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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator KEATING (Tasmania) (Honorary Minister) . - Senator Dobson referred to the development of the export trade in Tasmanian apples, and I was about to address the Committee when Senator Best rose. If I thought for one moment that this Bill would in any way injuriously interfere with the development of the apple export trade in Tasmania, no honorable senator, or no member of this Parliament, would oppose it more strenuously. Senator Dobson desires to have apples, pears, oranges, and lemons eliminated from the operation of clauses 7 and 11. Clause 7 deals only with imports, so that, so far as the apple trade is concerned, it may be dismissed from considera tion. Clause 11 - the only clause the operation of which can be affected by Senator Dobson's amendment - applies only to the branding of goods for export, and has no reference whatever to the inspection of them. Senator Mulcahy, I gather from his interjection, thinks that no one objects to the branding of goods ; but that it is to compulsory inspection that objection is taken. If Senator Dobson's amendment were carried, it would not affect in one iota any of the provisions of this Bill, so fax as they relate to inspection. Clauses 7 and n are circumscribed by the clause now under consideration. Clause 7 deals with the branding of goods for import, and clause 11 with the branding of goods for export.

Senator Best - But clause 14 would come in.

Senator KEATING - If this amendment had relation to clause 14, Senator Mulcahy would lie justified in his interjection. But the effect of the amendment which we have under consideration, will be merely to obviate the necessity of branding fruit.

Senator O'Keefe - Are we to understand that if Senator Dobson's 'amendment is carried, the fruit will still be liable to inspection ?

Senator KEATING - Undoubtedly ; but the effect of the amendment will be that the Minister could not prescribe that the fruit should be branded. Let us see what is the effect of the present law in Tasmania. Senator Macfarlane would have us believe that the Tasmanian law is not known to the persons engaged in the fruit industry there. Others have disputed my statement that the Tasmanian Act has been practically inoperative from its inception, simply on account of funds.

Senator Mulcahy - That is, so far as inspection is concerned.

Senator KEATING - We will see what the Tasmanian Act provides. The criticism we have heard means one of two things, either that the Act appears upon the statutebook, simply as a piece of pharisaical legislator!, or that it was put there for the purpose of being enacted. Now, the first operative provision of the Tasmanian Act commences with the words -

No product shall be shipped or placed on board any vessel for exportation from Tasmania -

The word "product" is defined in the definition section as meaning -

Fresh fruit of any description, dried or preserved fruit, jam, dairy produce, eggs and potatoes, produced or grown in Tasmania, and such other products as the Governor may from time to time by proclamation declare to be products for the purposes of this Act.

After providing for the appointment of inspectors, the Act goes on to say, in section 6-

No product shall be shipped or placed on board any vessel for exportation from Tasmania unless the package containing such product is clearly branded in the prescribed manner with a registered brand of the consignor, and with the registered brand or the initials and surname of the producer, except where such product has been repacked.

Senator Mulcahy - That is for the purpose of identification.

Senator KEATING - That section provides that no fruit shall be exported unless it bears a brand showing the name of the consignor and producer, with the registered brand of the producer. We turn to the section of the Act dealing with penalties, and we find, in section 11, that -

Every person is liable to a penalty not exceeding £25 for a first offence, and not exceeding£50 for a second or subsequent offence who. . . .

(3)   exports or attempts to export, or is concerned in exporting any product in contravention of any of the provisions of this Act.

There you have a provision to the effect that no product shall be exported from Tasmania unless it bears the brand of the exporter, and the registered brands of both the consignor and the producer, and subsequently you have the provision that if any person exports, or is concerned in exporting, any product, including fruit, from Tasmania that is not so branded, he is liable to a penalty of£20 for the first offence, and of£50 for any second or subsequent offence.

Senator Pulsford - Is not that Act more or less discredited and obsolete?

Senator KEATING - It is not discredited, and it is not obsolete. It makes provision for the appointment of inspectors.

Senator Mulcahy - Not for compulsory inspection.

Senator KEATING - I am confining my remarks to the branding of products particularly.

Senator Dobson - Every one would brand without any Act.

