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Thursday, 9 November 1905

Senator KEATING - We have the means to take steps antecedent to what the States Governments may do.

Senator Gray - How?

Senator KEATING - By preventing thegoods from coming into the Commonwealth. As I have pointed out, if Senator Gray had done me the courtesy to listen to my opening remarks, once goods are brought into the Commonwealth and get into the general body of the property of a State, our jurisdiction with respect to them ceases. It will then be for the Stateauthorities, if it is thought desirable, to. prevent those goods passing from seller to purchaser. Our jurisdiction is applied to goods entering the Commonwealth from abroad, or being sent from Australia' abroad, or from one State of Australia to another. I intended to make some littlereference to the opinion quoted from the Attorney-General of New South Wales. By interjection last night, I asked some honorable senator, who was speaking in regard to that opinion, whether Mr. Wade at the time he gaveit had read the Bill. After carefully perusing his opinion, I am inclined to think that I should be doing Mr. Wade a greater act of justice if I were to assume that he had not read the Bill when he gave his first opinion. I am not referring now to the views he expressed in an interview with the representative of one of the Sydney newspapers, in which he replied to some of Mr. Bavin's criticisms of his opinion. If any honorable senator will read the opinion first given by Mr. Wade, and then that reply to Mr. Bavin's criticism of that opinion, he will see that the ground Mr. Wade took up on the two occasions was entirely distinct. From the views he expressed on the second occasion, it would seem that he had perused the Bill, at any rate, with some more care, and he carefully avoided dealing with the main principles of his first criticism. However, Senator Best dealt very effectively with the main contentions raised by Mr. Wade in the first instance. The honorable senator has pointed out that Mr. Wade assumed that we were legislating with respect to the conditions under which goods should be manufactured. Nothing is further -from the object of this Bill. There is not a. line in it which would suggest for a moment that it is conceived that the Federal Parliament has any jurisdiction whatever to legislate with regard to the mode of manufacture or production of goods. We claim only the jurisdiction which we have under the Constitution to prescribe conditions regarding, importation, exportation, or Inter-State transfer of goods. We could undoubtedly make the conditions which we prescribe with regard to these three matters relate to matters antecedent to the actual transport of the goods. That is, to matters connected with their manufacture or production. We all know that it is very desirable that in this regard throughout all the States there should be some uniformity of principle. If the Federal Parliament is not going to legislate upon this matter, what uniformity can we expect from the States? Reference has been made during the course of the debate to the Tasmanian Act, but I do not intend to dwell upon that at length. However, I have here an extract from reports appearing in the Hobart Mercury of 27 th September, 1901, of the debate on the Exported Products Bill, in Committee of the Tasmanian Assembly. If honorable senators will peruse these reports they will see that at the time this matter was before the Tasmanian Parliament the subject of fruit in its relation to the Bill was very fully discussed. And there was some doubt expressed as to the desirableness of the application of the provisions of the Bill in all their strictness to fruit.

Senator Macfarlane - Hear, hear.

Senator KEATING - But honorable senators, opposite would have us believe that fruit should not be made a matter dealt with by this Bill at all. I think that the great majority of those who spoke upon the subject in the Tasmanian Parliament, so far as I can gather from the reports - and we must assume that they were armed with a good deal of information collected at the time - spoke in favour of the Bill being applied to fruit. Im fact, it might almost be assumed from the report of the debate that the Bill was expressly intended to apply to fruit above all other products. Reference has been made to the Merchandise Marks Act. We have been told that this Bill does not follow that Act, that it is more comprehensive, and that we should adhere to the provisions of that Act. I point out that, although we provide pen allies in this Bill, as I said before, to supplement the legislation embodied in 'the Customs Act, they are not, comparatively speaking, very heavy. As honorable senators will see, they run up to a. maximum fine of £100. The Merchandise Marks Act, on the other hand, in the case of the application of false trade descriptions, which admittedly are of less importance than some of the trade descriptions under this Bill, prescribes penalties the maximum of which is two years' imprisonment. There is no provision for imprisonment in this Bill. If, when honorable senators ask us to adhere to the Merchandise Marks Act, and to confine our definition of a trade description to what was considered "adequate eighteen years a,go, we might not unfairly ask. them if they desire us to adhere to that Act, to assist us in making the provision for penalties in: this Bill much more severe than those proposed.

Senator Pulsford - The Bill is to he read with a Customs Act, and that gives a power of imprisonment.

Senator KEATING - Not in regard to these particular matters. In. the Customs Act, section 52 deals with prohibited imports, and in section 56 it is provided that the power of prohibiting importation of goods shall authorize prohibition, subject to any specified condition or restriction ; but in those sections we do not provide for penalties. In this Bill the attempt to import goods knowingly to the injury of the health or prosperity of the community, in contravention of this measure, is made a penal offence so far as the individual is concerned, and he is liable to a penalty running tip to £100. In the Act to which honorable senators opposite seem to be so devotedly attached, the penalty for doing what they recognise is a much- less serious offence ma"y be two years' imprisonment. I hope that honorable members will cease to complain; of this Bill as not going far enough. It goes as far as we can possibly go within the limits of our constitutional jurisdiction.

Senator Millen - No; it t might be extended to Inter-State commerce.

Senator KEATING - That is so; but there is a very palpable reason why we have not at this juncture submitted a Bill which would apply to Inter State commerce.

Senator Millen - I think I stated that.

Senator KEATING -The honorable senator did. So far as State trade is concerned, it is impossible to apply this Bill to goods manufactured in or .the production of any State. So far as the goods which come within the purview of this Bill are concerned, they will be goods which come from or are going abroad. They will l>e dealt with once when they come into the Commonwealth, and, having passed into a State, they wall have run the gauntlet of our jurisdiction, and may pass from State to State. There might be a class of goods produced or manufactured in the State which might be the subject of Inter-State commerce'. So far as those are concerned, in connexion with their manufacture and production, the States Parliaments have the fullest legislative authority at the present time. I take it that if the States legislative authority is exercised in that direction, in conformity with the principle of this Bill, there will never be any necessity for Federal interference in that regard. If, on the other hand, the legislative authority of the States is not exercised, or is -not exercised in all the States, or uniformly, or conformably with the requirements of the people of the whole Commonwealth, there will be a just cause for the Commonwealth Parliament to supplement the legislation at present proposed by the passing of an amending measure to make the provisions! of this Bill apply to Inter-State as well as to external commerce. I hope that the Bill will pass its' second reading, and will be mad'e as perfect as possible in the Committee of the Senate.

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