2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The President took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Message received from the House of Representatives stating that it had agreed to the Senate’s amendment No. 1 in this Bill, and also to the Senate’s amendments Nos. 2 and 3, with amendments.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow
asked the Minister representing the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 10th November, vide page 4940):
Clause 5 -
An officer may inspect and examine all pre scribed goods which are imported, or which are entered for export or brought for export to any wharf or place.
The officer may where practicable take sam ples of any goods inspected by him pursuant to this section, and the samples so taken shall be dealt with as prescribed.
Forthe purposes of this section an officer may enter any ship,wharf or place, and may open any packages, and may do all things necessary to enablehim to carry out his powers and duties under this section.
– We have now arrived at clauses of very considerable importance, and I trust that we shall be met by the representatives of the Government in that spirit of fairness which is usual, but which, I think, they did not show last week to those who wished to suggest amendments. When I looked up the debates which took place in the Senate on the Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill last year, I found that the attitude taken by the representatives of the then Government was widely different from that which was exhibited here last week. When Senator McGregor was leading the Government and conducting this measure through the Senate, he said -
I hope that when we get into Committee on the Bill those who have special knowledge of the subject with which it deals, and who have amendments or suggestions to make, will be prepared with them. I can assure honorable senators that every amendment which will have a tendency to make the measure more perfect than it is at present will be favorably regarded by the Government.
No thought of that sort seemed to occupy the minds of the representatives of the present Government here last week.
– Does the honorable senator intend by these remarks to reflect upon the votes given on Friday last, because, if he does, I would draw his attention to standing order 401, which says -
No senator shall reflect upon any vote of the Senate, except for the purpose of moving that such vote be rescinded.
– I am not reflecting upon the votes given by honorable senators, but drawing attention to the spirit in which representatives of the Government and certain honorable senators met amendments proposed from these benches last week.
-I am anxious to ascertain what relation the honorable senator’s remarks have to clause 5, dealing with imports and exports.
– The relationship of my remarks to the question before the Committee is very direct. The matter we are dealing with is of great importance, and when it was before the Senate last year we were met with even a request that we would help to improve the Bill, and I am now suggesting that it would be well if the Government would meet us to-day in a similar spirit, and would believe that we are actuated by a desire, not only to improve the Bill, but to promote what, I suppose, is their object - the interests of Australia. I am putting forward a plea for fair consideration of the remarks which we may have to make, or the amendments which we may feel it our duty to submit. This clause raises the question of empowering the Minister, under prescription, to deal with exports. I donot refer at once to the matter of imports, because the clause begins with again asking for power on the subject of imports which is already conferred by the Customs Act. This is, therefore, a clause specially dealing with exports. I wish honorable senators to be seized of the grave importance of the powers which! are now asked on behalf of Customs officers. Power is asked for them to interfere in practically all directions, to enter any ship, wharf, or place, and open not merely prescribed packages, but any packages, and do anything which, in their judgment, they may deem to be necessary in order to carry out the provision. I believe it would be well if Parliament would confine Customs authorities to the power which they already possess under the Customs Act, and that is the power of dealing with all goods under Customs control. When the question is put I shall vote against the clause. Meanwhile, if any honorable senators wish to submit an amendment, with a view to its improvement, it can be considered by the Committee.
– We have now reached what may be referred to as the heart of the Bill. This clause opens up to us what is contemplated’; and I think that if we will only reflect very briefly on the subject, we shall come to the conclusion that the Bill is going a long way beyond anything which has . ever been contemplated before, or which, so far as I am aware, exists in .any other part of the British Dominions. It is well that we should clearly understand what is proposed in the Bill, and to take a bird’s-eye view of the scope of the legislation which is practically .intended to be initiated by this clause. If standing by itself, it is merely with a view to enable the inspection of goods which happen to be imported or entered for export to take place, then it is either super-adding to or cutting down the powers which already exist under the Customs Act. In its present form ‘ the Bill is practically an amendment of that Act. The two measures are to be read together;, but in its essence the Bill really departs from the principle and object of the English Merchandise Marks Act as in operation in England, and, I believe, in most of the States of Australia, and is restricted, so to speak, to what are in reality Customs provisions. I desire honorable senators to look for a moment ,at what is proposed in this clause. It provides, in the first place, that an officer may “ inspect and examine all prescribed goods which are imported,” and then goes on to provide for goods which are entered for’ export or “ brought for export to any wharf or place.” The intention is first of all to deal with imports, and there is no doubt that certain provisions are salutary and advisable in regard to certain goods. No one can doubt for a moment that there are articles which may or not be prohibited from export. We do not need to travel beyond our existing Customs Act in order to ascertain that the Legislature is in ever country solicitous that certain imports shall not be admitted. Honorable senators will find all this dealt within section 52 of the Customs Act of 1901, which enumerates a considerable list of prohibited imports. I do not intend to occupy time by reading the entire list; but honorable senators, and certainly those who were here when the Customs Bill was passed, will recollect the very lengthy discussion that took place as to the inclusion of certain articles, for instance, “exhausted tea, oleomargarine, butterine, and similar products. There is a sub-list covered by the letters of the alphabet from “a” to “i” enumerating specifically prohibited imports, and providing in regard to other goods which may be prohibited by proclamation. Any one who considers how the Customs Act ought to be framed and administered will recognise that as a very salutary and necessary provision. There is also a provision, showing that this is entirely a matter for the Customs Act, with regard to prohibited exports, which are of a much more limited and restricted character, as shown by a reference to sections in and 112. These goods are greatly restricted for a very obvious reason. We do not wish to do either one of two things; we do not wish to restrict in any way exports from this country - it would be nonsensical to talk of doing anything of the kind - nor do we wish to proclaim to the world, with whom we do business, that the exports from Australia are of such a character, and open to such suspicion, that special legislation is necessary in order to overhaul them and put a brand on them so as to prevent people being misled and injured by their consumption. I0 mention these matters generally, in order to show that, while in regard to imports, there must be some kind of legislation and restriction as to what is prohibited and what is not—
– What is practicable.
– Yes; some kind of fairly practicable restriction, so that anybody may clearly understand what the prohibited imports are, and that we are not handing over carte blanche, to the Minister of the day, who may or may not be trusted in relation to these matters, power to unnecessarily interfere. But, in my opinion, the Customs Act provides for all that is requisite in regard to imports. It is necessary that there should be specific legislation dealing with what we know as fraudulent descriptions ; that is, descriptions of goods, the importation of which may lead to the consumption of adulterated or deleterious products.
– Food, for instance. Undoubtedly, such legislation is very desirable and necessary, but I point out that any legislation by the Commonwealth Parliament in this respect will utterly and absolutely fail, unless, on theo part of the States themselves, there is legislation in relation’ to internal trade. We may do what we please in order to insure that goods landed on the wharfs shall answer particular descriptions, but the moment those goods come to oe distributed, opportunity ;is afforded, if it be desired, by not very honest traders, for adulteration and all the other mischiefs which, unhappily, are occasionally incidental to trade. It is well to legislate in respect to misdescriptions, and say that goods bearing such descriptions shall not be admitted; that kind of legislation exists in England as part of the Merchandise Marks Act. But the Bill, of which clause 5 is the initial clause of a series, goes a great deal further. I do not think it has been realized what the Bill proposes to do in respect of imports’; and we ought to consider these clauses with the utmost care. This legislation is proposed not merely with- a view to excluding imports that are improperly marked, as to which’, as Senator Mulcahy say®, there ought to be proper and practicable legislation. The Bill goes on, beginning with clause 5, to prescribe that goods shall not be imported unless they bear a mark which the Minister may prescribe.
– Nor exported.
– Exports are a much more serious matter ; Taut, at present I am dealing simply with imports; and I say that the provision is fundamentally bad. Let us prohibit, if we like, goods, particularly foods for consumption, which bear a false and fraudulent description, but we have no right to put it in the power of any Minister, at any moment, to prescribe by regulation, which may, at the particular time, not have a chance of coming before Parliament, that some particular mark shall be placed on particular imports.
– The honorable and learned senator is discussing the whole principle of the Act, and not this particular clause.
– Surely the Minister will not prevent me from discussing the principle of the clause which bears on all the- other clauses?
– This is a secondreading speech.
– I am not making a second-reading speech, and “I ask the Minister not to interfere with interjections, but to rise and explain the provisions of the Bill, if he understands them. I am placing before honorable senators my view of the effect of this par ticular clause 5, which is the first of a series.
– I think the honorable and learned senator is quite in order.
– It is not my intention to address myself to every clause as it comes before us. I am- now dealing with the first of a series of clauses; and I say that it is bad, first, because it deals with imposts; and, secondly, because it deals not with fraudulent marks, in regard to which we ought to legislate, but with marks which may be prescribed by the Minister for any reason or no reason, and without which the goods cannot be ‘prohibited. If honorable senators are convinced that what the clause proposes is right and proper, and that the Minister ought to be intrusted with’ this power, then .the provision may be passed unamended. But’ we .have no precedent, so far as I know, of any legislation of the kind in any country of the world.
– That is no argument against the clause, if it be not bad in itself. My own opinion is that it is bad.
– If honorable senators feel that there is no reason for adopting this departure, by all means let us pass the first part of the clause. Of course, the absence of precedent is no argument if the clause be good ; but we must not overlook the fact that there is not a precedent for such a piece of legislation, so far as I am aware, in any country of the world, certainly not in England. It is provided in the clause that we are not merely to shut out goods which’ are fraudulently marked, but that we are to shut out goods, no matter what their quality may be, if they do not bear the mark which the Minister prescribes, for any or for’ no reason. A Minister may prescribe a mark with the very object of shutting out particular goods, and honorable senators ought to realize what the Bill means before they pass it.
-. - Power must be given to the Minister, if goods bear no mark at all.
– Why give the power to say that there shall be a mark? That is the whole question. If the goods are not marked-
– Then they evade all control.
– They do nothing of the kind, because we have just passed a clause, which was placed in the Imperial Act of 1891, for the very purpose of providing for a Customs entry, which must contain a description of what the goods are.
– But such goods are not marked.
– Senator Guthrie must see that this Bill places it inthe power of the Minister to exclude from importation any goods he chooses, for no reason or for any reason. That is a very serious provision, which I intend to resist becoming law to the utmost of my power. The next part of the clause relates to exports. The effect of this clause would be to damn Australian produce in the eyes of people in. other countries who. deal with us. It in reality declares that our produce is so “ blown upon,” and so liable to be adulterated, and deceive our customers in countries remote from Australia, that the Legislature of the Commonwealth has found it necessary to provide that goods which are not enumerated, but may be prescribed-
– They are enumerated.
– The classes of goods are enumerated.
– The goods are limited, at any rate.
– The classes are limited, but the goods are not enumerated, the clause referring to “ all prescribed goods “ which are “ entered for export or brought for export to any wharf or place.” That clause leaves us open to the imputation that there is a necessity for this legislation, to put the matter in no other way. It leaves us open to the imputation that there is a necessity for stringent examination of the goods we sell, because there is a general practice current in the commercial and trading classes, and in the producing classes as well, to export goods which are fraudulently marked.
– Has that not been done ?
– I am not aware that it has ; but, if it has been done, are we to publish it abroad all over the world ? Let us stop the practice as far as we can in the instances in which it applies.
– This Bill is designed to stop the practice.
– It is designed to destroy the trade of Australia so far as I can see.
– Rubbish !
– We are placing in the Bill a placard which must intimate to our customers that, in the particular classes of goods indicated, though not specified, we are so utterly dishonest that it is necessary to legislate to protect those customers, and prevent them from being misled. If it were limited to that, it would be sufficiently mischievous. Of what use as it to complain of peoplein the old country giving us a bad name, or of Australians who do not praise the legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament? People must be honest. If any one asks what this measure means, we can only say that it is a libel on the producers of Australia. We can only say that it is mischievous legislation. How else are we to defend Australia from the inferences which may be drawn from the passing of a Bill of this kind ?
– There are dishonest exporters.
– I do not know that there are, but, in any case, I fail to see why we should brand a large class of goods in the way proposed because there are two or three dishonest exporters.
– Does the honorable senator contend that this will brand the whole of our exporters as dishonest?
– Yes; we are dealing here not with two or three exporters.
– The Bill is of general application.
– It is of general application, and if it reaches thestatutebook it will be a great placard announcing that, in respect of these particular matters, the manufacturers, traders, and merchants of Australia are a dishonest lot of scoundrels.
– If that is so, the same might be said when we legislate against fraud in any direction. A law does not brand every one ; it Is aimed at a few.
– I am trying to point out what this Bill provides. It is, intended to be of general application. We have, by our legislation, done enough injury. It is ofno use to ask me, or any one else, to hold our tongues when we are asked to express an opinion on legislation which is disparaging to Australia. I say that this Bill is ill-considered. I am not blaming the Government in any way ; but, in dealing with the measure, I say it is unwise to attempt to place such a Bill upon the statute-book. If it were a mere matter of Customs regulation, I should not take any particular pains about it; but I am anxious that we should uphold our reputation, and that we should not give a fresh handle, to those who are only too ready to run down everything that relates to Australia. I take the earliest opportunity to protest against the passing of this clause. So far as regards mere inspection, the provision is quite unnecessary, because there is a power to inspect, as there ought to be, under the Customs Act; but I do object to the use of the word “ prescribed “ as applied to goods that are imported. If it is intended that this measure shall deal with fraudulent descriptions, let us plainly say so. Do not let us limit it- to any goods that are hereafter prescribed. We have already in the Customs Act a distinct section dealing with prohibited imports. Let us adopt a similar course here. The object of the clause, so far as it refers to imports, is to keep out those that are fraudulently or improperly described, in order to prevent adulteration of foods, and so forth. We can provide for that by inserting in the Bill a schedule of the goods with which we propose to deal. I move -
That the word “prescribed,” lines i and 2, be left out.
If this’ amendment is accepted, I shall subsequently, move’ the insertion, after the word “ imported,” of the words “ enumerated in the schedule.” I propose the amendment, not with a view to binding Ministers in any way to adopt the method proposed, but in order to signify that the imported goods which ought to be the subject of this legislation should be goods fraudulently marked. Honorable senators will find that in the Imperial Merchandise Marks Act the goods which are prohibited from being imported are goods bearing a fraudulent mark, and no other. If we are legislating on the same lines, and for the same purpose, we should limit the prohibition of imported goods- to goods of that character.
Senator STEWART (Queensland).While listening to Senator Symon’s speech, I was wondering whether, after all, I had not been labouring under some tremendous delusion. The honorable senator has stated that, from his point of view, the clause is intended to destroy the trade of Australia, and will have that effect. My im pression was that the intention of the Government, in submitting the Bill, was not to destroy the trade of Australia, but to build it up and to give Australian goods such a reputation in the markets of the world that there would be no difficulty in finding buyers for them, because a guarantee would De given as to their purity and value in the country of origin.
– Is there any difficulty now ?
– Senator Gray has not been keeping himself abreast of the times. There has been a great difficulty, not in connexion with only one export, but in connexion with several. We have heard, for instance, that a very large quantity of inferior butter has been exported from Australia and placed on the English market.
– Does the honorable senator desire to stop all that?
– Yes, I do. We have been told that the worst class of butter has been sold in the English market as Australian butter, while the best Australian butter is on many occasions sold as Danish, Irish, or English butter.
– How can we prevent that?
– We can prevent butter that is under a certain standard of quality leaving Australian shores unless it is distinctly marked as what it is.
– That will not affect the English public. They do not deal direct with Australian producers, but through the interveners.
– I am aware of that. We have great difficulty with the intervener. He is not on] v the enemy of enterprise and production in Australia, but also in Great Britain.
– Surely not always.
– Very often. Have not honorable senators read the report of the Victorian Butter Commission, and are they not aware that it may be applied to almost every other industry ? We have abundance of proof that not only is our export trade killed by the intervener, but that a large number of industries within our own borders are killed by the persons whom Senator Gray calls the “ interveners.”
– This Bill does not touch the interveners.
– It sets up a standard of quality. Instead of the result being, as Senator Symon seems to anticipate, that this measure will have the effect of branding Australian goods as inferior in all the markets of the world, it will have exactly the opposite effect.
– Hear, hear; it would brand them as superior.
– The people in other markets of the world will say, “ The Government of Australia oversees the production of these goods, and see to it that no inferior articles leave Australian shores.”
– This Bill does not provide for anything of the sort. It provides merely that a person can export anything he pleases, so long as his goods are properly marked.
– So long as he states exactly what they are. Is not that something ?
– Suppose he brands butter with the words “Inferior butter “?
– Then it will be sold as inferior butter.
– How will that affect us?
– At the present time, and without this legislation the same goods may be sold as first-class Australian butter. The measure is not by any means as perfect as I should like to see it ; I think it should be made much more stringent, but it is at least a very substantial advance on the present condition of affairs. At first blush I felt inclined to support Senator Symon’s amendment, but on thinking the matter over, I believe it would not be wise to adopt such an amendment.
– If we had a schedule of the goods we should know what we are dealing with.
– The schedule would require to be prepared now, and added to the Bill before it was passed, whereas if we leave the matter to regulation, whenever the necessity arises a regulation can be framed to at once apply the Bill to particular goods which are being dealt with under a false trade description. If we adopt the course of adding, a schedule of goods to the Bill, we may omit some that should be included, and include some which it may not be .necessary to include. I intend to support the clause as it stands.
– I hope the Committee will accept my assurance that I propose to offer no factious opposition to the passing of this Bill. I desire, as a business man, to pass workable provisions, to give practical effect to the beneficent principle underlying this Bill. The whole of the debate on the measure but tends to strengthen my belief in the necessity for’ expert advice in dealing with it. It is proposed to call upon people to accurately describe their goods, whether imports or exports. Our object is, with regard to imports, to protect the public, and, with regard to exports, to protect the reputation of the Commonwealth. These are desirable things. But the question is - Can we, by legislation, carry out those objects? For the sake of illustration, let me assume that this Bill,, as it stands, has become an Act of Parliament, and that a Customs inspector has been sent down to overlook a certain shipment for the purpose of seeing whether the goods comply with the description of them, as invoiced. Let us assume that the object of his inspection is to protect the public. To begin with, we are not going to protect the consumer by means of this Bill. We are hoping that the States will do that later on, if it can possibly be done. We are going to protect the importer ; and the importer generally knows a great deal more about the goods in his own trade than the inspector does. Assume that the inspector finds a piece of material invoiced as union. Very well ; he is not satisfied as to whether it is a union of linen or cotton, or whether it is a piece of calico or a piece of linen. He has to go to an analyst, to get that question determined. He takes a sample to an analyst, who tells him that the stuff is union - that is, that it contains both linen and cotton. But that piece of stuff may be union of the very highest quality, and its value may be greater than that of a piece of pure linen of coarse make. It may be a far better wearing material, and there may be no intention of deceiving the public in regard to it.
– The honorable senator instanced goods invoiced as union.
– What protectionto the public is there in marking the goods as union? Absolutely none, as I shall be prepared to demonstrate by producing samples upon the table of the Senate. Take the three materials which I have just referred to - cotton, linen, and union. I have brought some samples of materials with me, so as to be able to show honorable senators that, with the best intentions possible, this measure will not do anything that will be of material advantage to the public, or tha’t will protect the importer. Let me begin with the simplest illustration I can give. I hold in my hand a linen handkerchief. It is made of material manufactured by one of the best Belfast houses - a house known all over the world as being thoroughly honest. I hold in my other hand another linen handkerchief. Both are pure linen. But the handkerchief first mentioned is sold at 18s. a dozen, whereas the second is purchasable at 5s. 2d. a dozen. The same description - “ linen handkerchiefs “ - applies to both. What assurance has a man who goes into a shop to buy a linen handkerchief that he will not be charged 1s. 6d. for the inferior article? What protection does this Bill afford? The next day the same customer may go into another shop and buy a linen handkerchief priced as low as 6d. He gets a pure linen handkerchief in the second case, just as he did in the first. But everything depends upon the quality of the linen.
– Does not the purchaser know what he is buying?
– As a rule, he does not.
– If cotton is sold as linen, it is a fraud upon the purchaser.
– What I am pointing out is that some cotton handkerchiefs are of better quality and higher price than some linen ones.
– This kind of thing is known to us all.
– Then we should be all the more careful about the provisions of this Bill, because if there is no protection to the public there is no use in passing such legislation. I have here two pieces of woollen serge. They are both guaranteed as being pure woollen serge. The one, however, is made of what is known as cross-bred wool. It is a pure woollen material, and can be sworn to as such. It is sold at 3s. a yard. I also have here another piece of pure woollen serge, which is sold at 10s. a yard. Both goods come in under the same title, and there are forty or fifty qualities intervening between the two. Woollen serges are sold in all sorts of qualities at all sorts of prices, and they are all pure wool. What protection is afforded to the public with regard to such goods by means of this Bill ?
– The public do not want protection in that case.
– If we do not need these provisions, why pass them ?
