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Saturday, 16 December 1905


Sir WILLIAM LYNE (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I did not know that the honorable member intended to ask me that question, but the matter was brought under my notice by the Prime Minister. The following is a summary of the statements of the Premier of New South Wales, with my replies to them: -

1.   A great deal of the Customs work of the State of New South Wales has been transfered to the head-quarters in Melbourne.

This statement is incorrect, as the whole of the detailed work of the Customs, New South Wales, is still transacted in that State.

It is true, of course, that the central administration is in Melbourne, that city being at present the seat of Government, but that administration has to do with the Customs of the whole of the Commonwealth.

To show how misleading the statement is, it may be mentioned that the Customs staff of New South Wales is 334, while the whole staff of the Ministerial office dealing with matters referred from all the States, and with many other important matters besides those relating to Customs administration, is only 20.

2.   That the Customs collect wharf age rates in Melbourne for the Harbor Trust for a lump sum of £800 a year, rendering services which, if done by the Harbor Trust officers, would have cost the Trust an extra sum during the past five years of nearly £20,000.

The arrangement under which the Customs collected wharfage rates for the Melbourne Harbor Trust, and for which the Trust paid a lump sum of £800 a year, was terminated on 1st July, 1905, the Trust having decided to collect these rates with its own officers.

The remuneration to the Customs for collecting these rates had, for some time, been considered inadequate for the services rendered, and, if the arangement had been continued, the Department would probably have required the payment to be raised from £800 to (at least) £2,000 per annum.

3.   That the New South Wales Government requested the Customs to collect rates for the Sydney Harbor Trust, and that the request was refused. "They say that it should not be done by Customs officers, who should not be brought into contact with shipping in the collection of local State dues. The Federal officers ought to wear one uniform, with gold buttons, and the State officers another, with silver buttons, and the Federal officers should not be called upon to do menial work for the State."

No official request from the Government of New South Wales can be traced. The matter was, however, discussed with the Comptroller-General by the Chairman of the Trust two or three years ago, and a desire was expressed to meet the Trust's wishes.

The first difficulty connected with this suggestion, and one which at the time could not be overcome, was the lack of accommodation in the Customs House, owing tothe large amount of space occupied in the building by State Departments.

Great inconvenience was, and still is, caused to the mercantile community of Sydney owing to the congested state of the accommodation in the Sydney Customs House, and it was impossible, without causing an intolerable state of affairs, to undertake work which would have meant finding accommodation for an increased number of officers.

Negotiations between the Commonwealth and State Governments with a view to obtaining more accommodation in the Customs House for the business of the Customs De- partment have been carried on for some time, but nothing definite has yet resulted.

4.   That the Federal Parliament is now refusing to do similar work (i.e., collect rates) for the Harbor Trust.

As to the Harbor Trust, the position has been explained under (2) above.

5.   That the Patent Office records of New South Wales were attempted to be taken to Melbourne.

After the passing of the Commonwealth Patents Act, it became essential for the transaction of the business of the Patents Office, that the Examiner should have access to the records of all States, and it was at first proposed to transfer the New South Wales records to Melbourne for that purpose.

The Minister (Sir William Lyne) decided. however, that the original records should remain in Sydney, and copies be made of such records as were required at the Central Patents Office.

6.   That a similar attempt is going on again with regard to copyright.

The Copyright Bill is not yet passed, but if it does pass, the Minister has decided that a branch registry shall be established in Sydney.

It has been the policy of the Customs Depart- ment ever since it was established to render every possible assistance to the State, and it always does so whenever in its power.

This was laid down as a guiding principle by Mr. Kingston - the first Commonwealth Minister of Customs - and has been followed by Sir William Lyne, the present Minister, and by other Ministers of the Department.

The chief officers of the Department have loyally co-operated throughout in carrying out the wishes of Ministers in this respect.

There is not the semblance of truth in any of the statements made by the Premier of New South Wales, and I cannot understand his action in making them.







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