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Thursday, 27 October 1904

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Postmaster-General) - My honorable friend was good enough to inform me of his intention to ask this question. The charges are made in pursuance of an arrangement between the Customs and Postal Departments. I will read the information which I have on the subject: -

Tariff item 122 (a) is as follows : - " Paper - Manufacturers of, Unframed, for advertising purposes, including price lists, catalogues, and all printed or lithographed matter for such purposes, per lb., 3d."

But the undermentioned concession was authorized in the Tariff Guide: - " Catalogues or price lists. Single copies received from exporting houses for the use of merchants may be admitted free of duty. This privilege is not to apply to those imported for distribution."

On the nth April, however, the late Minister directed that such concession should cease, and an order was issued accordingly to the effect that on and after 1st September next all price lists and catalogues will be charged duty, irrespective of the purpose for which imported, or to whom addressed.

The collection of duty on single catalogues is attended with some difficulty. In cases where the circulars or catalogues are consigned to an agent in Australia, for distribution here, the procedure is simple, as the agent is enabled to pay duty and clear the whole as a bulk line. But when the articles are addressed singly, the collection of duty is not such an easy matter.

In some cases the amount payable on each catalogue would not exceed one penny, and it would be manifestly impossible to expect each addressee to call at the Post Office and clear his or her particular catalogue or circular. The following plan, adopted in Victoria hitherto, appears to offer the only satisfactory solution of the difficulty.

The duty payable is made a surcharge on the packet, by means of postage due stamps, and is collected by the Post Office officials from the addressee before delivery. The revenue thus obtained is credited to the Postal Department, instead of to Customs, .but both Departments being under the Commonwealth, this does not appear a very serious objection. Moreover, it is very probable that many persons to whom the advertising matter is addressed, will refuse to accept delivery when the payment of the surcharge is inflicted, so that it is not likely the amount of revenue at stake will be very large.

The Minister of Trade and Customs has approved of the foregoing, and the concurrence of the Postmaster-General is sought, in order that the system may be put in operation.

The Postmaster-General of the day accordingly gave bis concurrence to the arrangement.

Sir LANGDON BONYTHON - Are these charges made on the assumption that this matter might be printed in Australia? If so, I think that that assumption is in many cases without justification.

Mr SYDNEY SMITH (MACQUARIE, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Postmaster-General) - The charges are made under the Tariff Act. The whole question was submitted to the Minister of Trade and Customs and to the PostmasterGeneral of the day, and as the difficulty of collecting the duty on single packets was very great, it was agreed that the PostmasterGeneral should collect it by way of surcharge.


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