– We want them, in order to stop shoddy from coming in as wool.
– Suppose we were to compel the importer to mark stuff as “ shoddy.” Would that afford any protection to the public? There are various qualities in shoddy. I have here a piece of material 50 inches wide, which is sold at1s. a yard. It is shoddy. Another piece of material of the same width is sold at2s. a yard. It also is shoddy.
– Are those goods marked “ shoddy “ in the shop ?
– Of what use would it be to mark them as shoddy ? A man knows whenhe buys a suit of clothes for 10s. or 12s. 6d. that he is not getting a pure woollen material. Say that a man goes into a shop to buy a complete suit. He wants them cheap. Certain goods are put on the counter before him. He buys a suit for 12s. 6d. Surely he does not want any one to tell him that the stuff is shoddy. He knows it must be. It is impossible for it to be anything else.
– That is an extreme case.
– One naturally selects an extreme case to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of some of the provisions of this Bill.
– Would it not be a fraud if such goods were branded “ wool “ ?
– They would not be branded as wool. Would any one expect that a suit of clothes costing anything under a couple of pounds would be pure wool? As a matter of fact, they could not be. Nothing that we can do, however, will prevent a dishonest shopkeeper from taking advantage of a customer.
– This Bill does not apply to shopkeepers.
– The argument has been used that if we in the Australian Parliament do our duty it will rest with the States Parliaments to follow up our legislation. I am pointing out that, so far as fabrics are concerned, there are thousands of cases in regard to which it will be impossible to put upon goods any mark or brand that will be any indication of their real quality. The price of the article alone, combined with the credit of the retailer, is the means by which the public determines the quality of goods.
– Is not the honorable senator quoting a case to suit his argument ?
– Surely that is what I am here for.
– The honorable senator is taking one case out of hundreds.
– The same considerations will apply in respect to other goods. I have before me several samples. One is a best fronting linen which is sold at 2s. 8d. a yard. I have also another piece of pure linen - guaranteed’ pure - which is sold at 9¼d. a yard. Both are fronting linens, and both are pure. It- is the fineness of the weaving, and the quality of the fibre used, that determine the ‘price. Linens can be bought at far lower prices even than 9¼d. I have here also a piece of union - consisting of linen and cotton - which is sold at 11?d. It- is therefore a higher-priced article tRan the other which is a pure linen material.
– There is nothing in this Bill to say that it is not a higher-class article.
– It is evident that the honorable senator does not understand the difficulties in regard to trade.
– I have heard a great deal about the tricks of trade.
– And we have also heard a good deal about what are known as the tricks of politicians.
– And when they are combined it is a curious mixture.
– Unfortunately, the cap does not fit, for politics has pretty well knocked me out of trade.’ These qualities overlap each other. It is possible to purchase & union, the price of which is higher, and which is a better material than a low-grade linen. You can also purchase a cotton which again overlaps a union, and is higher in price than a lowclass union. These remarks apply, of course, only to one particular branch of trade, but I ca.n very well understand that the same considerations may be carried a great deal further. There are certain things as to which the public do require to be protected from themselves and from the importer. Those goods come under the heading of imports of foods. Goods that are manufactured for use as food stand in a class by themselves. We should do all we can to see that .they are wholesome, but we require to make certain that it is possible to carry out the provisions that we enact. In regard to exports, the Bill provides that exporters are required to furnish descriptions where goods are prescribed. Here, again, so tar as the trade in fabrics is concerned, and so far as concerns woollens exported from Australia - if any are exported - It is very doubtful if we can give any application’ to the clause. I have very little misgiving, so far as woollen exports are concerned, because Australia has not yet become a woollen-exporting country. Honorable senators say that the Minister will not do such silly things as sometimes are insinuated; but we do not know what a particular Minister may do. We are framing a law, and it will be the duty of any Minister to try to administer that law according to the intention of Parliament. A man, even although actuated by the best intentions, might make serious mistakes, which would militate very greatly against the success of our export trade. I have already stated what has happened in Tasmania, where the legi.sla.tors did possess some knowledge of the export trade in apples. We are asked to empower the Minister to require, if he pleases, that all shipments, of fruit shall be inspected, whether it suits the shipper or not. That inspection is quite unnecessary. The trade has developed without the aid of such legislation, and is increasing every year. It will place the trade at a very great disadvantage if we give to the Minister a power which he might exercise, even with the best of intentions, in> an arbitrary and’ improper manner. What is the remedy? It seems to me that Senator Symon has proposed the right remedy, and that is to prescribe in a schedule not merely the classes of goods, but the different lines, that we wish to have inspected prior to exportation. I cannot shut my ears to the arguments which have been adduced by Senator Pearce with, regard to the export of leather. In the interests of the manufacturers themselves it is desirable that properly-made leather should be exported.. There are some articles which should be inspected with a view to keeping up the reputation of our exports, but there are other articles which cannot be inspected with: advantage to the country. Undoubtedly the underlying principle of the Bill is good and sound, but the questions to be considered are: “How far can it be carried out with advantage?” and “Where is it likely to cause harm?”
– I only rise to say a few words, because it is not my intention to make a second-reading speech. At the previous stage .the principle of the Bill was affirmed by a good majority, and the Committee has to deal with, the’ details only. It is considering clause 5, but almost the whole of the last speech was directed to an alteration of clause 15, by the omission of paragraph d, which relates to apparel, including boots and shoes, and the materials from which they are manufactured. lt is better not to anticipate the discussion of that clause. I want to deal with the amendment of Senator Symon, who says that the1 power which clause s proposes to give is, so far as imports are concerned, a.1 ready contained in the Customs Act. Under that Act we have the power to inspect imports, but we have no power to take samples of them. This clause enables us to take samples, and it is a very important addition to our powers. We must be placed in a position to direct the inspectors to deal with exports in the same way as they can now deal with imports. I ask honorable senators to agree to the clause on the ground that it gives a very necessary power to Customs officers.
– Do the Government intend to have experts at each port?
– I have heard that question asked many times, and I am getting pretty tired of listening to it. We have already stated that experts will be required.
– Why does not the Minister give a straight answer?
– I gave a straight answer previously, and I do not know why I should be asked to repeat the answer over and over again. The honorable senator recalls the story of the character in Dickens, who was always thinking of King Charles’ head. He is, a man with one idea,- and. he embodies it in the question : “ Are you going to have experts to look at your linen . and cotton goods, and to examine your woollens?”
– The Minister has not given an answer vet to my question.
– We shall have experts where they are required. I shall oppose the amendment of Senator Symon. If it were passed, I should drop the Bill at once, because it would be impossible for the Government and its officers, to enumerate all the articles. We want the power given to us in this way, because, day by day, we find out the tricks which have been practised upon us.- We want power to make regulations to deal with these tricks and frauds, without having to come to Parliament for a special Act. It must be remembered that the Government have to place the regulations before the two Houses, and that’ if either House should think that the Minister has done wrong then, by merely passing a resolution, it can put an end to all the wicked things which are ascribed to him )by Senator Gray, who has a most depressing idea of the depravity of human nature. He makes no exception in favour of politicians or Ministers. He is always asking us to look at the honest traders or. honest merchants. Look at the honest firm which the other day was quite willing to pay £2,500 for legal expens.es and a fine of ^500 rather than let the facts come out in open Court. These are the sort of men with whom we have to deal, and whom the honorable senator is constantly championing. If the Committee strike out the power of the Minister to prescribe goods by regulation, it will administer a fatal blow to the Bill; therefore I must oppose the amendment.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I desire to know from the Minister whether the Committee is to understand that the other day the Government accepted a bribe from a certain firm in Melbourne to prevent ‘the facts of a case from coming out.
– Who said so?
– I have never before heard a responsible Minister of the Crown make such a statement in Parliament as the honorable senator has just made.
– What is the terrible statement I made?
– The honorable senator said distinctly that a certain firm in Melbourne had paid .£2,500 rather than let the facts come out.
– But not to the Government.
– The money was. paid with the approval of the .Minister of Trade and Customs, and accepted by him as a fair and_ satisfactory settlement. The state into which the Minister worked himself just now is as nothing compared with the state into which the trade of Australia might be worked if these unheard-of pro- posalswere enacted. Suppose that tomorrow an importation of Worcestershire sauce arrived, and it was said that the article was not genuine. I should like to see the Minister of Trade and Customs trying to make an experiment on a bottle of the sauce, and satisfy himself as to whether it was genuine or not. Biscuits of all sorts, and values are imported. How is any Minister to draw up regulations to define biscuits? By this Bill we are creating numerous offences. What we want is a simple Bill to make fraud punishable whereever it be found to exist, and not a Bill to enable the Minister to prescribe how a certain article, about which he knows nothing, shall be marked, with the possibility that a failure to give certain information, or an error, may cause the party concerned to appear at a police Court as a criminal. That is not the sort of legislation by which to crush absolute crime, and if honorable senators be wise they will put the Bill in the waste-paper basket.
– It would have been better, and more in keeping with the business in hand, if the Minister of Defence had addressed one or two arguments to the exact amendment which I have moved, rather than have loudly denounced a firm in a very improper way, and dragged in by the hair “ King Charles’ head.” When we are discussing a business matter of this kind, it is well for the Minister to show some sense of proportion as to the time at the disposal of the Senate. I do not think the time was well spent in making unjust reflections on a firm, which happened to be a party to litigation, in which the Commonwealth was the other party, and between whom an arrangement was made, though certainly, as far as I can see, not for the purpose of shutting out facts. The Minister tells us that that is his inference; but, if so, he ought not “ to measure other people’s corn by his bushel.” He ought not to make a reflection of an unkind character after a case has been settled. It is always desirable after a compromise has been arrived at in litigation of the kind, that neither of the parties shall be exposed to such insinuations and statements as have been made to-day - insinuations that a compromise was arrived at in order to prevent the facts being made public. The Minister does not seem to realize what my amendment is.
– I think I do.
– The Minister does not appear to do so, and if he thinks he is going to push the Bill through by jumping up and shouting that he will drop the measure the moment any amendment is made-
– I did not say so.
– The Minister did say so.
– I referred onlyto this amendment.
– The Minister has norightto make a statement of the kind on the floor of the Chamber, whatever he may think or feel. He has no right to endeavour to prevent debate, by threatening that’ he will throw the Bill into the waste-paper basket if that amendment be carried. The Minister, as I said before, does not seem to realize what my amendment means. Has the Minister referred to clause 9? That clause explains why, in the few remarks I made by way of interjection, I was desirous of drawing attention to what the real object of the Bill is. Clause 9, which is the very key-note of the measure, provides -
No person shall import any goods to which a false trade description is applied.
That is what the Bill is for; it is not to enable the Minister to prescribe that any goods he chooses may be inspected, but to prevent the importation of goods to which a false trade description is applied. There is no necessity to have any goods prescribed by the Minister. It either ought to be provided that an officer may inspect and examine all goods, or we ought to specify in a schedule the goods he has to inspect. If the object of the Minister be to have power to inspect all goods in order to prevent the importation of goods possibly bearing a false description, then the word”prescribed” is unnecessary. Why should the Minister limit the examination of goods to those which he prescribed, if the object of the Bill is to prevent the importation of any goods to which a false description is applied? The Minister referred to clause 15, which limits the application of the Bill, but only as to clauses 7 and 11. I ask the Minister whether the goods, which are to be liable to inspection, are those referred to in clause 15? If they are, where is the necessity for the word” prescribed “ ? If inspection is to be confined to the classes of goods indicated in clause 15, then all that is necessary is to enumerate them in a schedule, whichwould simply be a repetition of the clause. I have no desire to interfere with the efficacy of the Bill, if it has to be passed, but as clause 15 does limit the classes of goods to which clauses 7 and11 apply, why not limit the power of inspection to those goods?
– Surely a Minister could not prescribe any goods which are not enumerated in clause 15?
– I do not think the Minister could. My amendment will give the Minister time to consider whether or not it is necessary to have a schedule or whether clause 15 is sufficient. I do not desire to anticipate, but it is quite obvious that clause 5, as well as clauses 7 and 11, ought to be controlled by clause 15; otherwise, by means of the simple word “prescribe,” the operation of the clause under discussion will be extended beyond the limitation of clause 15. The omission of the word “prescribe” would be in no sense as fatal either to the principle or working of the Bill, but it would make the legislation harmonious, and confer the power of inspection on all goods coming within the operation of the measure. If clause 15 sufficiently defines the operation of the measure, then that clause is enough ; if clause 15 does not sufficiently define the operation of the measure, then the additional matters ought to be set out, and not left to be prescribed by the Minister. From these points of view, without entering upon larger and wider matters, the Minister, it seems to me, ought to accept the amendment. If the word “prescribe” be left out, and the Minister assures us that the Bill is to apply to the classes of commodities enumerated in clause 15, I shall support an amendment to include clause 5 with clauses 7 and11, as governed by clause 15. Such an amendment would have the effect of making the whole provision perfectly intelligible.
– We should very probably require fresh legislation next year.
– Because some other kind of trickery than that contemplated by clause 15 may have then been devised.
-Surely the Government do not intend to extend the operation of the Bill beyond the classes of good mentioned in clause 15?
– The Government have the power under the Bill.
– Surely the Government will not go beyond clause 15, because, otherwise, we are deceiving the other branch of the Legislature. We ought to know at once whether it is contemplated that other classes of goods than those mentioned in clause 15 are to be brought within the operation of the Bill. Up to now, I have been under the impression that the members of the Government in another place introduced clause 15 in response to a general feeling there that the classes of goods should be limited.
– Clause 15 was introduced in consequence of a deputation.
– I was not aware of that fact. If what Senator Trenwith says may correctly define the attitude of the Government, we ought to be informed as to whether it really is intended to place this enormous power into the hands of the Minister. The position at present is certainly very difficult to understand. Is it intended to give power to deal with classes of goods other than those mentioned in clause 15 ?
– What would be the use of inspection if there was no power to do anything further?
– The mere power of inspection would not enable the Government to take any action ; clauses 7 and 11 are the operative clauses, and the inspection would be a useless ceremony if extended to other classes of goods.
– I fail to see that Senator Symon has given an additional reason why the Committee should adopt his amendment, the acceptance of which would place us in a quandary. We should at once have placed on us the obligation to make a schedule.
– Not if clause 15 is exhaustive.
– I think that clause 15 is not exhaustive.
– It certainly is not exhaustive.
– The clause is inclusive. If we adopt the amendment of Senator Symon, the obligation will be cast on the Committee to enumerate the particular classes of goos.
– Does the honorable senator mean that the whole commerce of Australia is included within the operation of the Bill ?
– The whole commerce of Australia, so far as it is within the con- trol of the Commonwealth, comeswithin the operation of the measure.
– That is a different matter.
SenatorMulcahy. - Does Senator Pearce hold that, under clause 5, all goods either coming in or going out of Australia can be compulsorily inspected ?
– I believe so.
– With what object?
– With the object of obtaining information.
– It may be with the object of protecting life.
– The object may be to enable the people of Australia to know what they are consuming, or to enable consumers of Australian produce to know what they are buying.
– If that is the only object, it can be attained under the Customs Act.
– As the Minister of Defence pointed out, while there are certain powers under the Customs Act, there is no power to take samples of goods inspected.
– Why should samples be wanted?
– For analysis.
– But nothing can be done under clauses 7 and 11 in regard to goods not enumerated in clause 15.
– It is possible that no penalty could be inflicted, but the power to inspect exports and imports is very valuable.
– But surely there would not be inspection for mere curiosity !
– There would be inspection for the purpose of obtaining information. During my speech on the second reading, I gave an instance in which no money penalty could be inflicted, but in which the punishment was quite as severe. That was the case of the manufacturer who loaded his leather with the product known as barium.
– Buyers will not purchase such leather.
– I am afraid the honorable senator does not know what he is talking about. In the case which I cited it was only one of all the manufacturers in Victoria who so loaded his leather, and the Government of Victoria had no power to inflict a penalty. I happen to know, however, that this manufacturer used every effort to prevent the publication of his name in connexion with the statement of the facts, because such publication might at one stroke have destroyed his business, and thus proved a much more drastic punishment than any fine. The clause as it stands 1s, in my opinion, sufficient. Neither Senator Symon nor any other honorable senator has given any information as to what the proposed schedule should contain, and, therefore, in this connexion the Committee are in the dark.
– It is for the Government to say what they propose.
– The Government are not making the alteration. They are satisfied with the Bill as it stands.
– It is for the Government to specify the schedule.
– The Minister pointed out that the Government must have power to adapt the Bill to the changing conditions of trade without the necessity of carrying amending legislation. When one avenue for roguery is stopped upwe know that the rogue will look round for other avenues. Are we to pass fresh legislation upon this subject every time a new avenue for roguery is discovered? We know that it is very difficult for legislation to keep pace with roguery as it is.
– It never can; it does not within “ cooee “ of it.
– Then it is surely a mistake to handicap this legislation by making it necessary to carry an amending measure every time a new avenue for roguery in connexion with the subject with whichit deals is discovered.
– What was the use of inserting clause 15 if it is intended thatthe Bill should apply to all exports and imports ?
- Senator Gray must be aware that clause 15 owes its, present shape to the efforts of his friends in another place to limit the application of the Bill as much as possible. I shall vote against the amendment for the reasons I have stated.
– The debate has revealed the fact that the effect of the Bill will be more farreaching than was at first anticipated. Various Chambers of Commerce have sent in petitions against the Bill, butthey could have had no idea that it will have such a far-reaching effect as has been disclosed. I admit that it was generally understood that the object of the Bill was to prevent the fraudulent importation and exportation of certain articles. Honorable senators will recollect that a deputation recently waited on Sir William Lyne to represent that the Bill extended very much further than was necessary in the interests of the community. The Minister of Trade and Customs at the time promised that the goods included, in paragraphs d and e of clause 15 should not be affected by the measure. I am under the impression that what he said was that the intention was, to legislate only with regard to articles of food and medicines, and he was quite willing to limit the application of the Bill to such articles. When it came before the House of Representatives it was determined to include articles of apparel, seeds and plants, and manures. It if. clear that the idea running through the minds of Sir William Lyne and the members of the deputation that waited upon him was that the Bill was to apply to certain articles of commerce specified in the measure itself.
– A number of amendments which would have had the effect of widening the scope of the Bill were defeated in Committee in another place.
.- That is very possible, but I wish honorable senators to bear in mind what was the intention when the Bill was introduced. I am satisfied that it was believed that clause 5 would only apply to the articles specified in clause 15.
– As introduced it was provided that the Bill should apply to any goods the Minister might prescribe.
.- That is possible; but the Minister of Trade and ‘Customs promised the deputation that waited upon him to limit its application.
– Clause 5 originally contained the words, “ all prescribed goods.” Then clause 15 was inserted, limiting the goods to which the Bill should apply, and clause 5 should have been amended, but was not. I have the original Bill before me.
.- That being the case, it is evident that it was never intended that the Bill should apply to every possible article thai might be imported or exported. Having now made the discovery that the application of the Bill is very much wider than was intended, it is only right that we should so amend it as to bring it within the intention of honorable members in another place, in order that they may not be taken by surprise.
– The honorable senator desires that we should assume that honorable’ members in another place did not know what they were doing when they passed the Bill.
.- I desire that we should assume that when they passed clause 15, honorable members in another place believed that they were limiting the scope of the Bill to the articles mentioned in that clause. If we pass clause 5 as it stands, it may very well be said that we have determined to put the whole trade of the Commonwealth in fetters. I decline to believe that any Minister, however able, honest, and well-advised, is in a position to exercise such powers as are here conferred with advantage to the Commonwealth. While I deprecate, as much as any honorable senator can, dishonest trading, and the placing of fraudulent marks upon goods in order to mislead the public, it would, in my opinion, be better to run all the risks arising from, that than to put the whole of the commerce of the Commonwealth in fetters, and to place its control in the hands of any one man, no matter how able and honest he might be.
– It would not be in the hands of one man. The goods must be prescribed by regulations, which must be submitted to Parliament.
– Does not Senator Trenwith realize the fact that the regulations will have full force and effect until they are objected to by Parliament? The Minister must present the regulations to Parliament within thirty days of their publication, but if Parliament is in recess they may not be presented until thirty days after its next meeting.
– Thev can have no effect until three months after they are made.
– I am not certain about that, but Parliament may not be sitting when they are made.
– Although the Minister may prescribe any article of trade, it is reasonable to assume that he will only do so upon fitting representation.
– Is it not much more reasonable that Parliament should determine the matter?
– No ; Parliament could not do so from day to day.
.- Then of what use is Parliament at all? Is it simply to pass legislation providing that Ministers may do as they please?
– It does so within certain limits. It must do so as a necessity of the case; administration could not go on otherwise.
– Honorable senators cannot point to any Parliament in Australasia which, within a period of five years, has thrown so much power into the hands of Ministers by regulations as has the Commonwealth Parliament.
– Because Parliament is finding it more convenient in every way to deal with certain matters’ by regulations.
