may in manner prescribed be marked -
– Bv whom?
– By the Government, of course, after consultation with the producers.
– Some producers may be hundreds of miles away
– Honorable members are raising the silliest of objections. The clause proceeds - with any word, figure, or mark, for the purpose of indicating the quality, class, or grade of the goods.
Any one of three things may be done, or both the quality and class of the same goods may be indicated. In regard to some classes of goods the quality only would be indicated, in others the weight only would be given, and under the clause we should have power to vary the marks as circumstances might suggest. It appears to me that the clause is as definite as it is possible to make it.
– Would the Minister consent to provide that the marks should be applied with the concurrence of the producers ?
– No; I could not consent to the insertion of any words that would give the producers control over the Government.
– The Government is to control the producer?
– The Government is to control the marks placed upon the goods.
– Could the producer refuse to have his goods marked?
– Then the grading would be compulsory.
– I did not say anything to the contrary. I would remind honorable members that the Government are assuming a grave responsibility in this matter. If the Government ‘brand were affixed to inferior, deleterious, or impure goods, the Government would be held blameworthy, and therefore they must exercise some control apart from any dictation on the part of the producers. The regulations will be framed in the fairest possible manner, and will be submitted to Parliament for its approval. Therefore, I do not think that the producers will be exposed to any danger. I would ask why it is that six months’ supplies are ordered in New Zealand by London buyers? It is because the quality of the goods exported is guaranteed by the Government brand. If the Government did not take the responsibility in connexion with the marking of the goods, the purchasers would not be so ready to order supplies for long periods ahead.
– I can make contracts covering twelve months for the supply of butter bearing New South Wales brands, which are not supplemented by, any Government mark.
– The honorable member may be a superior person. With regard to the request for recommittal, I do not intend ‘to recommit every clause. I have met those who have made suggestions in the fairest possible way, and I shall presently meet the deputy leader of the Opposition by agreeing to the insertion of a new clause. But, seeing that there can be no misconception as to the meaning of this provision, I do not think I should be asked to consent to its recommittal. Its intention is as clear as possible, and there is an absolute necessity to have such a provision in the Bill.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The Minister of Trade and Customs is perfectly right. The meaning of this clause is absolutely plain. It is clear that it goes a great deal further than any State Acts attempt to go. It is a great pity that the Minister did not read to the Committee the report which his departmental officers have placed in his hands. Instead of doing so, he merely read a few sentences in reference to the matter of grading. I have here the full report of his officers. In regard to South Australia, that document states that, when asked for by the shipper, grading takes place, and certain things are done. In Victoria an Act was passed in 1898, called the Exporters’ Produce Act. Compulsory inspection under this Act takes place in the case of butter and cheese intended for export, but there is no provision for compulsory grading. There is an inspection for the purpose of ascertaining that the food which is intended for export is of good quality. The Minister has quoted figures with a view to showing what are the weights of certain kinds of lamb. I am informed that lamb of the lighter weights is very much superior to lamb of the heavier weight. Consequently it does not follow that the grading of lamb in this way indicates the quality of the produce. The Minister, however, proposes to stamp the quality of the produce upon the packages in which it is shipped. The report goes on to say that grading is not undertaken in Victoria except at the request of the shippers. It, is not compulsory.
– I never said that it was.
– But the Minister is seeking power in this Bill to make it compulsory.
– I am perfectly well aware of that.
– Then the Minisister should not say that he is merely seeking to acquire the same powers which are already operative in some of the States.
– As the result of the operation of the Victorian law, a grading is effected.
– But the Minister proposes to grade goods in respect of size, quality, &c. That involves something more than a mere marking of goods. He proposes to establish standards, and to have those standards marked upon the goods themselves. With regard to Queensland, the report states -
Nothing in this Act shall oblige any person to cause any dairy produce to be graded, but if required to be inspected and graded, it shall be subject to this Act.
It will thus be seen that in all these cases the grading of goods is a voluntary act on the part of the exporters.
– In New Zealand it is compulsory.
– I congratulate the Minister upon having discovered that it is compulsory in that colony. In all the States of the Commonwealth it is optional. It is unwise to arm ourselves with these drastic powers, and I am perfectly certain that our action will be bitterly resented by the States. In Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia, matters are progressing satisfactorily enough ; why, then, should we impose upon the Slates additional legislation of a much more stringent character? If the Minister can show that these further and drastic powers are necessary, honorable members upon this side of the Chamber might be prepared to meet him. But the weight of testimony is that the grading which already takes place in the States is quite sufficient and quite satisfactory.
