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Friday, 10 November 1905

Senator Millen - Has the Minister no observations to offer?

Senator PLAYFORD(South Australia - Minister of Defence). - I do not regard this opposition to the Bill as sufficiently serious to merit consideration. I do not look upon the amendment except as one that is moved by the honorable senator with the intention of - well, I shall not say what.

Senator MILLEN(New South Wales). - If the Minister does not regard the amendment as sufficiently serious to merit consideration, I do.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator has a perfect right to his own opinion.

Senator MILLEN - Honorable senators have only to bear in mind what has transpired since we met this morning, to realize that the amendment is not submitted in any spirit of levity, but in order to remedy a defect which has been admitted, not once, but half-a-dozen times,by the representatives of the Government. It was from that point of view that the amendment just disposed of was discussed at some length ; and now a suggestion is made which I think most happily meets the difficulty. It is admitted that the word " Commerce " embraces everything that may be brought within the wide scope of the term, whereas the Bill itself deals with only a small sectional part of commerce.

Senator Givens - Does not a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Senator MILLEN - Then let us call this a Bill to amend the Dog Act. When shaping a Bill we surely have enough knowledge of language to be able to set out with some approach to accuracy what we really mean. The Bill deals with fraudulent marks - that is the main object of every clause, with the exception of those whichare essentially machinery or complementary. The very first important clause, which deals with interpretation, shows at the commencement that the whole purpose of the Bill is to deal with merchandise marks. Clause 4 provides that " A trade description shall be deemed to be applied to goods," and so forth, and clause 5, which is merelymachinery, provides for inspection. All the following clauses deal with fraudulent marks, the use of which is made punishable. The whole purpose of the Bill is to insist on honest marks.

Senator Mulcahy - The honorable senator must distinguish between " mark " and " description."

Senator MILLEN - There is very fine discrimination at times, but a fraudulent mark in that sense covers the word "description." If 'butter, for instance, be marked " prime," and it is not prime, that will be regarded as a fraudulent mark such as the Bill is intended to prevent.

Senator Mulcahy - The honorable senator's anxiety is to give the Bill a specific title, and I do not think that the amendment would have that effect.

Senator Playford - It makes the Bill absurd !

Senator Givens - Could we not adopt the title " Commerce (Accurate Descriptions) Bill " ?

Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Or we might use the words " Trade Descriptions."

Senator MILLEN - I do not think we have altogether exhausted the possibility of meeting an admitted defect. All these interjections clearly show that there is not an honorable senator who is satisfied with the term " Commerce Bill " as the short title.

Senator Mulcahy - That is right.

Senator MILLEN - If that be admitted, surely it is not impossible to remedy a defect the existence of which the Minister does not attempt to deny. The term "Trade Descriptions," previously withdrawn, might meet the wishes of the Committee, but some words ought to be inserted to qualify the word " Commerce." I again suggest that if there is a unanimous opinion that some improvement should be effected, and if the Committee and Ministers are not prepared at present to determine upon the accurate word or words, the proper course is to postpone the clause, or to agree that there shall be a recommittal, if a happier suggestion be made later on. That would prevent the consumption of a great deal of time, and afford the Committee an opportunity which they desire to make the Bill as perfect as possible.

Senator SirJOSIAH SYMON (South Australia}. - The Minister in charge of the Bill has, I think, a verv curious notion of what his duties are under the circumstances.. When an honorable senator submits an amendment, in order to give effect to views expressed in regard to an earlier amendment, the Minister regards it as not offered seriously. But the Minister thought it serious enough to cause him to consult a visitor on the subject before he made that statement? Did the Minister not leave the table, and take his instructions from a gentleman visible, though not in the Chamber ?

Senator Playford - Decidedly not; I took no instructions.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - We all heard the answer, " Certainly not," given' in a stage whisper, and then the Minister returned to the table, and, instead of saying that he had been ordered not to consent to the amendment, he declared that he could not regard it -seriously. That is not the way in which to treat this Committee. Every amendment of the kind is serious, and is meant to carry out what the Minister desires, namely, to give a title which will clearly define the purpose of the Bill in the eyes of laymen, who, perhaps, do not read it from end to end. There was practically a promise that the inappropriate title of " Commerce Bill " would be changed.

Senator Playford - No' promise was made.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - What in effect was a promise was given.

Senator Playford - The Minister said, " I make no promise arn the subject."