Senator KEATING - If my honorable friend had confined his remarks to the effect his amendment would produce upon the brands, and had not referred to inspection, he would have been much briefer, and more to the point. But I am not now dealing with inspection at all, because I have shown that it is not affected by the amendment in one iota. All that Senator Dobson's amendment will do is to leave fruit still open to the inspection clauses of this Bill, and, at the same time, prevent the Minister from prescribing that fruit shall bear a brand, if it is found necessary to put that provision in operation. We are not providing in this Bill that fruit shall necessarily be branded. Every honorable senator who has proposed to support this amendment seems to assume that we are absolutely providing here that fruit must be branded in a certain way. That is the whole basis of their argument. But we are simply taking power to compel fruit to be branded if it is found to be necessary. The provision of clause 11 is that -

The regulations may prohibit the exportation of any specified goods unless there is applied to them a trade description of such character relating to such matters, and applied in such manner as is prescribed.

Senator Dobson - I think I shall have to alter my amendment to meet the Minister's criticism.

Senator KEATING - This may happen : The Minister may find when he takes over the administration of this measure that the fruit export trade of the Commonwealth is going on in a satisfactory manner, and that there is absolutely no necessity to exercise the powers conferred upon him by clause 11. But three, five, or seven years hence the Minister may find that a small number of dishonest persons are engaged in the fruit industry, whose improper practices are causing a great deal of loss to the great majority of honest persons engaged in the trade. He may find it very desirable to prescribe, under the powers conferred upon him by this measure, that a certain trade description shall be put upon packages of fruit. He may prescribe that the trade description shall be the name of the grower or packer of the fruit. Would there be any objection to that? "Trade description" under this measure includes any indication or description relative to - the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, or weight of the goods ; or

(i)   the country or place in or at which the goods were made or produced ; or the manufacturer or producer of the goods, or the person by whom they were selected, packed, or in any way prepared for the market.

The Minister might provide by regulationthat fruit exported from the Commonwealth should bear as a brand an indication of the particular State from which it came. lt might be found, for instance, that, so far as> Tasmania was concerned, not a single case of dishonest exportation had taken place. But it might be found, with regard to some other State - I will- not mention one, even for the purpose of illustration - that a number of instances had occurred in which exporters had sent away consignments which were not all they should be. The Minister might exercise the powers conferred upon him by' this Bill to prescribe that the trade description to be placed upon packages of fruit should be the name of the State from which the goods were consigned. That would be a warning to those who bought outside the Commonwealth that if they purchased fruit from Tasmania it would be all right, but that if they purchased fruit from the other supposed State they would have to be wary.

Senator Story - That would be a protection to the Tasmanian growers.

Senator KEATING - It would be in that case. Senator Dobson's amendment eliminates from the Bill that power of the Minister. I have already shown that the amendment does not affect inspection. Ii only affects the branding of fruit going forward for export. That branding is not compulsory. It is merely optional, and may lie prescribed by the Minister. It will be prescribed clearly, as all experience shows, in the way that Senator Best suggests - when the Minister finds from experience that it is desirable in connexion with a particular trade or commodity to exercise the power. Now let me show what took place in Tasmania, and what led to putting on the statute-book the Act which Senator Macfarlane says nobody engaged in the fruit trade knows anything about, and which Senator Pulsford says is discredited.

Senator Pulsford - It is permissive.

Senator KEATING - It is compulsory, so far as branding is concerned; and Senator Dobson knows that if any one chooses to export fruit from Tasmania that is not branded he is liable to the penalties I have named.

Senator Dobson - I know that the Act has been a dead letter.

