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Wednesday, 8 November 1905

Senator DOBSON (TASMANIA) - I believe it does; in any case, I do not see that the Minister should insist on having Mr. Wade's exact words. We have nothing to do with the mode of manufacturing or producing, but only with the export and import trade in the goods to which the Bill applies. Surely the Minister does not assert that we have power to interfere with the manufacture of goods in the States?

Senator Playford - No; but we can insist on goods intended for export being truthfully labelled.

Senator DOBSON (TASMANIA) - My honorable friend does not seem to understand the meaning of the words used in the Bill. This, apparently, is not a question of exporting, but a question as to the mode of manufacturing, producing, or selecting. At all events, I think Mr. Wade's opinion is well founded; and he goes on to say: -

Another matter on which Mr. Wade lays stress is that since the Minister of Customs may fix a trade description by regulation, it is within his power to impose conditions which would prevent goods being imported to compete with the local trade. " Supposing," Mr. Wade says, " some question arose with regard to the manufacture of agricultural implements. It may happen that a firm in some State of the Commonwealth was able to produce an article at a certain figure, but the tariff might be sufficient to exclude the article from Canada or America from entering and competing with the local manufacturer. The Minister might, in his proclamation, lay down the conditions with regard to the manufacturer of the imported article as to the mode of manufacturing

That is the point. or selecting or packing or as to the material of which it is composed, which would have the effect of either excluding the foreign article, or imposing heavy obligations upon the trader. Or again, sub-clause d, as I have said, provides that the trade description is to apply to the mode of manufacturing. The article may be made by nonunion labour, yet it is possible that the proclamation may prescribe that any goods brought to the Commonwealth which do not contain the union label specifying the mode of manufacture should "be prohibited articles. That any court of justice would allow this gross interference with trade in this case is not likely, but in the meantime business relations may be entirely paralyzed, and trade may be driven away for ever from the Commonwealth.

Under the term "mode of manufacturing," the Government might insist on all goods which come into the Commonwealth bearing a trade union label. We thus have a second measure which deals with the very complicated subject of a union label.

Senator Pearce - In that connexion. does not the provision merely mean that if the product be not that of union labour, it shall not be described as that of union labour?

Senator Playford - That is all. There must be a proper description of the goods.

Senator Lt Col Gould - We have no right to require a man to say whether goods are manufactured by union or non-union, labour.

Senator Pearce - The description must be a true one.

Senator DOBSON - That may be the intention, but we know there is a section in the Immigration Restriction Act which says one thing and is made to mean another.

Senator Pearce - If a description is given it must be a true one.

Senator DOBSON - That is all right, but what does Senator Pearce make of clause 14? -

Any goods intended for export, which have been inspected in pursuance of this Act, may in manner prescribed be marked with the prescribed trade description.

Under the term " trade description," every article which leaves the Commonwealth might be compelled to bear a union label or some other mark.

Senator Best - That would not be a trade description.

Senator DOBSON - I am afraid that Senator Best has not been following me.

Senator Playford - This is pure imagination on the part of Senator Dobson.

Senator DOBSON - I refer honorable senators to sub-clauses c and d of clause 3. I am suggesting what Ministers might do under that clause. We are willing to leave to Ministers the framing of regulations to deal with' such ordinary matters as, for instance, the census; but the position under this Bill is very different. The Victorian Bill lays it down definitely that "trade description" shall include the measurement, number, and other particulars. There is" a lengthy clause dealing with the matter, so that the obligations imposed will be thoroughly well known. I should now like to deal with the Bill as it affects the fruit trade of Tasmania, and my remarks on this point will apply to trade generally. I understand that Senator Playford has received a copy of the letter written by Messrs. Jones and Company, but as the information has not been given to all honorable senators, I should like to quote the document. It is as follows : -

In our own business -

That is the fruit business -

In our own business, however, we would certainly be hampered by the working of this Act, in cases such as the following : - Firms in Africa are in the habit of having jams specially manufactured for them, the conditions of the order being that the label shall not state where the goods are actually manufactured, and that the labels shall bear no name beyond that of the actual importer and distributor of the goods in Africa. We enclose you labels used for such business. If this Act were carried through it would mean an actual loss in this business, not only to our firm, but to the Commonwealth at large, because the firms referred to are ' large importers, and if they cannot have their business carried on on their own lines, and in the manner they desire, they will simply go somewhere else, where they can have their instructions carried out.