– No; because members of Parliament shirk their responsibilitiy, and shunt it on to Ministers for the time being. We may have an able Minister administering this law, or an ignorant and incapable Minister, who, though he might not be long in office, coulddo an immense amount of mischief in a short time.
– He would not be long enough in office to pass regulations under this Bill.
.- The honorable senator must know very well that he might be long enough in office to pass regulations under this measure. We may not approve of a particular member of the Cabinet, but we may object to turn out the Ministry of which he is a member inorder to get rid of him. Senator Symon has submitted what 1 believe to be a reasonable proposal, ana suggests that if Ministers object to insert a schedule of goods, they should agree to make clause 5 apply only to the goods mentioned in clause 15. In the first instance, in dealing with this measure, much was said as to the necessity of preserving the public health. We were told that it was practically a Health Bill, intended to deal with the adulteration of food and drink. Now, however, the measure is given the widest possible scope, and is made to apply to -
It will be found that paragraph d meets the case cited by Senator Pearce, where a man chose to prepare leather with some material which rendered it an inferior article, and thereby prejudiced the sale of other leathers exportedfrom Australia. If the Bill is to have the scope proposed, it will do an illimitable amount of injury to the commerce of Australia, because every article of export will be branded as possibly “bad.” Some honorable senator has suggested that petty thieves object to certain legislation dealing with them, but criminal legislation is not on the same footing as this Bill. In all criminal legislation we act upon the principle that a man is innocent until he is proved guilty. We do not bring a man before a police court, and say to him, “We are going to have an examination to find out whether you are a thief or not.” But under this Bill every article of export and import is liable to be taken possession of by the Minister.
SenatorMulachy. - Without any apparent object.
– Not until he has made a regulation.
-He cannot impose a penalty by regulation, and there is no apparent object except mere curiosity.
.- The object alluded to by Senator Pearce is that a man might be shown up as being a. dishonest trader, and, as the honorable senator has stated, he might by that means be punished more severely than by any penalty imposed by the Bill. I protest against the Committee passing a clause having such a far-reaching effect without very much more knowledge with regard to the matter involved than we possess at the present time. We should take every care that articles are not dishonestly exported or imported, but we should also bear in mind that every interference with trade hampers the effective conduct of that trade. It must re-act upon the people themselves, because if hindrances are placed in the way of trade and expenses are added to, the consumer has to pay more ultimately, so far as imports are concerned ; and in regard to exports, the exporters have to pay. A man who is to-day producing a first-class article will receive no betterprice for that article to-morrow - unless prices have gone up generally - simply because it has the Government brand upon it. While I give credit to honorable senators for a desire to maintain: the good fame of Australia, so that people may say that in buying anything that is produced in Australia they may depend upon obtaining a bond fide article, which is what it represents itself to be, I say nevertheless that it is possible to go so tar that, instead of helping trade, we shall injure it, and make it harder for business people to extend their operations. To mv mind, this legislation will have that effect. I believe that if we could put it directly to the people of Australia that cur object is to enable the Minister to interfere with every article of export or import that goes out or comes into Australia, the Bill would be universally condemned from one end of the continent to the other, and that condemnation would be re-echoed at the other end of the world. Australia today is not in very good odour, because of what people call our restrictive legislation. This measure is still further restrictive. It will operate greatly to the detriment of the trading community. I do not wish to say that the supporters of the Bill desire to do anything of that kind, but I urge them to give the matter further consideration, in order that, if they find they have made a mistake, they may determine to limit the measure, so that it will effect known evils, and not imaginary ones that may or may not exist in the future. ‘I trust that the Committee will accept Senator Symon’s amendment, after which, if they are not prepared to insert a special schedule, I hope that they will accept another amendment which will confine the operation of the Bill to the articles enumerated in clause 5-
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has spoken of this measure as one which will damage the commercial relations of Australia with other parts of the world.
– That is what I am afraid of.
– One of the items mentioned in clause 15 is an article as to which I think we are all agreed that the Government should have a. right not only to inspect at the sea-board, but to foi low the goods from store to store, and compel the seller to issue a certificate that they are up to a certain standard.
– What is that?
– Manures. The result of States legislation in that case has not been to limit trade, but to increase it. The States laws have given confidence to producers that when they purchase manures they are supplied with articles that are up to the standard. Senator Symon has said that the Bill will shake public confidence in Australian commerce. I do not think it will, because such has not been the case in regard to the article I have mentioned. As to the clause immediately before us, I do not think that the other House overlooked the matter to which reference has been made. Although it restricted clause 15 to certain articles, it has said that outside the prescribed list the Minister may interfere in respect of goods in the use of which there may be danger to life and limb. This is a great mining country. A large amount of mining tackle and machinery is used. Ought not the Minister to have a power of veto if he finds that chains that do not come up to the standard, or ropes that are rotten are being sold! to mine-owners to be used in cases where men’s lives are endangered by their use?
– What clause is there in this Bill that would give the Minister power in such a case ?
– The Minister would have power to say under the regulations that ropes, hemp, wire and chains should ba inspected, and samples of them taken.
– Is there power, to do that?
– The Minister would have power under clause 5.
– If the goods are correctly labelled the Minister could not touch them.
– He would have power to take samples.
– What then?
– We should then be in a position to know whether shoddy materials were being put upon the Australian market, and from the information thus got together we should be able to initiate further legislation.
– Has the Government power to advertise the fact that goods correctly labelled, but not of good quality, have been, imported?
– I do not say that the Bill gives that power.
– Then how can the Government prevent such goods’ being sold and used?
– Under the Bill the_ Minister would have power to prohibit their introduction. And there is nothing new_ in this. Under Imperial legislation chain cables that have not been examined and tested by an Admiralty test are not allowed to be put on board a British ship.
– That is in regard to the equipment of a ship.
– The matter has been defined by legislation. Honorable senators opposite wish to prescribe a schedule of the goods with which the Minister can interfere.
– What we ought to know is how this Bill is to operate, and to what goods it is to apply.
– In my opinion under the Bill an officer may inspect and prohibit goods brought by any one to any of our ports if directed by the Minister.
– No; only such goods as are prescribed by regulation.
– But the Minister has power to make the regulations prescribing the goods.
– Would the honorable senator vote for an amendment giving the Minister power over the goods after importation ?
-What further power does the honorable senator wish the Minister to have?
– I thought that the honorable senator wanted to have power to take goods off the market if they were of inferior quality.
– If the goods are poisonous, or are dangerous to life and limb, I should say that they certainly ought to be prohibited.
– Would the honorable senator vote for an amendment giving the Minister power to do that?
– I think that by being able to inspect and examine, the Minister would be perfectly justified if goods were inferior in prohibiting them.
-Would thehonorable senator vote for a clause to give the Minister that power?
– I do notthink that is required. I think that the Bill is sufficient as it stands. Iam sure that Senator Gray does not wish men’s lives to he jeopardised by the use of shoddy goods.
– This Bill really does not deal with that.
– I believe it does.
– Will the Minister say whether it does or not?
– An officer may examine all prescribed goods. The Minister has the power to say what goods shall be prescribed. He may prescribe ropes, chains, and similar articles.
– Certainly not. Where is that power given?
– If it is not given, it ought to be.
– Would the honorable senator vote for an amendment giving the Minister that power?
– Yes, if the honorable senator will move it.
– The position taken up by Senator Guthrie is very clear indeed. He wants to carry the Bill further than it now extends. But what we want to find out is, what was really the intention of the other House in passing the Bill in its present form. I think it must be perfectly clear to any one reading the Bill itself that clauses 5 and 6 were meant to apply to the particular goods that are dealt with in clauses 7 and
– Within six months.
– We must get rid of the idea that there will be a safeguard iri having the regulations subject to discussion in Parliament, because in the absence of this amendment thev could be brought into operation before they could possibly be discussed. Considering the nature of the Bill, it is not right to harp so much upon the abuses which have occurred and may recur. The position taken up bv honorable senators on this side is that, although in certain cases it might have the effect of preventing abuses, still there are a great number of cases where it would hamper tha honest trader. It must be re membered that all the persons engaged in producing and trading are not rogues. Probably it will be admitted that by far the larger proportion of them are as honest as we are. We ought to consider the matter very carefully before we do anything which would be calculated to hamper the operations of the producers, because it is upon them that the welfare of the whole of the community depends. While every care should be taken to see that there are no abuses, and that if any do occur, they shall be put down, we should not put it in tlie power of the Minister to do anything which would greatly hamper1 production or hinder commerce. I do not think we are justified in putting in a clause of this kind if it is simply intended for the purpose which has been stated by Senator Pearce. Apparently’ his idea- is to enable the Minister to say to an importer or exporter : “ Your case is as bad as it can possibly be; but under the law! I have no power to fine you, or to prohibit your import or export. I cannot give you an opportunity of defending yourself, but I have the right to take samples, and examine your goods, and to put you in a sort of newspaper pillory.” I do not know that by any Statute a Minister is enabled to publish a man’s name in the press, andi hold him up to the community as a person who is not an honest trader. Certainly where such a power is being given in a measure, it ought to be most carefully safeguarded, and before a man’s name is published he should have the most ample opportunity of defending himself.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I think it must be becoming increasingly evident to honorable senators that the Bill is a great bungle, and that it is liable to bring about great trouble, and at the same time to fail in that punishment of fraud which a simpler measure,, such as the Fraudulent Trades Marks Bill, would have effected. Last session a great deal was said about frauds in connexion with jewellery. Strange to say, under this Bill as it stands such frauds would escape. I understand that Senator Symon intends to propose an amendment for the purpose of including jewellery within its scope. It is very singular that the measure should take such extraordinary powers against ordinary traders. I regret that since last session several honorable senators seem to have become less alive to the desirability of protecting trade from harassing regulations. For instance, when Senator Best moved an amendment requiring goods made abroad to be marked “made abroad,” Senator Guthrie said-
Difficulty would be created if this proposal were carried. It would harass traders. It would become impossible for them to conduct business in Australian markets in anything like the way they are doing now.
That was a sensible remark, but to-day he is evidently prepared to run any risk in the pursuit ofa will-o’-the-wisp. I notice, too, that Senator Smith has not spoken out on this Bill as he did on a previous Bill. Last year, when Senator Findley made the proposals which practically are the basis of this Bill for compulsory grading and compulsory description of goods, Senator Smith said -
I am afraid that on investigation this amendment will be found to be impracticable. In the first place, it implies conditions with regard to foreign manufacturers which is not insisted on in regard to our own manufacturers. It seems to be competent for the Australian manufacturer to assume a trade mark or name, which is an indication that his goods are made in foreign places. The proposal of Senator Findley would appear to be impossible in many cases. I should say that the legal definition of “ goods “ is very comprehensive, seeing that the word applies to all personal property as distinct from land or real property. To apply this amendment to all personal property that is brought into the Commonwealth seems to me to be passing a law which it would be impossible to enforce.
We hear nothing of that sort from the honorable senator to-day.
– Was that a speech made before the butter frauds were known?
– We knew all about the butter frauds at that time. The honorable senator went on to say -
Take, for instance, small articles like beads, pins, needles, glass eyes, or things like that. Would it be impossible to place all this information on such articles?
– Are such articles not labelled now when they are imported ?
– Certainly not. For instance, would presents, brought by immigrants, be forfeited if they did not bear on them all the information suggested in the amendment ?
– A man may bring in furniture.
– Yes, or clothing; and if this amendment were applied, an immigrant with all his linen and collars so marked, would be a sort of standing advertisement for some manufacturer. It is not within the scope of this Bill to pass a drastic provision of the kind, which I feel sure is not made in any similar Act in the world. It is of no use our enacting legislation which it is impossible to carry out.
– Why is it impossible?
– It is quite impossible for all goods and personal property which come into Australia to bear all the information. If a man brought into Australia nicknacks as presents, would be have to forfeit them if they were not all branded with this information ? I think the Committee will see that an amendment of this character is absolutely unworkable.
The amendment to which the honorable senator was referring, and which was ruled out of order, is simply the ground work of this Bill. It is very much to be regretted that both he and Senator Guthrie should be making this retrograde movement. I hope that, on reflection, they will help us to perfect the Bill.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia). - “Like flowers that bloom in the spring,” the quotation which Senator Pulsford has just madehas nothing to do with the question before the Committee to-day. The point I took up last year was that we should do our part of the work when the goods came to our shores. On that occasion I contended that we should require the country of origin to be branded on the cases, and to-day I am contending that we should take power for the Minister to say what goods shall or shall not be admitted. I wish to inform Senator Gray that I hope to have his assistance to insert in clause 15 an amendment dealing with mining and shipping here.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - If Senator Guthrie wishes to enlarge the enumeration of clause15 - and I do not say whether I shall support his amendment or not - it will enable us to take the word “prescribed” out of clause 5.
– I am still in favour of giving power to take samples of many goods which the Minister may prescribe.
– My amendment would not take away that power from the Minister.
– I think it would.
– Of any goods inspected a sample may be taken ; and that is all we want.
– This clause allows a wider scope of inspection than is. permitted by clause 15.
– Then what is the use of enlarging clause 15? The discussion which has taken place satisfies me that clause 15 was intended to cover all classes, of goods which were to come under .the Bill ; and I think that when we reach that clause, the neater form of amendment would be to make it apply to clause 5 as well as to clauses 7 and 11. If that be done, it will not be necessary to have a schedule^
– I am sorry the Minister of Defence is not present, because I wish to remind him once more that he has not yet given me an answer to the question which I have so repeatedly asked him; or, at any rate, I have not received an answer which is satisfactory. In view of the fact that the operation of this Bill will cover the whole of the coastal trade of Australia, I wish to know whether it is proposed to have expert inspectors at every port from Townsville, in Queensland, and Hobart, in Tasmania, to Adelaide, in South Australia, and Fremantle, in Western Australia? That is an important question; in view of the cost of such a scheme of inspection, and the information I desire ought to be in the possession, not only of honorable senators, but of all merchants, traders, and producers. The Minister may imagine that, by a system of bluff, he has answered the question, but when a Minister introduces a Bill, which, for weal or woe, inaugurates, an entirely new departure in. the commercial relations of the Commonwealth with the outside world, he ought to be in a position to thoroughly explain and interpret its provisions to honorable senators. I see that the Minister of Defence is now in the Chamber, and I again ask him whether, under this Bill, it is proposed to have expert inspectors at every port in the Commonwealth at which exports and imports, are dealt with? The Minister, though he may bluff to his heart’s content, will not bluff me out of an answer to which I consider myself entitled. I have no great personal interest in the matter, but, as I said before, the information I ask is highly important, not only from a business point of view, but also from the point pf -view of the public finances. The Minister this afternoon stated that goods of poor quality - which I take to mean goods which, though of inferior quality, are not in themselves harmful to the health of the community - will not be allowed into the Commonwealth. I fail to see any provision in the Bill which could keep out such goods if they are properly described. It must be re membered that certain goods, although’ of inferior quality, may, under certain circumstances, be of practical use to the community at large. We have to consider all the varying conditions and circumstances of life, which create all classes of purchasers. ‘ Some people buy the very best of goods, while others are compelled, by their means, to purchase goods, which, I suppose, are regarded by the Minister as inferior. In any draper’s or grocer’s shop we find various customers, from those who purchase the very best. to wageearners, with, perhaps, 30s. a week, who have to make their income go as far as possible. We have to take things as they are, and not as we should like them to be; and I think we shall make a very great mistake if we exclude goods of inferior quality, unless it can be shown that they are harmful to health. References have been made to the Butter Commission ; but I fail to see that the deliberations or findings of that body have much to do with the provisions of the Bill now under consideration. The Commission found, not so much that the butter exported was inferior, but rather that, unfortunately for Australia, commercial men, to their disgrace be it said, permitted butter of inferior grade to be exported as of the best grade, and thus damaged the good name of this country. These men allowed their personal interests to lead them astray, and a system of corruption was the result. But the Commission in their report did not find that the lower grades of butter exported were unfit for human use, or that it was of such a quality as to be a disgrace to Australia.
– The report of the Commission declared that a fraud was being perpetrated.
– That referred to the corrupt giving and taking of moneys, and to the grading of inferior butter as the best. The situation was to a great extent brought about by the bonus offered by the Victorian Government. The money thus offered as an inducement for the encouragement of the trade found its way into the pockets of middlemen, and of others who showed themselves to be corrupt.
– And for whom the honorable senator is fighting now.
– I am sure Senator Henderson does not say that in the spirit, which might be inferred. I have as much regard for the principles of equity which should be acted upon in our commercial life, as the honorable senator can possibly have.
– But that principle must be acted upon voluntarily.
– I do not say that. Commercial life, and the pastoral, agricultural, and dairying industries in Australia are just as pure, practically, as they are in any part of the world I know of, except, perhaps Denmark, in relation to the butter trade. In that country the production of butter is the one industry, and there is such systematic inspection that it is almost impossible for butter of an inferior quality to be exported. The same circumstances, however, do not prevail in other countries, and it is a cruel injustice to be constantly referring to the Butter Commission. Such constant references are in themselves a reflection on the honesty of the people of Australia, when, as a. matter of fact, the people as a whole conduct their commercial business with integrity. All that the report of the Commission showed was that there are dishonest men in Melbourne, as there are in Sydney and all over Australia; but this dishonesty is the exception, and not the rule. The Bill has no application to such circumstances-
– The Bill will enable people to know what quality of goods they are purchasing.
– As I said on a former occasion, when discussing the Bill, a Government brand is of no value whatever, and is not regarded by experienced buyers in the trade. If a large number of dairymen in New Zealand express a desire for the Government brand, it is for quite another reason than that suggested by honorable members opposite. A friend of mine, who is one of the largest butter buyers in Australia, and who is connected with an institution with which many of my labour friends would like to be identified, does not, when in New Zealand, purchase on the Government brand, but knows exactly where the best butter is produced, and goes direct to the dairies. In the same way, buyers in England purchase butter on the quality indicated by the dairy brand, and not on the Government brand, though it may suit them to have the Government brand placed upon it as well as the private brand. I cannot see how the Government brand can have the slightest value as an indication of the quality of the goods to which it is applied. If, for instance, the Government brand is put on butter of No. 2 and No. 3 qualities, it will not make the slightest difference to the actual consumer. The buyers of that butter in England will purchase it for what it is worth, and it will be sold to consumers in Birmingham, Liverpool, and other places, not as second and third class butter, but simply on its quality as ascertained by testing. What is the system which obtains in England in connexion with’ the sale of butter, cheese, and other perishable products? Buyers representing large firms go every week to Liverpool, Manchester, and London to purchase perishable goods. A buyer in London will go into Tooley-street and sample the different butters placed on the market there, and he will buy them according to their quality. He sends what he buys to the large stores in Birmingham and Liverpool, where the butter is sold, not as Australian butter, Canadian butter, or Denmark butter, but as good butter, worth so much. A woman coming into a store to purchase butter will take some of it on her finger and taste it, and if it suits her palate she will buy it.
– I have seen butter labelled “ Danish “ butter or “ Irish “ butter.
– I have seen Danish’ butter labelled as “ Irish “ butter, or as “ Australian” butter. That kind of thing will continue to be done, and this Bill will have no practical application whatever, so far as the protection of the consumer is concerned.
– It will not be any more applicable if the word “ prescribed “ is used.
– No. After the expose this afternoon of the far-reaching effect of the Bill, the Minister should agree to postpone its consideration. If this Bill is to affect the whole of the commercial community of Australia, that knowledge must be a complete revelation to the whole of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament. The measure has been placed in an entirely new light. If, having regard to the previous interpretation of its provisions, I considered that it was one which’ should be considered by a Royal Commission, in the light of this revelation with respect to the enlarged powers it confers, it is of ten times greater importance that that course should be adopted and expert evidence called. We previously imagined that the measure would apply only to the goods, referred to in clause 15. Now we are given the startling information that it will apply to every article of import and export in the trade and _ commerce of the Commonwealth, and that the Minister of Trade and Customs will have the administration of ali commercial matters in Australia. His judgments are to be absolute. From what we have heard this afternoon, it is clear that no. such power has been given to a Minister by any legislation passed elsewhere. It will be admitted that such a Bill is one of the last which should be made a matter of party, and I therefore ask the Minister in charge of it to postpone its consideration in order that he may make thorough inquiries as to what its effect will really be, and be able to interpret its provisions in such a wa,y that we shall know what we are doing in passing it.
– I remind the honorable senator that clause 5 is under discussion, and not the Bill as a whole.
– Perhaps I have departed from the question to some extent. When the discussion on the clause commenced, I believe that no honorable senator present really understood the extent of its application. The revelation made is of such a character that I should prefer to have further time to consider- the effect of the measure, because I now realize its immense importance, and the immense powers which are proposed to be given to the Minister of Trade and Customs. I repeat that the Minister in charge of the Bill should reconsider the position. In the first instance, Senator Playford thought it sufficient to introduce the measure with a ten-minutes’ speech, on the ground that information concerning it might be obtained from the debates in another place. I venture to say that the honorable senator’s contention will not hold good at the present time, because no one in the other House, or in the Senate, ever interpreted the Bill to mean what it is now contended that it does mean. In the circumstances, it is Cut right and proper that the Minister Should give us his interpretation of the Bill in the light of the latest information on the subject. I should like to know, for instance, whether it is likely that a further surprise may not be sprung upon us. It is only fair that we should be given further time to consider the Bill, arid to obtain some knowfed.ee as to what effect it will really have under the altered conditions.
