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Wednesday, 23 November 1910


Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - I should like to ask the Minister whether it has been the practice of the Department in administering item 236a, covering paints and colours ground in liquid to require that they should be brought in in packages of not less than 14 lbs.


Senator Findley - That has been the invariable practice.


Senator ST LEDGER - I wonder what authority the Department has had for the adoption of that practice. Senator Sayers. - It is the Department who make our laws.


Senator ST LEDGER - From the information received one is disposed to think so. I have here a list of the decisions of the Department, and it appears from this list that it is the invariable practice to insist upon importers importing paints and colours ground in liquid in packages of not less than 14 lbs., if they are to be dutiable at 4s. per cwt. If that is not a case of the Department making the Tariff law, I do not know what is. Until I got this explanation from the Minister, I do not suppose that members of this Parliament in either House were aware of it. I suppose it will be admitted that we are now justified in asking why the Department makes this law for themselves, for which they have not a scintilla of authority in the Customs Act. I should like to know also why the Government propose to make legal what the Department has been doing illegally for so long. I propose to read from this list of decisions on the subject.


Senator Guthrie - The honorable senator may have to lay it on the table if he does.


Senator ST LEDGER - I shall have no objection, and in fact I shall lay the document on the table myself. I find that in connexion with sub-item a of item 236, " Paints and colours ground in liquid, per cwt., 4S.,!: what the Department have been doing has been to insist that paints, colours, varnishes, coach colours, &c, must be imported in packages containing 14 lbs. and over, in order that the importers may get the advantage of the lower duty." They have been saying that filling-up composition, when not ready for use, must be introduced in packages containing 14 lbs. and -over.


Senator Guthrie - What is filling-up composition - putty ?


Senator ST LEDGER - I do not know. What I am concerned 'about now is that the departmental officers have claimed the right to insist that importers shall introduce these goods in packages containing not less than- 14 lbs., in order to secure the advantage of the lower duty, though they have no authority to do. so under the Act. Manganese paste for flange joints, &c, has also to be imported in packages containing not less than 14 lbs., to get the advantage of this duty. It is clear that the Department have been making our Customs law for us, since these are decisions on which they have acted. When I took it up first I did not know that this document was loaded in the way I find it is. We are now entitled to some satisfactory explanation from the Minister as to why it is deemed advisable to insert this amendment, and to make legal in the future what the Department has been doing illegally in the past. Having quoted these decisions, I now lay the document on the table.







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