– I ‘sympathize very much with the position of the Minister. He was not responsible for the drafting of the Bill, and he has had it placed in his hands without any knowledge of the original intention of its authors. I think that this clause goes much further than there is any real necessity to go. It appears to me that what the Commonwealth should do is to establish a standard below which the export of produce should not be permitted, or, if permitted, we should clearly indicate that the produce is not exported as fit for human consumption. Having fixed that standard, we should be going out of our way if we attempted to establish the different grades of commodities which were fit for human consumption, and the export of which was permitted. Any such attempt would throw upon the Commonwealth Government the responsibility of fixing ‘the exact, value of every commodity exported. That would be going a great deal further? than there is any real necessity for, and much further than we have power to go. Besides, it would in many respects result in discrediting the judgment of the Commonwealth inspectors, because, as the honorable member for Moira is aware, some of these commodities would deteriorate after they had been marked. If they were branded first, second, third, or fourth grade, and some of them subsequently fell to a still lower grade, that fact would be discovered, and the judgment of the .Commonwealth classifiers would consequently foe brought into disrepute. All that it is necessary for us ‘to do is fo establish a’ standard of excellence with which all foodstuffs must comply, and to provide that if anything is exported below that standard, it must bear a discrediting mark upon it.
– Was there any provision of that sort in the Bill which was prepared at the instance of the honorable member?
– I gave rough instructions to have a Bill drafted. When that measure came into my hands, it did not comply with my intentions by a very long way. Accordingly, I intended to thoroughly revise it before submitting it to my colleagues for approval, but I was denied the opportunity of so doing. As a result, it was put into the hands of the present Minister in a very crude form. He did not know my intentions in the matter, and consequently I sympathize with his po,sition. I am anxious to assist him to make the Bill effective for the purposes for which it was intended. I desire to insure that no Australian products shall be sent abroad which are likely to bring discredit upon our export trade, and to lower the value of our products in the outside markets. I wish to maintain a reasonably high standard for all the produce that we export. But having fixed that standard, and having forbidden the export of any product which falls below it, except under certain conditions, I think that we ought not to be asked to go further.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - The honorable member has disclaimed that he”, at any time revised the Bill from which a good many of these clauses have been taken. He declares that he gave instructions to his officers to prepare that measure. For the information of honorable members, I shall again read one of the clauses which the original Bill contained. It is as follows : -
Any goods intended for export which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act may in manner prescribed be marked with any word, figure, or mart for the purpose of indicating the quality or grade of the goods.
– That in no way affects the honorable member.
– But the honorable member for Gippsland instructed his officers to prepare that Bill. I do not for a moment impugn his statement that he had no opportunity of revising it. The New Zealand Act contains the following provision : -
No product shall be shipped or placed on board any ship for exportation to any place beyond New Zealand unless it bears the prescribed stamp or mark, or the certificate in writing as to quality or condition, signed by the officer duly authorized in that behalf under this Act.
– They grade at the factories there.
– It may be that the Department will take the opportunity to have the grading carried out at the factories. I have quoted this section to show that the grading and marking provisions of the law which have accomplished so much good in the case of New Zealand products are of a compulsory character. I will not promise at the present time to recommit the clause under consideration, but when I move to recommit the two clauses to which I am already pledged, it will be within the power of any honorable member to take action in that direction. That will give honorable members an opportunity to test an amendment in the clause.
– The honorable gentleman might say, in the event of the amendment being carried, “I will surrender the Bill.”
– I shall say nothing of the kind, but shall be prepared to accept the decision of the House. I. do not promise to agree to an alteration of the clause, but I shall be prepared in any reasonable way to accept the decision of the House, and subsequently the decision of the Committee, in reference to it. I do not think I should be asked to do more than that.
– I quite agree that the wording of the clause may give rise to some alarm on the part of the producers and exporters of goods. I therefore suggest that it would be desirable to amend it so that it would read -
Any goods intended for export, which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act, shall have a trade description attached, as may be prescribed.
– That is what is provided in the clause as it stands.
– It is practically the wording of the New Zealand Act. It is the verbiage of the clause that suggests, that the Government propose to attempt to grade these goods for export. I do not think, however, that the Department could, of its own volition, attempt to grade goods in the literal sense of the word.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the Commonwealth grading exports into different classes?
– No. I favour grading only so far as the inspection of exports must necessarily lead to their classification.
– This clause means either what is feared or nothing.
– That is why I wish our intention to be clearly stated. It has been said that grading is carried on under the Victorian Act. As a matter of fact, however, we have no compulsory grading. The grading that takes place is the result of the inspection, and is simply a classification of the goods. Take, for instance, the classification oflambs for export.
– That classification refers only to the weight and the age of the lambs.
– But we cannot get away from the fact that it leads to grading, although it is grading that is not compulsory.
