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Wednesday, 8 November 1905

Senator GRAY - It is still done.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - Does not the honorable senator think that that practice ought to be stopped? Does he think that it is honest ?

Senator GRAY - I do not think that it is strictly honest, and yet I do not find fault with it. 1 will tell the honorable senator why.

Senator Styles - It is equivalent to obtaining money under false pretences.

Senator GRAY - I do not think so. It is a practice that has been recognised ever since I was a boy, forty years ago. There is not one person in ten thousand who does not know, when he is buying a so-called York ham at a certain price, that he is not buying an actual York ham. By decades of use, the term has become a trade term, or a brand that is universally recognised as denoting a certain class and quality of article. No doubt it is a terrible thing to the Minister, who wishes to purify the commercial atmosphere of the Commonwealth, to know that such' a practice is carried on in the old country, but I may tell him that it is pursued throughout the world.

Senator Playford - There is plenty of lying in the world, but that does not make lying a proper thing.

Senator GRAY - Does the Minister consider that a brand used under such circumstances is a lie?

Senator Playford - Undoubtedly, and the law recognises that.

Senator GRAY - I repudiate the allegation..

Senator Playford - A man could be prosecuted for selling as a York ham in England one that was not a York ham.

Senator GRAY - I bow to the Minister's superior knowledge, and can only say that it is quite different from the information which I have. I can tell him, moreover, that hundreds of kinds of goods are sold in England, and every buyer knows exactly what he is' buying, under brands that designate the goods as being made in certain places, or under certain conditions, when as a matter of fact they were not made iri those places or under those conditions.

Senator O'KEEFE (TASMANIA) - What is the use of a brand?

Senator GRAY - The use of a brand is that it gives to an article the stamp of a certain quality. If a man buys goods under a certain brand he does that because he knows that what he is buying is good stuff. One of the reasons why British trade with this country had a set-back some time ago was that the English manufacturer became rather conservative. Somehow or other he got it into his head that he knew better what was required in the Colonies and throughout the world than did the people who bought his goods. Merchants in Australia sent orders to England for goods of a certain character to be made up according to requirements. Instead of the English manufacturer meeting the requests made to him he made up and sent out other goods. But America and Germany were only too glad to conform to the desires of buyers in different parts of the world. The consequence was that the English manufacturers were ousted for the time being from many markets. But. fortunately, so far as my knowledge goes, they are fast regaining their position. English goods are found to be superior to foreign articles, and now that English manufacturers have seen the wisdom of conforming to the wishes of the purchasers of their goods, English trade is likely still further to increase.

Senator Playford - But do the English manufacturers agree to send out goods under false descriptions?

Senator GRAY - It all depends upon what the honorable senator calls a false description. I should like him to particularize and tell me how, with the tens of thousands of pounds of butter and cases of fruit that are sent out of Australia, fie is going to make sure that every case exported is branded according to the exact conditions that he would like to impose? He knows well enough that there are plenty of people who will pack a case of goods so that the outside articles are very different from those inside. If foreigners wish to do that, and to introduce their goods into this market, the Minister, I suppose, would prevent them by means of this Bill. But it is possible that injustices may be done to persons who are quite innocent. Warehouses in Sydney sometimes receive as many as"1 2,000 or 3,000 cases of butter or other produce, and the warehouseman is, as it were, at the mercy of any dishonest producer. The expense of opening and examining the cases would be too much ; and, in some instances, the cases are sent out again directly to the steamer, so that there is no opportunity to ascertain the quality. Yet in such' instances, warehousemen would be punished under this Bill if there was any false description given or dishonesty practised. As a matter of fact, the measure asks the warehousemen to perform an impossibility, and, for any failure, he, the ship-owner, and everybody concerned, may be punished. In my own experience, I have known cases sent in which, on the face of them, looked all right, but which, on examination, were found to contain inferior produce.

Senator Styles - Will the honorable senator explain how inferior goods are distinguished when they arrive in England ?

Senator GRAY - I thought the honorable senator would have understood the explanation which I am endeavouring to make. The purchaser at home buys on the brand of the dairyman.

Senator Styles - Why cannot the man in Sydney do that also?

Senator GRAY - When a pastoralist exports wool, it bears a certain brand, which may be called a trade mark, and on that the purchaser buys, because he knows the pastoralist to be a man of integrity, who would mot sell an inferior article.

Senator Playford - Can the man in Sydney not buy in the same way ?

Senator GRAY - No purchaser will buy on a Government mark; at any rate, if I were a Tooley-street merchant, I should not do so. No Government expert can possibly examine every case; if he did, the chances are he would miss the ship. No man in England will buy on a Government brand unless he opens and examines the contents of every case, and in this connexion the Bill will place the small producer at a great disadvantage. From a party point of view, nothing would be better than the passing of this Bill into law, because I believe that, from one end of the Commonwealth to the other, it will prove to be absolutely impracticable. So far as the small people, to whom I have referred, are concerned, I believe there will be a universal outcry against the measure.

Senator Playford - You will find there will be nothing of the sort.

