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Thursday, 22 October 1931


Mr FENTON (Maribyrnong) . - Sometimes gifts are made to churches and other public institutions by persons resident or travelling abroad; some lady may offer a gift to the church in which she was baptized or married, and such a gift should, in my opinion, be admitted free of duty. I recollect one such gift in connexion with which I had to decide against my own conviction. An organ which had been installed in the private residence of a citizen of the United Kingdom was, on his death, dismantled and sent out to Australia as a gift to an Anglican Church in Sydney. In accordance with the rules and regulations, customs duty had to be imposed, but I resolved that if I remained in the department such regulations would have to be amended in order to allow greater discretion in these matters. Another gift to a church in Perth came under my notice, but I was able to regard that as a work of art, and admit it without payment of duty. The honorable member for Brisbane has stated that after much trouble a silver cross presented to a church in Brisbane was admitted duty free. It is time that we came to a commonsense decision in regard to these matters. Churches are not engaged in competitive trading, and gifts of the character I have mentioned are not imported for pro.fi t. No doubt there are some people connected with churches who, if allowed a foot, would take a yard, but, generally speaking, the regulations should be liberally interpreted in relation to presentation goods for churches and other public institutions. I urge the Minister to give consideration to this matter; if he cannot make the necessary amendment in this bill I hope that he will propose it in another. Such an alteration would not involve any loss to Australian trade or interfere with the employment of our workmen. I endorse the Minister's denial of the statement that the admission of goods under regulations is decided by junior officers. Such matters are controlled by the senior officers, and I make bold to say that no department of the Commonwealth Service has such n highly-qualified staff as has the Customs Department. The responsible officers are quite capable of giving unbiased decisions in regard to important matters. Some wrong precedents may have been established, but I am not wedded to precedents, and 1 believe that the regulations should be relaxed or made more flexible in order to permit of the commonsense treatment of gifts from abroad.


Mr Eldridge - Will the Minister promise to give careful consideration to the suggestions that have been made regarding the admission of works of art duty free?







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