Senator STANIFORTH SMITH (Western Australia). - I should not have spoken on this clause, but for the fact that Senator Pulsford, in- rather a disingenuous way, has read, an extract from a speech I made last session, the inference being that I was speaking then on a clause similar to that now Under discussion. It is only necessary for me to read the two clauses to show that they deal with different matters. If honorable senators will refer to page 2793 of Hansard for last session, they will find that Senator Findley’s amendment, on which I spoke, referred to -
AH goods to which no trade description or trade mark is applied, setting forth correctly the name of the manufacturer or producer of the goods, the material of which the goods are composed, or from which they are derived, and the place or country in which the goods were made or produced. Notwithstanding anything in this Act contained this sub-section shall come into operation on the 1st day of July, 1905.
That would make it mandatory that every article of import should be marked with the manufacturer’s name and the place of origin.
– Those are the essential requirements of this clause.
– That provision is different altogether from the clause now under consideration.
– It is different in wording, certainly.
– The honorable senator now admits that it is different, but while he did not quote Senator Findley’s proposed amendment, he quoted my speech, as though’ it had been delivered on a clause analagous to the one now under discussion. The clause with which we are now dealing provides that -
An officer may inspect and examine all prescribed goods which- are imported, or which are entered for export or brought for export to any wharf or’ place.
That examination is to be as to the quality of the goods, and to ascertain whether they contain any deleterious substances, and so forth. I think it is very necessary that the Government should have power to examine all imports.
– They have power under the Customs Act.
– But not to take samples. It should be possible for us in this Parliament, where we act as guardians of the interests of .the people, to call for a return of the goods coming in, and the analyses of those goods. I do not think that any one wants to condone the importation of goods that are deleterious to health, or are not correctly marked, or are calculated’ to deceive the people who buy them. We only want to ascertain the actual facts of the case, and to have those facts made public if necessary. I cannot see what good reason there is for objecting to the clause as it stands.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I merely wish to point outto Senator Smiththat his last observation shows, that the word “prescribed” is not needed. That is the object of the amendment. My honorable friend says that he would give power to inspect any goods. His own reason for supporting this unlimited power of inspection is that under the Customs Act it is possible to inspect any goods. Then why limit the inspection to the term “ prescribed “ ?
– Does the honorable senator want to have an extension of the Ministerial power?
– No; but Senator Smith admits that there is complete power of inspection of all goods under the Customs Act.
– But it is impossible to take samples ofsteam engines.
– We know that samples of such goods cannot be taken. What Senator Best has called attention to is absolutely the case. Anything can be inspected, and if the goods are not up to the mark, they can be dealt with. But Senator Pearce says that he wants the clause for the purpose of showing people up. This is a new kind of inquisition. It is proposed to take a tar brush and bring it down over everybody whom the Minister wishes to mark.
– Only in cases where the Minister thinks that the Customs Department is justified in saying that certain goods ought not to be imported, and that it should show up the importer if he does import them.
– But look at the position of the victim. No opportunity is afforded him of being heard. He might be able to satisfy the Customs that the officers were mistaken.
– Then the Department would do nothing.
– But a man would be condemned unheard.
– First and foremost, the Customs Department would have a suspicion that a man was importing something injurious to the community ; then the goods would be prescribed by regulation, and samples would be taken of them.
– The only power under clause 5 is the power to inspect and take samples. There is no power whatever to interfere further whether the articles concerned are good, bad, or indifferent. But when the Customs Department comes to the conclusion that a man ought to be put on the black list, he is to be so condemned under this provision. That, according to Senator Pearce, is the theory for leaving in the word “prescribed.” If, however, the Bill is to be kept for the purposes for which it was intended, clearly the word “ prescribed “ ought to come out.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - My honorable friend, Senator Smith, seems to be a little dissatisfied with my reference to his speech of last year. But I hold that the quotation was in every way fair, and that his change of front is obvious. It is quite true that the clause of which he was speaking last year is not word for word the same as the clause new under discussion. Butthe important fact is that when Senator Smith said what he did last year, he referred to Senator Findley’s proposal for compelling all goods to be described, whatever they were. It was in opposition to that proposal, which also is the central feature and controlling factor of this’ Bill, that Senator Smith made that speech. There is no getting away from that fact. I think that the Minister ought to give us some information as to what is involved from the monetary point of view in the scheme of this Bill. Before we have done with this clause. I propose to move for the addition of a fourth sub-clause, which will read -
No fee shall be charged to the owners or importers or exporters of goods inspected and examined under this section.
The Minister ought to tell us what the Customs Department anticipates will be the expenditure incurred in the inspection and examination of goods under the measure. As Senior Gray has pointed out, if the clause, as drafted, were fully carried out, and a very complete examination were made in order to detect any possible cases of goods being irregularly or falsely marked, Australia might have to face the expenditure of a very considerable sum. We should be informed whether that matter has been considered.
– I should be very glad if the Minister in charge of the Bill would be good enough to favour us with a further explanation of this clause. Personally, as I have before said in the strongest possible terms, I support the general objects of this Bill, and will assist to make it perfect. But. I must frankly confess that on cursorily reading the Bill I did not gather that it was intended to apply to other than the goods enumerated in clause 15; and I fancy that the general public, looking at the measure as I did, would come to the same conclusion. If I remember rightly, the early history of this measure, it was originally framed in open and general terms. A deputation waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs and pointed out the serious difficulties that would arise in applying a radical Bill of this character to all classes of goods. It was then that the Minister said that his real object was to deal with the classes of goods mentioned in clause. 15; that is to say, articles used for food or drink by man, or used in the manufacture or preparation of articles of food or drink; medicines or medicinal preparations ; manures ; apparel, including bootsand shoes, and the materials from which apparel is manufactured; and seeds and plants. That assurance of the Minister certainly went far to commend the measure to those who waited upon him. I thought that what he suggested was rather a fair compromise, and that he was really securing, instead of the direct opposition of those who waited upon him, their more or less passive assistance in the passing of so desirable a measure as I conceive this to be. I think that my honorable friends the members of the Government are making a serious mistake in not confining the Bill to goods mentioned in clause 15. There are many reasons why the goods enumerated there should be specially picked out. My honorable friend Senator Pearce says that it is only a power of inspection that is given. That is quite true; but he will understand that this Bill has to be read in conjunction with the Customs Act, which provides the most ample powers of inspection.
– Not so ample as those provided by this Bill.
SenatorBEST. - It provides the most drastic remedies so far as concerns any breach of the Customs Act or the regulations under it.
– The honorable senator would have heard it pointed out, if he had been present, that the powers under this Bill are much more ample.
– This Bill gives the power to take samples. Unless the Bill is to be made to apply to everything, there is no use in saying in clause 5 that there shall be a power of inspection without giving co- relative and consequent remedies to secure the object for which the inspection is made.
– When I spoke, I pointed out that there was practically a penalty that could be imposed under that clause.
– I am not aware of what it is. The clause seems to me to be inconsistent with the general tenor of the Bill. I invite an explanation from the Minister. I have spoken on the basis of what I have learnt from the Chairman and from the clerks at the table as to what is before the Committee, and I must confess that I was somewhat surprised when I discovered that this clause carried the Bill beyond the scope of clause 15. But I shall be glad to hear what the Minister has to say. If there is any reason for altering the view which I have expressed, I shall take it into consideration.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - The contention in connexion with this clause is that it was framed under different conditions from those that exist in connexion with the Bill at present ; that is, that it was framed when there was no special exemption and no special inclusion of any particular classes of goods, and that it was therefore applicable to everything that might be imported or exported. It is contended that when clause 5 was inserted, which limits the application of the Bill to certain classes of goods mentioned in clause 15, it was overlooked that clause 5 went beyond clause 15, and that therefore the other House simply made a mistake. . I am informed that they acted with their eyes perfectly open. It will be noticed that clause 15 says that “sections 7 and 11 of the Act shall not apply to any goods other than those” enumerated therein. The Minister had an object in view in putting in that clause. Clauses 7 and11 allow the prohibition of imports and exports under certain conditions. Under clause 5 the Minister can prescribed any articles under certain conditions. That clause gives him a power which I contend he oughtto have, and that is to inspect all prescribed goods, but it gives him no power to prohibit their importation or exportation. All the Minister can do under the clause is to direct that samples be taken of any imports or exports, but he cannot take samples of a single article unless it is prescribed. Quite apart from the articles enumerated in clause 15, there are certain articles coming into the Commonwealth which we believe are injurious to the consumers. The Minister wants power to prescribe such goods by regulation, to take samples of them and examine them. If he be satisfied by the examination that the goods are injurious, and that the importation of them should not be allowed, although he will not have the power to prohibit such importations, still ‘he will have what I contend is a very right and proper power. He can say to the importer, “Here is a sample of your goods which, on analysis, we find injurious to the public. Do not import them in the future, because if you do Ave shall -expose you publicly.” It is a very useful power for the Minister to possess. It will not be exercised unless it is beyond dispute that the goods in question are injurious. It will be used in an exceptional case, and then only for the benefit of the community as a whole. The word “ prescribed “ was designedly left in clause 5 by the other House, and I object to its elimination.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - We are all greatly indebted to the Minister of Defence for what he has said. He has given us the most novel explanation of a piece of legislation that; ,1 think, we have ever listened to. The clause gives power to inspect goods, but, as it fixes no standard of description, or quality, or purity, there is no offence that the inspection can disclose; nor does it provide a penalty which may be sought to be enforced against the importer in a Court. My honorable friend justifies the retention of this word “ prescribed “ on the ground that if, upon inspection, the Minister of Trade and Customs does not like the quality or purity of the goods, he is to have -the right of going to the importer and, on his ow:n word, giving him a hint that he had better not import the goods again.
– Of sayang, “ If you send any more I shall stop them.”
– The Minister cannot stop the goods. If he were to say to an importer, “ If you please, do not import any more,” the importer would snap his fingers at him and say, “ You have nb authority to stop these goods from comng in; there is no legislation to that effect.” What is the statement of Senator Playford? Did any one ever hear from a responsible Minister such a statement as this : “ But we will show him up. We will put his name in the news- . papers”? I do not know whether it will give the importer a remedy or not by action for libel ; I hope it will. But whether it does or does not, I ask honorable senators if they have ever listened to such a confession of legislative ‘impotence as the clause would be if it were acted upon ? I think that there will be a very considerable struggle before a provision of that sort is enacted.
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania).- Suppose that a machine were imported for a particular purpose, and that under this provision the Minister called for an inspection of it to be made. It would be inspected by a person who might or might not be acquainted with the working of the machine and who might report to the Minister that, in his opinion, it would not carry out some operation. What is the use of an officer reporting on the article unless the Minister is able to prohibit its importation, or levy a penalty upon the importer, on the ground that it had not been properly described? Surely it must be evident to every honorable senator that by an oversight this clause was not altered in consonance with the improvement which limited its application to certain articles. It would be very much better if the Minister would frankly recognise that fact, and agree to the amendment.
– - I desire to ask you, sir, whether this clause can be put from the Chair? The Minister let the cat out of the bag when he admitted that, under the Customs Act, Customs officers have the power to inspect all imports, but no power to take samples. If, as the Minister said, this clause was designedly left in its present form in another place, we can only conclude that, ‘because a section of the Customs Act is defective, the Minister, acting on the advice of the Customs officers, has dragged in the clause to patch up a defect in that Act.
– What is the point of order ?
– My point of order is that the clause is foreign to the scope of the Bill, and ought to be submitted in a, Customs Act Amendment Bill. I contend, sir, that you ought not to put the clause to the Committee.
– The clause was in the Bill when it was read a second time, and as the subject-matter of the Bill relates to commerce with other countries, it must be put. It is not my duty, as the honorable and learned senator knows, to construe a provision in the Customs Act.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I would suggest to the Minister the desirability of postponing the consideration of the clause. This is, I believe, a matter which the Minister of Trade and Customs said he would have put right in the Senate. I am informed on good authority that he made such a statement in regard to several matters.
– He did not ask me to move an amendment
– I think that an inquiry ought to be made into the matter. I have here a passage in Hansard, in which the Minister of Trade and Customs said that he would have a clause altered in the Senate if possible.
– I would urge upon Senator Playford that Ministers are not dealing fairly with commercial men. Every time that the Minister of Trade and Customs spoke - whether to an interviewer or to a deputation, or in another place - he distinctly said he would cut down the large list of articles to which it was originally intended to apply. I think that on one occasion hepledged his word that it should not apply to fabrics: But on no occasion did he ever suggest that he would make an exception regarding imports, and give power to inspect every class of goods. If Senator Playford intends to insist upon the clause as it stands, he will be breaking faith with the commercial public. If his colleague had said that while he would limit the clauses of the Bill to the articles enumerated as regards prohibition, he would have no limit as regards the right to take samples, and inspect every class of goods, I do not think that the commercial men who waited on him would have gone away satisfied, or that the Bill would have been passed so easily through another place. A charge of breach of faith will be brought against Senator Playford if he insists upon the retention of this clause, which ought to find a place in a Customs Act Amendment Bill.
Question - That the word “ prescribed “ proposed to be left out be left out - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … …1
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I move -
That the words “ or which are entered for export or brought for export to any wharf or place “ be left out.
The mischief that may be done by this Bill in relation to exports is much greater than that which may be inflicted in the case of imports. Asthe clause stands at present, with the word “ prescribed,” it simply gives the Minister a roving commission, without restriction, to inspect every article exported from the country. That is a senseless and futile roving commission, as established by what the Minister of Defence himself said a few minutes ago. The honorable senator told us that, with the power of inspection, there is no power to prohibit or impose a penalty - that there is no standard of quality, of purity, or of any sort, which under clause 5 can be prescribed by regulation. The Minister admits that the power to inspect and take samples is,’ in one sense, merely a power to gratify curiosity, without any penalty to enforce, or, if there were a penalty, without any means to enforce it. A sewing machine, a steam-engine, and a harvester have been given as illustrations of imports, and in each case, if the Minister, for any reason, be dissatisfied, his only remedy is to tell the merchant that he must not import that particular kind of commodity again. That is a confession of absolute weakness and impotence on the part of the Minister. As I have already said, the clause may work infinitely more mischief in regard to exports. Oil, wool, or any other commodity may be inspected and samples taken, and if the Minister is not satisfied with the quality, there is no power to stop the export then or at any time. All the Minister can do is to go to the exporter and say that such goods must not be exported again. The Minister of Defence feels the weakness of the position, which, indeed, is really ludicrous ; and, in order to show that some kind of sanction or pressure may be exercised, he declares that if an exporter does export such goods again theGovernment “will show him up.” That is the kind of legislation that is proposed ! There is no provision in the Bill enabling the Minister to “show up” the exporter.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - I really expected the Minister of Defence to reply to the remarks of Senator Symon. All the punishment that the Minister contemplates for an exporter of undesirable goods is that the latter shall be exposed.
It is not customary for Parliament to say to offenders against the law, “You should not do so and so. It is very wrong and very naughty of you.” Are we a pack of old women that we should talk like that? It is proposed that we should say to certain persons, “ It is very naughty of you, and you should be birched for doing so and so; but we have no one to do the birching.”
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania).- There is a principle involved in this clause to which we have not, so far, paid sufficient attention. It is the principle of giving the Minister the power to punish without a trial. When Mr. Kingston became Minister of Trade and Customs, he inaugurated a very severe policy. I commended the right honorable gentleman for it, and always stood by his action in my own State. He refused to become an arbitrator, and sent disputes under the Customs Act to a magistrate for trial.
Senator DRAKE (Queensland). - The clause will, I think, be powerless for good, but the particular part which’ Senator Symon now proposes to amend may put the Government in a very awkward position. In exercising their powers under this Bill, we have been told time and again that they will be supposed to protect the consumer as well as the producer. The Government will have no power to prevent the exportation of bad or adulterated goods. When they reach the other side of the world, and go into consumption, it will be found that they are defective or bad, and when complaint is made on that score, ‘the Government will have to say, “ We knew all about that, because we inspected and examined the goods before they were exported. We can supply you with an analysis of them which will show that we knew exactly how bad they were. We knew all their faults, and yet we permitted them to be exported.”
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - One has only to listen to speeches from honorable senators opposite to notice some strange contradictions. For instance, Senator Gould has asked us what is the use of the clause, when it provides for no penalties and we can punish nobody under it. He has said that we are like a lot of old women, who talk about a thing and do not do it. He was followed immediately by Senator Mulcahy, whose difficulty is that the underlying .principle of the clause is the power of punishment placed in the hands of the Minister.
I am afraid, would be fought as strongly as certain honorable senators are now fighting clause 5. But the Government would, have an alternative. They could announce through the Agents-General for the States, or through the High Commissioner, if one were appointed, that goods of a certain brand contained certain injurious ingredients.
– A few things which have been said by the last one or two speakers have prompted me to say something. Senator Pearce has dealt) .with the question of guarantee, and has been obliged to admit that it is purely a negative guarantee at the very best. I think it ought to be a positive guarantee in order to insure that we shall have a standard, so that every exporter may know what is necessary in preparing his goods for export. As the Bill now stands, no man would ever know what exception was going to be taken to his goods.
– He would know that he must not adulterate.
– But what is adulteration, and who is to be the judge ?
– The addition of barium to leather is admitted by every one to be adulteration.
– Quite right ; I am with the honorable senator as to that. But if we had an Act which said that the addition of a certain proportion of barium was an adulteration, every exporter would know where he stood. The danger of this provision is that, although the Minister is the responsible head of the Department who will set the machine at work, the prosecutions will be instituted practically by subordinates. The lower the subordinate who ferrets out some apparent adulteration, the greater the risk’ of intimidation. I know something about exporting. I have looked into the matter, and I know the extent to which an importer would find himself at the mercy of a verv poorly-paid subordinate at the Customs House. You cannot guarantee that all these men will be absolutely reliable. I do not wish to attack the general body of Customs House officers in ‘the slightest degree, but in every class of the community there are always to be found one or two black sheep. Those black sheep in this case would be undoubtedly in a position to make themselves extremely rich at the expense of the exporter. Thev would be able to say to a man. “ This is a suspicious-looking parcel of goods which’ you are exporting; I think the Minister’s attention ought to be called to them.” What would happen? The exporter would not want to be troubled. There would be no standard. He would not know how he would be placed if an investigation were made.
– Does the honorable senator mean that the officer would blackmail the exporter?
– I mean that an officer here and there might be found to black-mail. There would be an easy possibility of black-mailing.
– The exporter would bribe the officer.
– Without a doubt.
– Does not that danger already exist under our Customs Act?
– It may exist, but not to the extent that it would under this provision. All the exporter would have to do would, be to say, “ I think this small lot ought to be allowed to go,” and he would possibly pay a little douceur to have the matter let alone. An exporter might often be willing to pay £10, if by so doing he could secure peace. It is only a risk; I do not say that it would happen. But it is a reason why I intend to support Senator Symon’s amendment.
– I have not yet spoken on this Bill, but as I take it that the vote on the amendment will be a testvote - at all events, it will be as far as I am concerned - I should like to bring forward a single argument which I do not think has been yet adduced. It is this : Senator Stewart said a little while ago that the intervener was an enemy of commerce. I am not prepared to go so far as that, but I do say that we should not legislate in order to force the producer to play into the hands of the intervener unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. But that is what is done by this Bill in some respects; I am talking about a thing as to which I have some practical knowledge. I do not pretend to be a great authority on commerce, but I do happen to know something about the export of apples. The Bill provides that the exporter shall give notice to the Customs House that he intends to export some fruit, and state where it can be inspected. See how burdensome that will be upon the small exporter who picks his own apples, packs them in his own orchard, brings them down to Adelaide in his own cart, and places them on board the ship. What is he to do ? How is he to give notice as to where the fruit is to be inspected? He cannot do it. It is only the large men why buy from the sellers - the interveners - who can do it. They have their three or four hundred - perhaps a thousand - cases of apples in the store. They can give notice to the Customs House officer to come and inspect them. A poor man cannot do that. This is not imagination on my part, because I know that in consequence of the inspection required upon the New South Wales border as to apples going into Broken Hill, the whole of that trade has got into the hands of agents - or, as they have been called, interveners. A poor man cannot afford to put his apples in a store. He only receives, perhaps,1s. 6d. or 2s. a case for them. If you taken 6d. off that he cannot afford to do it. He would do much better by sending his fruit to an intervener who could give notice to the authorities, and have it inspected. The consequence has been, as I say, that the whole of the fruit trade between South Australia and Broken Hill has fallen into the hands of the middleman. That trade would have been retained in the hands of perhaps a thousand small men who could pick and pack their own fruit, and send it by rail, but for the necessity of having it inspected. I have tried myself, and found that I could not afford to send my apples to a store and get them inspected. The Customs House officers said, “ If we have to come to your place, and inspect your fruit, we shall have to charge you so much.” It would not pay to bear that expense. I appeal to the Labour Party who, I am sure, intend to help the small producers as much as they can to help them by amending this clause.