– It is not a grading as to quality.
– That is the point”. The objection to the wording of the clause is that it might lead to the belief that Government grading was intended. All that we need to provide is that goods of Australian origin intended for export shall bear a true trade description.
– Clause 10 already provides for that.
– But it is not stated with sufficient clearness.
– I am quite prepared to consider the honorable member’s suggestion. At present it seems to me that his proposed amendment differs very slightly from the clause itself. The only point is that it might allay the fears that have arisen.
– That is my object. I make the suggestion in all earnestness, because I think it is to be regretted that we should differ on non-essentials. It is fair to assume that we are doing our best to make the Bill a workable one, and I think that all we need to provide in this clause is that exports shall bear a trade description conveying an intimation of what they really purport to be.
I hold, however, that inspection is absolutely necessary. In the early days of the frozen meat industry of Victoria our reputation was seriously affected by the action of those who, in an effort to make money, shipped inferior meat to London. Under the present system of inspection, however, we are once more building up a reputation for our meat, butter, and other food products, and it would be a pity if we allowed anything to be done that would damage that reputation. The object of the Bil! is to prevent inferior goods of Australian origin being sent into the markets of the world, but we ought not to draw fine lines of distinction as to quality. I trust that the Minister will carefully consider the clause, and see whether an amendment cannot be made that will meet the wishes of the Committee.
– -I would point out to the honorable member for Moira that, whilst it is true that the reputation of Australian commodities on the markets of the world bus probably been injured by the export of inferior goods, there is nothing in the Bill that would put an end to such practices. All that it provides is that our exports shall bear labels showing what their classification is. Once they leave our shores, however, the labels may be removed. We have no guarantee that when they are placed on the markets of England they will bear the brands that they had at the port of shipment. It must, therefore, be recognised that the proposed system of inspection will not promote the interests of the producers in the smallest degree.
– Then how is the position to be met?
– It cannot be met, except by the action of the Legislatures of the countries to which our exports are consigned. The developments that have taken place during the consideration of the Bill have certainly surprised me. We were told at the outset that it did not provide for Government grading ; but now we find that this clause could have been inserted for no other purpose. After the goods have been inspected they are to have marks or labels placed upon them, indicating that they belong to certain grades. After the explanation made by the honorable member for Gippsland, one can understand how this ill-digested measure came to be introduced. I am not casting any blame on the Minister. Probably he imagined when he took office that the draft Bill had been well considered, but his views regarding its scope and intention have very materially changed since its introduction. I must confess that my own opinions with regard to it have also undergone a considerable change. The more we consider it the more must we be convinced that it is not likely to serve a useful purpose. It cannot be too strongly impressed upon honorable members that the. excellent provisions with respect to grading that have been adopted in the States are purely voluntary. Any one who exports through the agency of the Export Department of South Australia must submit to certain conditions as to grading ; but an exporter is not compelled to avail himself of the services of that Department. The fact that many consigments are sent direct to London without passing through the Government Dep6t keeps the Government graders up to the mark, because they know that the goods passing through their hands will have to compete with those sent through other agencies. Under this Bill, however, it is proposed that all our exports shall be graded, and there will be no competition to stimulate the Government graders to perform their work efficiently. I am convinced that the conditions at present prevailing in, at least, some of the States, are infinitely better than any likely to be brought about by the passing of this Bill.
– It is necessary that the Minister should consider this question from the point of view of the tremendous responsibility which the Government are proposing to take upon themselves. The deputation from the Chambers of Commerce which recently waited upon the honorable gentleman pointed out the objections to Government grading, and the Minister then replied that he was not in favour of such a system.
– I did not.
– The honorable gentleman said that the desire was to have goods so marked as to show whether they were inferior or superior; but the reply to this statement was that no one would think of exporting goods bearing the words “inferior.” I do not wish to debate the question at length ; but it is so serious that we should not allow the clause to pass without a promise from the Minister that we shall have a further opportunity to discuss it.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE “(Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - It was arranged yesterday that we should finish the Bill to-day, if possible, and the afternoon is now so far advanced that I am anxious to shorten discussion. I have no desire to provide for grading such as honorable members think may be provided for by the clause as it now stands, and, after the debate which has taken place, I shall see whether it will not be possible to frame a provision which will not terrorise the producers. That provision I will submit to the Committee. In regard to the regulations, I may say, to restore the confidenceof some honorable members, that if I have anything to do with the framing of them, I shall see that they in no way oppress or hamper the producers. It may be that, later on, when the public fear of departmental tyranny has been allayed, it will be necessary to strengthen the regulations, and that can be done if required.
– The Minister proposes to apply the pressure gradually.