Senator Givens - They wish to conduct a dishonorable trade.

Senator DOBSON - No ; they do not.

Senator Givens - I refer to people exporting under those conditions.

Senator Playford - I dealt with the question in my second-reading speech, and showed that there was no foundation for those apprehensions.

Senator DOBSON - Does the honorable gentleman say that he is not going to prevent these men having their cases labelled in any way they like?

Senator Playford - No; not in any way they like. They must tell the truth in their labels.

Senator DOBSON - I have their two labels here, and they do not say on them that the jellies and jams are manufactured by them, but that they are manufactured for them ; and they wish to have their brand and name on the cases, so that the public in South Africa will know their goods.

Senator Playford - They say they are made for them and packed in Tasmania.

Senator DOBSON - That is on one of their labels, but not on the other.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Does Senator Dobson object to goods being labelled, " Made in Tasmania," or "Packed in Tasmania"?

Senator Keating - That' is a good advertisement for Tasmania.

Senator DOBSON - Certainly it is. What Mr. Jones points out is that' if we Jay down regulations with respect to apples or any other exports, we cannot have regard to the way in which men all over the world with whom we do business carry on their trade. ' .

Senator Playford - We are not going to interfere with those people.

Senator DOBSON - He points out that whenever a regulation is made in connexion with the trade, a risk is run of interfering with the course of trade. We should open our arms to encourage all trade with the Commonwealth ; we should not lay down restrictive legislation. I defy any Minister to frame a set of regulations, and forecast exactly how they will affect trade. Mr. Jones goes ort to say -

We must confess that we entirely fail to see why the Commonwealth of Australia should attempt to say in what way a man in South Africa shall conduct his own personal business,

Senator Playford - That is not proposed.

Senator DOBSON - which is really the effect the Act would have if passed in its present form. This principle also applies to business done within the Common' wealth itself. There are many large merchants who insist upon having their own label, and it would be a serious bar to business if the restrictions of the Act were to be applied within the Commonwealth as well as outside. We are not sure, however, whether the Act intends this latter, but just mention it.

The Minister must see that this Bill applies quite as much to imports as to exportsWhat I wish to guard against is an interference with trade by harassing regulations.

Senator Playford - It is not proposed to interfere with men who are carrying on their .business honestly, fairly, and truthfully.

Senator DOBSON - Every one must agree with the platitudes which the Minister utters so pleasantly.

Senator Playford - Then why object to the Bill ?

Senator DOBSON - I propose to give some illustrations to show the way in .which trade may be interfered with under this measure. Mr. Jones goes on to deal with exports of apples, and he says -

This is another industry that will be greatly affected by the passing of the Bill in its present form. At present apples are sold on their merits largely by public auction, unlike butter, which is bought under contract all the year round, and buyers are dependent on a standard quality to conduct their business. Apples, however, are opened and sold on inspection whether privately or by auction, and regulations that may be necessary for the butter industry are certainly uncalled for in connexion with apple shipments.

It would be to our mind an injustice to mark with a Government mark apples, sound in every respect, but which are smaller than the usual standard size.

Senator Playford - They could be marked "small." We should not object if a man packed the biggest rubbish he could find in his cases so long as he said so.

