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Thursday, 14 June 1906

Senator MULCAHY (Tasmania) . - I think there is a disposition to emulate the very good example of another place last night, and not to prolong the debate on the Address-in-Reply. Therefore, although I really have a good many remarks to make I will reserve a considerable portion of them for a better opportunity. Still, there are some things which I think need to be said as early in the session as possible. I think that Tasmania has good reason to be dissatisfied with the very vague references in the Governor-General's speech to questions of finance. The finances of Tasmania have been much more seriously disorganized than those of any other State, not even excepting Queensland. Queensland suffered to an enormous extent, but not proportionately in comparison with the wealth of the country as Tasmania has done. I do not know whether honorable senators have been made aware of the extent to which Tasmania has suffered. The Treasurer of the Commonwealth last vear, in the preface to his Budget, referred to what had been lost or gained by the various States through the operation of the Federal Customs Tariff. Tasmania, according to the right honorable gentleman, lost in five years no less than £796,000. I do not think his figures were quite correct. I am not arguing about the extent to which the people have suffered. I am pointing out the tremendous additional obligation or responsibility placed upon the Government of Tasmania in frying to make good such portion of that loss as was necessary to balance the finances of the State.

Senator Best - It was a mere dislocation of finances.

Senator MULCAHY - It was something more than a dislocation. I will not saythat it has not been accompanied by very much advantage to the people, though not by any means a corresponding advantage. I do not think that the £796,000 have been left in the pockets of the people of Tasmania. There has been a considerable diversion of trade to the benefit of our manufacturing friends in Victoria. Previously, they paid 20 per cent, on their goods imported into Tasmania. Now they have the benefit of the open door.

Senator Best - That is reciprocal.

Senator MULCAHY - Oh, yes; but still, a» every honorable senator knows, the balance of trade is altogether in favour of Victoria. As to the States debts, I regret to observe that, apparently, nothing is going to be done. Previous to Federation many of us had the idea that there would be a consolidation of debts, and that a great advantage would accrue to the States from the security of the Commonwealth. But six years have passed, and as yet no practical steps have been taken in thaidirection.

Senator Staniforth Smith - At the conference in Hobart, Sir George Turner made a most liberal offer, and the States Treasurers refused to accept it. It is not the fault of the Commonwealth that nothing has been done.

Senator MULCAHY - I am aware of the immense difficulties which stand in the way. Nevertheless, I think that a true Federal spirit has not been shown. The Commonwealth might very well have taken over some millions of the debt of Victoria and some millions of the debt of New South Wales out of the conversion loans that have had to be floated since Federation. Why not proceed gradually?

Senator O'Keefe - B - Because the Constitution would not allow it.

Senator MULCAHY - That seems to be the most practical way to proceed. If the Commonwealth took over a portion of a State's debt as it fell due, we should be able to form an idea as to whether the Commonwealth security would secure cheaper money than the individual States have been able to obtain.

Senator O'Keefe - A - An alteration of the Constitution would be necessary for that to be done.

Senator MULCAHY - I do not agree with making alterations of the Constitution until there is grave need.

Senator Best - It would have to be-doi«_ to carry out the honorable senator's wish.

Senator MULCAHY - According to the Governor-General's speech certain bonuses are to be offered to encourage industries, and there is some talk of preferential trade. There has also been some kind of promise that Parliament would this session deal with Customs duties. I hope that we shall not. I hope that when we start to amend the Tariff we shall take the whole of it into consideration., and not amend it piecemeal. If this Parliament in its closing weeks rectifies certain anomalies in the Tariff it may make alterations in one direction, whilst the next Parliament, composed of different men may make different alterations entirely. It is advisable that when the amendment of the Tariff is taken in hand the work should not be screwed in towards the end' of the session. Indeed, to undertake Tariff revision this session seems to me to be almost absurd, inasmuch as we have appointed a Royal Commission, which has done an immense amount of work. l:o inquire into the working of the Tariff. It is not desirable, until the Commission's work is complete, that we should proceed to deal with the subject-

Senator Playford - It is complete in some respects. The Commission says, for instance, ' ' You can now deal with spirits ; here is our report complete."

Senator MULCAHY - There is no doubt that the Tariff is full of anomalies, but I doubt whether we ought to start to alter it r.his session. An alteration of the Tariff ought not to be taken in 'hand lightly. It is the function of the Government to think over the matter carefully, and to bring down a thoroughly prepared scheme. There are other questions to be considered, apart from the operation of certain duties upon certain industries. If, for example, the alterations made in the Tariff reduce the revenue from Customs, how is Tasmania to make good the deficiency? She already stands with an enormous loss, as compared' with the year before Federation, through the decrease in Customs and the increase in departmental expenditure. According to the Tasmanian Statistician, her loss last year was £232,759. That is an enormous deficiency for a little State like Tasmania, which already is the most highly taxed State of the group in respect of direct taxation. Our direct taxation has gone up from .12s. per head in 1902 to 24s. 3d. per head in 1904-5.

