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Wednesday, 16 November 1910

Senator ST LEDGER (Queensland) . - The excellent speech delivered by. the Minister has removed some fears I had. I desire to call his attention to clause 5. which substitutes a proposed new section for section 167 of the Customs Act. I think it is a great improvement indeed on that section, and I am glad to see it in the Bill. I believe that when I was perusing, sometime ago, the Customs Act of the United States, or the regulations thereunder, I noticed a similar provision. It was not contained in the Customs Act of Queensland, and I am glad to find that it is to be introduced into the Customs Act of the Commonwealth. I believe that it will bewelcomed by the importers and the public as a fair, just, and satisfactory mode of settling bonâ fide disputes between importers and the Commonwealth. With? regard to a large and increasing export, namely, that of meat, I asked by interjection for an example, and the Minister very wisely checked me, stating that if we want to know the reason we can find it. That is always a nice way of dealing with a question of that kind, and once a man receives such an answer he knows exactly where he is. I compliment the Minister on the way in which he checked me. Whilst a great deal is said about the care which we should have for the export of our primary products, it is quite easy to bring in alarmist legislation. The Minister's speech, however, was tactful and cautious. He saw the difficulty and admitted the possibility of excesses. We compliment him in that regard, and now practically give him a free hand. With regard to a good deal that is said about Australian meat, I may say that at the time of the Chicago scandal Australian exporters were to some extent to blame for the retribution which is now sought to be meted out to us. I had it on absolute authority at the time that the Chicago exporters asked Australian exporters not to raise that cry. We all know how it arose. A person wrote a sensational book, and in view of its publication a lot of State and Federal legislation was proposed. While that was being done, our exporters were joining in the cry, until the American exporters asked them to remainsilent and to request an impartial investigation of the matter. That information was given to me in writing, and I had complete evidence on that point that the American exporters wished for an impartial investigation. I have only sounded that note now because, while we may pass legislation which in the main I approve of, we have to be very careful not to yield to hysteria. I desire to call the Minister's attention to clause 15 repealing section 270 of the Customs Act, under which -

The Governor-General may ' make regulations not inconsistent with this Act prescribing all matters which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed or, as may be necessary or convenient, to be prescribed for giving effect to this Act or form the conduct of any business relating to the Customs.

That section gives very wide power to the Governor-General to make regulations, and it is now to be extended by the insertion of the following words and sub-section : - and in particular for prescribing -

(a)   the nature, size and material of the packages in which imported goods, or goods for export, or goods for conveyance coastwise from any State to any other State, are to be packed, or the coverings in which they are to be wrapped ;

When I looked at that provision I anticipated what the Minister said, namely, that all it was intended to do was' to prevent importers, by re-exporting imports from State to State, from forcing upon workers in the ships and on the wharfs the humping of excessively heavy packages, and that it would probably apply to only wheat and sugar bags. I had a, good deal of sympathy, as I stated at the time, with so much of our legislation as prevented waterside workers from taking on their shoulders bags containing 3 or 4 cwt. of any article. I think that, to a very large extent, the Minister who moved in that humane direction was right. I believe that if those who objected to his action had to hump bags containing. 250 or 350 lbs. on their shoulders they would be a little more sympathetic. I agree with the intention of this clause, but in the light of the Minister's explanation I see where an injury may be done. Suppose that goods are imported in packages weighing 6, 7, or 8 cwt., or, indeed, 4, 5, or 6 tons. Of course, the

Minister by anticipation says that it is not intended that a man shall handle a package of that character; but that may be required of him.

Senator Guthrie - It only applies to packages which are carried. For instance, the honorable senator would not say that a roll of news paper could be carried..

Senator ST LEDGER - Will the honorable senator look at the language of the proposed new paragraph a in section 270 of the Customs Act? If that provision be intended to prevent men being forced to hump packages upon their backs weighing 3 or 4 cwt., well and good. But if, on the contrary, it is designed to prevent large packages, weighing 6 or 7 cwt., being removed from the hold of a vessel by machinery, so as to enable the men to enforce their claims, it is manifestly unjust. The Minister has stolen a large amount of the thunder which I intended to use in my criticism of this clause. No doubt he will guard this provision carefully by means of regulations. But those regulations will require to be closely scrutinized. I sympathize with the general object of the Minister, and with the efforts of previous Ministers, to extend reasonable relief to our waterside workers.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee:

Clauses 1to 3 agreed to..

Clause 4 -

Section one hundred and twelve of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section substituted in its stead: - " 112 (1) The Governor-General may, by proclamation, prohibit the exportation of any goods -

(d)   which have not been prepared or manu factured for export under the prescribed conditions, or which do not conform to the prescribed conditions as to purity, soundness, or freedom from disease ; ".....

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