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Tuesday, 14 November 1905

Senator PLAYFORD (South AustraliaMinister of Defence) - Senator Macfarlane has shown no reason in favour of the amendment which he has moved. He has referred to marks upon cases of apples. I cannot see how fruit would be affected. The clause simply provides that .the officer may inspect such goods as are prescribed. The amendment says that the officer shall' not inspect! them unless he has good reason to believe that they are fraudulently marked or described. It would be very easy for the officer. to say that he had "reason to believe." But the objection to the amendment is that it would not permit the officer to inspect unless he said, " I have good reason to believe that these goods are fraudulently described." Take apples, which is the favorite illustration of many honorable senators. I know something about the apple export trade. Suppose a man ships 100 cases of apples, marked " Prime ribstone pippins, Tasmania." The Custom House officer will take a case at random, knock off the lid, and have a look at them. If he finds that they are prime ribstone pippins, down will go the lid again, and there will be no further trouble. But whether the officer has a suspicion of fraud or not, he ought to have the power to examine. We do not wish our apples to be sent to England under a false description. A Customs officer may say : " I have no reason to believe that these apples are falsely marked, but still that may be the case." Surely in such circumstances he ought to have the right to knock the lid off a case and test the quality of the apples. If he finds that the apples, instead of being prime ripstones, are second-class or small, he ought to have tHe right to take such other action as may be provided. I contend that, whether he has a suspicion of fraud or not, it is necessary that he should have the power to inspect a shipment. A large quantity of Australian apples are now shipped to the mother country and to Europe, especially to Hamburg. We wish to give the mother country and foreign nations a guarantee that the marks on Australian goods faithfully describe their character. To provide that the officer shall not inspect unless he believes that goods are fraudulently marked or described would be to defeat one of the chief purposes of the Bill, and that is to secure inspection before exportation. Undoubtedly the inspection will be carried on in a most careful manner. When Mr. Jones wrote on the subject of apples and jams the Comptroller- General of .Customs laid down, in his reply, the lines on which the inspection would take place. When I quoted the reply here, Senator Dobson said : " If that is the case, I shall not oppose the Bill ;" but he is. opposing it as strongly as he can. Evidently he has quite forgotten the promise he made. Under these circumstances I ask Senator Macfarlane to withdraw the amendment. It ought to be remembered that if the officers want to inspect a shipment they will say that there is a chance of fraud being committed, and that, therefore, they ought to make an inspection.

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