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Thursday, 22 October 1931

Mr FORDE (Capricornia) (Minister for Trade and Customs) . - We all look upon the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) as an authority on yachting, seeing that he has for years been one of the loading yachtsmen in Australia. We are, therefore, bound to listen with attention to any representations that he may make on behalf of imported sails, Although an unfavorable decision wa3 made in regard to the admission of Ratsey sails for the famous yachting race that is soon to take place in Australia, I can assure the honorable member that I shall call for the file and reconsider the whole matter. The honorable member, and also the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), have assured me that the imported sails are now in bond in Sydney. I was interested to hear from the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Frost) that on one occasion the Tasmanian boat - to use his own expression - wiped the seas with another boat using imported sails costing fifteen times as much as the local sails.

Mr Marks - The honorable member for Franklin was quite right in his reference to the race for the Forster Cup, but the boats competing for that are small boats. I am referring to large yachts.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - The honorable member for Franklin is referring to miniature yachts.

Mr FORDE - I promise tho honorable member for Wentworth that I shall reconsider this matter.

The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) have referred to works of art. That is really a tariff matter, coming under item 426 a - Works of art framed or unframed imported for public institutions or purposes as prescribed by departmental bylaws. The departmental officers inspect, these works. The report comes not from junior officers, but from the Comptroller or Deputy Comptroller of Customs. The Minister then decides whether they are works of art, or works to be exhibited in public institutions.

Mr Eldridge - Have the departmental officers special qualifications for that work ?

Mr FORDE - Yes. They are experienced officers in matters of this kind. If necessary, they obtain the advice of experts, well-known artists and others. In connexion with the silver cross for the Brisbane cathedral, the opinions of a silversmith and a well-known artist were obtained in addition to that of the officers of the department. The department sometimes obtains legal opinion from the Attorney-General's Department as to what constitutes a public institution. Thi? matter is not dealt with haphazardly. There are certain, places that can !be called public institutions, but other places do not come under that heading; and therein lies the difficulty. Probably persons who do not succeed in having their pictures, statues or altars classified as works of art consider that unfair discrimination has been shown against them. Whether a work is a work of art sometimes depends on where it is to be hung or erected. If it were to be erected in a public place, the Minister would most likely give a favorable decision. It might be a different matter if it were to be erected in some secluded place not open to the public. I assure honorable members who have spoken on this subject that their representations will be sympathetically considered.

The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) referred to section 151a. Clause 10 of this bill repeals that section, and inserts a new section which contains the amendment commended by the honorable member.

The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) referred to departmental by-law admission. That practice was not instituted by this Government. It has been in operation for many years, and any up-to-date customs agent keeps his clients well posted as to what goods may be admitted under departmental by-law.

The publication in the press of admissions under departmental by-law a week before the goods arrive in Australia is not practicable, because sometimes good3 are in bond before the application is made. The definition of " commercially manufactured in Australia " was included in the act by the late Mr. Pratten when Minister for Trade and Customs. I believe that it is being interpreted fairly.

The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) has said that he would like section 132 of the act amended to provide for what he describes as uniform duties. He stated that the AttorneyGeneral in the last Government gave an opinion on this matter, but let me inform him that there is no record in -the department of any such opinion. There is an opinion by Mr. O'Halloran of the Chamber of Commerce.

Mr D CAMERON (BRISBANE. QLD) - I said that the Attorney-General in the previous Government agreed with the opinion given by Mr. O'Halloran.

Mr FORDE - A royal commission inquired into this subject, and reported as follows: -

The claim is, in effect, that once a vessel is entered at an Australian port the rate of duty on goods imported in that vessel should be the same wherever those goods are landed. Under the present system an importer of goods at one port of call may pay a less rate than an importer at a later port, and may possibly be able to undersell the later importer by transferring his goods from one State to another. Section 132 of the Customs Act makes administration simple, and while it may bo practicable to amend it without creating any serious difficulties, care will be needed not to infringe the requirements as to uniformity, and after such an amendment it might happen that there would be similar goods in different ships in port cleared on the same day, paying different rates of duties.

That report has been taken into consideration by the Government. The honorable member for Brisbane sat behind the previous Government for 9even years ; yet it did not bring forward an amendment of the Customs Act such as that now suggested by him.

Mr D CAMERON (BRISBANE. QLD) - It had agreed to do so.

Mr FORDE - This Government has been in office for approximately two years, and it is not fair to take it to task for failing to do something which the previous

Government refused to do. Under section 132 of the Customs Act, duty is payable at the rate in force at the date the goods are entered for home consumption. The intention of the amendment which the honorable member proposes to move is to provide for the collection of duties at the same rate as that on similar goods out of a vessel which has reported at her first port of call in Australia before an amendment of the tariff has become effective. For instance, a vessel arrives at Fremantle on the first of the month. The goods for that port are landed, and duty paid at the rates in force on the first of the month. On the 3rd of the month, before the vessel has arrived at, say, Melbourne, duties are increased. In that case, the honorable member desire's that all goods out of the vessel shall be permitted entry at the rates in force on the first of the month. I doubt whether such a course would be legal, and whether a breach of the Constitution would not be committed if varying rates of duty were charged on goods which arrived at an Australian port, on the same day. In the event ,of a vessel arriving at, say, Fremantle, on the 1st day of the month, and an alteration of the duty being tabled in Parliament on the evening of that day, a vessel arriving at that port on the second day of the month would probably reach other ports on the same day that the first vessel arrived there. In that case, the goods from one vessel would be subject -to a higher duty than similar goods from the other vessel; and thus there would be created anomalies much more undesirable than those which it is claimed now exist. The Chamber of Commerce at Brisbane has taken a keen interest in this matter. Both the' former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Fenton) and I have received numerous deputations from that body on this matter. [Quorum formed.]

Mr D CAMERON (BRISBANE. QLD) - All the Chambers of Commerce in Australia have repeatedly made similar representations.

Mr FORDE - The only Chamber of Commerce which has interviewed me in this connexion is the Chamber of Commerce at Brisbane. These bodies will probably desire this change so long as they fear that duties will continue to rise ; but they would probably be dissatisfied if the tide turned, and duties became lower.

Mr Gullett - If the duties fall they will not be affected.

Mr FORDE - It cuts both ways. I cannot accept the honorable member's suggestion.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

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