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Thursday, 2 August 1906
Page: 2248

Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume) (Minister of Trade and Customs) - I think that the Government already have power, under the Commerce Act and its regulations, to do all that the honorable member for Barrier wishes us to do, and if there is any weak point, the deficiency can be made good by the exercise of the powers conferred by section 52 of the Customs Act.

Mr McWilliams - I take it that the object of the motion is to insure that care will be taken to enforce the provisions of those Acts.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I understand that that is the object of the mover, and it can do no harm for the House to pass the motion. Indeed, the carrying of it will probably do good, by emphasizing the necessity for strictly enforcing the provisions of the Commerce Act, and of the regulations made under it, in the particular cases to which reference has been made. The matter was brought under my notice before the introductionof the Commerce Bill, by Dr. Mackellar and Mr. Beale, who, in Sydney, as members of a Royal Commission, obtained very importantevidence in regard to it. I have not seen the whole of that evidence - some of it, I brieve, has not been published and distributed - but I have read parts of the report which showthe necessity for strictly promoting the importations of certain articles, because they are a menace to infantile life. Under the Commerce Act a trade description must certify, amongst other things, as to quality and purity. Great objection was taken to the use of the word " purity " ; but, in using it, I had in mind the need for prohibiting the importation of medicines and infant foods which were not pure and of good quality. Section 7 of the Act provides for the making of regulations to prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia 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 may be prescribed. All goods imported in contravention of any such regulation may be detained by the Collector, and by direction of the Minister, seized as forfeited to the King. Under section 8 all imported goods to which a trade description is required to be applied found in Australia, in the package or cover in which they were imported, without the prescribed trade description, will, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to have been imported in contravention of the Act, or of the regulations under it. That is as far as the Constitution allows this Parliament to go. It therefore remains for the States to see that goods are not sold therein under false trade descriptions, or if they are injurious to the public health. I believe that in Victoria and New South Wales Acts are now in force preventing the sale of goods harmful to the public health. Section9 of the Commerce Act prohibits the importation by any person, under a penalty of £100, of goods to which a false trade description is applied When the measure was being consideredin Committee, it was held that trade secrets connected withimports should not be divulged, and therefore section 16 now reads -

The regulations under sections 7 and 11 of this

Actshall not prescribe a trade description which discloses trade secrets of manufacture orpre- paration, unless, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, the disclosure 'is necessary for the protection of the health or welfare of the public.

Mr Liddell - Does not the Minister know that all reputable firms disclose the nature of the contents of the proprietary medicines which they sell ? It is the quack firms which do not do so.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I am merely directing attention to the powers which the Government possesses under the Commerce Act.

Mr Fisher - If thev are not sufficient, (he Government should ask to have them increased.


Sir WILLIAM LYNE - I think that they are ample. In Part II. of the provisional regulations under the Commerce Act, regulation 6, clause 2, paragraphs a and b, it is declared that -

In the case of medicines prepared ready for use, and containing 10 per cent, or more of ethyl alcohol, if the average dose recommended exceeds one teaspoonful (60 minims), the trade description shall set out the proportion or quantity of alcohol in the medicine.

In the case of medicines prepared ready for use, and containing any of the following drugs (or the salts or derivatives thereof), viz. : - opium, morphine, cocaine, heroin, stramonium, mix vomica, cannabis indica, bromides, sulphonal, trional, veronal, paraldehyde, or any synthetic hypnotic substance, phenazonum phenacetinum, or acetanilidum, or any allied synthetic substance, chloral hydrate, belladonna, cotton root, ergot, or any abortifacient, the trade description shall set out the names of all such drugs so contained.

If such medicines are imported, and their trade description does not) comply with those provisions, their importation may be prohibited, and they may be forfeited, while, if they have been imported, the laws of the States can, in the interests of the public health, regulate their sale.

Mr Thomas - We' wish the Government to exercise these powers.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - They will be used, and. if thev are found to be deficient, we can fall back on section 52 of the Customs Act.

Mr Fisher - What is needed is, not so much the prohibition, of undesirable imports, as the ascertaining of what the imports actually are.

Sir WILLIAM LYNE - It is necessary that we should have power to prohibit the importation of undesirable goods. It would 6e of no use to be able to ascertain their nature, if we could not prohibit the importation of any likely to be harmful. Under section 52 of the Customs Act, power is given to prohibit the importation of a number of classes of goods set out in paragraphs numbered a to /, and, under paragraph ,e, of " all goods the importation of which may be prohibited by proclamation." I feel that it would not be proper to use that power except when the public health was menaced. The honorable member for Barrier has done right in the public interest in directing attention to this matter, and the passing of the motion will strengthen me in. giving effect to the wishes of Parliament in this respect.

Motion (by Mr. McColl) negatived -

That the debate be now adjourned.

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