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Friday, 16 October 1970

Mr GORTON - The Minister for Customs and Excise has supplied me with an answer, anticipating that this question might come, because it is a question of some importance - certainly prima facie. The advice we have received is that Dr Guise arrived at the Customs office carrying a number of gifts in a hessian bag. These gifts were for other persons. He stated that he did not know the nature of the gifts. Because of a strong and, I think, thoroughly reasonable presumption that quarantine problems might be involved, the bag was inspected by a Customs examining officer and one article was found to be a club with bird skins and feathers attached. That was referred to the quarantine officer on duty who informed Dr Guise that it was subject to appropriate treatment before it could be admitted into Australia.

I think that no matter from where anybody comes, or whatever position they hold, there is an overriding responsibility on the Department of Customs and Excise to see that diseases that could be introduced into Australia with disastrous effects should not be risked being introduced by allowing any subject matters of this kind. At that stage and not before it, as I am informed, Dr Guise informed the Customs officer that he was in fact only in transit and not seeking to come into Australia - in transit to Fiji. So the Customs officer advised him that he could take that club and take it to Fiji, which he did. No other baggage of Dr Guise or his wife was inspected in any way.

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