– I shall be glad if Senator Symon will move his amendment in such a form as, if rejected, to enable me to move the insertion of some words after the word “export.”
– For that purpose, sir, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I move -
That the words “ or which are entered for export,” be left out.
Of course, I shall not move the omission of the other words unless that amendment be carried. I consider that it is practically identical with the amendment I previously moved, and therefore it is unnecessary to adduce again the reasons I offered for the consideration of the Committee, nor should I say anything further on the subject, only that I think the Committee is entitled to hear from Senator Playford some reasons why the amendment should be opposed, if it is being opposed, or whether he intends to accept it. I think that the arguments offered for its consideration were worthy of that notice which the leader of the Government is generally expected to give to amendments moved from this side of the Chamber. I wish to offer another reason why I thinkthe Committee, apart from myself, is entitled to know his views on the proposal. We have dealt with the question of imports, and are now dealing with that very much larger and more important matter of exports which comes more home to us. With regard to imports, we cannot disguise the feeling that naturally animates us to keep out everything which is deleterious or supposed to be deleterious, or which is improperly described, or described in such a way as to lend itself to deceit, or to mislead the consumers. But in regard to exports, we are in a totally different position. Does my honorable friend really think that this provision would help our export trade? Does he think that its extension beyond the scope of what is prescribed by clause 15 is calculated to assist the producers and manufacturers? It is with them we are now concerned, and not with people over-seas. Every difficulty we throw in the way of our pro- . ducers is a very serious handicap. The vital interests of the country are bound up not merely in its productions, but in the export of them. Unless every possible hindrance Is removed, we are interposing inconveniences between the producers and the people upon whom they rely for their reward. We have had an illustration as to what is becoming a very large article of production and distribution. But there are many others that we can conceive of. If my honorable friend thinks that clause 15, with the catalogue of articles which he says are to be prohibited from export if they do not answer a particular standard or trade description, is not large enough, then let him add to it. Surely that is the straight and plain course which, as men of business, much less as legislators, we should adopt. Let the producers know what it is that the Minister can expect or demand from them. There is no standard fixed in the Bill. Senator Playford may say that it is quite right that the Minister should have this unascertained, indeterminate power of prescribing a standard for the quality of a man’s wheat, or fruit, or wool. It is being left to the Minister to say whether or not harvesters shallbe sent out of the Commonwealth. The Bill does not give the Minister legal power to prohibit the exportation of a harvester, to recover a penalty for exporting a machine or a product, or to forfeit an article if attempted to be exported. It is simply left to the Minister by indirect underhand means-
– No, to be prescribed by a regulation which is to come before the Parliament.
– There is no power given to the Minister to make a regulation fixing a standard.
– Yes, there is.
– No. The only thing which may be done under clause 5 is to. order an inspection and the taking of a sample.
– We know that, but the standard is to be fixed by regulation.
– I appeal to Senator Best, who is familiar with Customs legislation, to say whether, under sub-clause 1 of clause 5, the Minister will have power to frame a regulation for establishing a standard of quality or purity or efficiency or for publishing a black list in the newspapers. Only the power of inspecting the prescribed goods is given by clause 5, and the prescribing of the goods is to be done by regulations, which are dealt with in clause 17. The power to inspect goods is not to be given by regulation, but by the Bill itself. It is only the subjectmatter of the inspection which is to be prescribed by regulation. Our point is that the Minister will have power to inspect and to take samples of even’ article which is produced for exportation, and to harass trade in a most terrible way. We cannot say whether that will be done or not, but we have no right to vest such a power in the hands of any man. Look at the difficulties which it must throw in the way of producers. It would be impossible for them to give the notice under clause 6. It refers not merely to goods entered for export, but also to goods brought for export to any wharf or place. The small producer would feel the pinch of all these difficulties more than would the large exporter.
– Does not the honorable and learned senator think that all our products are exported in large quantities?
– That is not the case in South Australia. The producer has to give notice of a place for inspection. My honorable friend says the Minister is to apply the standard in his own mind. But what standard is the producer to meet?
– That his products are fit for export.
– But who is to say that they are?
– An inspector appointed for the purpose, as in the States now.
– There may be a different rule at every port, and with every inspector. There is no power to make regulations.
– At the present moment’ a bunch of bananas cannot be exported from Queensland until it has been inspected.
– That is a matter of internal regulation under a State Act which so prescribes. Clause 5 does not prescribe, but simply permits inspection ; it does not provide for1 rejection, prohibition, grading, or anything of the sort.
– The inspector merely takes samples.
– Of course; and if that is all that is wanted let the Bill so provide, and there leave! the matter. That, however, is not what is desired, because it would be perfectly useless. The Minister is quite right in saying that we cannot stop at inspection, but must go a step further in order to make the provision useful. And how is it proposed to make the provision useful? Not by_ providing a penalty, but by leaving it to the Minister to “ make it hot “ for the exporter in some undefined way.
– The exporter may export on simply telling the truth.
– I am afraid the honorable senator is not looking at the clause; the exports he refers to are covered by clause 15. The clauses, from clause 7 to clause 15, are all right, so far as concern their principle. Clause 5, however, has no object, except to permit inspection ; and the retention of the clause is justified, wrongly, I think, by the Minister of Defence, on the ground that it will enable the Minister, in the absence of any standard of quality, to set up a standard of his own. But if the goods do not come up to the Minister’s standard, all he can do is to tell the exporter not tol export similar goods again on penalty of being shown up by the publication of his name, or something of that sort. Ministers are here to-day and gone to-morrow, and we may have Ministers who fix varying standards. Is that the kind of legislation we ought to place on the statute-book? All I rose to do was to point out the distinction between imports and exports, and to ask the Minister whether it is in the interest of producers that difficulties should be thrown in the way of the export business - whether exporters ought to be harassed, or be liable to be harassed, as thev may be at the instance of some Minister who can prescribe by regulation any kind of standard he chooses. An exporter may desire to export goods which reach the standard fixed by a former Minister, and find that they do not meet the ideas of the Minister for tlie time being, or with the approval of some inspector; and if he be not strong-minded enough to snap his fingers at the authorities, he may be so hampered and harassed as to rather lose the season than proceed with the business. I ask the Minister whether he does not see a great deal of force in the objections I have raised - whether he does not think it would be well to leave the clause as merely applicable to imports.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - After the very pathetic appeal which Senator Symon has addressed to me over and over again 10 give answers to certain questions, I am constrained to say something, but that* something will be very brief. Ira the first place, the clause has been passed, so far as it relates to imports ; and it seems to me that the same reasons which apply to imports apply to exports. If the clause is good in one case, it is good in the other - “ What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander” - and, therefore, I shall oppose the amendment. Senator Symon asks whether the clause will assist the exporter and producer; and I say that the answer to the question all depends on what kind of exporter and producer he refers to. The clause, undoubtedly, will not assist the rogue exporter, who desires to export poor, miserable, inferior produce, while labelling it good; but it will help the honest exporter of genuine produce in the markets of the world. The clause will keep up our good name in other countries, in so far as it assists in insuring that the produce exported is of a superior quality. It is admitted that the exportation of goods of an inferior quality tends to destroy trade, and that the honest exporter is injured by the action of the dishonest exporter, who tries to make a few extra shillings by questionable practices. Under the_ circumstances, the honest exporter will gain, and the dishonest exporter will possibly lose, by the operation of this legislation. As to what the producer may expect, no goods will be dealt with under this clause unless they be prescribed. The fact that goods not enumerated in clause 15 may be prescribed, will serve as an intimation to exporters of inferior produce that the eyes of the Customs authorities are on them, and that action will be taken. Any regulation made will be submitted to Parliament; and I have no doubt that the Ministry of the day will be able to give very good reasons for prescribing any products not coming within clause 15. The power will, I am sure, be exercised only in serious cases, and will in its effect be beneficial to the honest exporter, and to the trade of Australia as a whole.
– What action will the Government take?
– The Government will be guided bv circumstances.
Senator BEST (Victoria). - The one objection I have to the clause I expressed some little time ago. My opinion is that the operation of the clause should be confined to the goods mentioned in clause 15, and, with that object in view, it is my intention to support an amendment in that clause, so as to make it applicable to clause 5. As to the amendment immediately before us, I cannot see mv way to support it. It is desirable that there should be at least some control or inspection in regard to certain lines of export. The Minister of Defence seems to have gone astray in insisting on arguing with the assistance of clause 15-
– I never said a word about clause 15, but about goods outside that clause.
– The Minister did make one remark about clause 15, and argued as if he would have control over certain goods; but he can only have control over goods by regulations. If he chooses to so prescribe any of the goods there mentioned, he will have a complete, or, rather, an effective control ; but outside that clause he is impotent, and unable to do anything of a satisfactory character. Our desire, is to maintain the highest possible reputation for our goods. We are aware that in a large number of instances Australian trade nas suffered in reputation by reason of the export of imitations or deleterious goods. I feel, therefore, that it is desirable to have a certain amount of control over the export trade, and I am trustful enough to believe that’ the Minister will exercise common sense with a view to encouraging, and not injuring, that trade.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - The more the Minister of Defence addresses the Committee the clearer it becomes that the proposals of the Government are very dangerous. In his last remarks the Minister spoke of inferior goods, and repeatedly indicated that he desires to prevent their exportation. Surely the honorable senator knows that at times there must be a certain proportion of inferior goods exported. If the Minister proposed, for instance, that there should be a certain standard for wool, there is power under the Bill to order grading, and to prescribe what sort of wool shall be exported.
– I do not see where that power is ; it is not in clause 15.
– Read clause 5 and clause 15 together.
– Wool is used for making clothing, and the inclusion of apparel in clause 15 brings wool within the operation of the Bill. With poor seasons we have wool of inferior quality, and if the standard of the wool in good seasons be fixed, there will be great risk of the export trade being interfered with. There is no question of fraud in this matter. If the standard of good seasons be the one fixed upon by the Minister, what on earth are we to do with the wool of poor seasons? Once, again, the Minister does not seem to know his own Bill, and is rather surprised at_ my statement in regard to wool coming within its operation. I have already pointed out that this position arises from the inclusion of apparel within the operation of clause 15, under which, of course, the Minister will be able to make all sorts of regulations when dealing with wool. There are many other kinds of goods, the quality of which is affected by the seasons. I object, as the Committee should, on behalf of our smaller producers, to any legislation which might impair their ability to sell their produce during unfavorable seasons.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out be left out - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 4
Question so resolved m the negative.
Senator GIVENS (Queensland). - I move -
That after the word “ export,” line 3, where second occurring, the words “or which are passing from one State to another “ be inserted.
If any amendment shall have been made in the Bill not coming within the original title, such title shall be amended, and a question put “That this be the title of the Bill,” and the amendment thereof shall be specially reported to the Senate.
In the Senate:
The Chairman of Committees. - In Committee, Senator Givens moved an amendment which would have had the effect of applying the provisions of the Commerce Bill to commerce between State and State. I rifled that the proposed amendment was not in keeping with the subjectmatter of the Bill. Senator Givens has dissented from my ruling in the following terms : -
I dissent from the ruling of the Chairman of Committees as to the relevancy of the proposed amendment to bring Inter-State commerce under the provisions of the Commerce Bill, on the ground that amendments are governed by their relevancyto the subject-matter of the Bill, and not by its title.
I do not think that I said that the proposed amendment was out of order merely because the title read “a Bill for an Act relating to commerce with other countries ; “ but it seemed to me that the whole subject-matter of the Bill as it passed its second reading was the regulation of commerce with other countries - that is to say, imports to Australia and exports from Australia. I did not understand, when I voted for the second reading of the Bill, that it in any way dealt with the question of commerce between States of the Commonwealth.
Any amendment may be made to any part of a Bill, provided the same be relevant to the subjectmatter of the Bill, and be otherwise in conformity with the rules and orders of the Senate.
It appears to me that my amendment, which was intended to makethis Bill apply to Inter-State commerce, was perfectly relevant to the subject-matter of the Bill, and that it was a simple matter, if; the amendment were inserted, to bringthe title into conformity with it. For that reason, I took the liberty of dissenting from the Chairman’s ruling. I am content to leave the matter in your hands.
– The reasons given for dissenting from the ruling of the Chairman of Committees, as read by the Chairman, are no doubt thoroughly valid, but they do not seem to me to apply. It is quite true that the title of the Bill is not the test. The title of this Bill as read a second time is stated in the first clause -
This Act may be cited as the Commerce Act 1905.
That title has been altered, to “ Commerce, Trade Descriptions, Act.” But that, to my mind, has nothing to do with the question. Whatever you call the Bill, and whateverthe title is, it remains the same Bill, and its subjectmatter remains the same. The Committee might strike out the present title and call the Bill a FraudulentTrade Marks Bill. Nevertheless, the subject-matter would be just the same. I agree with the Chairman of Committees, and think that his ruling is right.
In Committee :
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I move -
That after the word “ place,” line 4, the following words be inserted, “ Provided in regard to the goods entered for export, that such officer has good reason to believe that they are fraudulently marked or described.”
It has been urged in favour of this Bill that it is a measure to prevent fraud. I think we all agree that; we cannot do better than have inspection where there is any reason to suspect fraud. ButI contend that if there is no reason whatever to suspect fraud there is no reason to inspect for export. In the case of goods imported there is undoubtedly reason for inspection, but we are dealing with goods to be consumed by foreigners. Arewe. going to hamper the small producers so seriously as this clause will do when there may be no reason to suspect that there is anything wrong with ai shipment ? The officer should have “good reason to believe,” in the words of the Immigration Restriction Act, before he takes action.
– So he would have; but there is no reason for saving so in the Bill.
– Yes, there is. No doubt an officer might have good reason for suspecting, bue we should say in the Bill that he must have “ good reason to believe “ before he takes any Steps. I draw attention to the very few articles of export in which a large trade is done in Australia. With regard to most of them, inspection would be very easy, but as to the fruit trade, in which my State is so much wrapped up, and which is so important to her, the small producer would be affected to a serious degree. As Senator Baker has pointed out, we shaM simply force small producers into the hands of interveners. Fruit may be produced forty or fifty miles from the port of shipment, and this measure may compel a shipper to come down to the port and see that his goods are properly marked and described according to the regulations, unless he is to pay an agent for doing it. Honorable senators can realize how injuriously this wiM affect the poor man in a small way, who has to look after his own business in his own district. Adulteration in the case of goods like leather could easily be detected. I understand that the presence of barium in leather can be discovered at once. If hides are not in good order the defects can be discovered immediately. But it is impossible to discover that there is anything wrong with a case of apples without a close inspection. The Government brand, to my own knowledge, will not increase the price to the producer. Indeed, it will probably decrease it. There is a tendency on the part of English buyers to purchase direct from the producer in this country. If the buyer is forced to put a mark upon the fruit which he purchases when he does not wish to do so- if. for instance, he has to brand apples “small,” “second-class,” or “inferior “ - he may say, “ I cannot any longer afford to give such a high price.” No purpose can be served by forcing a mark to be put on goods. The Minister may reply that the Government will not force shippers to mark all goods. But at any mo ment the ‘regulations may be set in operation. The effect can only be to hamper the producer, without in any way benefiting the Commonwealth.
– Senator Macfarlane has shown no reason in favour of the amendment which he has moved. He has referred to marks upon cases of apples. I cannot see how fruit would be affected. The clause simply provides that .the officer may inspect such goods as are prescribed. The amendment says that the officer shall’ not inspect! them unless he has good reason to believe that they are fraudulently marked or described. It would be very easy for the officer. to say that he had “reason to believe.” But the objection to the amendment is that it would not permit the officer to inspect unless he said, “ I have good reason to believe that these goods are fraudulently described.” Take apples, which is the favorite illustration of many honorable senators. I know something about the apple export trade. Suppose a man ships 100 cases of apples, marked “ Prime ribstone pippins, Tasmania.” The Custom House officer will take a case at random, knock off the lid, and have a look at them. If he finds that they are prime ribstone pippins, down will go the lid again, and there will be no further trouble. But whether the officer has a suspicion of fraud or not, he ought to have the power to examine. We do not wish our apples to be sent to England under a false description. A Customs officer may say : “ I have no reason to believe that these apples are falsely marked, but still that may be the case.” Surely in such circumstances he ought to have the right to knock the lid off a case and test the quality of the apples. If he finds that the apples, instead of being prime ripstones, are second-class or small, he ought to have tHe right to take such other action as may be provided. I contend that, whether he has a suspicion of fraud or not, it is necessary that he should have the power to inspect a shipment. A large quantity of Australian apples are now shipped to the mother country and to Europe, especially to Hamburg. We wish to give the mother country and foreign nations a guarantee that the marks on Australian goods faithfully describe their character. To provide that the officer shall not inspect unless he believes that goods are fraudulently marked or described would be to defeat one of the chief purposes of the Bill, and that is to secure inspection before exportation. Undoubtedly the inspection will be carried on in a most careful manner. When Mr. Jones wrote on the subject of apples and jams the Comptroller- General of .Customs laid down, in his reply, the lines on which the inspection would take place. When I quoted the reply here, Senator Dobson said : “ If that is the case, I shall not oppose the Bill ;” but he is. opposing it as strongly as he can. Evidently he has quite forgotten the promise he made. Under these circumstances I ask Senator Macfarlane to withdraw the amendment. It ought to be remembered that if the officers want to inspect a shipment they will say that there is a chance of fraud being committed, and that, therefore, they ought to make an inspection.
– Senator Playford has, just uttered two sentences which ought to induce him to vote for the amendment. A few minutes ago he said that ff the officer found that there- was reason to suspect that in certain cases fraud was being practised it was very desirable that he should have the power to inspect and take samples.
– I did not say anything about suspecting fraud. I said that the shipment ought to be inspected, irrespective of the question of fraud.
– Just before the adjournment for dinner the Minister argued that if a Customs officer suspected that certain inferior or adulterated goods were being imported, he ought to have the power to take samples.
– That is another question.
– A few minutes ago the honorable senator s-aid that no Customs officer would inspect a case of apples unless he had reason to suspect that something was wrong. Therefore the amendment would carry out the thought which passed through his mind, that is, if his words correspond with his thoughts. The illustration he gave was not relevant. In Tasmania a shipment of 100 cases of prize rips.tone pippins is not branded as to grade. Whoever heard of growers bothering to brand their cases when the buyers at the other end of the world simply buy according to inspection ? Would my honorable friend take a case of apples simply because it was branded with the words “extra prime,” when he could raise the lid and look’ at them for himself? Would he not think that he knew more about the quality of the apples than all the inspectors rolled into one? From Hobart we may send away by one steamer 45,000 cases merely branded with the name of the apple, and not bearing the words “prime,” or “extra prime,” or “second class.” If that addition has to be made it will do irreparable mischief to our apple trade. I should! have thought that the amendment would have found acceptance with the majority of honorable senators. I find that two clauses of the Foods Adulteration Bill of Victoria contain the words, “ If the officer has reasonable cause to suspect.” Senator Macfarlane wishes to provide that if inferior articles are being exported they may be inspected. Suppose that Senator Playford had been shipping apples for some years, and that his brand! was well known and appreciated in the old country. Would he like an inspector to treat him as if he were one of those fraudulent! exporters of whom we have heard1? If, however, he had sent away a bad shipment’, and that act had been traced home tei him by means of his brand, the inspector would have a right to say to him, “ You have been sending away inferior fruit. I suspect that you intend to do so again, and therefore I will have a dozen cases opened.” Senator Macfarlane wishes to provide for a case of that kind. It is impossible to inspect apples in Tasmania when 50,000 cases are sent away by one ship in the course of forty-eight hours.
– The Minister’s statements are getting quite comic. It is really amusing to hear him! say that in the case of a shipment of 100 cases of apples from Hobart the inspector could have one case opened on the wharf, and decide in an instant whether or not it contained “prime ripstone pippins.” How could an officer - perhaps a man who until he was sent to Hobart only knew apples by name - decide at once a question of that kind? It must be remembered that apples are of all sizes and quality, and that it would need an expert to decide whether a shipment of 100 cases could be considered to be of prime quality by merely taking the lid off one case, and looking at its contents. I observe that the power given in this clause is permis- sive, but there was nothing permissive about the Minister’s observations. He seemed to suggest that the safety of Australia almost depended upon one case being opened, and its contents examined. He led the Committee to believe that it was absolutely essential for the proper conduct of the apple trade to have only prime fruit sent away. Although the clause only gives a permissive power to the officer to inspect, still the Minister made it very clear to us that it was intended to have a system of grading by officers who might or might not know what they were doing. I shall support the amendment.