Senator DOBSON

Small apples of certain varieties when of good colour sell well in England to supply a certain class of trade,and for which there is a very fair demand, but such people would naturally be very chary of buying apples when the case is branded in such a way as to show the fruit is of inferior quality, which would practically be the effect were the same regulations carried into effect in connexion with these exports. If the sale of this class of apple is restricted in England, it simply means that the growers would have to waste a large proportion of their crop, as there is practically no demand for smaller apples within the Australian States, and we know of several growers who have at times shipped small apples, and received shillings per case more than they would have done had they tried to realize in the colonies. We, of course, do not want to see the practice of exporting small apples become general, but there is a demand in England for a certain quantity of these small apples, which are not saleable in Australia, and in the interests of this trade we think it would be detrimental to have such fruit branded by theGovernment here as inferior.

Again, the powers proposed to be given into the hands of inspectors seem to us altogether too arbitrary, and we certainly think that the Bill should limit these powers.

The Minister told us in his second-reading speech that it is not proposed to interfere with shipments of small apples. We are aware of the honorable gentleman's knowledge of the trade, and he must admit that if the exporter marked hiscases " small apples," an intending purchaser would begin the inspection of those cases with a prejudice in has mind, and if the cases were marked "inferior," the purchaser would certainly have that prejudice.

Senator Playford - A small apple is not necessarily an inferior apple.'

Senator DOBSON - We do not need to be told that.

Senator Playford - Then why should they be marked "inferior"?

Senator DOBSON - If, amongst thousands of cases in Covent Garden, there are two orthree hundred marked " small apples," and the rest branded as of first quality, the intending purchasers will naturally look at the former with some prejudice, and will say that they must have them cheap or not at all. I take the Minister on his own ground, and I say that if the Government are going to insist that small apples, when exported, shall be marked as small, he will do infinite harm to the trade.

Senator Best - Is not this done in South Australia and in Tasmania at the present time?

Senator Playford - They could be marked, " Ripstone large," " ripstone medium," or " ripstone small."

Senator DOBSON - The Government would never dare to make regulations providing for three grades in fruit. If they did, they would do infinite injury to the industry.

Senator Playford - I understand that garding is the law in Tasmania now.

Senator DOBSON - It has never been carried out.

Senator de Largie - Does not Mr. Jones say that small apples sell well for a certain trade at the present time?

Senator DOBSON - Perhaps honorable senators will allow me to give my illustration. In one instance, some Scarlet Permaine apples of beautiful colour, but somewhat small, were rejected by Peacock and Company for shipment to England. They would not go through the ring of two and a half inches, and did not quite come up to their standard. The grower sent them to England on his own account. They were very glad to give them the space they had already applied for. Peacock and Company would not run the risk of sending them to England, but small as they were, they were beautifully coloured and splendid apples for dessert, and they brought more in England than any of the apples in Peacock's shipment.

Senator Playford - They were of excellent quality, I have no doubt.

Senator DOBSON - The point is, that if they had been marked "small," I am satisfied that they would have brought a less price.

Senator Playford - Very large apples do not sell well in England for dessert.

Senator DOBSON - The Government may very well propose to grade butter into first, second, and third class, and pastry butter, but they cannot in the same way grade articles such as apples, which cannot be interfered with or adulterated, and which are bought practically from the trees, as nature has supplied them, after personal inspection. Can Senator Playford. with his great practical experience of this industry, pretend to compare apples with butter, cheese, medicines, and commodities of that description?

Senator O'Keefe - Has the honorable senator never seen a case with good apples on top and inferior apples beneath them?

Senator DOBSON - I suppose we have all seen that sort of thing, but the honorable senator will not contend that the inspectors at Hobart will open all the cases for shipment to see whether the only good apples are those on' top,?

Senator Playford - They will open a case to see whether the description is correct.

Senator DOBSON - Apples are sold in the open market at Covent Garden. They are subject to inspection there, and if a single case of inferior fruit is shown, intending buyers are put on their guard in dealing with the whole shipment, and it may bring but a very small price indeed. I say that this is a trade which protects itself. ,

Senator Trenwith - It is one of the trades which, above all others, requires regulation. No industry has been injured as much as has the fruit industry by careless packing.