– No regulation will be in any way oppressive to the honest producer and exporter.
– This is an age of classification, grading; and specialization, and I am amazed that honorable members should be in arms against the proposal of the Government to interfere to prevent injury being done to the reputation of Commonwealth products in the markets of the world. A few years ago the Americans had possession of the butter and cheese trade of Liverpool, but in their efforts to become millionaires they exported inferior produce, and, as a consequence, lost the market. The United States Government thought at the time that it had no power to interfere. Honorable members are always quoting Canada; but that country has only recently brought into force a regulation on the subject. The United States have now done the same, and no commodity leaves that country without being bonded, graded, and stamped. It seems to me that the representatives of pluto-robbery in this Committee are prepared to sell the country.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 (Regulations).
– I move -
That the following words be added, “If both Houses of the Parliament pass a resolution, of which notice has been given within fifteen sitting days after such regulations have been laid before those Houses respectively, disallowing any regulation, that regulation shall thereupon cease to have effect.”
The Acts Interpretation Act allows either House of Parliament to pass a resolution annulling regulations, so that, without this amendment, the Senate would be able to annul regulations of which the House of Representatives might approve. The amendment makes resolutions of both Houses necessary for the nullification of any regulation’.
– Why are these regulations to be more favoured than the regulations proclaimed in pursuance of. other Acts which may be disallowed by the resolution of either House? In spite of what the Minister has said about their beneficent character, we do not know that the regulations will be so excellent as to meet with the approval of both the Houses. Hitherto no regulations except those under the Public Service Act have been questioned by Parliament. If the amendment is agreed to, regulations made by Executive act will have the force of law, even when one House of Parliament disapproves of them. This is a. proposition to legislate by regulations, because that can be done with less trouble than is entailed by legislation by Act of Parliament.
– Would the honorable and learned member like the other House to take action to nullify what the House of Representatives approved of?
– The Bill cannot become law unless the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives, approves of it.
– I am speaking of the regulations.
– No Government should be specially favoured in the way proposed. I thought at first that the Minister intended to propose that no regulation made under the Act should take effect until it had received the approval of both Houses of Parliament. This measure will be worked mainly by regulation. The Billis, to a large extent, only an instrument to give authority for putting regulations into operation. That being so, no special facility for the making of legislation by regulation should be provided. I hope that the Minister will not press the amendment, but will leave the regulations to the operation of the Act, which prescribes how regulations shall be treated. Parliament passed the provision in the Acts Interpretation Act, which the amendment seeks to alter, because it thought that that was the proper way to treat regulations. I know of no justification for treating these regulations differently from others.
-I hold the same view as does the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I cannot understand why the Minister should ask for a special privilege in regard to these regulations. The Minister cannot get power to make regulations without the concurrence of both Houses of Parliament. How, then, can he logically ask that regulations. .shall be allowed to have force, even when they are disapproved of by one House of Parliament? If the regulations are not approved of by both Houses, and are objected to by the representatives of the people in either House, they should be disallowed. Under the proposal of the Minister, if either House passed a resolution objecting to a regulation, while the other did not, the regulation would still have force. I hope that he will not press the amendment.
– I have all along objected to legislation by regulation; but the amendment gives the Minister still further power in this direction. He could not obtain force for any provision in the Bill if it had the approval of one House only. Why, then, should regulations have force before both Houses have approved of them? ‘We should protect the rights of the people by refusing to give the Minister the power he asks for. The Act which deals with the disallowing of regulations should not be interfered with in the manner proposed.
– The proposal now before us is of the most amazing character. The Minister apparently aims at defeating the whole of the efforts that have been made by honorable members to modify the provisions of the Bill, because he contemplates taking power to bring into force by Executive act regulations which cannot be disallowed except -by resolution of both Houses of Parliament. So far as I am aware/ there is no precedent for any such proposal. It is unfortunate that we are not able to fully debate this matter.
– I think the honorable member has debated it long enough.
– I a:n speaking on behalf of a large number of persons who will be very seriously affected by the provisions of the Bill, and I object to the Minister dictating to rae as to what I shall do. If the Minister’s proposal is to be persisted in, I shall be compelled to bring under the notice of honorable members a series of statements with which I have been supplied, bearing upon the detrimental results that may be brought about by the application of undesirable regulations. Take, for instance, the case of tea. -The most complex questions might arise in connexion with the introduction of that article of commerce into the Commonwealth. The Minister’s proposal is so amazing that I can scarcely realize that he is serious in bringing it forward. Honorable members are aware that some time ago I indicated that I intended to move that the following words be added to clause 14: -
Provided that such regulations shall not come into operation until the same shall have been confirmed by resolution of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Possibly the Minister is not aware of the great difficulties-
– I am perfectly aware of the attempts which are being made to destroy the Bill.