Senator Best - There has been a decrease per head in Customs taxation.

Senator MULCAHY - It is impossible to get people to see that they are getting cheaper goods in consequence of reduced duty. I know personally that they are doing so, but the public do not understand that. Besides that we all know that it is human nature to Object to direct taxation. It is human nature in a Treasurer to try to avoid the imposition, of such taxation as far as possible. At the same time, Treasurers have been forced to adopt it, and iri' Tasmania, although we have been successful in balancing the ledger, we are paving our way, and no more at the present time. We are not reducing our ac cumulated deficiency, and are, unfortunately, neglecting a number of works which have been constructed out of loan moneys, and which it is our duty to keep in repair out of our own revenue. Tasmania has great difficulties to face, and has a right to expect every consideration from the Federal Parliament. I do not mean to say that we ought to ask for any special grant; I should never advise such a step. Rather than that, I would see Tasmania taxed even more deeply than now; but, at the same time, consideration must be paid to the circumstances of the little State. In my experience of Tasmania for over fifty years, I have seen how the greater and more prosperous States, owing to their proximity, have, time after time attracted the very bone and sinew of our population. Stalwart young immigrants, who in my early days were brought to Tasmania by my own people and others under the bounty system, and who found they could there enjoy 50 per cent, or 100 per cent, more prosperity than they could in the old country, soon found that if wages were 8s. a day in Tasmania they were 10s. or 12s. on the mainland.

Senator Best - How can the Commonwealth help to remedy that state of affairs?

Senator MULCAHY - I should like to see some adjustment of the finances by the Commonwealth. It is not for me, but for the Commonwealth Government of the day, which represents all the States, to take into consideration the financial condition of Th: various States, and to devise a scheme. My complaint is that no account is being taken of the present state of affairs.

Senator Keating - Does the honorable senator not think that the Commonwealth Government made a very good offer in regard to Tasmania when the Premiers were assembled in Sydney ?

Senator MULCAHY - I have not been able to analyze the offer which was made, and, so far as Tasmania is concerned, I do not know whether it has been accepted or rejected.

Senator Keating - It has been rejected.

Senator MULCAHY - There is no intimation in His Excellency's speech that any attempt is to be made to ease the conditions, which may be only temporary in Tasmania. There is another matter which seriously affects Tasmania, and which, to my mind, is one of the blots on Federation -that is the wretched bookkeeping system, which is absolutely un-Federal.

Senator Walker - It is absolutely fair in the meantime.

Senator MULCAHY - Is it fair in the meantime? We have federated not for this year or next year, but for all time, and the State which needs help now may be able to give it at some future period. It happens just now that Tasmania is one of the poorest, and, as she must always remain, one of the smallest of the States.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator want the taxpayers' money for Tasmania ?

Senator MULCAHY - I know the difficulties of Western Australia, but I am addressing more particularly Senator Walker as a representative of New South Wales. I wish Tasmania to (participate in some of New South Wales' superfluous wealth, because we do not know when the time may come when New South Wales may want to participate in the surplus wealth of Tasmania.

Senator Walker - It will be a long time before that occurs.

Senator MULCAHY - I hope it will not be a long; time. We are, as I say, federated for all time, and until this wretched bookkeeping system is abolished we shall not rea l I v have a true and full partnership.

Senator Best - But for the unfairness that would result to Western Australia, it could be abolished at once.

Senator MULCAHY - Special conditions were made for Western Australia, and there is power to make other special conditions even now.

Senator Walker - I desired to have a special arrangement made for Tasmania.

Senator MULCAHY - But a special arrangement was not made for Tasmania, and there should have been.

Senator Pearce - There has been a loss to Western Australia of over £400,000.

Senator Keating - Close on halfamillion

Senator MULCAHY - Although we may not share in Western Australia's prosperity, Tasmania isi asked to bear her share per capita of the cost! of the proposed Transcontinental Railway.

Senator Pearce - It was not Western Australia who asked for that, but the late Treasurer, Sir George Turner.