Senator GRAY - As a business man, I cannot support a Bill which dees not contain the elements of success. My own opinion is that it might as well be put into the waste-paper basket. Doubtless the Government, if they pass the measure, will boast about the steps they have taken to prevent dishonest trading; but, so far as practicable business is concerned, I am afraid it wiM be a dead letter. It is possible the Government may have a bias in favour of putting it into operation so far as concerns importers; that may answer their purpose better than applying it to the exporting business.

Senator Styles - That is hardly fair.

Senator GRAY - I am only expressing, my own opinion, and I. cannot help the fact, if it does not appear to be fair in the eyes of the honorable senator.

Senator Playford - If I make an insinuation of that kind, the honorable senator regards it as something fearful.

Senator GRAY - I do not think I regard anything that the Minister has said as fearful. I know that the honorable gentleman has a very happy temperament, but he has shown either (hat he knows, nothing about the Bill or that he does not wish the Senate to have the benefit of his knowledge.

Senator Playford - -Surely the honorable senator does not defend a man who sells. Canadian ham as York ham?

Senator GRAY - I am not defending such a nian. I simply say that if the Minister of Defence were a shopkeeper in England, he would do exactly as shopkeepers there do.

Senator Styles - It is not the Minister's integrity, but his ability, which the honorable senator questions.

Senator GRAY - The career of the Minister of Defence (--.peaks for itself, and I should be sorry to say anything to minimize the credit which is his due. I think, however, that the Minister is rather coolly disposed to the Bill. The honorable gentleman, by his smile, conveyed the impression that in his opinion Mr. Wade, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, is not a person whose opinion on a Bill of this character is of much value. My cwn knowledge leads me to the conclusion that there is no abler or more honest gentleman than Mr. Wade, who could be trusted to represent the interests not only of New South Wales, but of the Commonwealth as a whole. Mr. Wade is absolutely independent in politics, and the people of the mother Stale have a verv high opinion of him. Personally, I regard him as. the ablest Attorney-General there has ever been in New South Wales. In any case the opinion of the AttorneyGeneral of the mo ner State should be received bv the Senate with respect ; but the Minister of Defence went so far as, to ask. "Who Mr. Wade?" That question, in my opinion, implies a sort of contempt.

Senator Playford - Wirt I asked was, who had requested him to give an opinion.

Senator GRAY - New South Wales has the largest population of any of the Spates, and will, more than any other, be affected bv the operation of this Bill. New South Wales is th» largest exporting State.

Senator Playford - Not in proportion to population.

Senator GRAY - - New South Wales has the largest import trade.

Senator Playford - That is so, and it is unfortunate for us..

Senator GRAY - I am surprised to hear that remark from the Minister of Defence. 1 regard this as a Federal Parliament, which only knows the interests of the people of the Commonwealth as a whole. The Minister ought not to insinuate that the Government of New South Wales, or the officials of New South Wales, have no right to an expression of opinion on this matter.

Senator Playford - I did not say they had no right.

Senator GRAY - That was the implication.

Senator Playford - No.

Senator GRAY - I took it that the Minister asked. "Who is Mr." because lie regarded it as an impertinence on the part of the Attorney-General of New South Wales to express an opinion on a Bill of this character. Mv own hope is that the States generally will take more interest in Commonwealth legislation. There if, no doubt that this Bill, to some extent, interferes with the States rights of New South Wales, and on such a question I much prefer the opinion of the. AttorneyGeneral of that State; who speaks, as a trained barrister, with a due appreciation of the words he uses. If Mr. Wade tells us that the Bill interferes with privileges hitherto enjoyed by New South Wales. I s.hall take his word before that of the Minister.

Senator Playford - I very respectfully differ from Mr. Wade.

Senator GRAY - I feel very strongly about this Bill. The powers conferred on the Government are of such a character-

Senator Playford - Autocratic ! Senator GRAY. - The Bill is autocratic - it creates a sort of Star Chamber. It places in the hands of one man almost absolute power as to the manner in which the business of the Commonwealth, with all its ramifications, shall be conducted. The Bill places it in his hands alone, there being no appeal. His word is as the law of a Caesar - above all other laws.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator contends that the Bill is ultra vires, and there will therefore be an appeal to the High Court.