– The Minister is not justified in making a statement of that kind. So far as I am aware, the desire of honorable members upon this side of the Chamber has been to make the Bill a workable measure. I think the Minister might reasonably consent to report progress.
– I shall sit it out, because it was agreed last night that we should finish the Bill to-day.
– It was not agreed that we should consent to pass any new clause which the Minister might submit.
– I enter my strongest protest against the proposal of the Minister, which appears to me to be unwarranted by any reasonable requirement.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).There is nothing unreasonable in the request that progress; should be reported. It is true that an arrangement was made last night that we should, if possible; complete the consideration of this measure today, but the Minister has sprung a number of surprises upon us, and the position has thus been entirely changed. The Minister’s proposal is altogether a new one. In the Excise Act, and other Acts, provision is made that the regulations brought into operation under them shall cease to have effect if one of the Houses of Parliament passes a resolution disallowing them. Under the Minister’s proposal, the disagreement of one House with certain regulations would not have the slightest effect. This is an important measure which will seriously affect the whole of our producing industries, and yet the Minister proposes to take power to make regulations which may be enforced apart from the approval of Parliament. I trust that the honorable gentleman will consent to recommit the clause.
– I desire that this Bill shall be disposed of this afternoon, and therefore I shall not speak at any length. I merely wish to say that while the Minister has put this proposal forward as a concession to honorable members, it would really involve a contraction of our privileges. Therefore I shall vote against it.
– I do not wish to place any obstruction in the way of the Bill, because I believe that the Minister desires to do what is fair; but I consider that the proposal now before us has not been properly considered. It aims a blow at the fundamental principle of representative government. Under his proposal, the Minister might submit a regulation, and this House might unanimously condemn it, and yet, if the Senate failed to indorse that condemnation, the regulation would continue in force. Can it be contended that such a condition of affairs would be in accord with the principles of responsible government? The proposal appears to me to be so monstrously absurd that I cannot conceive of its having been seriously put forward. I should like to know whether the Minister has consulted the Prime Minister, or any of his colleagues.
– The AttorneyGeneral drafted the clause.
– Is it the deliberate view of the Cabinet, that they can legislate by regulation against the express wish of either Chamber? I have never before heard of anything of the kind. I trust that the Minister will not press his proposal.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I am surprised to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Gippsland ; he has turned matters topsy-turvy. Every law has to be passed by the two Houses of Parliament, and has also to be repealed by both Houses. No law can be repealed by one House. What I desired to do was to prevent the repeal of a law by one House of Parliament.
– But these regulations would not have been previously submitted to either House of Parliament.
– Order ! I would ask honorable members to observe the Standing Orders. I have several times called for order, and no notice of my request has been taken by honorable members. I shall certainly be compelled to strictly enforce the Standing Orders in the event of any further interruptions.
– If the Bill be passed, it will confer power to make regulations, and the moment such regulations are passed they would have the effect of law until such time as they were disallowed by a resolution of one House of Parliament. That is provided for in the Acts Interpretation Act ; but it occurred to my mind that regulations made under a measure of this kind and brought into force should remain operative until such time as they were disallowed by resolution of both Houses of Parliament.
– Although Parliament had never approved of the regulations?
– When the honorable member for Gippsland declared that . I had had nothing to do with the drafting of the Bill, he stated what was not correct.
– The Minister certainly did not know the object for which the Bill was framed, because I have read his speech in moving its second reading.
– I did not know what was in the honorable member’s mind, but I did know the contents of the Bill which he left in his office. The measure did not represent what he declares was in his mind at that time. Seeing, however, that the general feeling, of the Committee is that we should not alter the Acts Interpretation Act, I shall not press the amendment any further.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- No doubt the Minister has been worried a great deal to-day, but I would point out to him that we are bound to take up a strong attitude upon a matter of this kind. He claims that a regulation should not be annulled, even by a vote of this House. In that case the only result which could follow the adoption of a motion in opposition to the act of any Government would be the resignation of that Government. The Minister apparently thinks that it would be unjust to him if a majority of the House declared that any regulation did not accord with its wish.
– I have agreed not to proceed with the proposal. Do not let us prolong the debate.