Senator MULCAHY - The Tasmanian Government are faced with tremendous difficulties. While not afraid to tax the people of that Slate, and ask them to pay their way, I know that the consequences would very likely be what they were when a similar step was taken before. People will be driven out of the State; in fact, I regret to say that people are now leaving Tasmania in greater numbers than they are arriving by immigration. I should now like to say a word about preferential trade, which I see is mentioned in His Excellency's Speech. That is a question we should not look at too narrowly. I am speaking of preferential trade as affecting the Empire and Australia, and I believe that we can, and ought, to give preference to goods which must be, and which are, imported from Great Britain and British States. To say that we cannot do that except in one particular way is almost an absurdity. We annually import a very large quantity of woollens and worsteds, and, whatever the Tariff may be, there will always be imported, for certain classes of the community, particular commodities for which they are prepared to pay, and will insist on having. It would take a great many years, under any system of protection, before we should be able to manufacture all we want in the way of the varieties of woollen goods which are nowimported, and which are necessary for fashion, durability, and other reasons. Of the large amount of such goods imported, much comes from Germany and France ; and there is an all-round imposition of a duty of 15 per cent. Why should we not, if we wish to give preference, and cannot afford to relinquish the duty, charge 20 or '25 per cent, on the foreign goods? Would that not' have the effect, to a very large extent, of diverting the trade to where we would like to see it ? That seems to me a patriotic and businesslike proposal, and an advance towards that proper Imperial spirit we wish to encourage.

Senator Higgs - Suppose the local manufacturer objects to give a preference to that extent?

Senator MULCAHY - But the local woollen manufacturer would still enjoy the protection he has now against British goods, while having still larger protection against German and French goods. I do not propose that we shall lower the present duty on woollens ; on the other hand, I think it might very well be increased without causing any hardship. The duty might be made 20 per cent., a rate of which I have had some experience in another State, and which was found not to be excessive..

Senator de Largie - Would the honorable senator force protection on the people of England, for instance, who have declared for free-trade?

Senator MULCAHY - I ,am not forcing anything on England, but rather trying to give the cold shoulder to goods from other countries, and to create a diversion in favour of the old country. If the people of Great Britain reciprocated with a reduction on our wines, or some other commodities, so much the better. That is one aspect of preferential trade, but there is another, on which I speak with some delicacy. Between the late lamented Mr. Richard Seddon and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth there has lately been some exchange of ideas with, the object of submitting certain proposals to establish preferential trade between New Zealand and Australia. It is hard for one to offer any opinion on that matter until we know what articles are proposed to be the subject of preference. It must not be forgotten, however, that certain States, or, at any rate, certain people in some of the States, agreed to Federation, because it established at once Inter-State free-trade - because it removed the fiscal barriers between the States of Australia. Many of those people consider that up to the present time that is the only advantage gained from Federation. There are a great many people, I am sorry to say, who think there has been no other advantage from Federation, and who judge the union, after five or six years' experience, as if that were ail it was going to accomplish. I do not hold with any opinion of the kind, but there are many who regard the removal of the Customs barriers, as affecting their own business or line of production, as the one advantage of Federation. Are we going to admit New Zealand to a partnership, of which she will enjoy the benefits without suffering the supposed, or otherwise, corresponding disadvantages? That is a question which is being very seriously asked in Tasmania. There are external duties on hops, potatoes, arid other commodities, the Tasmanian producers of which are entitled to ask whether they are to be deprived of the advantages given, to them in the freedom of the Melbourne and Sydney markets. As I say, this is a subject one would like to treat with great delicacy, but I hope to hear some statement of the intentions' of the Government.

Senator Keating - I do not think the honorable senator need worry very much about that.

Senator MULCAHY - I am glad to hear that reply from Senator Keating, who, like myself, is concerned in safeguarding the interests of Tasmania. 1 should to make some reference to a question in which, as often happens, a politician is apt to be placed in a false position. I have always been a believer in, and an advocate of, special taxation on land, as land. I have also been, a believer in, and, as a member of a State Cabinet, I succeeded in imposing, the principle of progressive taxation, whether applied to land or income. Thirdly, I am a believer in. the principle adopted in nearly all Australian mining legislation that the possessor of land under a mining lease should either use that land or allow others to 'do so. Therefore, if I am asked broadly whether I am in favour of a progressive land tax for the purpose of securing increased revenue from the people best able to pay, or, incidentally, securing, it may be, the bursting up of big estates, I say that on the whole 1 am. But, although I admit those principles, if, in the Federal Parliament, I find it proposed, as one. is inclined to think it will be proposed, to impose a land tax, not for the purposes of revenue, but for the purpose of bursting up big estates, then I say at once I cannot support such a measure. I was not sent here by Tasmania to do anything of the sort. If there is one principle stronger than another in the Constitution it is the limitations of Commonwealth powers ; and I object to either the powers of the Constitution, or any of its machinery, being used for a purpose not intrusted to us. I hear cheers' from some honorable senators opposite, but they forget that already some of them have approved of exactly this thing being done. The Post Office, under the Post and Telegraph Act, has been specifically used to check gambling in Tasmania. I am not going to enter into the morality of the question. But the morals of Tasmania were not handed over to the Federal Parliament, and when the machinery of the Post Office was used to interfere in a question which was open to the Tasmanian people only to deal with, it was wrongly used, and a dangerous precedent was established.