Senator DOBSON - I can assure the honorable senator that we have been carrying on the trade in Tasmania very successfully for the last ten or twelve years, and some of the brands of our fruit are as well known as is the honorable senator's brand as a politician.

Senator Trenwith - That is because the goods-t. ave been carefully selected and well packed.

Senator DOBSON - It is because they are open to inspection- by the buyer. Thev may open half-a-dozen cades, and will buy the rest according to the sample. Surely the Minister will make some difference between an article which can. ' be adulterated in such a way that a scientist only can discover the adulteration, and apples which it may be said the buyers purchase off the trees.

Senator Trenwith - The firm to which the honorable senator has referred would be injured by the action of any careless or dishonest trader.

Senator DOBSON - I was coming to that. If a dishonest trader and careless packer of fruit in any way injures or prejudices the market, that can be found out from the reports we shall get from Covent Garden ; and I could see no harm in his being made a marked man, and in regulations being applied to his trade. Let me mention one or two facts to show that it if. absolutely impossible to successfully carry out any regulations such as the Minister has lately suggested in connexion with the apple trade. We have sent 35.000-. 45,000, and I am told that in a little time we shall be sending 70,000, 80,000,. or 100,000 cases, by one ship. Suppose for example, we are sending 50,000 cases by one ship. There is sometimes great difficulty in having the apples brought down: week by week. They are brought from theUpper Derwent, and through the Huondistrict, to Hobart, on a Friday, for instance. The big steamer hopes to get away on the Saturday afternoon. There is but a little time given for the shipment of these thousands of cases of fruit.

Senator Playford - All those cases, before they reach the side of the ship, are branded in some way.

Senator DOBSON - That is so. Does the Minister propose that these 50,00c cases of fruit shall be inspected during the bustle of transhipping them from the small boats that have brought them up or down the Derwent to the big steamer?

Senator Playford - No.

Senator DOBSON - It would be impossible.

Senator Playford - It is not necessary. Say there are a thousand cases of ripstone pippins, marked " medium," the inspector would open one case to verify the description, and would pass the rest.

Senator DOBSON - Are the Government going to issue regulations under which the growers will be compelled1 to brand their cases of apples as first or second class, or medium-sized, before they leave the orchard ?

Senator Playford - I cannot say.

Senator DOBSON - I should think they, would not. If they do propose such regulations they will hear more about it than they imagine, for that would absolutely ruin the trade.

Senator Playford - Ruin the trade to tell the truth about it?

Senator DOBSON - There is no question of telling the truth about it. The remark only shows that the Minister is exceedinglyignorant of the provisions of the Bill which he has charge of. How does he dare to impute that we oppose this Bill because we do not wish the truth to be known? Will not the truth be known to every man in England who buys a case of apples? A buyer can inspect all the cases of apples submitted for sale, and can open as many cases, as he likes.

Senator Playford - They do not dothat. I have been in Covent Garden, and' buyers do not open every case;

Senator DOBSON - The Minister in his second-reading speech referred to the fruit trade of South Australia. He referred to the Government brand being put on fruit, and I interjected, " Is not some fruit sent from South Australia without any inspection at all?"

Senator Playford - Hear, hear.

Senator DOBSON - I understood the honorable gentleman to say that inspection was insisted on in South Australia.

Senator Playford - There is no compulsion. A man may send fruit away without inspection.

Senator DOBSON - I will not say that the truth is coming out now, but we are getting an approach to accuracy, and we learn that the system in South Australia is absolutely voluntary. Every case can go away without a mark or an inspection.

Senator Playford - I said all that go through the depot are inspected.