– At the same time, the honorable gentleman has charged us with being unreasonable. I am glad that in his calmer moments he has seen fit to take a proper view of the matter.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Motion (by Sir William Lyne) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 13A. Sections seven and ten of this Act shall not apply to any goods other than -
articles used for food or drink by man, or used in the manufacture or preparation of articles used for food or drink by man; or
medicines or medicinal preparations for internal or external use ; or
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - As there is likely to be a very long debate upon this new clause, I propose, now that it has been read a second time, to postpone, with the concurrence of the Committee, its further consideration until Tuesday next. I propose to take a similar course in regard to other new clauses honorable members desire to submit.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Last night the Minister agreed to my proposals with regard to the revelation of trade secrets, and I shall now simply content myself with moving -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “13b. The regulations under sections 7 and 10 of this Act shall not prescribe a trade description, which discloses trade secrets of manufacture or preparation unless, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, the disclosure is necessary for the protection of the health or welfare of the public.”
Proposed new clause read a second time.
– On. behalf of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 9A. All imported goods to which a trade de scription is by this Act or the regulations required to be applied, and which are found in Australia, in any package or covering in which they were imported, and without the prescribed trade description, shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been imported in contravention of this Act, or of the regulations, as the case may be.”
By this provision the honorable member for Hindmarsh desires to partly accomplish the object which would have been achieved by the amendment which he submitted the other evening.
Proposed new clause read a second time.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 1. Any manufactured or prepared article of food -
to which there is not applied a printed mark indicating its usual name ; or
to which there is added any other sub stance not necessary to its preparation (including colouring matter or preservatives) unless there is applied to it a printed mark indicating the substance so added ; or
from which there is abstracted any material part or ingredient the abstraction of which is not necessary or usual in preparing the article or affects injuriously its quality substance or nature - unless there is applied to it a printed mark indicating the part or ingredient so abstracted ; or
in which (in the case of an article usually sweetened with sugar) there is contained any sweetening substance in addition to or in lieu of sugar - unless there is applied to it a printed mark indicating the sweetening substance so contained, is prohibited to be imported into Australia,
In this section - (a)’ Food ‘ includes any article used for food or drink by man other than drugs or water ;
’ Indicating’ means plainly and legibly in dicating ;
in the case of goods made up into packages for sale by retail, “ applied “ means applied to every such package in the same manner and with the same permanency as other printed marks or indications of the goods.
All goods imported in contravention of this section shall be forfeited to the King.
Subject to the regulations, the ComptrollerGeneral or on appeal from him, the Minister may permit any goods which are liable to be or which 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 mark will be applied to the goods or that they will be forthwith exported.”
Proposed new clause read a second time.
– The Minister on Tuesday next will, I understand, move that certain clauses be recommitted, and that the new clauses which have been read a second time be also taken into consideration.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I would point out that certain new clauses have been read a second time, and that the question of whether they shall be added to the Bill has not yet been dealt with. The Minister proposes to report the Bill, although there are certain clauses in it which have not yet been dealt with.
– They are not in the Bill.
– Then they do not belong to the measure, as reported.
– No. The Minister will move on Tuesday next that certain clauses which do belong to the Bill be recommitted, and that certain new clauses also be considered.
– What is to be gained by the adoption of that procedure? Why should not progress be reported in the ordinary way ?
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I will tell the honorable member why I do not desire to report progress. I wish to have the Bill reported to the House, in order that a fresh print of it may be obtained, embodying the amendments which have already been made.
– It can be printed without being first reported to the House.
– I trust that the honorable and learned member will allow me to have my own way in this matter.
– I think that we are now adopting a rather peculiar method of doing business, and I should like to know where it is to end. It is proposed that new clauses shall be added to the Bill after it has been reported to the House. I wish to know whether they will be dealt with upon the report stage or in Committee ?
– In Committee.,
– I am not quite clear how that can be done. I should like to hear some explanation as to how we can get the proposed new clauses back into Committee for further consideration. If we recommit the measure, we shall do so onlyto enable us to reconsider certain clauses. That does not necessarily mean that instructions will be given to the Committee to deal with the new clauses proposed to-day. In order that we may consider any new provisions, the whole Bill will require to come under revision. The method which it is now proposed to adopt is a most extraordinary one, and is a decided departure from the usual parliamentary practice.
– If honorable members will allow me, I should like to state the position. The Minister has agreed to recommit certain clauses. Upon Tuesday next he will move that those clauses be recommitted for the purpose of being reconsidered. In addition, he has promised to do what has frequently been done previously, namely, ask that certain new clauses be considered.
– Upon the report stage?
– Yes. The Minister will move that the Bill be recommitted on Tuesday next.
Mr. McDONALD (Kennedy). - The position, then, must be that the Minister will seek the permission of the House to recommit the whole measure. I understand from your ruling, Mr. Chairman, that honorable members will then have an opportunity to discuss any clause in the Bill.