Senator Best - Surely the honorable senator does not suggest that the Common- wealth, Parliament went outside its powers in enacting postal legislation?

Senator MULCAHY - I shall not split hairs with the honorable senator ; I am merely expressing my views. It would have been very much better, from a certain point of view, if the Commonwealth had left Tasmania alone in this connexion. If Federal machinery was used to bring about a purpose not included in the thirty-nine articles of the Constitution, it was wrong.

Senator de Largie - Does the honorable senator object because Federal legislation has improved the morals of Tasmania?

Senator MULCAHY__Federal legislation has not improved the morals of Tasmania, neither has it succeeded in what it sought to achieve. The Post and Telegraph Act, instead of decreasing the business of Tattersall, has increased it. I do not intend, however, to go into that, question at present ; I wish merely to point out how dangerous these principles are. I have not been sent here to assist the Federal Government to levy a land tax for the purpose of bursting up big estates. That is a power reserved for the Legislatures, of the States. It is one of their sovereign rights, and I am surprised that the Prime Minister of Australia should be found on the platform practically advocating such a measure. As a matter of fact the Ministry have spoken on this question with three voices. We have the speech of the Prime Minister in Adelaide; we have the utterances of Mr. Deakin in Sydney, and we have the interview with Sir John Forrest somewhere else. In each case distinctly different opinions have been expressed.

Senator O'Keefe - T - The honorable senator does not say that we have not the power under the Constitution to pass such a measure.

Senator MULCAHY - I do. I say that the Constitution makes no provision for the bursting up of big estates. It gives us full Dower to impose direct taxation. As a source of revenue a land tax is quite legitimate. The imposition of progressive taxation, is well within the powers of the Federal Parliament so far as progressive taxation is intended to make the rich man pay in greater proportion. But if we imposed it avowedly to burst up big estates - and it would have to be a very high tax to do so - we should take a power that has not been delegated to us, and even if we did not go outside the letter of the Consti tution, we certainly should violate the spirit of it. Therefore, although I agree with the principle of land taxation, and should like to see such a policy adopted in Tasmania, I should give my unqualified opposition to such a proposal on the part of the Federal Government.

Senator de Largie - If the honorable senator believes in a land tax, why not let us have it by any means that are fair? .

Senator MULCAHY - I am not going to assist the honorable senator or any one else to advance one inch, either directly or indirectly, towards unification without the express consent of the people of the Commonwealth.

Senator Pearce - The honorable senator desires disintegration; he wants the people to give up their powers.

Senator MULCAHY - No.

Senator Dobson - He does not wish the Parliament to abuse its power.

Senator MULCAHY - One matter with which I desire to deal - and I shall curtail my remarks upon this subject since I shall have another opportunity to devote myself to it - relates to the regulations drafted under the Commerce Act. Honorable senators will doubtless have noticed that I put three questions this afternoon to the Minister representing the Minister of Trade and Customs in the Senate. I am sorry that I cannot congratulate the Minister on having given me a satisfactory reply. I knew when I framed the questions that they were exceedingly difficult to answer. They were as follow : -

1.   Whether the goods referred to in section 15 of the Commerce Act as "Apparel" and "the materials from which such apparel is manufactured " include all goods, materials, and articles mentioned in Division V. of the Customs Tariff Act under the general heading " Apparel and Textiles?"

2.   If so, will the Minister cause to be prepared and laid on the Senate table a list of all goods, &c, coming under this general description, compiled from the Official Guide to the Tariff and the records of Customs decisions. 3., In the event of the answer to question 1 being in the negative, will the Minister for Customs furnish a list of such goods as the Commerce Act is intended to apply to under the description of "Apparel, &c. ?"

What is our position in regard to this?

Senator Best - Those questions are posers.

Senator MULCAHY - I knew they would be ; but the. Government were warned. Senator Pulsford and I drew attention some time ago to the- wide variety of things coming under the heading of " apparel." What was the Commerce Act designed to do? I shall have to be somewhat severe in dealing with this question, but do not wish to approach it from a partisan stand-point. The purpose of the Act is a good one, the desire of the Legislature, in passing it, being to bring about honest dealing, but it should be our effort to make our legislation practicable. If we are going to impose harassing and embarrassing conditions and regulations, and to make it difficul t for tlie people to carry on business without any compensating advantages, we shall act wrongly. I venture to say that that is -exactly what we are now proposing. If honorable senators analyze my questions they will see, however, that a dead-lock has arisen. The replies given this afternoon by the Minister of Defence practically amount to an admission that it is impossible to define to what articles under the heading of "apparel" the Commerce Act is intended to apply.

