Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 15 August 1906

Mr ISAACS (INDI, VICTORIA) (Attorney-General) - The question affects to some extent an action now pending in the Courts. Speaking from recollection -I may have to correctmy statements after reference to the papers: in the case - the matter was brought under my notice only prior to the appeal being heard by the Full Court of Victoria. I think that that is the case to which the honorable and learned member is referring.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am speaking of a new action, in which a Commission was asked to inquire into the cost of harvesters in Canada.

Sir John Quick - It is an old action. Mr. ISAACS.- Ifthe honorable and learned member is not' referring to something which has been done in an action in the Supreme Court of Victoria, I know nothing about the matter.

Sir John Quick - The honorable and learned member is referring to the action in the Supreme Court of Victoria-

Mr ISAACS - An appeal was proceeded with, with my sanction, and I can give the honorable and learned member the reason for the action which has been taken. I think that it would be an unnecessary and great waste of money to have the Commission, because the defence raised upon the pleadings is that, exercising his powers under the Customs Act, the Minister of Trade and Customs has fixed the value on. which dutyis to be paid at , £65. My desire was to have the point of law thus raised decided before the enormous expense of the Commission is entered upon. If the point of law were determined in favour of the Commonwealth - as, according to my reading of the Act it should be - it would be unnecessary for either party to go to the expense of having a Commission appointed. On the other hand, if thepoint of law were determined against theCommonwealth, the Commission could proceed. It was with the desire to save unnecessary expense, not to shut out facts, that the appeal was proceeded with.

Mr BRUCE SMITH (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Is the honorable and learned gentleman aware that the Minister of Trade and Customs gave it as his reason for raising the valuation of the harvesters that their cost in Canada had been misrepresented to him?

Mr ISAACS - I am afraid, that that question travels beyond the pleadings, and is irrelevant to the point first raised by the honorable and learned member. The reason that actuated me in assenting to the appeal advised by learned counsel was that which I have just given.

Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that the Minister of Trade and Customs told the House and the country that he would facilitate in every way the action of the Massey-Harris Company in seeking to prove the Canadian price of their harvesters? If the Government regard the appointment of a Commission to take evidence in Canada on the subject as a waste of money, because the Minister has the absolute right to impose what duty he pleases, and take action accordingly,' they will do so in total contradiction to the Minister's statement.

Mr ISAACS - I do not desire to enter intoany question of factwhich may affect the trial of the action hereafter. I was asked a question, to reply to which I thought would not affect it, and I have given the answer that, on the pleadings as they stand, avery important constitutional and legal point is raised, namely, as to whether the Minister of Trade and Customs haspower, under section 160 of the Customs Act, to determine in cases of doubt what shall be the valuation for duty of any particular import.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister declared that he would not take advantage of that technical defence.

Mr ISAACS - It is very important that the point shall be determined. I am not aware that the Minister made the statement attributed to him by the honorable member, though that is not relevant to my position as Attorney-General in assenting to the appeal advised by counsel on the pleadings. I think that I have sufficiently answered the questions which have been asked, and honorable members will forgive me if I do not enter upon a matter which, if entered upon as a question of fact, might interfere with the trial of the action hereafter.

Suggest corrections