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Friday, 10 November 1905

Senator PULSFORD (New South Wales) - The amendment I am about to propose is the last on my list prior to the end of clause 4. I draw attention to the fact that under the interpretation clause a trade description includes " a Customs entry relating to goods," and, in my opinion, a fair reading of the provision is that a Customs entry may be made to include not merely the terms of the Customs. Act, but. also the terms prescribed by the regulations under this Bill. Mr. Higgins, who is a supporter of the Government and a well-known legal authority, has not the slightest doubt that the provision could be so used, and the ComptrollerGeneral, while not agreeing with that opinion, has, with a view to meeting objections, suggested -certain words, the insertion of which I now intend to move. It is desirable that under the circumstances , we should take precautionsagainst any possible danger, and therefore I move -

That after the word " goods," line 25, the following words be inserted : - " but in any Customs entry no further description of any goods shall be necessary other than such as may be required under any Customs Act in force."

If the Minister prefers that the words should appear in the Bill as a separate clause amongst themiscellaneous provisions, I shall be quite willing to withdraw the amendment for the present.

Senator Keating -i think that course would be preferable, but I do notsay that the Government will be willing to accept the amendment.

Senator PULSFORD - Is Senator Keating conversant with what has occurred in another place, and the opinions which have been expressed there?

Senator Keating - I am, and I have listened to everything the honorable senator has said.

Senator PULSFORD - Will the Minister consent to these words being inserted as a new clause ?

Senator Keating - Certainly not.

Senator PULSFORD - There can be no danger in the amendment, because it only provides for what Ministers say is already law. There is good ground for the opinion that more than appears on the face of the provision might be required - that all the matters under the head of trade description might be required to be set out in a Customs entry - and, backed by high legal authority, as it is, the amendment is a most reasonable one. I have spent much time in endeavouring to improve the provision, and I do not think there ought to be much hesitation on the part of the Committee in accepting my proposal.

Senator KEATING.(Tasmania- Honorary Minister). - If the principle enunciated in the proposed amendment has to find a place in the Bill, it certainly should be in the form of a separate clause.

Senator Mulcahy - Or as a proviso at the end of the sub-clause under consideration.

Senator KEATING - I think a separate clause would be better. Honorable senators will see that a reference is made in the clause to a Customs entry. That entry is brought within the definition of a "trade description," which in its terms is purely inclusive. It includes all those matters dealt with in the lettered paragraphs, and also " a Customs entry relating to goods." A. Customs entry is something definite and known. Because the provisions of the Customs Act prescribe the details which it shall set forth. That being so, we cannot, by virtue of the fact that a Customs entry becomes, by an inclusive definition, a trade description, so amend the Customs Act as to provide that a Customs entry shall contain anything further than the law now prescribes it shall. We do not, by this, alter the present well-known meaning of a Customs entry relating to goods. We are not defining a Customs entry in 'this Bill, hut are using a known term to help us, by way of definition, to explain something else. We could only alter the meaning of a Customs entry by an amendment of the Customs Act..

Senator Lt.-Col.GOULD (New South Wales). - Senator Keating's argument is that the mere fact that the words, " a Customs entry relating to goods," are used here, will not in any way alter the law with respect to what it will be necessary to insert in a Customs entry under the Customs Act.

Senator Keating - That is so.

Senator Lt Col GOULD - The contention pf the Minister is that there is no necessity for the amendment, and that it can do no possible good; but I did not understand him to contend that it could do any harm. Senator Pulsford has pointed out that a well-known lawyer, whose opinion is entitled to considerable weight, has expressed very strong views on this question in another place. I submit that the Government might accept the amendment, .retaining the right to have the matter considered later on, when, if it became obvious that it was unnecessary, it could be struck out on reconsideration If they are not prepared to do that, the Government might consent to the insertion of a proviso, or a new clause embodying the amendment, in which case, I have no doubt, Senator Pulsford would be willing to withdraw the amendment at the present stage. If no promise is given in connexion with the matter, I presume it is because Ministers know that the numbers are up. _ The amendment' will then" be defeated at this stage, and it will be left to Senator Puls us]-* ford to see whether he cannot have the matter reconsidered, when there will be a further discussion upon it, which might be avoided by the adoption of the course I have suggested.

Senator PULSFORD(New South Wales). - I think Senator Keating might have been a little more generous. I am asking the Government to permit me to insert in this Bill :in amendment which will make clear the view which they say is their own, and which they believe is certain to be recognised. As I have already said, a well-known legal authority, Mr. Higgins, has stated that he has not the slightest doubt that the clause as it now stands can be held to render it necessary to include in a Customs entry any or all of the, matters that come under the head of a trade description in this Sill. It would, of course, make the possibilities in connexion with the Customs entries of a frightful character. I therefore feel that I am fully justified in asking Ministers to consent to the amendment, or to promise that they will accept it in the form of a new clause at the end of the Bill.

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