Senator Guthrie - There should be no difficulty.

Senator MULCAHY - As an old tradesman, I can assure the honorable senator that there is. The Senate will remember that we passed the Commerce Act last session, and that portion of it, as is probably generally known, has already come into operation. I refer to that part which is really on all-fours with the Merchandise Marks Act of Great Britain. That is a common-sense piece of legislation. Under that Act a man is not compelled to mark or brand his goods with an indication of their quality or weight ; but if he does so mark them, his description must be absolutely true. He is not permitted to mark goods as weighing so much, unless the mark is an accurate one, nor must he describe goods as being " all wool " unless they are so in fact.

Senator Playford - That is right.

Senator MULCAHY - Certainly ; no one objects to that. Had we stopped there we should have done well. But we have gone further. The Minister of Trade and Customs has taken power under the Commerce Act to compel descriptions to be given. Under the draft regulations that he has issued, and which are causing much perplexity amongst business people all over Australia, he 'is going to compel people to place on their goods a description showing their exact nature, notwithstanding that in a. great many cases it will be exceedingly difficult to do so, while in others it will De absolutely impossible.

Senator Guthrie - Such descriptions have to be given under the Customs Act.

Senator MULCAHY - With all due respect to the honorable senator, I must say that he does not know what he is speaking about.

Senator Guthrie - The importer has to show what is the proportion of cotton or wool in certain goods.

Senator MULCAHY - No man could do so.

Senator de Largie - Could not the maker of the goods say of what they were composed ?

Senator MULCAHY - What power have we over the manufacturer abroad ? In a great many cases it is absolutely impossible to give these descriptions.

Senator Playford - Not at all.

Senator Guthrie - One can tell what is the percentage of cotton in woollen goods, and so forth, or what is the percentage of silk.

Senator MULCAHY - I have an advantage over the honorable senator.

Senator Guthrie - I served an apprenticeship to the business.

Senator MULCAHY - And I have spent something like thirty-five years in the trade, and have been a dealer and an importer. If time permits, I, am prepared to demonstrate that in many cases it will be impossible to supply a description, as demanded by the Minister, showing the exact nature of the goods. I started by saying that in regard to a variety of articles it will be extremely difficult to comply with the requirements ; that so far as a great many others are concerned it will be absolutely impossible to do so, and that in the case of nearly all these articles the description for the purposes of the Act - which is designed to protect the public - will be absolutely useless. It is principally to protect the public that we are going to impose harassing conditions with regard to imports.

Senator Guthrie - We want the importers to tell the truth about their goods.

Senator MULCAHY - But why should we compel them to have their goods branded by the manufacturers at Home? If we do what will happen? The manufacturers there will say to our people, " Take you trade. We are not going to reveal the ingredients of our goods."

Senator Guthrie - In other words, they will say, " We do not care about telling thetruth."

Senator MULCAHY - I wish the honorable senator would not speak in that way. I think we might well give the trading community as a whole credit for honest dealing. I do not see why the whole trade should be embarrassed because there are certain persons who will evade every regulation imposed.

Senator de Largie - This law was passed in the interests of the honest trader.

Senator MULCAHY - Exactly ; and I am trying to point out the futility of it. The effort to protect the honest trader by this means will be futile As a matter of fact, it has been proved impracticable by the replies I received this afternoon to my questions - replies showing that it is impossibleto define what is prescribed. How can we ask an importer to describe an article which he cannot get described.

Senator Guthrie - We will make that article here, and then we shall get it described.

Senator MULCAHY - The theory is that this Act is going to protect the consumer. But we cannot step one inch beyond the boundaries of the King's warehouse with regard to the goods that we have dealt with. It is well known that once these goods - which are to be so marked as to indicate their exact nature - leave the Customs warehouse, every paper around them, every ticket that they bear, can be removed. Honorable senators will probably say that it is the duty of the States Parliaments to pass consequential legislation that will carry out our purpose, so thatthe man who buys a suit of clothes in a shop will be protected, but it is ridiculous to apply these provisions to textiles.

Senator Best - The honorable senator agrees with it so far as it provides for the purity of our food supplies.

Senator MULCAHY - Yes.

Senator Guthrie - That is " the other fellow's job."

Senator MULCAHY - Surely we ought not to assume that an. honorable senator is absolutely selfish in dealing with these matters. A man might be slowly poisoning himself, or, at all events, undermining his health, by eating adulterated food. It has been proved that a child was nearly starved by being fed on what was called condensed milk.

