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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr WHITE (Balaclava) .- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron), as I consider that this anomaly ought to be cleared up. Its existence has been manifest on many occasions. I know of an instance in which goods which were consigned to Sydney bore a certain duty. The remainder of the consignment proceeded to Melbourne. Before they were landed, a fresh schedule was brought down, providing for an increased rate of duty, which had to be paid. Obviously, that put the Melbourne importers- at a disadvantage.

Mr Forde - If a reduction had occurred he would gladly have accepted it.

M r. WHITE. - Whether an increase or a reduction takes place, the same rate of duty should be charged on the consignment. .

Frequently goods are entered under bylaw, a practice that inflicts an injustice both on manufacturers and importers. When it suits the convenience of the Government, and also when the Customs Department is satisfied that the goods cannot be made in Australia, the operation of the duty is temporarily suspended. The practice would be fair and reasonable if the goods could not be manufactured here, and also if all importers concerned were treated on the same basis. I have questioned and written the Minister in connexion with a case in which certain hardware was imported, upon which duty was paid, while other similar hardware was brought in free as a result of the temporary suspension of the by-law. To rectify the anomaly I suggest that all decisions of the Government to admit goods free under by-law should be advertised seven days prior to any landing. The commercial community hears of these entries only after the goods have been landed, when the incident is advertised in the Government and trade gazettes. If it were, generally made known that certain goods would be admitted free, manufacturers or importers would have an opportunity to protest if they had objections. If my recommendation were accepted, it would mean a good deal of revenue to the department, . as an importer who believes that he could get goods through free under by-law would quote on that assumption. Another merchant who was not persona grata with the department

Mr Forde - I assure the honorable gentleman that each case is considered on its merits, and that no merchant is persona grata with the department.

Mr WHITE - I was not hinting at any improper action by the department. I had in mind a man who does not do hia business through a customs agent, and who would quote on the assumption that a certain rate of duty would be payable on his commodities. Other merchants with experience in the matter could quote to greater advantage, knowing that they could bring in their goods free on a specified duty. My suggestion would be fair to the manufacturer who might be able to make the goods here, and who could lodge his protest, and to the importer. There may be difficulties in the way of incorporating it in the Custom* Act. Possibly that would come under the Tariff Act. But I urge that some action in this direction should be taken.

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