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Friday, 10 November 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - I listened with some surprise to Senator Pulsford when he suggested an alteration in the title. One of the arguments used by the honorable senator was that his amendment would give the Bill more extensive scope, and affect not only external trade, but Inter-State trade. I cannot see how the alteration would bring about that result; and I can only anticipate that, if the honorable senator is successful with his amendment, he intends to extend the scope of the measure by subsequently proposing additional clauses. It is desirable to adhere to the present title, containing, as it does, the words used in that section of the Constitution from which we derive our power to legislate in matters of this kind. There is a large ambit of legislation reserved to the States in connexion with merchandise marks and trade descriptions, and it is much better that the Commonwealth measure should bear a distinctive title, which at once conveys the information that it. is Federal, and not State, legislation. Even if we exercised our fullest authority to deal with both external and Inter-State commerce, each Statewould still be at liberty to pass Bills covering commerce within the State itself. If the Commonwealth Parliament pass a Merchandise Marks Bill,, or any measure of the kind, each State may do the same ; and, under the circumstances, it is better that the titles should differentiate. I pointed out last night that, so far as concerns Inter-State transactions, each State may, by domestic legislation, to a large extent nip in the bud the evils which we are endeavouring to cure in regard to fraudulent' importation. For that reason, the Government at this stage refrain - and I think wisely - from exercising to the fullest the legislative powers conferred by the Constitution, and leave the States to legislate supplementally, in connexion with the sale of fraudulent goods within their own borders.

Senator Millen - Why miss the intermediate stage of Inter-State commerce?

Senator KEATING - It is desirable that the States should be given an opportunity to follow our legislation, and that we should on this occasion confine ourselves to external exports and imports.

Senator DOBSON(Tasmania).- Senator Keating has given no reason whatever why we should not adopt a better title than that of Commerce Bill if one can be found, and either of the two suggested would be more accurate. If we adopt either, a new clause may be inserted providing that the BiH shall not apply to Inter-State trade, and I hope that honorable senators will not be led away by the fact that the Government wish to adhere to the present title. The words " commerce with other countries " have, in my opinion created much unnecessary suspicion, and, while there are grave objections to the Bill itself, I believe that the title has caused them to be regarded as much graver.

Senator PULSFORD(New South Wales). - I did not assert that the change which I suggest in the title would automatically extend the scope of the Bill to the supervision of commerce between States. I merely pointer! out that if the Minister, in his very laudable anxiety to restrain fraud, desired to do that, it could be accomplished by the addition of a newclause. The term " commerce " is altogether misapplied, and the first step is to eliminate it, deciding afterwards what shall take its place.

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