Senator Best - And that another was seized with rheumatism, as the result of wearing what was believed to be a woollen garment, although it was really made of cotton.

Senator MULCAHY - , The average mother knows far better than does any honorable senator what is flannel and) what is cotton.

Senator de Largie - What about flannelette ?

Senator MULCAHY - A woman knows more about flannelette than we do. A woman knows more about union flannel than we do. She knows, too, what is Victorian flannel, although it took a Commission and an army of experts to find out of what it was composed. A boy serving behind a counter will know quite well that "flannel" which is sold at 6¾d. a yard must be half cotton.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.

Senator MULCAHY - I beg, sir, to call your attention to the state of the Senate. [Quorum formed.] I desire to bring under the notice of honorable senators the large powers taken under the Commerce Act by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and to the very important point that the Act is to be read in conjunction with the Customs Act, and also with the Customs Tariff Act, which is embodied in the Customs Act. Section 7 of the Commerce Act says -

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

Section 15 limits the operation of section 7 to certain articles, namely, to articles used for food and drink, medicines or medicinal preparations, manures, apparel, including boots and shoes, and the materials from which such apparel is manufactured, jeweller)', seeds, and plants. It seems to me that when the Minister decides, under the regulation, to deal with the question of apparel, he has to go to the Customs Act for his definition of what apparel is. That Act gives the Minister very large powers with regard to definitions and the settlement of cases. He may give a decision which, upon being gazetted, will be law for the time being. The Customs Department has made, and he has indorsed, a great number of decisions under which various- articles are classified and specified as coming under a particular head. It was to ascertain whether the Minister intended to apply the Commerce Act to all the goods coming under the head of " apparel and textiles," or to only a portion of them, that I put the questions I asked this afternoon. If it is intended to be applied to only a portion of them, then he seems to me not to have taken sufficient power in the Act with regard to definitions. Even if he has the right to eliminate, at his own will, certain articles from being required to be described. How is he going to be advised in doing so? This afternoon we learned that he is going to ask the importers to enlighten him as to what shall and what shall not be deemed articles of apparel. «

Senator Best - Surely there is no objection to that.

Senator MULCAHY - I am not a lawyer, and, therefore, I am not sure that there is no objection.

Senator Best - He is not obliged to accept their advice.

Senator MULCAHY - If he is not tied by the Act to the definitions already existing under the Customs Act and the Customs Tariff Act, it is very hard to know on -what principle he is going to attempt to discriminate.

Senator Best - But under the Customs Act he has a very wide discretion as to his definitions.

Senator MULCAHY - Let us go to the Customs Tariff Act, and see how this discretion has been exercised. What are articles of apparel? Under the head of "Apparel and Attire," I find described such articles as " buckles or grips used to complete the manufacture of stocking suspenders." Although perhaps it is a legal point, still it is an important one. Can the Minister discriminate, or is he tied to the definition of apparel as it has been given under the Customs Act, and recorded in the Tariff Guide, or can he call apparel whatever he chooses?

Senator Pulsford - However fair the Minister mav desire to be, life is not long enough for him to describe all these articles.

Senator McGregor - If these things described as apparel and attire are a fraud, why should he not deal with them?

Senator MULCAHY - I am trying 10 point out the difficulty which the Minister, actuated by the best intentions in the world, will have in dealing with these articles.

Senator Best - The honorable senator will see that necessarily the Minister must have a discretion in a matter of this kind. We cannot possibly tie him down to any cast-iron definition.

Senator MULCAHY - But the Customs Act it seems to me does so.

Senator Best - Not at all. The very quotation which the honorable senator has made shows that a discretion is left to the Minister. That is a mere decision on his part.

Senator MULCAHY - Evidently the honorable and learned senator has not had this matter brought under his notice, and he may yet have to advise upon it. In the draft regulations, which are submitted I presume to elicit the opinion of business men, it is prescribed) that articles of apparel, in accordance with the Commerce Act, shall be included, and that the exactnature of them shall be described. Well, to whom are we to go to ascertain what these articles are but to the Customs Tariff Act, and the definitions and decisions given thereunder?

Senator Best - That is where the Minister has a discretion.

Senator MULCAHY - I admit that the Minister has a discretion to determine the class under which an article shall appear for the purpose of paying duty, inasmuch as one material used for the manufacture of attire pays a duty of 5 per cent., while another material used for the same purpose pays a duty of 15 per cent., and the completed article is subject to a duty of 20 or 25 per cent.

Senator McGregor - So far as the Commerce Act is concerned', they all come under the same conditions.