Senator O’KEEFE (Tasmania).Hitherto I have not spoken on the Bill, and have voted with the Government, because the amendments did not seem to me to be necessary. Certainly this amendment appeals to me with greater force than the others did. It is feared bv Senator Macfarlane that the shipment of perishable produce is likely to be greatly delayed if it is to be subject to inspection under regulations. Inspection is necessary in order to maintain the good1 name of our produce in parts beyond the seas, and in some cases hardship may be inflicted. I take it “that none of us wishes to inflict hardship upon any producer unless it is necessary. It is only in the case of perishable produce, however, that a delay caused by inspection could be injurious. We all know that the leather trade of Australia was very much injured through the fraud practised in this State by one individual using barium. In the case of such a product not very much injury would be done by a little delay for the purpose of making an inspection. But’ in the case of perishable produce very great’ injury might be done to the producer by delaying its shipment. I think that the object which the Minister has in view could be effected if Senator Macfarlane would agree- to insert after the word “ export,” in his amendment, the words “ and where such goods aire of a perishable nature.” If my suggestion be adopted, no officer, unless he had reason to believe that such goods were fraudulently marked and described, would interfere. The inspection is not to be mandatory, unless we declare that “may” means “shall.” I understood trie Minister to say that according to the clause it is not abso lutely necessary that goods shall be inspected, and that the inspector would not cause any injurious delay without good reason - unless he felt reasonably sure that some? fraud was intended. If that be so, I cannot see that any harm will follow the amendment of Senator Macfarlane, if the words I have suggested be inserted. It appears to me that only in the case of perishable products would injury occur through delay. If Senator Macfarlane will amend his amendment in the way I have indicated I shall be able to support it.
– I do not know what course Senator Macfarlane will take in regard to the suggestion made by Senator O’Keefe, but I suggest that it would be better if the word “ perishable “ were inserted before the word “ goods.”
– That would simplify the clause.
– I take the broad view that Senator Macfarlane’s amendment is a desirable- one to apply to any goods, though I am impressed with what Senator O’Keefe has said as to the inconvenience and, perhaps, loss which may arise in the case of perishable goods. It is admitted by the Minister that no officer will subject goods to an inspection unless for good reason ; and I cannot conceive it possible to predicate of an officer, however zealous he might be, that he would interfere with goods for export unless he had some fair suspicion of fraud. If that be the position, why not act on the suggestion of Senator O’Keefe? The amendment, as amended, would merely operate on the official conscience, so to speak, and be a warning, or intimation, to every inspector that he must not officially or wantonly interfere with goods for export. When packages are opened for inspection, it is a frequent result that their contents are extracted, and the refastening is not always as carefully done as it might be. Another suggestion I make is that this clause should also extend, in the words of clause 15, to “articles used for food or drink by man.” For instance, there is nothing more liable to rapid injury than wine. If casks of wine are ready for export, and samples are drawn off by the spigot-hole, the result, in a hot sun, is ullage, and, in a short time, the whole of1 the wine is spoiled.
– Would wine not, in these circumstances, come under the heading of perishable goods?
– I am afraid not. I think Senator Macfarlane’s amendment would be a great improvement,, and, to some extent, a safeguard against undue interference. . c
– I am surprised at the reasons given in support of Senator Macfarlane’s amendment, more especially as it relates to Tasmanian apples.
– It relates to all goods.
– Last year, when we were discussing the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill, it was proposed to throw on the ship-owner the whole onus of inspecting every case of apples.
– Not the contents of the cases.
– The contents of the cases. Under that Bill, it was proposed to hold the ship-owner responsible for every case of apples for which he gave a receipt.
– Nothing of the kind ; if the apples were bad, or badly packed, the ship-owner was not to be held responsible.
– But the shipowner had to examine every case in order to see whether the apples were bad, or badly packed.
– The honorable senator is entirely, though unintentionally, misrepresenting the effect of that proposal.
– The proposal threw upon the ship-owner the entire responsibility of landing the apples at the
Other end in good order and condition.
– The shipowner was not responsible for anything of the kind.
– All the shipowner had to do was to take every care of the cargo. It threw upon the ship-owner the onus of not taking any apples on board in bad condition.
– Nothing of the kind.
– If the ship-owner took on board apples in bad condition, how could he land them in good condition? The ship-owner had to give a receipt for cargo received.
– He had to give a receipt only as to the external condition of the cases.
– Then he could not be held responsible for the fruit at the other end.
– Of course not; nobody ever said he was.
– When that Bill was before Parliament, it was argued that the ship-owner would have to take the responsibility of examining the fruit. At any rate, without any Act of the kind, from every bag of wheat exported from South Australia a sample is taken, and afterwards sent on by the mail boat.
– The honorable senator is utterly mistaken. A sample of the ship-load is taken.
– I have shipped thousands of tons of wheat, and I know that a sample of a couple of ounces is taken out of every bag, and that these samples are all put together, and kept as a sample of the ship’s cargo. That has been the custom in South Australia for the last twenty years.
– Then the position is much more serious than we thought.
– It has never been thought a serious position in South Australia. As the bags come down to the vessel by gravitation, a boy takes a sample from each, and drops the sample into a bucket; and there should be no great difficulty in taking samples of other goods. The clause does not make it imperative that the inspector shall sample every box or case, but only the bulk of the shipment, and I see no trouble in the matter.
– Then why not make some provision in the clause for the inspection?
– But it is suggested that before making the inspection the officer shall have good reason to believe that there is fraud.
– Why not?
– Why should we not make a similar provision under the Customs Act? When a cargo arrives the Customs officer singles out cases here and there, with the examination of which he is satisfied, and nobody complains of the practice. I can only suppose that the opposition to this clause means a fear that something may happen which does not now happen in the ordinary course in shipping goods.
– It appears to me that there is more in the amendment than Senator Guthrie seems to see. In my opinion, the amend- ment means the life or death of the whole Bill.
– Nonsense !
– It certainly places the inspecting officer in a most serious position.
– So he ought to be.
– Of course, according to the honorable senator’s way of thinking.
– I am thinking of the general welfare.
– The officer may be put in a position which will absolutely deter him from interfering in any way with cargo ; and I am afraid that that is the intention of the amendment, which practically calls upon the officer to say to an exporter, “ I am satisfied that you are not honest, and I shall exercise the power of inspection given to me under the Act.” That is the position in which the amendment would place the officer, and we must recognise that it would be a most invidious position.
– The picking and choosing is already provided for.
SenatorHENDERSON.- The officer under the Bill as it stands has full liberty to act in the spirit of the amendment, but if the amendment is agreed to it willhang as a threat over his head. He will be placed in such a position that he will have to tell the exporter that his goods are not fit for export.
– He need not tell him anything.
– Actions speak louder than words.
– That is so, and the amendment would compel the officer to choose between man and man, and between goods and goods; to regard one man as a fraudulent exporter, and another as an honest exporter. He will be compelled to make distinctions, and, as no officer should be placed in any such position, I trust the amendment will be defeated.
– I shall certainly support the amendment. The Government have said that they will not provide for the inspection of all goods, and that the officer must be allowed to exercise discretion, and yet, when from this side it is proposed that he should exercise that discretion in certain circumstances,, we are at once met with the reply that that would place him in an invidious position, and that he would not dare to do his duty. Is that Senator Henderson’s experience of Customs House officers ?
– The amendment would compel the officer to regard one man as dishonest, and another as honest.
.- The Minister contends that it is necessary that the officer should be allowed to exercise a discretion, and if that is so, there will be some special cases in which he will examine packages.
– The amendment provides that that shall be done only where he suspects fraud. It is that which makes the invidious and unfair distinction.
– That should be the only justification for inspection.
.- I would ask the Minister whether the officer is to have discretion to inspect any package of goods intended for export?
– When should theofficer inspect goods, if not when he suspects fraud?
– Never mind, we will not put that in the Bill.
.- The honorable senator will not put it in the Bill, because he will not allow the officer to say, “ I suspect fraud.” The officer may say, “ I will not trust any of you, and I will see that you do not commit fraud.” That will put him in a worse position than that in which he would be placed by the amendment. I sympathize with Senator O’Keefe in his desire that it should be limited to perishable goods.
– The inspection would not cause injury in the case of other than perishable goods.
.- It might cause the delay of a shipment for which the exporter had arranged freight.
– The honorable senator will admit that there would not be the same Banger of injury from delay as in the case of perishable goods.
.- I am prepared to admit that in the case of perishable goods the inspection might lead to the loss of the goods as well as to delay in shipment, but I still think that the matter might be dealt with on broad grounds, and not as affecting the principal products of one or two States.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).- I am prepared to accept Senator O’Keefe’s proposed amendment ofmy amendment. It will limit its scope to some extent, but the honorable senator has given good reasons for it.
– Will the honorable senator also agree to add after the word “goods” the words “and articles used for food or drink by man.”
– I have no objection to accept that further amendment. The amendment will then be to add to subclause i the words -
Provided in regard to perishable goods and articles used for food or drink by man, entered for export, that such officer has good reason fo believe that they are fraudulently marked or described.
I point out that the operation of the clause will lead to no end of difficulty and trouble. It has been pointed out that as many as 50,000 cases of apples may be sent away in one ship. They may arrive at the wharf in lots of 50 to 200 cases at a time, and may have to be shipped in from twenty-four to thirty-six hours. How, in such circumstances, is it possible to have anything like an adequate inspection of those exports? The Minister has said that one case in a hundred would be inspected, but what protection would such an inspection give? If the Minister were disengaged, I should like to refer him to what was said by the honorable gentleman who had charge of the Bill in another place.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– One would think that some honorable senators were under the impression that this Bill will apply only to apples. I desire to recall a little matter which was exposed by the Butter Commission, and it will be remembered that butter can be dealt with under the proposed amendment. Some inferior butter was brought from New South Wales to Melbourne. It was taken out of the cases in which it arrived in Melbourne and put into cases bearing the Victorian Government stamp. In the event of Senator Macfarlane’s amendment being, carried, with the amendment suggested by Senator O’Keefe, in what position would the Customs officer be placed in such a case as that? If he said, “ I wish to inspect that butter,” the shipper would say, “ Do you think that the Victorian Government stamp is a fraudulent mark? Do you think we have any fraudulent intent in shipping this butter?” If the inspector said “ No,” he would have no right under the amendment to inspect the shipment, and if he said “ Yes,” he would be making a deliberate charge of fraud against the firm shipping the butter. Is that a proper position in which to place a Customs officer ? The effect of such a provision would be that no officer of Customs would dare to make any inspection at all. I am further informed, on very good authority, that in such circumstances it is possible that an officer making a charge of that kind would render himself liable to a civil action for damages.
– Nothing of the kind.
– He might, for exercising a discretion wrongfully.
– If he did it maliciously, and not in the honest discharge of a statutory duty.
– We know that, in the event of an inspection having to be made, the circumstances would be such as would give rise to heat and irritation, and might lead to words being used which would be held to prove malice on the part of the man making the charge. I should prefer that the clause should be struck out altogether rather than that it should be amended in the way it is proposed.
Senator GRAY (New South Wales).The illustration given by Senator Pearce might seem to disclose fraud, but when it is practically considered there is really very little in it. We are asking the Customs House officer or the expert - because the officer will not necessarily have the knowledge to enable him to say what the quality of the goods is - to examine goods for export, and to take all the responsibility attaching to that work. If the goods arrive at their destination, and are proved to be inferior, the officer may possibly be blamed for allowing them to be exported. Does not that responsibility place upon the officer a far more serious obligation, than that of simply exercising prudence and tact. Personally, I am rather sorry that Senator Macfarlane has consented to accept the amendment moved by Senator O’Keefe, but even that is better than no amendment at all. Let me illustrate what is likely to occur. Suppose a vessel is about to leave Australia, and that she has a certain amount of’ space unoccupied, in consequence of a quantity of cargo not being forthcoming at the last moment. Suppose that she wants twenty-five or fifty tons of goods to fill up her space. The practice is to run round and get goods that are ready for export, which are hurriedly put on the ship, allowing her to leave immediately after. But if that cargo had to be delayed for inspection the vessel would have to leave with her spare space unoccupied. The effectof that would be not only to injure the ship-owners, but also those who have to pay freight. Further than that, is this inspection to be of a character that will guarantee that the goods arrive at their destination in firstclass condition ? The interpretation placed upon it by the Minister of Defence is simply absurd. He says that a Customs officer can open up one case or cask out of a hundred. Does he call that inspection? Will that guarantee that the shipment will be landed at its destination in first-class condition ? Some years ago I was the largest buyer of a certain class of goods in Australia. I bought to the extent of over £250,000. But we never bought any goods without sampling every cask. That was the only guarantee we had of the value of what we bought. Simply to take one box out of 100 or 500 is a ridiculous way of testing a shipment. It has to be remembered that we are not only legislating for places like Melbourne and Sydney, but also for smaller places like Launceston and Hobart. A temptation is to be placed in the way of officers, which I venture to say is likely to lead to a system of corruption. If the inspection is to be done at all it should be done thoroughly. Otherwise, instead of it being an advantage to Australia, it will be a disadvantage.
Question - That the words proposed to be added to sub-clause 1 be added - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I draw attention to the fact that section 218 of the Customs Act reads -
Samples of any goods under the control of the Customs may for any purpose deemed necessary by the Collector be taken, utilized, and disposed of by any officer in manner prescribed.
I think it is very undesirable that we should have two sections dealing with sampling, and varying in their method, as do the section I have quoted and the clause before us. The Act and this Bill are supposed to be read together. The provision in the Customs Act deals with goods under the control of the Customs, that is with imports, and any goods for export which may be the subject of duty or drawback. It will be noticed how differently sub-clause 2 of this clausewhich deals with only samples is worded. I do not propose to move an amendment, but to content myself with drawing attention to a sample of very undesirable drafting and very unfortunate legislation.
– I move -
That the word “ ship “ in sub-clause 3 be left out.
I feel sure that every honorable senator will recognise that after a cargo has been quickly loaded an officer should not, without very grave reason, order bulk to be broken in order to inspect any goods. Take butter, which is shipped in lots of 1,000 or 2,000 cases : In the first’ place it is sent to the stores whence it can only be taken to the ship after sunset. The whole shipment has to be placed on board in the course of three or four hours. We are asked to intrust to an officer the great responsibility of directing bulk to be broken in order that he may inspect some boxes of butter. If this option be left in the hands of any Customs officer, it may result in grave consequences to the producers. Moreover, if the ship be detained until an inspection can take place, it will mean a large loss to her owners. Supposethat a quantity of wool has been shipped rapidly, and an officer assumes that a bale was not properly classed. It may seem ridiculous to some honorable senators to suppose that a Customs officer might require the wool to be landed in order to examine that bale. But such extraordinary proceedings by Ministers and officers have taken place that it is not wise or prudent to place this great responsibility on any person. It is to be exercised, not only by the officers at Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, but also by the officers right round the coast, although they may not possess that practical knowledge which is derived from serving in a large port. It is inconsistent with ordinary commercial rules to place this great responsibility in the hands of officers, because we do not know whether the inspectors at the different ports will be experts or not. Of late, we have had examples of what a Minister may do in certain circumstances. What can we expect from persons who have no knowledge of business matters ? Let honorable senators consider the trouble that may be caused if this power be granted? Throughout the States we have had cases of men in inferior positions being amenable to improper influences in cases where they were not subjected to anything like the temptations to which Customs officers might be subjected under this Bill. In Victoria and New South Wales we have heard of policemen who have persistently received bribes to wink at infractions of the law. It is not improbable that other men might yield to greater temptations. My maxim is to place as little temptation as possible in the way of any man unless it is absolutely necessary. There is no advantage to be gained from making it possible for an officer to order bulk to be taken out of a ship for the purpose of making an examination. The examination should be made when the goods are taken to the ship, except in the case of butter, which should be inspected before it leaves the stores. Ifit were provided that the owner of the stores should see that the boxes of butter were properly branded before they left the ship, there would be no necessity for a clause of this kind. If the Minister could show any reason for its enactment, I should be satisfied, because I am not against anything which I believe would ‘be to the advantage of the Commonwealth. The Bill contains some good provisions, but it also contains provisions which, to my mind, could be improved very much.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I should like to hear from the Minister why the word “ ship “ is in subclause 3.
– Because a package may have got into a ship.
– We do not interfere with imports until they are entered and landed.
– I want to know why the word should not be in the subclause.
– Perhaps the Minister wishes us to leave it in ?
– Hear, hear.
– Surely it is the duty of the Minister to tell the Committee why the word is in the subclause, if it has any meaning; and if it has no meaning, to take it out. Why are we to follow the exports on board the ship? It will cause intense inconvenience and trouble to the exporters. The proper place to make the inspection is on the wharf. What is the object of waiting until the exports are all on board the ship? Surely there ought to be a regulation made, in the interest of the exporters, that the goods should be examined before they were shipped.
– Exports may come in lighters from outports.
– Will the Minister look at clause 6 of his Bill? It says -
Every person who intends to export any goods of a kind or class required under this Act to be inspected or examined by an officer, shall, if required to do so by regulation, before the goods are shipped, give notice, in accordance with the regulations, to the Customs of his intention to export the goods, and of the place where the goods may be inspected.
– Suppose the goods are put on board ship without notice?
– There is a penalty of £20 for not giving notice.
– This is a question of enabling officers to see the goods ; the penalties may be enforced afterwards.
– That is true. The inspection must be made before the goods are placed on board a ship, and if a penalty of , £20. is not enough, make it larger.
– Ifthe goods are on board the ship, penalties will no doubt have been incurred by reason of the default of the shipper; but the officer, in the interests of the Commonwealth, goes on board the ship.
– If the honorable senator looks at clause 5, he will see that the words “ wharf or place are used, and, as I said before, if the provision is not sufficiently drastic, make it more so. We have now passed these provisions. and, having submitted to the decision of the Committee, my desire is to make them as effective as possible.
– It might suit a shipper to run the risk of a penalty, and put the goods on board ship.
– That is quite true; but the goods might be at the bottom of the hold.
– Under ordinary circumstances the inspection will take place outside the ship, but there may be cases in which it has to be made on board.
– But why give unlimited power to examine on board ship when that would be impossible, or might involve the unloading of the cargo ?
– The power is required because, otherwise, there may be an evasion of the law.
– Then let us make the penalty more severe - make it£100, or even , £500, if honorable not to be found in inconveniencing the shipsenators desire. The remedy, however, is owner, and making him liable to practically unload his cargo.
– The honorable senator is conjuring.
– I am not doing anything of the sort. We know perfectly well that Senator Playford disagrees with half the provisions, though he has not the courage to say so. He takes his instructions from another gentleman, who comes into the box usually occupied by the Departmental officials. Let Senator Playford apply his common-sense, and he will see that the provision is impossible.
– There may be cases in which it is advisable to have the power.
– A power which cannot be exercised?
– The power is necessary.
– Let it be shown that the power is necessary. I say again that if the penalty is not enough, let it be increased.
– A penalty of £20 is quite enough.
– I think it is, and, in the face of such a penalty. I do not think any shipper would wrongfully ship his goods. In my opinion it is making a farce of legislation to allow this word to remain.
Senator GUTHRIE (South Australia).Senator Symon expresses a desire to make the. Bill efficient. I point out, however, that this. clause deals not only with exports, but also with imports ; and in every port in Australia shippers have taken advantage of old disused ships, and made them storehouses.
– These are regarded as warehouses under the Customs Act.
– They are licensed lighters or hulks.
– They are licensed not as hulks, but as warehouses.
– They are licensed lighters, ‘and goods may be stored there for a considerable number of months, and then transhipped into coasting vessels.
– What goods are kept in lighters for months?
– In Port Adelaide, cornsacks are kept on board these lighters for twelve months, or from one season to another. Power is asked for to inspect imports which at Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, and elsewhere, may never go on shore at all, but are placed on board these vessels, and kept there until it suits the owners to distribute them.
– The word “ ship “ does not apply to hulks.
– It certainly does. The only definition of “ship” is in the Merchant Shipping Act, in which it is interpreted as any vessel that is not propelled by oars. These lighters may be thoroughly seaworthy vessels, which are out of commission owing to slack times ; and if we leave out the word “ ship “ the Bill may be to a large extent evaded.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I know a little about commercial arrangements, and I cannot agree with the statements of Senator Guthrie. If goods arrive from any part of the world, and are placed on board hulks, entries have to be’ passed. These hulks are practically floating warehouses, which are under the absolute control of Customs House officers, who have the power at any hour of the day or night to enter warehouses containing goods.
– Bonded goods.
