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Wednesday, 16 November 1910

Senator CLEMONS (Tasmania) . - I do not think that this clause ought to be agreed to in its present form. It is one of those numerous provisions the effect of which is invariably shown by regulations. Whilst it is true that a little while ago we improved our facilities for dealing with regulations, the fact remains that if regulations under this Bill are framed at the beginning of next year they will remain in force till about next September, without anybody having an opportunity to criticise them. They will become law without any member of this Parliament being able to appeal against them. The clause is an extremely drastic one. Under it, the Minister may materially affect the importation of any class of goods into Australia.It means that there will have to be a delegated Excise officer in every European house from which goods are imported. Otherwise the most minute particulars will have to be supplied to London and the European houses in regard to the nature, size, and material of the packages in which imported goods may come into Australia. Further, all sorts of restrictions may be imposed upon the method of packing such goods, and upon their coverings, and the quality of those coverings. In other words, if the Minister chose to do so, he could absolutely stop importation into the Commonwealth; I see no reason why such extreme powers should be vested in any Minister. There is no limit to what might be done under such a provision. The Government might issue regulations which would practically prohibit the importation of any class of goods. I venture to say that the clause will create endless confusion, because every importer will require to give information to the house from which he imports as to the nature, size, and the material of the packages in which goods may be imported. He will also require to inform it of all sorts of conditions which will be embodied in the regulations relative to the coverings in which goods must be wrapped, and as to the quality and size of such coverings.

Senator Barker - We provide for the same thing already in respect of some goods. For instance, we impose conditions as to the size of certain tins.

Senator CLEMONS - With those conditions I am heartily in accord, because they are intended to enforce the observance of honesty. But this clause will give the Ministry power to impose all sorts of embarrassing restrictions. The trouble in regard to this clause is that in consequence of regulation after regulation being made under it, there will be a perfect volume of correspondence between people in Australia who import goods and people in England from whom they import them. There will be a hundred and one vexatious proceedings under it. I admit that the clause is wide enough to meet every possible form of grievance, but it gives such drastic powers, and may be enforced in such extraordinary ways, that it will hamper trade in all directions. Paragraph b gives power to prescribe -

The maximum or minimum weight or quantity of imported goods, or goods for export, or goods for conveyance coastwise from any State to any other State, which may be. contained in any one package.

What is the reason for that? It applies to every class of goods that may be imported. Take softgoods. Why is it necessary to direct an exporter in England to send his goods out to Australia in any particular kind of package? If it were intended that the provision should apply only to cornsacks, I shouldsympathize with the object.

Senator Guthrie - Might notbutterboxes be imported?

Senator CLEMONS - The honorable senator knows that as a matter of fact butter-boxes are not imported. Under this provision the Department can impose any conditions it likes as to the size of packages in which goods are imported, and as to the kind of stuff that covers them. I can see no reason for it.

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