Senator MULCAHY - I ask the Senate how it is possible for any man to give a definition of 100 articles which I could read from the Tariff Guide. Take, for instance, " hair fabric for covering pipes and tubes." How is the exact nature of that article to be described?

Senator Playford - It is left to the discretion of the Minister. In South Australia I had to decide the point.

Senator MULCAHY - Unfortunate business men are to be pestered every day - for what pur-pose - to define a certain article?

Senator Playford - It must be left to the Minister to decide.

Senator MULCAHY - Should not the unfortunate importer know what he has to brand or mark?

Senator Playford - So he will. A decision will be given, and for all time it will prevail. The importer will know exactly what he has to put on each line.

Senator MULCAHY - I can understand a general requirement with regard to piece goods - for example, as to whether they are cotton or linen or wool, or a mixture of wool and cotton - but I cannot understand a man being asked to describe a parcel of ladies' costumes - perhaps 100 different costumes - bought as a. lot in the London market. Very frequently a man imports 300 or 400 ladies' jackets of all shapes, sizes, and qualities bought at one price.

Senator Playford - They will come under the head of apparel.

Senator MULCAHY - But how is it possible for any man to describe the articles and show the exact nature of the material used in their manufacture?

Senator Best - The Customs Department cannot exact what is impossible, consequently they will accept what is a reasonable description.

Senator MULCAHY - That is what we are told in this little book, which is practically an apology for the Commerce Act.

SenatorBest. - The honorable senator knows very well that in every Customs Act in the world the Minister is given a discretion to say what items shall come under a particular classification in the Tariff.

Senator MULCAHY - Here is what the Minister of Trade and Customs says, in what I consider to be an apology for this portion of the Commerce Act -

Willi reference to paragraph 3 above, and similar paragraphs in other sections, it may be observed that it is always the practice of the Department to take a lenient view of the case, and that the Minister would not sanction any attempt to unduly enforce the law to the disadvantage orloss of innocent importers.

What Minister ? The present Minister !

Senator Best - The Minister for the time being, of course.

Senator MULCAHY - The present Minister can only speak for himself -

The surrounding circumstances will always be taken into consideration, and only such evidence will be required as to want of knowledge or intent as should satisfy any reasonable man. It is hoped that it will seldom be found necessary to enforce forfeiture or to prosecute for fine.

I am not, I repeat, introducing this matter for any factious purpose. If I did not think that the outcome of my remarks would be a common-sense adjustment of the great difficulty which I foresee, I should not have uttered them. It will be exceedingly difficult for a man to put on such a description as is required under the terms of the Act and the regulations. If the Minister interprets the word " apparel " and the materials used in its manufacture in accordance with the Customs Tariff Act, and the Customs decisions, then in a great many cases it will simply be impossible to describe them. And any description which may be put upon these goods will be practically of no use for the purpose for which the Commerce Act was framed, that is, the protection of the public.

Senator McGregor - But the good conscience of the business man will always be taken into consideration. Surely the honorable senator is not going to hang a man because he has made a mistake.

Senator MULCAHY - There will be an administration of the Department at one time in one way, and at another time in another way. Business men know that sometimes there is an administration of the Department which is very embarrassing, and unnecessarily so, possibly through the over-zeal of officers, no doubt actuated with the very best intentions. I desire now to say a few words with regard to the usefulness or non-usefulness of the description when it is given. In the Chamber there seems to be an idea that persons are absolutely ignorant of what they go into a shop to buy. That is not the case. Sometimes the ordinary woman knows a good deal more about an article in a draper's shop than does the man who is serving her.

Senator McGregor - I should think so.

Senator MULCAHY - I know that it is the case. Of what use will it be to her to brand a piece of union, which she knows to be union, as " a mixture of linen and cotton"? It will be a mixture of linen and cotton whether it be the commonest kind of union at 3d. or 4d. per yard, or the very best kind of union at1s. 6d. a yard. Are we going, to compel every importer to put a brand on every piece of union that he sells, stating the exact proportion of linen and cotton which it contains ?

Senator Best - The honorable senator's argument is directly opposed to the legislation of Great Britain and Germany, as well as of Australia?

Senator MULCAHY - But the legislation of Great Britain does not compel marking.

Senator Best - It provides for the same principle.

Senator Guthrie - If an English shopkeeper sells a collar as linen it must be linen.