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - The Minister said that he would have no objection to the title 'being altered; but now the representatives of the Government resist for hours proposals to make a change. What has arisen in the meantime to induce a change of front? What is the attitude of Ministers but that of sheer obstinacy? If the Minister declares that, with! a majority behind him, he intends to listen to no reason,, but to have this Bill passed literally as it entered the Chamber, we shall know that we need simply submit our amendments, and save any further discussion. But that is not the attitude which ought to be assumed in a deliberative assembly - an attitude which, as no one knows better than Senator Playford himself, would render our functions and proceedings! a farce. I do not support the amendment simply because it is moved by Senator Pulsford. I ask every honorable senator whether " Commerce Bill " is a premer description? The Committee has declared on a division that it is satisfied to leave in the word commerce, and now Senator Pulsford proposes a sort of sub-title, which would make it perfectly clear to everybody what part of commerce is dealt with in the Bill. The amendment would be perfectly effective; but still I think there is great force in what Senator Mulcahy has said. " Fraudulent marks," although amply sufficient to indicate the drift and intention, is not an expression, which, so far as I know, occurs in the Bill. The expression used in the Bill is "trade description." I do not support the proposal to amend the title merely because an honorable senator on this side has made it. I think the Bill might be more appropriatelydesignated the " Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905."

Senator Pulsford - I am prepared to accept that amendment.

Senator Sir JOSIAH SYMON - That would indicate that the Bill deals with the branch of commerce which relates to trade descriptions. If the title I suggest were adopted, the Act would no .doubt come to be known as "The Trade Descriptions Act," which would be a verv good name for it. I am sure that Senator Playford would be the last person in the world to take an unreasonable view of a matter of this kind, and it must be clear that the amendment is not-proposed in a partisan spirit, as even if it were carried the Bill would be left untouched.

Senator PLAYFORD(South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - I do not look upon the question as one of very great importance. With respect to the position taken up by the Minister in charge of the Bil! in another place, I shall ' just read from Hansard what the honorable gentleman said, so that there may be no mistake with respect to his views on the subject.

Senator Millen - Even against the Standing Orders.

Senator PLAYFORD - I may be permitted to refresh my memory as to what the honorable gentleman said. I find that he made this statement -

I am not wedded to this title, and I am quite prepared to consider the question of asking honorable senators in another place to alter it.

The CHAIRMAN - I am afraid I cannot permit the honorable senator to proceed. Standing order 402 provides -

No senator shall allude to any debate of the current session in the House of Representatives, or to any measure impending therein.

Senator PLAYFORD - It is a pity that that was not thought of before, because other honorable senators have been allowed to refer to what occurred in another place, and have asserted that Sir William Lyne made certain promises. I wished to quote what Hansard reports the honorable gentleman to have said in order that there might be no misunderstanding. I can, at all events, say that he concluded with the words, "I make no promises." I hare already explained that I am not altogether satisfied with the" title chosen for this Bill, because I consider that it covers too much ground. If I could discover a more appropriate title, I should! be pleased to adopt it; but one suggestion has been made by Senator Pulsford, another by Senator Drake, and others again by other honorable senators, and so far as I can gather, the same objection applies to them all. It seems to me that they all cover too much ground. If we use the expression " Trade Descriptions," it may be contended that the Bill deals only with a certain section of trade. lt was originally proposed that the title of the Bill should be the " Imports and Exports Examination Act 1905," but it deals only with certain imports and exports, and that title would also cover too much ground. Senator Drake has suggested the " Merchandise Marks Act," but the Bill is only a restricted Merchandise Marks Bill, and the title suggested by Senator Drake would imply that the Bill dealt with trade marks of all kinds and characters. I promise honorable senators that if they pass the clause as it stands I shall not have the slightest objection to its recommittal if, in the meantime, a more appropriate title than that adopted can be suggested.

Senator Sir JOSIAHSYMON (South Australia). - I congratulate Senator Playford on speaking in so reasonable a way. It is not necessary to re-debate the question, since the honorable senator admits that the "Commerce Act" is far too large a title for this Bill. The measure really deals with trade descriptions, and if the words " Trade Descriptions " are inserted there is less objection to the retention of the word "Commerce." Senator Playford might accept the amendment in that form, and if he does so I can assure him that honorable senators on this side will not regard it as binding, and it will be open to the Minister, if it is subsequently considered necessary, to propose the elimination of the word "commerce," or to substitute some other term for it, and we will assist him as far as we can. I ask the honorable senator, therefore, to accept the amendment,pro forma.

Senator PLAYFORD(South AustraliaMinister of Defence). - I will accept the suggestion to insert the words "Trade Descriptions," pro forma, on the understanding that if, on reconsideration, ft is thought necessary to recommit the Bill for the purpose, honorable senators will assist me in adopting a more satisfactory title, if one can be suggested.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment (by Senator Sir Josiah Symon) proposed -

That after the word " Commerce " the words " Trade Descriptions " be inserted -

Question put. TheCommittee divided.

Ayes ... ... ... 14

Noes ... ... ... 12

Majority ... 2




Question so resolved in the affirmative.

Amendment agreed to.

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