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Wednesday, 23 July 1902


Mr THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I desire to ask whether the answer given by the Minister for Trade and Customs to the question put by the honorable member for South Australia, Mr. V. L. Solomon, does not indicate that the complaints which have been made are justified ? I have received similar complaints from Sydney, and I understood the Minister to say that correspondence has to be entered upon to obtain the advice mentioned.


Mr Kingston - Oh, no !


Mr THOMSON - According to the Minister's statement the reply must be in writing, and doubtless it would have to be asked for in writing.


Mr Kingston - Certainly not.


Mr THOMSON - Is the Minister aware that the system of obtaining from the party who has to check the customs duties, prior to entering them up, the rate which is chargeable upon a particular item is now being departed from, and that the party making the entries has to risk falling into error, with all its attendant consequences ? Will the right honorable gentleman inquire into the matter and see how his instructions are being carried out, so that any officer who has to check an entry - prior to its presentation - may say what he will pass as the correct duty upon any particular article ?


Mr KINGSTON - There is no intention to require anything in the shape of correspondence, but for the security of the public and to prevent the department being misrepresented, instructions have been issued that the decision must be given in writing. The idea is that the public, when approaching the skilled officer whom we shall select, may mention a certain item, and ask the rate at which it is dutiable, and that the officer shall give his reply. The last portion of the minute which I read just now distinctly sets out that he is not to overhaul the invoice till the entry has been made. Some time ago, instead of being required to answer a simple question as to the duty chargeable upon a specific article, there was practically an invitation to Customs officers, by perusal of the invoice, to assume the responsibility of themselves deciding, the rate of duty upon goods, variously described, which they had not seen. The proper course is for the importer to make the entry. Afterwards the checking, as regards the accuracy of the invoice, is undertaken by the examining officer.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The same officer who has not seen" the goods 1


Mr KINGSTON - If- necessary he examines the goods. "We are willing to undertake the responsibility of telling the importer what is the duty upon any particular item, but it is his duty to inform us of the nature of the goods which are contained in the invoice. When he does so he will get our decision. But we will not declare that in any particular invoice there are goods of a particular description.


Mr THOMSON - Will the Minister intimate to the public the. officer to whom they have to apply for such information 1 It is perfectly certain that if written answers are to be given, an officer must be appointed for that purpose.


Mr KINGSTON - It is of no use appointing. a special officer unless his services are made available to the public. We do not contemplate making a special appointment, but a special selection will be1 made from our most skilled officers, for the purpose of giving the public the advice indicated.







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