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Thursday, 30 August 1906

Senator MILLEN (New South Wales) . - I am not quite certain that the amendment is one which, bearing in mind the scope of the Bill, particularly commends itself to me.' Senator Drake has drawn attention, however, to what appears to be a very serious contradiction in two of the clauses, one of them being the clause with which we are dealing. This clause provides that -

The Comptroller-General, whenever he has received a complaint in writing and has reason to believe that any person . . is importing into Australia goods . . . with intent to destroy or injure any Australian industry by their sale or disposal within the Commonwealth in unfair competition with any Australian goods, may certify to the Minister accordingly.

Paragraph d of sub-clause 2 of clause 18, however, speaks of imported goods which are "being sold in Australia." How is the Comptroller-General to take action in regard to the importation of goods which have passed through the Customs, and, probably, after distribution through a wholesale house, are being sold by halfadozen retail establishments? Yet paragraph d makes it one of the reasons why competition shall be deemed unfair that goods are being sold in Australia at a price less than will give a fair profit.

Senator Pearce - It is not stated that they have passed out of the hands of the importer.

Senator MILLEN - Importers do not, as a rule, sell direct to the public.

Senator Pearce - I know some do. Imported harvesters, for example, are sold by the importers.

Senator MILLEN - Speaking generally, importers do not retail goods; they do not act as retail distributors. Of course, there are cases like that to which the honorable senator refers, and I know that in Sydney large retail firms like Anthony Hordern and Sons, Mark Foy, and Marcus Clarke, do their own importing; but for every shopkeeper who is an importer there are probably 100 who get their supplies through the wholesale houses. Clause 19 directs the Comptroller-General what to do in regard to goods which are being imported in contravention of the law; but the clause which precedes it makes the offence which it is intended to prevent, that of selling goods to the public, and the goods can be sold only after they have passed out of the hands of the Customs officials, and, in most instances, out of the hands of the importers, too. It seems to me incumbent on the Minister to reconcile these apparently conflicting provisions, or, if there has been an oversight on the part of the draftsman, the Government, and the other branch of the Legislature, to rectify it. Clause 19 directs the Comptroller-General to impound goods if the complaint is made to him that they will enter into unfair competition with Australian goods, but in clause 18 unfair competition is defined as the selling of goods at reduced prices. How can the Comptroller-General take steps to impound goods which are being imported when the reason for impounding them is the fact that they are being sold in the shops"? The two provisions read together are ridiculous, and it is astonishing that Ministers do not take immediate steps to put an end to the clear contradiction which has been pointed out. They should be grateful to Senator Drake for having drawn attention to the matter; but, apparently, they are content to overlook any absurdities, so long as they can get the measure through somehow.

Amendment negatived.

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