Senator GRAY - No doubt there will, but surely the Minister does not contend that it is desirable that the Senate should pass a measure quite unnecessarily, which will give rise to more friction than already exists, simply because the Government have made up their mind that it is one which will please a certain party. I honestly say that I trust the Bill, if passed, will be for the advantage of the Commonwealth. I do not look upon it as a party measure. It should be considered as a practical business measure, and its provisions should have been investigated by the many experts throughout the Commonwealth who possess an intimate knowledge of the interests likely to be affected, and who would know that \t will affect exports and imports to the value of millions of pounds. Much as I object to Royal Commissions on many grounds, I say that if ever there was a Bill submitted to Parliament which should first have been considered by a Royal Commission, iit is this Bill. _ I defy any man to say definitely what will be 'its full effect. When_ we consider that in the Commonwealth we have 10,000 miles of coast-line, and that this measure will have to be administered by Customs House officers at every port, who must be experts in their knowledge of the goods with which they will have to deal, it must be patent to every practical man that it is one which should be thoroughly considered and sifted in every detail before it is passed into law.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. GOULD(New South Wales). - I thought that some honorable senator on the other side would have had something to say in defence of what the Minister probably considers a very much abused measure. If there is a determination on the part of honorable senators op,posite to support a Bill of this character, it would be as well if we heard from them some of their reasons for that support. If one thing more than another has become noticeable in the government of the Commonwealth, it is that, not only the present but preceding Ministries, have displayed an unhappy facility in placing the Commonwealth in antagonism with the different States. From the very inception of the Commonwealth we appear to me to have been engaged in passing measures which have provoked such antagonism. If there ever were a body of men who did all they possibly could to destroy the Federal spirit throughout) Australia, the men who have been at the head of affairs in this Commonwealth for any lengthened period are those men. Senator Playford has been in office but a short time, and cannot perhaps be charged directly with the sins which can be charged against his predecessors, except in so far as he has given them a constant and consistent support. Have Ave heard one reason why this Bill is considered necessary ? The only defence of it which I have heard has been that the Reid-McLean Government drafted a Bill of this character. But honorable senators must know that the members of that Government repudiated that Bill, and have said that they never approved of it ; that an officer in one of the Departments was instructed to draft a measure, but it was never considered by the Minister of Trade and Customs of that Government.

Senator Playford - It was not finally considered by the Cabinet.

Senator Millen - It embodied a totally different principle.

Senator Playford - No; here it is, I have it before me.

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. GOULD.-Of what use ils it for the Minister to hold up a Bill, and say, "Here it is," when he must know very well that it was repudiated, and that there was simply a draft of a measure made for the consideration of the Cabinet ?

Senator Playford - I was merely answering the statement that it was of a different character to this Bill.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - It never received even the approval of the Minister in whose Department it was prepared-

Senator Playford - It was not finally revised. »

Senator Lt Col GOULD - It was not revised at all. I have stated the only reason which I have heard advanced for the introduction of this measure. Were there not many other matters of importance to the interests of the Commonwealth which might have been attended to? I say that this Bill has not been called for. I go further, and1 say that every responsible body that has considered it has condemned it as unnecessary and mischievous. What are our objects with respect to trade and commerce? Surely we desire to promote trade and commerce with: other countries? We do not desire to live entirely upon and within ourselves, and if we do desire to promote trade and commerce who are the people who can best advise us as to the wisdom of measures submitted to this Parliament for such a purpose? Are they not the men who are engaged in trade and commerce?

Senator Story - They consider only their own interests.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - There, again, is the insult which is always levelled at these men. Does the honorable senator consider only his own interests in this Parliament, or does he consider the interests of the Commonwealth at large?

Senator Story - I do.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I say we have a right to give these men credit for the same desire to do what is right and proper that we claim for ourselves.

Senator Story - They are not elected.

Senator de Largie - What men does the honorable senator refer to?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- The members of various Chambers of Commerce.

Senator de Largie - Are they representative men ?

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- They are.

Senator de Largie - They are representative of a very small class.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- What does Senator de Largie know of trade and commerce? He does not enter this Parliament as an expert on this question, but as a man selected to voice the opinions of the electors who returned him. He has not been sent here because of any special knowledge he possesses of any particular matter. He has a general knowledge of various subjects, and it is his duty, as it is the duty of every other honorable senator, to take advantage of the special knowledge which other people may .possess, and1 which thev are willing to impart to him to enable him to determine what is best in the interests of the Commonwealth. I deny that the Commonwealth Parliament possesses all the wisdom of the Commonwealth.

Senator Givens - The honorable senator possesses a fair share in his own person.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - I do not claim that. I do not claim to be an expert upon every matter which can possibly come before us for legislation. The various Chambers of Commerce in Australia are, in my opinion, doing a great work for the Commonwealth. They give their services in connexion with the Chambers to which they belong gratuitously, and with the object of promoting the trade and commerce of the country. From personal knowledge of many of these men, I know they are anxious to do what is right in the interests, npt only of merchants, but of the community at large.

Senator de Largie - The honorable senator says that they are responsible. To whom are thev responsible?

Senator Lt Colonel Sir ALBERT GOULD (NEW SOUTH WALES) -Col. GOULD.- Senator de Largie is responsible to his constituents, and. if a body of them had special knowledge of some matter with which we were called upon to deal, would he not be prepared to accept their advice?

Senator de Largie - Certainly I should .; but the honorable senator speaks as though the members of Chambers of Commerce were the only people to be consulted, or as if they were responsible bodies.

Senator Walker - Chambers of Manufactures are also opposed to the Bill.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - The views expressed by members of Chambers of Manufactures will commend themselves to some honorable senators, and those expressed by Chambers of Commerce will commend themselves to others.

Senator Givens - The Chambers of Commerce desire only to conserve their right to cheat.

Senator Lt Col GOULD .- These cheap insults are, in my opinion, contemptible when uttered in a Parliament of this kind.

Senator Givens - Does ;the honorable senator say that anything I have said is contemptible ? If he does, I answer that he is contemptible.

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