– I have before me a precedent arising out of the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, which I think will satisfy the honorable member. On the 10th August, 1904-
The Order of the Day having been read for the consideration of the Report from the Committee of the whole House on this Bill - Mr. Watson moved, That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee o f the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 4, 37, 38, 39, 46, 48, 52, 67, 68, 90, Schedule B, and the consideration of proposed new clauses 52A and 95A.
The same proceeding will be followed in this case.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I wish to know whether the Minister is going to follow such a dangerous precedent, and also where the proposed new clauses will appear.
– They will be printed and circulated.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio). - If the new clauses be agreed to, they may seriously affect other clauses already in the Bill. Surely we should have an opportunity to make consequential amendments?
– Consequential amendments are always made, but it will not be competent for the Committee to consider clauses that have not been referred to it for consideration.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay).- Am I to understand that, if the proposition made by the Minister be carried out, the Bill will be reported, and the honorable gentleman will then give notice of his intention to move that it be recommitted?
– The report will be presented to-day, and Mr. Speaker will then put the question that the consideration of the report be an order of the day for Tuesday next. When the report comes up for consideration the Minister will move the recommittal of certain clauses and the consideration of new clauses.
– Is not the Minister prepared to explain whether we shall be able to make consequential amendments - amendments other than the ordinary consequential drafting amendments to which you have referred, Mr. Chairman - which the Committee may think necessary on the passing of the new clauses ? If we shall not be able todo so, I think that the Minister should not persist in his proposal. It will not save time; and I can see no reason for it unless it is to enable him to inform the press this afternoon that the Bill has teen reported to the House.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - In the event of the passing of a new clause, involving the amendment of other clauses a certain method would have to be followed. If the new clauses were carried the Bill would be reported, and I should then ask that it be recommitted, in order that the” amendments necessary in other clauses might be made.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- I should like to know whether the Minister would be prepared to agree to the recommittal of only those clauses which he himself thought ought to be recommitted, or whether he would consent to the recommittal of any others in respect of which such a request might be preferred?
– So far as I am able to see, we shall lose nothing by consenting to the proposal of the Minister. If necessary, we shall be able to secure the recommittal of other clauses.
– The Opposition may not be strong enough.
– If we are not strong enough to secure their recommittal we are not strong enough to do anything at the present time. I think that the Minister is pursuing an unnecessarily clumsy method, but since it will not destroy any privilege that we have I do not think that we should offer any objection.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).By consenting to the course proposed by the Minister, honorable members may deprive themselves of a right which they should be careful to conserve. A new clause having an important bearing on other provisions in the Bill may be agreed to, but if the Minister’s proposal is adopted, he will be able to say, “ We will not allow a recommittal of those provisions.”
– Does the honorable member think that I would do such a thing ?
– I have known the honorable member to take up that position. Several proposals submitted to-day by the Opposition were at first opposed by the Minister, but eventually he saw the wisdom of the course suggested by us, and gracefully gave way. I think it would be better for the Minister to agree to progress being reported, so that on Tuesday next we shall be in the same position as we are to-day to deal with proposed new clauses.
Bill reported with amendments.
Bill returned from Senate with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the Senate’s message be considered forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
– As a matter of fact, only one amendment has been made by the Senate, and it gives effect - unnecessarily, as I think - to the agreement arrived at by this House that the sum of £2,000 should not be spent as proposed on the rearmament of the Cerberus.
– Has the Senate omitted the figures as well as the words?
– It has.
– That will leave the Department with £2,000 less to spend.
– Quite so; but my honorable colleague, the Minister of Defence, perhaps being under the impression that it would not reduce the future vote by an equal amount of £2,000, consented to the . amendment. I move -
That the Senate’s amendments - “ Clause 2, line 11, leave out ‘eighteen,’ insert ‘sixteen,’” and “ Division No. 6, sub-division No. 1, leave out item No. 11, ‘Mounting 8-inch breech-loading guns on Cerberus,£2,000,’ and make consequential alterations in totals “ - be agreed to.
– What is the meaning of the amendment?
– The proposal to re-arm the Cerberus was abandoned by this House, and the Senate has given effect to that abandonment by reducing the proposed vote by £2,000.
– Does the amendment mean that the permanent crew of the Cerberus is to be disbanded ?
– It simplymeans that the new guns are not to be placed in the Cerberus.
– Is the Cerberus to go?
– Is a new vessel to be obtained ?
– Proposals will be submitted in due time.
