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Tuesday, 14 November 1905

Senator MATHESON (Western Australia) - A few things which have been said by the last one or two speakers have prompted me to say something. Senator Pearce has dealt) .with the question of guarantee, and has been obliged to admit that it is purely a negative guarantee at the very best. I think it ought to be a positive guarantee in order to insure that we shall have a standard, so that every exporter may know what is necessary in preparing his goods for export. As the Bill now stands, no man would ever know what exception was going to be taken to his goods.

Senator Pearce - He would know that he must not adulterate.

Senator MATHESON - But what is adulteration, and who is to be the judge ?

Senator Pearce - The addition of barium to leather is admitted by every one to be adulteration.

Senator MATHESON - Quite right ; I am with the honorable senator as to that. But if we had an Act which said that the addition of a certain proportion of barium was an adulteration, every exporter would know where he stood. The danger of this provision is that, although the Minister is the responsible head of the Department who will set the machine at work, the prosecutions will be instituted practically by subordinates. The lower the subordinate who ferrets out some apparent adulteration, the greater the risk' of intimidation. I know something about exporting. I have looked into the matter, and I know the extent to which an importer would find himself at the mercy of a verv poorly-paid subordinate at the Customs House. You cannot guarantee that all these men will be absolutely reliable. I do not wish to attack the general body of Customs House officers in 'the slightest degree, but in every class of the community there are always to be found one or two black sheep. Those black sheep in this case would be undoubtedly in a position to make themselves extremely rich at the expense of the exporter. Thev would be able to say to a man. " This is a suspicious-looking parcel of goods which' you are exporting; I think the Minister's attention ought to be called to them." What would happen? The exporter would not want to be troubled. There would be no standard. He would not know how he would be placed if an investigation were made.

Senator O'Keefe - Does the honorable senator mean that the officer would blackmail the exporter?

Senator MATHESON - I mean that an officer here and there might be found to black-mail. There would be an easy possibility of black-mailing.

Senator Styles - The exporter would bribe the officer.

Senator MATHESON - Without a doubt.

Senator O'Keefe - Does not that danger already exist under our Customs Act?

Senator MATHESON - It may exist, but not to the extent that it would under this provision. All the exporter would have to do would, be to say, " I think this small lot ought to be allowed to go," and he would possibly pay a little douceur to have the matter let alone. An exporter might often be willing to pay £10, if by so doing he could secure peace. It is only a risk; I do not say that it would happen. But it is a reason why I intend to support Senator Symon's amendment.

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