Senator KEATING - The Act was called into existence by the circumstances which I am about to narrate. When the South African war was on Tasmania, in common with the other States of the Commonwealth, received a large number of orders for consignments of grain. I do not know what was the practice in the other States, but in Tasmania shipments of grain very often had to go forward at very short notice. It was found not only desirable, but actually necessary, that those shipments before they left Tasmania should be inspected by the Government. My honorable friends who come from Tasmania know that. That was one of the immediate factors that led to putting upon the statute-book the Exported Products Act, which has not been repealed. When the Bill was before the Tasmanian Parliament a debate upon it took place on the 26th September, 1901. I have here a report of that debate. It shows, that while clause 6 was under discussion, the marginal note of which is -

No product to be exported unless package is branded or labelled with the name of consignor; the then Premier of the State - admitted that a great deal of the fruit sent to London was known by the brand, but it was not intended that shippers should discontinue to use the brands, Hut merely that they should also put on their full name. It was done to protect the honest exporter.

Mr. Mackenzie,who is a farmers' representative, and sits for Wellington, in the extreme north-west of the State, asked the question, " Why not include grain?" There is a producers' representative wanting to extend the operation of the measure. The Premier replied -

The grain was now inspected - at least, that purchased for the War Office had been, and it had been branded with the Government brand.

Mr. Evans,the present Premier of Tasmania, who represents a fruit growing district of Tasmania, said that he - favoured the name being put on the case. The Bill was calculated to make a few honest who were inclined to be dishonest. There were a few here and there who sent out rubbish with the hope of being able to sell and get a fair return. Brands would be a greater hardship to smalt consignors than the placing of their names on the case, which could be easily done with a stencil plate.

Mr. Hodgman,who represents Brighton, another producing constituency - described the Bill as a compromise. The way out of the difficulty would be not to allow anything to leave the State unless branded according to its quality. The efficiency of the Bill would depend very largely on the nature of the regulations framed by the Governor in Council.

The Minister of Lands - Senator Mulcahy then held that office in Tasmania - said -

It was known to the Government that very large consignors used a fresh trade-mark or brand every year. Under the clause a man might change his brand as often as he liked, but his name must be on the fruit. If a producer or exporter continually forwarded good, sound fruit or other produce under a certain brand, that brand became valuable to him, and his good name was established ; but if a man sent bad stuff, his name would be known, and he would be taught a lesson if his name was on the fruit case. The Bill would certainly help the honest man, and would help to prevent the good name of Tasmanian produce being lowered.

Several other members spoke, and Mr. Hope, who is member for Sheffield, another most important producing district - wanted to see the farmer made liable for sending away produce that damaged the name of the State.

Dr. McCall,who also represents one of the most thriving agricultural districts of the State, and who has since been its Chief Secretary and Minister for Agriculture said -

The only way to make the Bill a success was to have Government inspection. An inspector could, for instance, visit the shipping centres along the N.W. coast and inspect the produce prior to shipment. If something of that nature were not done, he did not anticipate much good result from the Bill.

Senator Dobson - In spite of all that eloquence, the Act is still a dead letter.

Senator KEATING - Whatever difficulties there have been, have arisen in connexion with, not legislation, but administration.

Senator Dobson - There has been no administration.

Senator KEATING - The members who addressed themselves to the Bill, and who came from farming constituencies, claimed that it would be inoperative, because it was not strong enough. Dr. McCall wanted Government inspection, while Mr. Hodgman wanted a provision that no produce should go out of the State unless it bore an indication of its quality.

Senator Dobson - What is the good of the Act ?

Senator KEATING - Senator Mulcahydid not frame a strong enough Bill. In any case, everything goes to show that there was unanimity on the point that the goods should bear a brand when going away from the State.

Senator Dobson - Every one agrees to that.

Senator KEATING - Then I am surprised at the honorable and learned senator pressing his amendment. The only result it could achieve would be to prevent the Minister from prescribing that brands shall go on the fruit. It would not touch the inspection of the fruit.

Senator Dobson - I intend to try to make it do that.

Senator KEATING - I do not think that the amendment would affect the exportation of Tasmanian fruit to the extent of one case in five years. I should not have to wait for my honorable and learned friend to lead the way in opposing any legislation which would have the effect of retarding the development of that trade, which has increased so rapidly during the last few years, owing to the industry and ability of the men engaged in it. Seeing that the amendment could effect no desirable object, but would simply be a sort of placard on the Bill, making its provisions absolutely anomalous, I hope that it will not be received by the Committee.

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