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Tuesday, 14 November 1905

Senator DRAKE (Queensland) - The position taken up by Senator Guthrie is very clear indeed. He wants to carry the Bill further than it now extends. But what we want to find out is, what was really the intention of the other House in passing the Bill in its present form. I think it must be perfectly clear to any one reading the Bill itself that clauses 5 and 6 were meant to apply to the particular goods that are dealt with in clauses 7 and

11.   Clauses 5 and 6 simply deal with the power to inspect and examine. For what purpose? To find out whether the goods come under the operation of clauses 7 and 11. Those two clauses, as honorable senators will find from the headings, apply respectively to imports and exports. Then we go a step further, and find that clause 7 and the clauses which follow it deal with imports, whilst clause11and the clauses that follow it deal with exports. It is perfectly clear, from the way in which the Bill was framed when it was first introduced, that the intention was that clauses 5 and 6 should apply to prescribed goods; that is to say, to goods prescribed under clauses 7 and11. In clauses 7 and11 the term used is, "the regulations." What the regulations may do is mentioned. When the Bill was passing through the other House, an amendment was made in clause 15, limiting the particular class of poods that might be the subject of regulations under clauses 7 and 11. Clearly, it was intended that clauses 5 and 6 should apply to those particular goods, and not to others. It bears the appearance of a Bill that has passed through one House of Parliament,and has had a flaw left init. A mistake has been made. It contains the word "prescribed." instead of the term "prescribed by the regulation," or instead of mentioning the particular classes of goods comprised in the regulations.It is perfectly clear that the regulations were the regulations referred to' in clauses 7 and 11, and were limited to those particular classes of goods. I would ask Senator Guthrie to look at the Bill again. In his speech he has shown that he holds the same opinion- as we do as to what was the intention of the Bill ; because, when it was pointed out to him that there is only power to inspect and examine, he said that he thought that if an officer examined goods and found that they were not up to the mark, there should be power to prohibit them, and he has also said that if it is found that other goods than these mentioned ought to be prohibited, it would . give an opportunity to come to Parliament for fresh legislation. Surely it was never intended that we should pass the Bill to enable the Government to inspect goods in order to find out whether they needed fo ask Parliament for further powers of inspection. It appears to me that the original intention of the Bill was that the two clauses should only apply to the particular goods which came under the operation of clauses 7 and 11. We are told that we need have no fear about the regulations, because they will be laid upon the table, and ean be discussed. We shall be told that no Minister would be tolerated who introduced regulations which shocked the good sense of the community. But when, we were discussing the time for bringing the Bill into operation the other day. Senator Styles indignantly repudiated the idea that each House of the Parliament should have an opportunity to discuss the regulations before they were enforced. "No," he said. "We want the Bill to be passed at once, and the regulations to be made and brought into operation without delay."

Senator Styles - Within six months.

Senator DRAKE - We must get rid of the idea that there will be a safeguard iri having the regulations subject to discussion in Parliament, because in the absence of this amendment thev could be brought into operation before they could possibly be discussed. Considering the nature of the Bill, it is not right to harp so much upon the abuses which have occurred and may recur. The position taken up bv honorable senators on this side is that, although in certain cases it might have the effect of preventing abuses, still there are a great number of cases where it would hamper tha honest trader. It must be re membered that all the persons engaged in producing and trading are not rogues. Probably it will be admitted that by far the larger proportion of them are as honest as we are. We ought to consider the matter very carefully before we do anything which would be calculated to hamper the operations of the producers, because it is upon them that the welfare of the whole of the community depends. While every care should be taken to see that there are no abuses, and that if any do occur, they shall be put down, we should not put it in tlie power of the Minister to do anything which would greatly hamper1 production or hinder commerce. I do not think we are justified in putting in a clause of this kind if it is simply intended for the purpose which has been stated by Senator Pearce. Apparently' his idea- is to enable the Minister to say to an importer or exporter : " Your case is as bad as it can possibly be; but under the law! I have no power to fine you, or to prohibit your import or export. I cannot give you an opportunity of defending yourself, but I have the right to take samples, and examine your goods, and to put you in a sort of newspaper pillory." I do not know that by any Statute a Minister is enabled to publish a man's name in the press, andi hold him up to the community as a person who is not an honest trader. Certainly where such a power is being given in a measure, it ought to be most carefully safeguarded, and before a man's name is published he should have the most ample opportunity of defending himself.

Senator PULSFORD(New South Wales). - I think it must be becoming increasingly evident to honorable senators that the Bill is a great bungle, and that it is liable to bring about great trouble, and at the same time to fail in that punishment of fraud which a simpler measure,, such as the Fraudulent Trades Marks Bill, would have effected. Last session a great deal was said about frauds in connexion with jewellery. Strange to say, under this Bill as it stands such frauds would escape. I understand that Senator Symon intends to propose an amendment for the purpose of including jewellery within its scope. It is very singular that the measure should take such extraordinary powers against ordinary traders. I regret that since last session several honorable senators seem to have become less alive to the desirability of protecting trade from harassing regulations. For instance, when Senator Best moved an amendment requiring goods made abroad to be marked "made abroad," Senator Guthrie said-

Difficulty would be created if this proposal were carried. It would harass traders. It would become impossible for them to conduct business in Australian markets in anything like the way they are doing now.

That was a sensible remark, but to-day he is evidently prepared to run any risk in the pursuit ofa will-o'-the-wisp. I notice, too, that Senator Smith has not spoken out on this Bill as he did on a previous Bill. Last year, when Senator Findley made the proposals which practically are the basis of this Bill for compulsory grading and compulsory description of goods, Senator Smith said -

I am afraid that on investigation this amendment will be found to be impracticable. In the first place, it implies conditions with regard to foreign manufacturers which is not insisted on in regard to our own manufacturers. It seems to be competent for the Australian manufacturer to assume a trade mark or name, which is an indication that his goods are made in foreign places. The proposal of Senator Findley would appear to be impossible in many cases. I should say that the legal definition of " goods " is very comprehensive, seeing that the word applies to all personal property as distinct from land or real property. To apply this amendment to all personal property that is brought into the Commonwealth seems to me to be passing a law which it would be impossible to enforce.

We hear nothing of that sort from the honorable senator to-day.

Senator Staniforth Smith - Was that a speech made before the butter frauds were known?

Senator PULSFORD - We knew all about the butter frauds at that time. The honorable senator went on to say -

Take, for instance, small articles like beads, pins, needles, glass eyes, or things like that. Would it be impossible to place all this information on such articles?

Senator Findley - Are such articles not labelled now when they are imported ?

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