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, 25 November 1959


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

1.   Has Mr. Somerville Smith been granted any licences since import licensing was first introduced?

2.   If so, what was the value and classification of goods covered by each licence?

3.   Upon what basis was Mr. Somerville Smith granted import licences?

4.   Is Mr. Somerville Smith in business on his own behalf as an importer?


Mr McEwen - In answer to the honorable member for East Sydney, I suggest that if he refer to pages 230-231 of " Hansard" of 12th August, 1958, he will see that in a reply to a similar question he then asked, I said that Mr. Somerville Smith had received no licences from the department which any other citizen similarly placed had not received. I also said that certain commodities are freely licensed and any licences for these commodities which Mr. Somerville Smith may have secured were equally available to any other citizen. This was a comment on a statement publicly made by Mr. Somerville Smith. I must respect as confidential the business relations between any person or firm and the Department of Trade. I am not prepared to depart from this long-standing practice.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade upon notice -

1.   How many prosecutions have been launched against individuals or companies deemed to have been guilty of infringements of the law in respect of import licensing?

2.   How many convictions were recorded?

3.   What is the amount of fines imposed by the court?


Mr McEwen - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Since March, 1952, prosecutions have been launched against sixteen individuals or companies involving seventy-four different charges.

2.   Convictions were recorded against twelve of the defendants. Of the four, two were found not guilty, one died before hearing of the case and cases against one have not yet been heard. An appeal which has not been heard has been lodged against one conviction.

3.   £795. In addition, penalties of imprisonment with hard labour were imposed on four individuals as follows: - Two years, fifteen months and two of nine months each.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

1.   What appeal boards have been established to deal with appeals against the decisions of Commonwealth officers in respect of applications for import licences?

2.   What is the composition of these boards and from what date did each commence to function?

3.   On how many days have these boards sat since their establishment?

4.   How many appeals have been received and dealt with by the boards?

5.   In how many instances has the decision favoured the appellant?

6.   What subsequent action is taken where the decision is to uphold the appeal?


Mr McEwen - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   An Import Licensing Advisory Review Board has been established in each State to hear appeals against departmental decisions refusing applications for import licences. These boards report to the Minister for Trade.

2.   The boards consist of a chairman, who is a senior officer of the Department of Trade, and two non-governmental members chosen for their wide experience in the commercial field. The boards commenced to function in July, 1957.

3.   238.

4.   805.

5.   Following recommendations by the boards, 27 appeals have been upheld in full and 178 have been upheld in part

6.   Import licences are authorized in accordance with the decision.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

What scale of penalties is provided for offences committed in connexion with the import licensing scheme?


Mr McEwen - The answer to the honorable member's question is as follows: -

The licensing of imports into Australia is carried out under the provisions of the Customs Act 1901-1959 and the Customs (Import Licensing) Regulations. Any penalties for offences committed against the Customs Act or regulations made thereunder are imposed in accordance with the provisions of the act. For example, section 233 provides for a penalty of £100 in respect of the importation of prohibited goods.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice - 1, Is an applicant for an import licence required to state precisely the goods which he proposes to import? 2, If so, is the holder of a licence permitted to import goods other than those stated in the licence without any further approach to the issuing authorities? 3, If permission is necessary, what is the procedure for securing an alteration of the licence?


Mr McEwen - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   An applicant for an import licence must state precisely the category item under which the goods are classified and give a description of the goods sufficient to enable the goods to be identified.

2.   No.

3.   An application should be forwarded to the Collector of Customs at the port where the licence was originally issued. Permission is generally refused.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

Is it an offence for the original holder of an import licence who fails to make use of the licence himself to (a) import goods on behalf of another person for a fee, commission or profit or (b) allow another person to use the licence for monetary gain?


Mr McEwen - The answer to the honorable member's question is as follows: -

(a)   If the licence holder imports the goods himself, and I stress the word imports, this action in itself would not be contrary to administrative procedures of the import licensing system.

(b)   A holder of an import licence cannot make that licence available to another person, whether for monetary gain or not.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

1.   Is it possible for a person who is unable to satisfy the condition that he was an importer during what is referred to as the base year to secure an import licence?

2.   If so, what conditions must be satisfied before an application in these circumstances is approved?


Mr McEwen - The answer to the honorable member's questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. Licences have always been issued for goods in the Administrative category irrespective of whether the applicant was a prior importer or not, whenever essential need was established. The imports have been chiefly raw materials and equipment for industry. As pressure on our overseas balances has lessened, a wide range of goods has either been freed from licensing controls or put into the replacement category. There are now 430 such items representing approximately half of all our imports. All these goods are open to importation by any person regardless of his previous importing activity. The extent to which applicants, who did not import in the base year, can be admitted into the importing field for goods licensed under the so-called quota categories is mainly dependent on two considerations. The first is how much exchage is available for that purpose at the relevant time. The second is the concept of equity to traditional importers who would have imported much more in the absence of licensing. This must not be impaired.

The Department of Trade receives many applications from newcomers for licensing facilities for quota goods. In examining these applications every endeavour is made to isolate the genuine case from the applicant who is merely seeking to take advantage of a restricted supply situation and who would not be a genuine stockholding importer in the absence of import restrictions. It is against this background that the Department of Trade and the Import Licensing Advisory Review Boards operate. They have a difficult task, but concessions are being made to bona fide new importers where they can be made without inequity to traditional importers. Applicants who are unsuccessful in their approach to the department have full right of appeal to the review boards, upon which sit two prominent businessmen and one official.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

1.   Is it a fact that for certain classes of imports a licence is technically required although there is actually no restriction operating?

2.   If so, what are the details and why is this practice adopted?


Mr McEwen - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   Yes.

2.   Licences are required to import any of the wide range of goods included in the "Replacement " category. In brief, importers may apply for fresh licences every time they import these goods. Thus although the import of goods in the " Replacement " category is virtually unrestricted importers are not able to accumulate a " stack " of unused import licences. Licences are also required for the few items licensed under the Z category. Goods in this category are licensed freely but they are not suitable for Replacement licensing. The issue of licences enables a close watch to be kept on the likely future level of imports.


Mr Ward d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -

1.   Was import licence No. J.135024 issued to an importer of soft goods?

2.   Was this licence used, in part or in whole, for the importation of musical instruments?

3.   Has he made an inquiry into this matter?

4.   If so, what was the result?


Mr McEwen - The answer to the honorable member's questions is as follows: -

I have said on a number of occasions that I must respect as confidential the business relations between any person or firm and the Department of Trade. I am not prepared to break this confidence. I have also said that where any specific information is given concerning alleged import licensing irregularities the matter will be thoroughly investigated by the Department of Customs and Excise, and, if warranted, appropriate action will be taken. I have been informed by my colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, that the usual course has been followed in this particular case.







Suggest corrections