Senator DOBSON (TASMANIA) - unintentionally I am sure - misled me. As his statement was opposed to facts, which I knew, I wrote to the Premier of South Australia, and in reply was told that the proceeding is absolutely voluntary, that if a man wants the Government stamp he can get his apples branded, but if not, he can send them away without the Government inspector seeing them. If Senator Playford will consent to deal with fruit in the same way, but with a proviso that if a man should export inferior fruit he shall suffer, I shall have no more to say on the subject. But he has hinted that he intends to deal with fruit in a most drastic Way - a way in Which the Parliament of South Australia has not dared to deal with local fruit.

Senator Playford - The larger proportion of the growers in South Australia, being very intelligent men,, do not send away apples until they are properly graded, and marked with the Government brand. They get a better price than other1 growers.

Senator DOBSON - The Government brand is not put on all South Australian apples.

Senator Playford - With the exception of very few, it is.

Senator DOBSON - I doubt if the brand is put on one-half of the apples

Senator Playford - On nine-tenths of them.

Senator Macfarlane - Hardly 10 per cent.

Senator DOBSON - This is the second time that my honorable friend has been absolutely wrong. He said a while ago that all the apples; in, South Australia were inspected.

Senator Playford - No, I never said anything of the sort.

Senator DOBSON - My honorable friend said "Hear, hear," when I said that on a previous occasion he mentioned that all the apples exported from South Australia ' were inspected. I do not think he knows anything of the Bill or the South Australian trade.

Senator Playford - I think that the honorable and learned senator has got completely mixed up.

Senator DOBSON - I object to that statement. My honorable friend is so wrong that in order to excuse himself he hurls charges at me. I do not know how the apple trade of South Australia is carried on. Sir William Lyne said that Tasmanian apples were shut out of South * Africa because they were badly graded, and very inferior. That is a slanderous statement to go abroad. Messrs. Jones and Company who know something about the subject, say -

In a report given in the Argus of a deputation to Sir William Lyne, that gentleman is said to have stated that Australian fruit is absolutely prohibited in South Africa on account of the inferior stuff that has been forwarded there. In reply to this, all we cay say is that we have shipped apples to Africa every month since April last, and up to September, and we have never heard any complaints or objections, nor do we know of any fruit being refused admittance.

Senator Playfordis following the bad example of his colleague, and is endeavouring to slander our fruit trade. That is one of the arguments which Sir William Lyne used to the deputation for insisting that these goods should be branded and marked, but his statement turns out to be absolutely without foundation. In South Africa, and to some extent in Western Australia, the regulations about insects and pests are so hard and fast that verv often fruit is rejected, which in other respects is absolutely sound. If there is a sign of black spot to be seen with a microscope the fruit is condemned. If my honorable friend, instead of meddling with an enormous trade, would try to bring about uniform legislation on the lines of the Victorian Pure Foods Bill, he would do far more good than by introducing a measure which absolutely overlaps the legislation of certain States.

What is intended to be done with regard to the grading of goods? In another place one Minister said that there was to be no grading ; another. Minister said there was to be grading to some extent, and another Minister declined to express an opinion on the subject. That illustrates the state of mind into which this irresponsible Cabinet has drifted. It is very important 'that we should know to what extent grading is to take place. I can understand that, properly done, grading may effect some good. I can understand that men who deal in first-class articles may like to have such articles graded as first class. But my honorable friend will find to his sorrow, if he tries to put this Bill into force too much, that the regulations will hamper trade in a way of which he little dreams. Are the shippers and the exporters of apples to pay the cost of inspection and grading ? I see no such provision in the Bill.

Senator Playford - The cost of inspec- tion will, I imagine, be borne by the Commonwealth, but the cost of the grading, if there is any cost, will be .borne by the grower, as he will get the benefit of a better price.

Senator DOBSON - It is very hard that a grower should have his fruit graded against his will, and be charged with the cost thereof.

Senator Playford - I do not know that he will.