– These are practically bonded goods : if they were free goods the Customs officers would not concern themselves about them. There is no necessity for the retention of the word “ ship.” which will only give rise to the possibility of a good deal of trouble. If this power is not sought in connexion with imported goods, why should it be sought specially in connexion with exported goods ? A vessel might be ready for sea, and some message, it might be a hoax, as to the misdescription of goods of trumpery value, might lead to the unloading of the cargo, only to discover a “ mare’s nest.” Surely when goods are shipped, they are shipped. There is no necessity for the retention of the word “ ship,” which I hope will be’ excised.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - Two or three words will show the necessity to retain the word “ship” in this portion of the clause, which deals with exports. On the coast of South Australia there are several small places where coasting vessels pick up their cargo, but where there are no Customs House officers. For instance, a man may ship at Fowler’s Bay, which is such a place as I have indicated, and he has to give notice that he intends to take his cargo alongside a certain ocean steamer, and there discharge. The Customs House officer having the notice, must go on board that ship and inspect; and it will be seen at once that the work could not be done at any “ wharf or place.” To insist on that would unnecessarily harass people; and, therefore, so far, at any rate, as the trade of South Australia is concerned, a provision of the kind is absolutely imperative. I dare say the same conditions prevail to a greater or lesser degree elsewhere.
Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales). - I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added : - “ (4.) No fees shall be charged for the inspection or examination of goods under this section.”
It isdesirable that this should be made clear.
– There is no provision in the Bill to make a regulation charging fees.
– It will be impossible to make such a regulation if we state in the measure itself that no fees shall be. charged. Some time ago I pressed upon the Minister a question as to the expenditure likely to be involved in the administration of this measure, the arrangements for officers, and so on. The honorable senator made no reply. I presume it was because he did not know anything about it, and had no reply to make, as the matter had not been thought out. I can quite believe that considerable charges might be made in respect of the inspection of goods of little value in themselves. We should set our faces against anything of that sort, which would tend to lessen the profitableness of our export trade.
– I should like to know from the Minister whether it” is contemplated under the Bill as it stands that any charge shall be made for inspection? It does not appear so from the Bill, but it is just as well that the matter should be made clear. If the amendment moved by Senator Pulsford carries out the intention of the Government, it can very well be accepted, and we shall then know that inspections will not be made at the expense of the owners of the goods. There might be an attempt made by means of a regulation to prescribe a fee for inspection. It might, perhaps, not be successful, but we should make assurance doubly sure by accepting the amendment.
– It would be better not to say in the Billthat no charges shall be made for inspections. In the ordinarycourse, I presume that no charges are contemplated, and that none will be made.
– Hear, hear,
– I remind honorable senators that Senator Baker mentioned an instance this afternoon in which a charge for inspection would be justified. The honorable senator referred to the export of fruit from South Australia to Broken Hill. His fruit had to be examined, and he desired that it should be examined at his orchard. The authorities said, “ We will have it examined at the orchard if you like to pay the expense of sending men out for the purpose.” In such a case it might be advisable for the Government to impose a fee for inspection.
– It might be to the advantage of the exporter.
– Thereis no doubt that it would. The Government might make a charge for inspection at the request of the producer or exporter, who might be anxious to save trouble and further expense at the port of shipment. In such a case the amendment would militate against the interest of the exporter.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Every person who intends to export any goods of a kind or class required under this Act to be inspected or examined by an officer, shall, if required to do so by regulation, before the goods are shipped, give notice in accordance with the regulation to the Customs of his intention to export the goods, and of the place where the goods may be inspected.
Penalty : Twenty pounds.
Wales). - In connexion with this clause, several members of the Senate have been approached by persons interested in the fruit trade, who have represented, the undesirability of a clause being put into this Bill binding them to give notice to the Customs of their intention to export goods. It is stated that it is a very common thing for fruit to be on the trees in the morning and on board a vessel a few hours afterwards. The time at the disposal of the producer for picking, packing, and forwarding their fruit forshipment is so limited that it may be out of their power to comply with the regulations which might be made under this clause. We know what the office hours of the Customs Department are, and a shipment of’ fruit might be ordered too late in the afternoon to enable notice under this clause to be given to the Customs, on the same day, and it might be necessary to ship the fruit in the morning before the Customs office was opened. In such a case, were this clause given effect, the producer would be compelled to decline the order for his fruit, because he could not give the requisite notice. That would not be a desirable state of affairs,. In connexion with an industry of this character we have a very large number of producers in a small way who have not a staff of clerks and employes to make these arrangements for them, and we can best simplify their work by negativing the clause. If no honorable senator desires to support me in my objection to the clause as a whole, I propose to move an amendment with regard to the penalty. The penalty as, provided by the clause is a very heavy one. I am willing that there should be a high penalty-
– The penalty stated here is the maximum.
– Senator Playford’s innocence is something supreme. The honorable senator carefully hides from the Committee, perhaps because it is hidden from himself, that by the incorporation of this Bill with the Customs Act the penalty is subject to the condition that the minimum must be at least one-twentieth of the maximum penalty provided.
– That would be only £1 in this case.
– If some one made a trifling mistake under this clause, and were fined£1-
– It would make him more careful in future.
– The Minister would not be willing to make the payment good to him. To make a charge of £,1 for a trifling, paltry mistake, is but a piece of robbery. If an importer or exporter makes any mistake he hears a great deal about it, and the Customs authorities are quite willing to suggest the passing of clauses under which dealers in articles of small value may have severe penalties imposed upon them. Under this clause, an offender could’ not be charged less than£1. I move -
That after the word” Penalty,” the words “not less than five shillings, nor more than,” be inserted.
– I shall certainly vote for the amendment, but I shall vote against the clause as a whole. My objection to it is that it will inflict a considerable hardship on many of our producers. It provides that the producer must give notice to the Customs in accordance with the regulations, and we do not know what regulations will be made. We do know that the Minister may do almost anything he pleases,.
– We cannot know what the regulations will be until they are made. I wish I could tell honorable senators precisely what regulations will be made under this Bill.
– It is evidently going to be administered with a high hand. When we are asked by exporters to endeavour to secure some modification of this clause we are met by Ministers with a non possimus.
– I sympathize with Senator Macfarlane in his desire to know what regulations will be made under this Bill. It is possible to specify such a notice as would lead to very great hardship. As the Bill stands, the period of notice is left open. It might be twenty-four hours, forty-eight hours, or a week. If the amendment now before the Committee is withdrawn, I shall be prepared to move an amendment dealing with the notice to be given.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Senator Lt.-Col. Gould) proposed -
That after the word “ regulation,” line 6, the following words be inserted : - “ but so as not to be required to give more than twenty-four hours’ notice.”
– I suggest to my honorable friend a further slight amendment. It would be an improvement to make the words which he desires to insert read - but so as not to be obliged to give more than twenty-four hours’ notice.
The object of the amendment is not to make it obligatory to give twenty-four hours’ notice, but to leave it optional. The exporter may give a week’s or a month’s notice, if he so desires. That, I think, will be a great convenience to shippers. The amendment will fix the minimum notice which they are required to give. The people who will suffer more than others by this provision are those who are shipping small quantities of their own fruit. That happens frequently in my own State. Even now it is a very difficult thing ‘for them to get space, and if notice is obliged to be given they will be further hampered. I should feel better satisfied if the Minister could exempt small shippers from the obligation to give any notice at all, though I doubt whether that is possible. At any rate, it will be a great boon if a minimum notice is fixed.
– I am willing to accept Senator Symon’s suggestion.
Amendment amended accordingly.
– The arguments of Senator Symon show how desirable it is to deal with this matter by ‘regulation rather than by an amendment in the Bill. I. am aware that at times it is difficult for small shippers to obtain space in the cool chambers of the mail steamers. Often it is impossible to ascertain until the last moment what space will be available. Therefore I do not wish to fix any hard-and-fast time. I will have attention directed to the statements made by honorable senators in this respect, and they will be considered in drawing up the regulations. We will frame them so as to place as few obstacles as possible in the way of shippers. Possibly considerably less time than twenty-four hours’ notice may be -required in the case of small shippers.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I can give a concrete instance to .show how difficult it is to obtain space for the shipment of a small quantity of fruit. Two or three months ago, during the orange season, I myself wished. to ship to England a few cases of oranges to distribute there. I understood from day to day that the fruit was to be available, but I never knew when it would be possible to ship it. At last an intimation was given to me that it would not be possible during the succeeding week or two, on account of the difficulty of getting space. As the result I have not been able to ship the fruit at all this season. When should I have had to give notice that I intended1 to export a certain quantity of oranges? Had I to give notice when I expected them to be delivered for shipment, or when they were delivered ? I might have been giving notice from week to week. Of course, the shipment of a small consignment like that is not intended to come under this Bill, which is meant to deal with the ordinary large export trade of the country. I mention that as a reason why the notice should be shortened in special cases, though I hope it will be dispensed with in a multitude of cases.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I wish to ask the Minister whether this notice refers to the Customs entry, and, if so, what must the notice consist of? The trade description of the goods to be exported may not be known until the last moment. The Minister may be aware that in another place a promise was given to Mr. Dugald Thomson in regard to this matter, but I do not see that an amendment has been made in the Bill in accordance with the promise.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister Of Defence). - I have seen the Minister of Trade and Customs, and learn that he did make a statement. Mr. Dugald Thomson, I understand, sand that notice of the Customs entry should not be required, unless the entry was- the only trade description, and Sir William Lyne assented to that. The matter has been looked into further, and it is found that very probably the Customs entry would be taken as the ordinary entry under the circumstances.” and would contain the description. It has not been considered necessary to put a clause in the Bill stating that, because the fact is recognised by the Customs Department. I am- informed that there have been decisions by the English Courts on that particular point.
– Does that mean that particulars of the exports are to appear in the Customs entry?
– If there were a wrongful description in the entry it might be held to be a fraudulent trade description. There is nothing in this Bill to make it necessary to have anything further in the entry than that which it is already necessary to put in.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).- Suppose a shipment of goods is put on board at the last moment. Suppose a man finds that he is out of a particular kind of apples, and puts some of another kind in the shipment. Would the entry in that case be false? It seems to me that we are going to expose the exporter to very great risks.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Senator PULSFORD (New South
Wales). - I move -
That the words “ not less than five shillings nor more than,” be inserted after the word “ penalty.”
I have already explained my reason’ for moving this amendment. The Customs Act contains a section under which a magistrate has no power to reduce the fine to a true minimum. Where the fine is fixed at £20 he cannot fine any one less than£1, however trumpery and purely technical the error may be.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - It would be rather a serious thing for the Court to inflict a fine of £10 upon a man who had committed only a technical breach of the law. Under the Customs Act the maximum penalty for an offence is mentioned, and it can be reduced to a twentieth part. In other words, if the penalty is fixed at £20, a fine of £1 can be imposed. Senator Pulsford is of opinion that in certain cases a fine of a few shillings may be quite sufficient to impose. If, however, the maximum penalty were reduced to £10, there would be no occasion to state the minimum, as it would be provided for in the Customs Act, with which the Bill has to be read.
Amendment (by Senator Pulsford) -
That the word “twenty” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof theword “ ten.” - put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 7
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
The regulations may prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia of any specified goods unless there is applied to them a trade description of such character, relating to such matters, and applied in such manner, as is prescribed.
All goods imported in contravention of any regulation under this section may be detained by the Collector and may by direction of the Minister be seized as forfeited to the King.
Subject to the regulations, the ComptrollerGeneral, or on appeal from him the Minister, may in any case, and if in his opinion the contravention has not occurred either knowingly or negligently shall permit any goods which are liable to be or have been seized as forfeited under this section to be delivered to the owner or importer upon security being givento the satisfaction of the Comptroller-General that the prescribed trade description will be applied to the goods or that they will be forthwith exported.
No regulation under this section shall take effect until after the expiration of not less than three months from notification in the Gazette.
– We have now come to one of the vital departures from all existing legislation. I propose very briefly to state my views on the subject, and to call attention to what it involves. I shall take a later opportunity, if necessary, when the attendance is fuller, to have the whole matter rediscussed on a motion for re-committal. I object strongly to this system of proceeding at this late hour with a Bill which has been in Committee only a short time, and which involves questions of the greatest magnitude in relation to our commerce. This clause contains two leading principles. It provides that -
The regulations may prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia of any specified goods.
Of course, that means any portion of the goods enumerated in clause 15 which the regulations may specify. As to that, I have no complaint to make, subject, of course, to the consideration that we shall give to that clause when it is reached. There we have a reference to specified goods which removes the difficulty and inconvenience pointed out this afternoon in regard to clause 5. But clause 7 goes on to say that the importation of these specified goods may be prohibited - unless there is applied to them a trade description of such character, relating to such matters, and applied in such manner, as is prescribed.
We all admit that the main purpose of the Bill, when introduced last year, and again when introduced this year, was to prevent the importation of fraudulently marked, goods. This is a laudable desirable object, which is carried out expressly by clause 9 in these words -
No person shall import any goods to which a false trade description is applied.
That is salutary, beneficial, proper legislation, and no one can object to it. But this clause engrafts on it something altogether different. The first mischief is that it makes the marking of goods compulsory, which is not the case under the Imperial Act, and there is no reason why it should be. Compulsory marking was specially excluded from the operation of the Imperial Act, and if honorable senators will investigate the subject, they will ascertain the principle of all this sort of legislation, which is not new. We are not the discoverers of the mischief to be corrected, or of the remedy to be applied ; we are merely dealing with well-known and well-understood principles. The object is to prevent the public being victimized by having foisted on them goods under wrong or fraudulent descriptions. These principles have been adopted in England and the various States. Kerly, at page 19, says -
It will be seen, therefore, that the Act’ is directed against false marking only.
And that is all that it should be directed against -
Deceptive marks or deceptive trade descriptions are forbidden by it to be placed on goods, but it does not operate to make the marking of any kind compulsory.
This Bill, first of all, makes marking compulsory in the case of imported goods, and, secondly, by an extraordinary perversion of every rule which ought to apply to trade, it makes the compulsory affixing of a mark, which is prescribed, not in the country of origin, but in Australia. The importation of the goods specified in clause 15, or which may be specified by regulation, is prohibited unless there is applied a trade description “of such a character relating to such matters, and applied in such manner as is prescribed.” That is to say, if goods come here unmarked!, imported by some commercial man, who knows what he is getting, and who may reject them if they are falsely described, they may be marked in. any way the Minister chooses. All this has nothing to do with the consumer, but only with the importer. Goods which come here without any trade description, fraudulent or honest, may, under regulation, be marked by the Minister, even in the most fanciful or absurd) way, which he may prescribe by regulation. These marks are to be conceived in the minds of the authorities here, and to have no reference to the manufacturer or exporter. That is an entire reversal of ordinary methods, and has nothing to do with the principle of the Bill.
– It is impossible to mark a lot of goods; which come here.
– If it is impossible, it will not be attempted.
– Is the object of the Bill not to prevent the importation of fraudulently-marked goods?
– Then if goods are not marked at all, why should the importer here be compelled to apply marks to goods to which no special marks are applicable - to apply any mark which the Minister may devise?
– In order to describe the goods, I suppose.
– But the mark applied may be one which does not describe) the goods; they may be goods to which a trade description cannot be applied.
– If the Minister cannot apply’ a mark, he will not attempt to do so.
– Let us legislate with some degree of sense ! I am heart and soul with my friends opposite in keeping out fraudulently-marked goods, but that is accomplished by clause 9.
– If goods could be brought in unmarked, a fraudulent mark could be applied after their arrival.
– That could be done, even if we passed! this Bill fifty times over. Supposing cotton, linen, or other goods came in unmarked ?
– Or so-called woollens.
– The only control we have is over importation at the sea-board. We cannot follow goods into the interior of the country. The goods I have indicated may be imported without any mark at all.
– It is a. trade description, not a mark which is dealt with.
– Of course, it is a mark.
– A mark its quite a different thing from a trade description; a mark may be a circle or a letter, or anything of that kind.
– A circle or a letter does not exhaust what amark is. What I wish to say is, that the moment the goodsleave Port Melbourne for the city, the mark may be taken off.
– We shall have done our duty; let the State do theirs.
– We shall not have done our duty, because we shall not have protected the consumer.
– We shall have done so, as far as we can.
– What we desire to protect the consumers against is being deceived, which they may be by fraudulent marks, forgeries of marks, and so forth., There are volumes and volumes dealing with the subject of deceit by means of false marks and trade descriptions. The Bill, however, provides that the Minister, if goods come without a mark, may prescribe a mark, or he may change the mark which they already bear. Anything more idle or absurd! was never invented. The whole difficulty with the Bill has been that some extraordinary kind of mind - it is impossible to define the kind of tortuous mind - has been brought to bear in formulating the clauses. That people must be protected against deceitgoes without saying; but in some extraordinary way the mind I refer to has been brought to bear with the effect of complicating, and not assisting or facilitating, legislation. This is one of the most vital clauses of the Bill, and I make no apology for directing particular attention to it. If the Minister of Defence desires to keep us here all night, I am prepared to stay; but that is not the way to deal with a Bill of this description, when it has been before us only for the second time really in Committee, and we have reached a clause of importance to which the concentrated mind of the full Senate ought to be given. I shall deal with that matter at greater length at another opportunity presented by the recommittal, if necessary, of the Bill. I am now simply dealing with clause 7, which, as I havealready shown, is a departure from well-known principles, and existing legislation, and from the object of the Bill itself. I shall vote against the clause, but I should like to know whether Ministers think it desirable in the interests of the BiU that the provision should be proceeded with. If so* I intend to move a proviso to prevent the place of origin being regarded as a trade description. The place of origin used to be so regarded until a Select Committee or Royal Commission in England in 1891 condemned -it as a serious interference with trade.
– The place of origin has to appear on the goods.
– But, for the reason I have indicated, it has not, since then, been a part of the trade description. It was found that the words “ Made in Germany “ merely gave an advertisement to the goods of that country.
– That was not the intention.
-But that was to the effect, and I shall refer to that point when I submit an amendment.
– In, my remarks on the second reading, I pointed out the danger which I thought might arise from the fact that this measure’ and States legislation may overlap. If ever there was a matter which ought to be left to the States it is that with which we are now dealing. I quite agree with Senator Mulcahy that it is hopelessly impossible to prescribe, and fraught with the greatest danger, to attempt to prescribe the marks which are to be placed on goods from all parts of the world.
– And yet the honorable senator said that the States ought to be left to do so !
– The States ought to deal with the goods when, they arrive. If it be thought that goods of a deleterious character are coming here, and may be sold in a fraudulent way, let the States deal with the matter, either as internal trade or as Inter-State trade. But for us to dictate to England, America, Germany, or Japan, what marks shall be employed on their goods is impossible, to a great extent, or if not impossible, is impracticable, and will lose us some of our trade. If the exporters of the world find that our regulations are of an inconvenient character, they will give up the Australian trade unless it be of a very lucrative character, and will endeavour to find new markets.
– The honorable senator need not trouble about the exporters from abroad; they will look after themselves.
– Whilst some traders may pu[ up with it, there are others who will say that they will see the Commonwealth further first. We all desire to prevent fraudulent trade as regards imports, but that should be done by States legislation. It has been pointed out that paper is imported under the name of leather, but when it gets here we have done with it. We may insist that it shall be imported as paper.
– I expect that is one of the things which we will make importers mark.
– They may mark it as a preparation of paper for the manufacture of boots, but the Minister wall not be able to follow it into every little shop in, the Commonwealth, and it will there be called “leather.” The same difficulty will arise in connexion with the importation of medicines. They can be imported in casks, and not in bottles ; and after the casks have been imported under a proper trade description, the bottles may be distributed under false trade descriptions, and under this Bill the Minister will be unable to prevent that. If the clause is forced through to-night, it will only lead to the matter being discussed in full later on on a motion for the recommittal of the Bill.
– Honorable senators opposite will not be able to get the Bill recommitted ; that will be their trouble.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - When the honorable senator talks of the trouble of getting the Bill recommitted, he must remember that this is one of the vital parts of the Bill.
– How many vital parts are there in this Bill? I was told that the first clause was vital.
– And so it is, and the honorable senator accepted an amendment of it. He even agreed with honorable senators on this side that it would he desirable to leave out the word “ Commerce,” only his instructions would not permit him to accept such an amendment. If the honorable senator takes up the attitude that it is no use for us to talk about these clauses, that they should merely be put and the Committee should divide, I give him fair warning that this is not the last he will hear of them.
– There are some goods imported in connexion with which it is desirable that there should be a true trade description; but they are very few, and they are almost entirely confined to articles of food. In order to protect ourselves against the importation of adulterated foods, it is here proposed to cover a large area of imports, including many goods which it will be impossible to describe.
– Then we shall not attempt it.
– The Government may, under regulations, compel people to mark goods, though, in the public interest, it might not be necessary that they should be marked.
– No, the Government will use discretion in carrying out this work.
– The honorable senator and his colleagues will not hold office for ever.
– I expect that the men who succeed us will be intelligent men.
– Is Senator Mulcahy afraid that honorable senators opposite mayget into power?
– No; but I should like to see legislation passed which can be fairly administered by either a free-trade 01 protectionist Ministry. We are giving powers to the Minister under this Bill which will enable him, if he so desires, to give either a protectionist or a free-trade tendency to our legislation.