Senator MULCAHY - The English legislation compels a man if he describes an article to describe it truthfully. But it is often impossible to describe an article. Surely we must have some better reason for legislation than that it does no harm. The intention may be all right, but the effect may be mischievous. Take a piece of woollen material. You can get a woollen materia] containing cotton which some peope would say was adulteration. Take a Yorkshire tweed. Most goods of that description contain a percentage of cotton and' sometimes of shoddy. One Yorkshire tweed will be nearly all shoddy, but it will consist of practically wool and cotton. These materials would all come in under the same general designation. What protection is that to the general public? And if it is no protection to them, what is the use of it? The same remark applies to many other articles. In the importation of various goods, it often happens that names are used which have become conventional, but which do not correctly describe the goods to which they are applied For instance, there are imitation fur goods. They are made to resemble 'the skins of animals, but in reality they are nothing of the kind. If a woman goes into a shop to buy a sealskin jacket, she knows that it will be impossible to buv a real one unless she is prepared to pay twenty-five or fifty guineas for it. But she buys an article called a sealskin jacket, which is in reality a fabric, and not a skin at all. The purchaser knows quite well that she is not getting a real sealskin. There is no necessity to compel the draper to go to the trouble of branding such goods. The purchaser knows what thev are by the price.

Senator Best - Exactly ; they mav be known by their price; but if the shopkeeper chaoses' to stick on the price, it is impossible for the non-expert to tell.

Senator MULCAHY - If one of Senator Best's clients gets bad advice from him - which the honorable senator is not compelled to brand as good or bad advice - be will co to another lawyer next time. So it is with the shopkeeper's client! I am sorry that the honorable senator has such a bad opinion of the trade.

Senator Best - I have not.

Senator MULCAHY - In order to prevent one dishonest merchant from doing a thing which he ought not to do, but which he will do in spite of Commerce Acts, we are going to embarrass ninety-nine honest men.

Senator Henderson - We can punish him for his dishonesty.

Senator MULCAHY - He can be punished for dishonesty now. If a shopkeeper sells an article as sealskin which is not sealskin, the purchaser has a common law remedy against him!. I have gone rather fully into these matters, and I intend to discuss the regulations when they come before Parliament for indorsement.

Senator Best - What does the honorable senator suggest?

Senator MULCAHY - I would suggest that, inasmuch as these provisions are not for the benefit of the ultimate purchaser - the man or woman who uses - they might be suspended until the States come into line with their legislation. At present the States are not in line. Under our Act and under the regulations the supervision goes no further than the Customs warehouse. Once the goods emerge from the Customs warehouse there is nothing in the existing law to stop the importer, whether he be the retail shopkeeper or the wholesale merchant, from altering the marks entirely. I suggest the suspension of the operation of this portion of the Act, unless the Minister can succeed in devising some very broad lines, which I doubt very much ; and even if he could do so the measure would not secure to the purchaser that protection for which the Act is designed.

Senator Best - Does the honorable senator also suggest that the Act should be suspended as regards food adulteration?

Senator MULCAHY - I do not. I do not know so much about foods as, about textiles, but the case is very different. If a man buys a suit of clothes, he tests them by their quality, and soon discovers what thev are worth. But a man may be eating deleterious food for a long time, and may be ill in consequence, although he may not be able to recognise that the illness is due to the food. Moreover, the makers of food products are better known, and such goods as are imported are. in many cases, standardized- Such goods are branded as it is, and it is only a question of requiring that thev shall be truly branded, and be what they are represented to be. I suggest that the Min- ister, if he insists on applying the regulations to the goods to which I have referred, shall do so on broad lines if he has power under the Act, which seems doubtful.

Senator Best - He is doing it on broad lines. According to what the honorable senator read out a reasonable interpretation will be accepted.

Senator MULCAHY - If I were to go into this matter of apparel at length I could keep honorable senators occupied until 12 o'clock to-night, and I could show that it is impossible to put any brand or mark on a number of goods to describe them correctly.

Senator Best - Then they will not be described.

Senator MULCAHY - The importers will be expected to describe them.

Senator Best - Not if it is impossible.

Senator MULCAHY - I wish to conclude by referring to one piece of proposed legislation which promises to be useful. It is proposed by the Government to try to protect the policy-holders in foreign life assurance institutions. That is legitimate work for the Commonwealth to do. I think it ought to have been attempted earlier, but there are special reasons for doing it now. The fact that the subject has been mentioned in the Governor- General's speech will have a good moral effect. A number of people who hold policies in good sound foreign institutions - notwithstanding that some irregularities have been exposed - have in a fit of panic been inclined to dispose of, or part with, their policies at a loss. The fact that the Government intends to step in and try to protect them - I do not know how. far it can be done - will have a beneficial moral effect. I hone that legislation of that description will be the prelude to extended legislation, dealing not only with life, but with fire insurance because on both subjects there is ample room for legislation.

Senator de Largie - Does the honorable senator think the Government ought to interfere with private enterprise in America?

Senator MULCAHY - I will leave the honorable senator to deal with his own fads. I support the motion for the adoption ofthe Address-in-Reply.

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