Senator DOBSON - There is not a word in the Bill about making a charge for this service. I have looked carefully through its provisions, and I doubt very much indeed whether the Commonwealth could, by regulations, impose upon the shippers and exporters the cost of inspection and grading. I have an extract on the question of grading, which is well worth reading, because it shows how in Victoria the authorities are afraid to make very drastic regulations. Mr. Crowe says -

In grading butter for export, however, in addition to covering all that is required under the provisions of the Exported Products Act, the examination goes much further, and embraces valuable educational features. Three boxes of each brand are taken at random, the bottoms of boxes are removed,- boxes are placed end to end, so that all brands on the outside are hidden. This is done so that the expert does not know where the butter comes from or whose it is. It may be best factory or the poorest dairy butter. Each box is examined for what it may disclose, and no chance of even unconscious bias exists. Points are carefully arrived at and noted, and later on the same butter is examined by a second inspector. A consultation is held, and in the case of any dif ference a further examination is made. All butter scoring 90 points and over is branded .proved for export, first grade," &c, and, although the method provides for the stamping Of "second" and " third " grades, such butter is branded " approved for export" only.

In Victoria they do practically what is done in South Australia. A man can have his butter graded if for export "first class," but if it is not of first-class quality, it can be branded' " Approved for export." There is no " second1 class " or "third class," or "pastry" brand put on the article.

Senator Pearce - Could not the same thing be done with apples?

Senator DOBSON - No. Some of the White Star liners take away from Hobart 50,000 cases between Friday and Sunday. Last season Messrs. Jones and Company had not enough fruit to fill the space for which they had contracted at 3s. 6d. per case, and therefore they telegraphed to a grower at Bushy Park, who has a large orchard, to send down 900 cases within a few hours. Every man was put on to pick apples, and by 12 o'clock on the following night 900 additional cases were put on board the steamer. Does the Minister contend that there would have been any time available in which to inspect or grade those apples?

Senator Pearce - Would it nol be a true trade description if thev were marked "ungraded"? That is all the Bill provides for.

Senator DOBSON - My honorable friend, although he is a free-trader, tries to fetter everybody.

Senator Pearce - Is not that a fact?

Senator DOBSON - The inspection which my honorable friend and the Minister favour would kill the apple trade which is carried on in Tasmania.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable and learned senator think that the grower should be allowed to mark his apples "grade No. 1"?

Senator DOBSON - In the instance to which I have referred an inspector would have had to be sent, with the wire, to Bushy Park to see the apples picked and packed.

Senator Pearce - Would the honorable and learned senator allow the grower to mark the apples "grade No. 1"?

Senator DOBSON - I should not allow the apples to be interfered with in any way. Fancy an orchardist who is asked to send down 900 or 1.000 cases of apples at a moment's notice being compelled, be- cause there was no time available for doing anything, to have them marked " ungraded" !

Senator Pearce - It would be true.

Senator DOBSON - Does my honorable friend imagine that if a buyer went into Covent Garden, and saw 10,000 cases marked " graded,u arid 1,000 cases marked "ungraded," his mind would not be prejudiced immediately against the latter?

Senator Playford - He would be prejudiced against all the others if one lot was marked as "graded," and it was not.

Senator DOBSON - In the case of every packet of merchandise which is marked, I think that the statement should be absolutely true. I can understand that no man should be allowed to send away a tin of jam marked 16 ozs. when it doesmot contain that weight. I can understand that if a man pent home cases of apples supposed to contain a bushel each, and they did not, he should be hauled over the coals. But that is very different from what the Minister thinks he will do with the apple trade of Tasmania. The more the Bill is examined the more clearly it will be found that any regulations for the grading of different articles, will create no end of trouble. It ought to contain some clause under which a man, if found out in cheating or dishonorably marking or grading his goods, may be punished. But to set to work to make regulations against innocent exporters and importers is a thing which I do not think the Cabinet will dare to do. ยป

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