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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator O'KEEFE (Tasmania) - In view of the fact that certain honorable senators have been very anxious that this question should be fully' discussed, it is rather a fortunate circumstance that the Bill has been recommitted. I brought a perfectly open mind to the consideration of this question, and I have listened carefully to the arguments on both sides. I purposely refrained from expressing my views until I heard those .'arguments. Until Senator Keating showed that Senator Dobson's amendment would be ineffective to achieve the object for which it has been moved, I felt inclined to vote for it. I think it is only fair to my honorable colleagues from Tasmania that I should be willing to accept their advice on questions on which they should be better informed than myself. Senators Dobson, Mulcahy, and Macfarlane, although they represent, as I do, the whole of the State of Tasmania, may, perhaps, be said to represent in a special manner the fruit-growing districts of the State. Whilst for that reason I should be prepared to give special consideration to their views, Senator Keating has pointed' out that the amendment will be quite ineffective, and it appears to me that, keenly as Senators Dobson and Mulcahy may feel on this question, the fears they have expressed are ill-founded. I have listened to a recital of the provisions of the Tasmanian Act, and Senators Macfarlane and Dobson will be able to say whether any request for its repeal has ever been made by those interested in the fruit industry.

Senator Dobson - No; because it is a dead letter, except as to branding.

Senator O'KEEFE - It has transpired during the course of the debate that the State -Act provides for what is proposed to be provided by this Bill. The difference between the legislation to which the fruitgrowers of Tasmania are subject now, and that to which they will be subject if this Bill is passed as it stands, is veryslight. Under the Tasmanian Act, the exporters are compelled to put their names er registered Brands on their cases, in order that each may be identified, and in the event of their applying a false trade decription to their goods, they are liable to prosecution. We are told that this law has never been put into operation. I suppose that is because there has been no necessity for it.

Senator Dobson - I believe that last year there was not a single bad shipment.

Senator O'KEEFE - Exactly; and Senator Dobson, by his interjection, has answered his own objection to the legislation here proposed. I admit the sin'cerity of the desire of my honorable colleagues from Tasmania that the great fruit trade of that State shall not be harassed or interfered with by this legislation. They are afraid that under this Bill an inspector may be able to say to a shipper, "You shall grade your fruit." It must be admitted that Senator Playford has had something to do with the exportation of fruit, and with its sale in England. We have that honorable senator's assurance that no sane man occupying the position of the Minister administering this law would frame such a regulation as would permit his inspectors to unduly harass any shipper. We must come to that conclusion, because we know that if it could be shown that a regulation resulted in injury to shippers, it would be at once swept away by Parliament. In this, as in every other case, the Minister must be given some discretion in the framing of regulations. I do not believe that there will be the slightest danger that the fruit industry of Tasmania, or any other portion of the Commonwealth, will be unduly harassed, if we permit this Bill to pass. Even if Senator Dobson could include clause 5 within the scope of the amendment, I do not believe it would provide any greater safeguard for the shippers of fruit. Honorable senators must conclude that no inspector will be so utterly foolish as to do anything that will unduly harass exporters, unless he has reason to believe that an attempt is being made, by means of false trade descriptions, to foist an inferior article on the consumer. Senator Macfarlane will admit that where that is done, it can only result in injury to the interests of the honest exporter. I have come to the conclusion that I can fairly vote against the amendment. I feel satisfied that, after the discussion, Senator Dobson does not now believe that any great injury is likely to be clone to the fruitgrowing industry of Tasmania by this legislation. I am as anxious as any honorable senator can be, that this fruit industry shall attain the proportions it promises to attain in the near future, not only in my own State, but in every State in the Commonwealth. I am as deeply sensible of the value of the industry to Tasmania as any other honorable senator can be. I do not propose to vote against the amendment out of any consideration of loyalty to the Government, but because I feel that I can safely do so without the. slightest risk of danger to the producers of fruit in Tasmania.

Senator MACFARLANE(Tasmania).Having already spoken once on the amendment, I have only a word or two to say now. Senator Keating has referred to the Tasmanian Act, and I have said that it is virtually a dead-letter. The honorable and learned senator spoke of branding as being compulsory under that Act, but I can inform honorable senators, from personal knowledge, that, in nine cases out of ten, the branding consists merely of the initials of the shipper of the fruit. He requires to have a mark on his packages, just as a man requires to mark his luggage, and this marking is not done because the law requires it.

Senator DOBSON(Tasmania).- I quite acknowledge the justice of the criticism offered by Senator Keating that, as we have not coupled clause 5 with clause 15, my amendment will not achieve all that I intended. I desire to acknowledge my obligation to Senator Playford for permitting the reconsideration of the clause. I am prepared to take a division on the amendment at once, if no other honorable senator desires to speak. I think, however, that Senator Macfarlane is quite right in saying that, to all intents and purposes, the Tasmanian Act is a dead-letter. I feel somewhat aggrieved that Senator Playford, whenever he attempts to reply to any arguments of mine, should make use of statements which are inaccurate. The honorable senator said something about desiring to prevent hundreds of cases of apples alive with the codl in moth being exported to the old country.

Senator Playford - I did not allude specially to Tasmania, but to Australia.

Senator DOBSON - Then the honorable senator referred to the red scale in oranges, which, he said, did enormous harm to New South Wales growers, which this Bill will prevent. When I asked the honorable senator whether there are any Pest Acts in force in England, he admitted that there are not. After leading honorable senators to suppose that there is some danger of codlin moth apples and red-scale oranges being rejected when exported to the old country, the honorable senator admits that there is nothing in his argument at all.

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