– That could not be done without the consent of Parliament.
– We will have fourteen days after the regulations are tabled to raiser objection to them, and we may or may not be able to effect any alterations of them in that time. We should be very careful in giving such powers as are here proposed to be given to the Minister, because with the best intention, and as the result of absolute ignorance, they may be exercised, with very mischievous results indeed. It is proposed to place in the hands of the Minister of Trade and Customs the power to require a trade description to be applied to goods for the protection of the public, which may be of no use whatever for that purpose.
– He would be a very foolish man who would ask that such a stupid thing should be done.
– Has the Minister never known a member of a Government to do anything stupid?
– Leaving out the members of the present Ministry, I have faith that no possible Ministers would do such a thing.
– I have no desire to talk merely to prolong the debate, but I must P.ay that the Government are making a very serious mistake in connexion with this Bill. They made a very serious mistake when they refused in another place to accept the suggestion to refer it to a Select Committee. They made the same mistake here, and it is one for which they must accept the responsibility.
– It is very undesirable that this Bill should be pushed on at this hour of the night. Ministers have taken up the attitude that little or no reply shall be made to any objections raised against the Bill from this side. Senator Playford has said that he is prepared to believe that members of the present Ministry and of any Ministry who may succeed them will do all that is sensible and reasonable. I tell the honorable senator plainly that I have not that confidence in the Ministry. I believe they are as capable of making mistakes as other Ministries have been in the Commonwealth or elsewhere. So far as future Ministeries are concerned, I have no doubt the same thing may be said of them from whichever side in politics they come. It should not be forgotten that we are merely amateurs in dealing with this matter. Ministers are certainly amateurs on the subject of this Bill, because there is not one member of the present Government who is a commercial man. I ask whether any one of them has had such a commercial training as would entitle him to deal with a measure like this?
– The Minister of Defence has had as good a commercial training as have some of the persons who have written leading articles that have been quoted by the honorable senator.
.- What commercial training has the Minister for Defence had? I am aware that he has been a Minister of the Crown for many Years, and that he has been Minister for Trade and Customs in South’ Australia.
– He is a director of public companies.
– That does not make the honorable senator an expert in dealing with matters of this kind.
– I have been the liquidator of a burst up bank, and I learnt a good many wrinkles then as to the way in which commercial men deal with banks.
.- The Minister has had no connexion with commercial pursuits which entitles him to speak as an expert on the subject dealt with in this Bill. I am aware that honorable senators opposite have made up their minds, and are prepared to adopt a certain course of action. They have taken good care to provide no pairs for honorable senators on this side.
– Honorable senators opposite would then have counted out the Senate.
.- That is an admission that what I say is correct. I protestagainst going on any further with this Bill to-night.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I shall vote against the first sub-clause, but first of all I intend to move an amendment. I move -
That the following words be added to subclause1 - “ Provided that the place of origin of the goods shall not be a trade description within this section.”
The object of the amendment is to bring the clause into conformity with the law as it stands at present in England.
– No; the law in England has not been altered, I think.
– The ground upon which an alteration was recommended in England was that to have the place of origin as a trade description wouldseriously restrict trade, and injure the business of warehousemen and small masters.
Senator MACFARLANE (Tasmania).I take it that “place of origin “ means place of manufacture. How is the importer in Australia! to know the place of origin of the goods which he buys through his agent in London ? If we do not take out those words we shall be penalizing the importer for something he cannot help. It will be very unjust, and will do the country no good. It is not a question of duty, because it does not affect the Customs Department in any way. I shall support the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be added to sub-clause1 be added - put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … … 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Prohibition of exports, not bearing the prescribed trade description) -
– No. We have lost our trains now, Hind may as well go on. I made a promise contingent on clause 10 being dealt with by a definite time, and that time has been exceeded.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I never heard a word about such a promise. Is the Minister going to . commita gross breach of faith?
– A scandalous breach of faith !
– The Minister came over to me, and said that he wanted to get as far as clause 10. He never said a word about any hour. I shortened my remarks, and moved no amendment subsequent to clause 7, in order that the Minister might be enabled to get as far as clause 10. I say with great pain that if he does adopt the course which he threatens he will be committing a gross breach of faith with the Senate and honorable senators on this side. I ask him not to allow himself to do a thing of that kind. He cannot deny that he came over to me ait the dinner adjournment, and said that he wished to get as far as clause 10, and I told him that I would do anything I could to help him. He never said a word about reaching clause 10 by 11 o’clock - not a single word.
– I said in time to catch our trains.
– The honorable senator never said a word about catching trains. All I can say is that if the Minister does what he threatens we shall know that we cannot take the word of a Minister in this Senate.
– The opponents’ of the Bill have not treated him fairly.
– We have treated him absolutely fairly. He cannot deny what I have said. Senator Pulsford went away with the understanding that no amendment would be moved as soon as we had got past clause 7, which we regarded as the vital clause of the Bill. Senator Gray also intended to go, as he was tired with last night’s travelling.
– Honorable senators should not have wasted so much time this afternoon.
– We have wasted no time. If we are not to deal with these matters in a reasonable way we should not be here at all.
– They have been dealt with unreasonably.
– We are sent here to do our duty to our constituents, and we should fail in that if we did not discuss such matters. What is the good of the honorable senator, who never takes an intelligent share in the business of the Chamber, talking in that way ? I am not going to impute that Senator Playford would do such a thing, because his reputation is against it ; but I ask him to corroborate my statement, that at the dinner adjournment he came over to me and said that he was going on as far as clause 10, that I told him f would assist him, and that he never said a word about 11 o’clock, or any hour. On the faith of that assurance, we have not moved a single amendment in certain clauses. Senator Pulsford told me that he had a number of amendments to move between clause 7 and clause 10, and I suggested that he had better not move them. That is the attitude we took, and he has gone away.
Senator Lt.-Col. GOULD (New South Wales). - Within the last half -hour, Senator Playford has said that he would go as far as clause 10 to-night. He knows that after the vital amendment moved by Senator Symon was defeated no amendment in the remaining clauses; was proposed. It would be very much better on the Minister’s part to let honorable senators separate in an ordinary frame of mind, because if any unfair proceeding be taken it will only give rise to a lot of disagreement and unpleasantness.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia).There is another side of this picture to be exhibited. Honorable senators on the Oppo.sition benches have only to walk to their hotels, but some of us live in the suburbs, and owing to their action we shall have to hire cabs in order to reach our homes.
– They have had their eyes on the clock, too.
– Honorable senators on the Opposition side never reached this frame of mind until they had made us miss, our trains and trams.
– That is not the case. I told Senator Playford at dinner time that I should assist him in every way I could to get to clause 10 to-night ; and I did.
– I deny that .the honorable and learned senator ever said that he would assist me at all.
– Order !
– I say emphatically that I did, and I reminded him that he promised to give Tuesday and Wednesday to the consideration of the Bill.
– Nothing of the sort.
– Order ! I hope that honorable senators will assist me in maintaining order. Senator Pearce is in possession of the floor.
– I am not aware of what undertaking was entered into between the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Government. It may be that the Opposition consider that they have carried on a justifiable criticism of the Bill, but it is a singular thing that it was continued right up to the time when it became impossible for those of us who live in the suburbs to get to our homes by the ordinary means.
– We never heard a word about that.
– That object having been accomplished, we have now to spend the night in Melbourne. The Government are quite justified in asking the Committee to go on with the Bill, because those who live in the suburbs have some right to be considered in these matters.
– ‘Certainly, if it had been mentioned before; but we never heard a word about it.
– The honorable and learned senator knew it.
– I did not.
– The Opposition have practically brought about this position by continuing the criticism of the clauses right up to the time they did. If they intended to fall in with the arrangement of the Goverment, why did they not stop their criticism in sufficient time to enable us to get home by the ordinary means?
– I did so.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - Senator Symon has accurately stated that I intimated to him that I thought that the statement I made last Friday - that we should go as far as clause 4 on that day, as far as clause 10 Ito-day, and take the remaining clauses on the third day - should be adhered to. I said that I intended to sit until we got to clause 10 to-day. I do not know whether I said that I expected that clause to be dealt with by 11 o’clock.
– The Minister never said anything of the sort.
– I anticipated that it would be dealt with within a reasonable time. I knew that honorable senators were aware that I lived some distance out of town. They know that more than once I have alluded to the fact that I should miss my tram if I did not get away by a certain hour. Therefore, I anticipated that Senator Symon would know that if he were to keep me here until after the last tram had gone the chances were that I should like to stop a little longer and get more business done. There are other honorable senators in a similar position.
– Why did not the Minister say so?
– It was at the dinner adjournment that this conversation took place. But look, at the waste of time which occurred up to 1 1 o’clock. Honorable senators delivered, over and over again, second-reading speeches until we got sick and tired of them. Senator Pulsford was prepared with amendment after amendment. When one amendment was moved, another, honorable senator suggested a certain altera tion; when the amendment was withdrawn to be altered, another alteration was suggested, and so the talking went on. We on this side did not say much. The result is that honorable senators have kept us here until later than half -past 11 o’clock. As we have missed our trams and trains, we might just as well stop here and do a little more business. Honorable senators are desirous of proceeding with the Bill, and the Government intend to go on.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - I do not wish to import anyundue heat into this discussion. But the Minister’s statement is incomplete. It is accurate as far as it goes in regard to the conversation with myself. At the dinner adjournment he came over to me and stated that he proposed to go as far as clause 10. I said I should give him every assistance in order to get to that clause.
– The honorable and learned senator said that clause 7 was of such importance that he did not thank I would be able to get beyond it.
– I never said anything of the kind.. I said that clause 7 was of importance, and that I intended to move an amendment to it. When my honorable friend replied that he expected to get to clause 10, I said that I would assist him in every way I could to get that far.
– The honorable senator never said a syllable about 11 o’clock, or any other hour. When I came back after dinner I arranged with Senator Pulsford not to move his amendments, and then, having got through all the clauses up to clause 10 without the amendments which were intended to be moved by Senator Pulsford, who had gone home, the Minister, without a single word to those on this side, announced his intention to go on with the Bill. We have kept our promise absolutely.
– Honorable senators on the other side have wasted tome.
– In the honorable and learned senator’s view it may have been a waste of time, but in our view it is not. Senator Playford knows perfectly well that it was on the faith of what took place between us that the clauses were passed. I made no speech on clause 7 ; I moved the amendment practically without a word. I said that I should content myself with plac- ing it on record, and I stated that in a full Senate, if it were necessary, on a recommittal of the Bill, I should have an opportunity to fully discuss the effect of the clause.
– Yes ; and the honorable and learned senator spoke for about half-an-hour.
– If my honorable friend had come and told me that he, or any one else on his side, could not get home if we sat beyond a certain hour-
– Surely that is well known.
– It is not well known ; certainly my honorable friend never mentioned it to me.
– The Minister ought to have stated it to the Committee.
– I am sick of stating it.
– I hope that my honorable friend is not going to be a party to what would be the blackest breach of faith ever committed in any legislative assembly. I do not believe that he will.
– There is no breach of faith at all.
– My honorable friend remembers that at” the dinner adjournment I reminded him that on Friday he said that he would give Tuesday and Wednesday to the Bill in Committee.
– Honorable senators on the other side kept us up too long. They went beyond all reason.
– Surely that is no justification for my honorable friend to break his promise.
– The promise was made conditionally.
– There was no condition of any sort or description made. We simply reminded each other of what took place on Friday - that the Bill was to be passed up to clause 4 on that day, up to clause 10 to-day, and the remaining clauses to-morrow. I want to have some fair ordinary dealing in this matter. I am pledged to honorable senators on this side who have gone away. I asked1 Senator Pulsford not to move his amendments, and suggested that if he wished he should go home, with a view to preventing the possibility of the clause not being passed, and I undertook to go to clause 10.
– The Minister cannot go on after that.
– We shall go on.
– The honorable senator will regret it if he does.
– I cannot help it.
– The honorable senator can help it.
– The Opposition have been playing with the Bill.
– That is an extremely bad position to take up in relation to the business of the Senate, and’ I ask my honorable friend not to give way to any petulance, or make that a ground for violating his pledged word to me.
– I have never violated my pledge.
Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania). - I hope that good sense and moderation will prevail on this occasion. Senator Playford has reached the stage in the Bill which he desired to reach to-night. Certainly it has taken some time to reach that stage. He seems to think that there has been a great deal of obstruction on the other side; but I do not think the Bill has received more than such fair debate as its various clauses required. I should be very sorry to take” part in any obstruction, but we have now reached a clause which, to my mind, is the most important one in the Bill, and that is the one which enumerates the articles to which it is to apply. I do not know whether I am justified in continuing a pair which I promised to Senator Styles before he went home.
– If the honorable senator breaks his pair, I shall break mine.
– I shall not break a pledge I have given to any man, but certainly when I engaged to pair with Senator Styles for the remainder of the evening, I thought that no further business would be taken after we had reached the stage which the leader of the Senate had expressed his desire to reach to-night.
– Honorable senators should not have talked quite so long.
– I only talked when I felt it my duty to do so, and that I shall continue to do, in spite of any Minister. I approached the consideration of this Bill quite impartially, without any desire to embarrass or hinder the Government, but rather to be friendly toward them. I have no party allegiance here. This Bill appeals to me as a business man most strongly, therefore I wish to see its provisions debated properly and impartially. I do not wish to be lecturing the Committee at all, I only want reasonably fair play. The Minister has got as far with the Bill as he expected to reach to-night, in fact, if the truth is told, a little time ago he did not expect to reach clause 10 before daylight, but now having reached that clause, he wishes to do something which will leave him open to the charge of tyrannizing over the minority. I hope that on reconsideration he will not leave himself open to that charge.
Senator STORY (South Australia).I hope that the leader of the Senate will carry out his expressed determination. It will be remembered that after the Bill was read the second time last Friday, the members of the Opposition deliberately wasted the whole of the day.
– Nothing of the kind.
– They announced their intent, if possible, to prevent the passage of the Bill. The whole of the business done that day was really done in the last half -hour of the sitting. The whole of the day having been wasted by the Opposition, the leader of the Government now proposes to do business. We have now missed our trains, and may as well proceed with the Bill. I resent the statement of Senator Symon, who, in reply to an interjection by me, stated that I had not taken an’ intelligent interest in the Bill. I claim to have taken quite as intelligent an interest in the measure as has, Senator Symon himself.
– What I said was in reference to an interjection by you.
– I may not talk as much as, does Senator Symon, but I do not know that that is altogether a disadvantage. At anyrate, Senator Symon has talked a great deal upon what appeared1 to me to be very unimportant subjects. The learned senator possesses, to a larger extent than most honorable senators, the ability to make a long speech on practically nothing.
– The question before the Committee is clause 11.
– I am addressing myself as well as I can to the clause, and endeavouring to explain that Itake quite as intelligent an interest in the Bill as does Senator Symon. It is unfair for members of the Opposition to harass and delay the business of the Government during the whole of the day.
– Do not say that the Opposition have been unfair ; this is a most important Bill.
– It is transparent that the Oppositionhavedone what I say,. Members of the Opposition have expressed their determination to use every means to defeat the Bill.
– Who saidso?
– Senator Gray amongst others, said so.
– To whom?
– The honorable senator has been talking against time the whole of the afternoon.
– I have not spoken two hours on the Bill since it was introduced.
– The object of the Opposition is to insert as, many amendments as possible, with the intention that when the measure is sent to another place-
– I must ask the honorable senator to deal with the clause before the Committee.
– Idesire to encourage the leader of the Government in his determination to pass the Bill through Committee.
Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON (South Australia). - If Senator Story feels at all hurt by my remark, which was in answer to an interjection by him, and not in regard to the measure itself, I express my regret, and at once withdraw it. I should be exceedingly sorry if any personal feeling were generated, over this matter, because I see no occasion for it. I spoke very emphatically on the subject, and related exactly what took place, on the faith of which, as leader of the Opposition, I acted in sending my supporters away, and in inducing them not to move a series of amendments on the intervening clauses between clauses 7 and 10. If Senator Playford still adheres to the view he has expressed, and prefers not to give to-morrow to the consideration of the remainder of the Bill, as was intended, I shall make no further comment. I should like, however, to appeal to honorable senators whether I am being placed in quite a fair position ? I can only express my regret if, through any inadvertence, inconvenience has been caused to any person, but as I have explained, I did all I could, in order that all the clauses up to clause 10 might be dealt with. I have no desire to take the step, but if Senator Playford does not wish to do so, it is quite openfor me to move that progress be reported. If honorable senators wish to put me in that very difficult position, I cannot help it. I think, however, honorable senatorswill be more generous, and that, under the circumstances, Senator Playford will not adhere to his decision. If Senator Playford feels, however, that he ought to pass the Bill through Committee, I shall’ ask honorable senators, on a motion to report progress, to say whether I shall be relieved from the position to which I have referred.
– After all this personal explanation, I desire to proceed with the discussion of the clause.
– It would be only courteous to the Committee if the Minister of Defence would say whether or not he intends to proceed with the remaining clauses of the Bill.
– Before the Minister replies-
– I have already informed honorable senators that I intend to go on with the business.
– I should like to say-
– Who has the chair?
-This discussion must end.
– We have been kept hero all day by obstructive tactics.
– Is the honorable senator going to move an amendment?
– I intend to discuss the clause.
– Then the honorable senator is simply “ stone-walling “ the Bill.
– The clause is animportant one, which requires discussion.
– It is a farce to pretend before the country that we are doing business.
– Some of the things which Senator Dobson has done in his time, in his own country, have not been much of a farce, I can fell him. I propose to do business.
– The honorable senator is not doing business; he is supporting the clause.
– Order! I sincerely hope the Senate, which, I believe, has the highest reputationthroughout this Commonwealth for the orderly conduct of business, will not do anything to damage that reputation.
– If any honorable senator wishes to move an amendment I am prepared to give way.
Motion (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) proposed -
That the Chairman report progress, - and ask leave to sit again.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority… … 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Penalty for applying false trade description to export).
Senator DOBSON (Tasmania). - As faith has been broken, I intend to go home.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 -
Sections seven and eleven of this Act shall not apply to any goods other than -
– Early this afternoon I gave notice of my intention to move an amendment on this clause. I move-
That the following newparagraph be added : -
“Ropes and chains.”
The articles specially dealt with in clauses 7 and 1 1 are articles which might endanger the health and safety of the people. It will be admitted that in the mining and shipping industries the safety of many people is dependent onsound chains and ropes. We should take every precaution to see that goods of this description are brought within the operation of the Bill. There should at least be provided the same power for their inspection as for the inspection of manures or medicines. In referring to the matter before, I pointed out that, under the Merchant Shipping Act, cables used on board ships are tested and inspected, but running gearandgear used in hoisting cargo are not tested. The adoption of the amendment would, I am sure, result in practical benefit to those engaged in mining and shipping.
– I trust that the Minister will give careful consideration to the amendment. It is of importance, not only to the shipping industry, but also to the mining industry. If it is possible to provide for the inspection of chains and ropes, I trust the Minister will accept the amendment.
– There is no necessity whatever for such an amendment in the case of chains and ropes used in connexion with the mining industry. The laws affecting the mining industry throughout Australia already make such an inspection of ropes and chains compulsory as renders the amendment entirely unnecessary.
– There is no inspection in South Australia.
– I thought that South Australia was as civilized as are other parts of the Commonwealth. Under the mining laws of the other States the inspection of ropes and gear is carried out as regularly as the tick of the clock. Employe’s in the mining industry are not prepared to risk their lives on a rope which has been used until it is almost worn out, and the breaking of which might drop them to the bottom of a shaft. We can safely leave the inspection of ropes and chains in the hands of the States Legislatures.
Senator PLAYFORD (South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I ask Senator Guthrie not to press the amendment. As Senator Henderson has pointed out, it is unnecessary, so far as the mining industry is concerned. I must confess that I was surprised to hear that ropes and chains are not inspected in South Australia in connexion with the mining industry.
– That is not correct.
– I understand from Senator Baker that the statement is not correct. So far as the shipping industry is concerned, I think it will be admitted that the proper place for such a provision is in a Navigation Bill.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia). - On behalf of Senator Styles, I move -
That the following new paragraph be inserted to follow paragraph d : - [da) jewellery; or
Senator Styles gave notice of this amendment, and no doubt honorable senators are aware that there is a very great deal of jewellery at present being sold in the Commonwealth as gold which contains but a very small proportion of gold, though every link of a chain may be marked “ 15-carat.” A large quantity of the jewellery which is imported is fraudulently marked, and itshould be dealt with under a Bill of this character. The Committee will be well advised in accepting the amendment.
Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister) of Defence). - TheGovernment are prepared to accept the amendment. We are satisfied that jewellery is an article which might very properly be brought under this clause.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed. to.
Clauses16, 17, 18, and the title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Senate adjourned at 12.26 a.m. (Wednesday). .
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 November 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1905/19051114_senate_2_29/>.