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Wednesday, 4 April 1984
Page: 1192

Senator PETER RAE —My question is addressed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. By way of brief introduction I refer to the matter I raised during the adjournment debate on Thursday, 29 March, and the Minister's response on Monday, 2 April, in relation to the lengthy delays in the testing of imported fabrics in Melbourne and the cost of disruption thereby created. I refer also to the Minister's reply that there are in fact two acceptable testing authorities, namely, the Australian Government Analytical laboratories and the laboratory of the Australian Wool Testing Authority. Is it a fact that the Australian Customs Service has decided to accept clearances given in reports of the Australian Wool Testing Authority, subject to section 186 of the Customs Act? Is it not a fact that the Minister misled the Senate in claiming that test reports of the Australian Wool Testing Authority will be accepted by Melbourne Customs? Is it not a fact also that the Melbourne branch of the Australian Customs Service is refusing to accept the reports of the Australian Wool Testing Authority? Will the Minister take action to rectify this blatant rejection of head office directions to Customs? Will he give a commitment not to mislead the Senate in future?

Senator BUTTON —I do not propose to give any commitment about allegations of that kind. We can come to that in the course of debate if Senator Rae wants to. The purpose of the honourable senator's question was to see whether the procedures which I understand are practised by Melbourne Customs conform with the view expressed by Customs officers at the Federal level. The honourable senator will recall that in my answer to him on Monday I dealt with a question which had been put to me the previous Thursday evening, I think, and supplied some detailed information, including the information that on 22 February Customs had written to the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, I believe, advising that the Wool Testing Authority would be a suitable tester-if that is the right word-of the materials in question. I am not aware of any qualifications which have been placed on that by Cusoms. I will investigate that matter and I will advise Senator Rae of the answer. I add that it would be my view that the testing of the fabrics in question should be facilitated by the Customs in Melbourne and not obstructed.