– The question is an important one. We have been endeavouring in Victoria for many years to build up a permanent naval force. I do not favour the proposal to create an Australian Navy at the present time, for the reason that it would involve greater expenditure than wecan afford; but I hold that we should endeavour to assist the Imperial Navy by means, not of a subsidy, but of permanent local forces. It appears that the policy pursued for many years by the Victorian Government, in. regard to the Naval Forces, is to be changed, and the first intimation we have had of this is the statement that the Cerberus is not to be rearmed. When the Naval Agreement Bill was before the House, Sir Edmund Barton, then Prime Minister, said that the Cerberus and its officers and men would be retained ; but when I asked the Prime Minister a few moments ago whether a new vessel was to be obtained, he stated that proposals would be submitted in due time. That seems to indicate a very important change of policy.
– There is no change of . policy. The matter was mentioned when the Estimates were before us.
– Notwithstanding the statement made by Sir Edmund Barton that the Cerberus would be kept in commission, we are now told that she is not to be retained.
– That she is not going to be re-armed.
– Is she to fee retained?
– We are not going to give her away. This amendment does not mean a reduction in the Permanent Naval Forces.
– I accept as final the statement of the Prime Minister that, so. far as he is concerned, there is to be no change of policy in regard to the Cerberus.
– There is to be a change as regards her armament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Reported that the Committee had agreed to the Senate’s amendments; report adopted.
Motion, (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the Bill be recommitted for the recon sideration of clauses 3, 4, and 10.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 3 -
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs - Minister of Home Affairs).I move-
That paragraph b be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the followingparagraph : - “(i) After the first census taken after the commencement of this Act, an Enumeration Day shall be appointed at the expiration of every fifth year after the then last preceding Enumeration Day.”
The honorable and learned member for Angas expressed a doubt as to’ whether the provision in the clause would carry out the intention that there shall be an enumeration day and a census day every alternate fifth year, and the Parliamentary Draftsman has drafted this amendment to set that doubt at rest.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 4 -
. Until the census is takenpursuant to any Taw of the Commonwealth, the census taken after the commencement of this Actpursuant to the law of. any State shall, as regards that State, be the census for the purposes of this Act. …
– The words “ after the commencement of this Act “ were not in the draft Bill, but were inserted on the advice of the Parliamentary Draftsman. As the honorable and learned member for Corinella questioned whether they would have the effect intended, the Parliamentary Draftsman has suggested the following amendments, which, I think, will get’ over the difficulty. I move -
That the words” after the commencement of this Act,” lines 2 and . 3, be left out, and that the word “ Act,” line 5, be left out,with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ section.”
The practical effect of these amendments will be that on the enumeration day appointed, immediately after the commencement of this Act, the preceding census taken in1901 will be regarded.
– It is becoming customary with this Ministry to try to rush legislation through on Friday afternoons, when honorable members are leaving for other States, The only explanation that’ we are given for these amendments is that the Parliamentary Draftsman has made suggestions which put various matters beyond doubt. I think that it is beyond doubt that if we allow measures to be rushed through in this way we shall be neglecting our duties to the country. I am not prepared to accept the dictum of the Parliamentary Draftsman.
-I also deprecate the rushing through of business in this manner. The Bill deals with matters of intense moment to the whole of Australia, and particularly to the State of New South Wales.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
When in pursuance of a certificate under this Act an alteration takes place in the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in any State, the alteration shall not take effect-
at any election held before the State has been redistributed into electoral divisions pursuant to the certificate -, nor
at any election to fill a vacancy in a House of Representatives elected before such redistribution, but shall take effect at the first general election after such redistribution.
– The honorable member for North Sydney moved an amendment to this clause, the principle of which I have accepted, submitting the wording to the Parliamentary Draftsman, so that it might be put into proper form. The honorable member for North Sydney has seen the amendments which I proposeto move, and believes that they will carry out his intention. I move: -
That the words “ take effect,” lines 4 and 5, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ affect”; that the word “ at,” lines 6 and 9, be left out ; and that the words “ take effect at the first,” line 12, be left out, with a view to insert in lien thereof the words “ affect any.”
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with further amendments:; reports adopted.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers:-
Return showing the number of persons temporarily employed in the Commonwealth Public Service in the year 1904-5.
Copy of the report upon immigration of the Acting Agent-General for New South Wales.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to know what is likely to be the course of public business next week, and when we are likely to have an opportunity to arrive at a definite decision in regard to the mail contract ?
. -It is proposed to introduce on Tuesday next a; two months’ Supply Bill, which will carry us over until after next month. The consideration of the Commerce. Bill will then beresumed, and that will be followedby the consideration of the Census and Representation Bills. After they have been dealt with, I hope toproceed with the Orient Company’s contract, though, before we do that, the Government must decide on the policy to be pursued in reference to the second contract made by the company with the Queensland Government. I do not think it will be possible for the House to deal with that matter until the week after next,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 September 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050922_reps_2_27/>.