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Wednesday, 27 July 1921

Senator DUNCAN (New South Wales) . - I think the words " and may retain them for such reasonable period as it thinks fit" ought to be omitted from this clause, because the Board has in. other directions ample power and opportunity to derive from documents and evidence all the information it desires, without it being necessary to retain the books of any merchant or manufacturer for any reasonable or unreasonable time.

Senator Reid - By taking possession of the manufacturer's books, the Board may save him hours of time.

Senator DUNCAN - Yes. But that might also cause the manufacturer a great deal of work. It would not be so bad to take possession of documents or writings, but no manufacturer could carry on his business without his books.

Senator Reid - The honorable senator does not imagine that the Board would keep a man's books if he required them.

Senator DUNCAN - But what is a reasonable period ? It may be necessary for the Board, in order to arrive at a wise conclusion upon a manufacturer's books, to go through them pretty fully.

Senator Henderson - The time occupied in doing so would then be reasonable.

Senator DUNCAN - No doubt it might be from the point of view of the Board, but it would be a small manufacturer whose books could be gone through in two or three days. I am afraid that it would be necessary to retain the books of a fair-sized manufacturer for four or five days. What would the manufacturer do in the meantime ? No doubt the Board would make provision for the safe custody of his books.

Senator Reid - It would be responsible.

Senator DUNCAN - But it would be a poor return to the manufacturer to compensate him . in cash for the loss of his books. It is more a matter of the inconvenience he would suffer if his books were kept for what might be a reasonable time in the opinion of the Board, but what might be from his point of view quite an unreasonable time. There are other ways in which the Board can get all the information it desires without retaining the books needed by the manufacturer. It could appoint an accountant to attend at the manufacturer's office and go through his books.

Senator Russell - That is the usual practice now. Wherever there is a possibility that the retention of the books of a manufacturer or business man may cause undue delay to him, copies of them are made, and an officer of the Customs Department is sent down to certify to them.

Senator DUNCAN - Surely that is good enough. On the Minister's own argument, there is no need to retain a manufacturer's books for any period at all, seeing that the Board would have authority to send an accountant to his place of business and make any copies it requires.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where will the Board get that authority?

Senator DUNCAN - Full authority is given in this Billtothe Board to inspect any books and make copies.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - How can it make copies if it is not given the right to claim possession of thebooks for a reasonable time ?

Senator DUNCAN - It may inspect the books, and during that inspection may make whatever extracts from them it requires.

Senator E D MILLEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - In order to do that it must havepossession of the books for a reasonable time.

Senator DUNCAN - That is not necessary. Under certain legislation Government officials have power to inspect a factory. Is it contended that they should have power to take possession of the factory while they make that inspection?

Senator Russell - Some people, when they learn that there may be an inquiry into their conduct, may be only too delighted to burn their books if the Board is not given power to take possession of them. That may be an extreme case, but it is quite possible.

Senator DUNCAN - The matter is safeguarded in another partofthe Bill.

Senator Russell - A similar provision is in operation every day under the Customs Act, and has occasioned no trouble.

Senator DUNCAN - As I can foresee that trouble is likely to arise, I move-

That the words" and may retain them for such reasonable period as it thinksfit " be left out.

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