FREEDOM OF INTERSTATE TRADE WHETHER STATE MAY IMPOSE TONNAGE DUES ON INTERSTATE VESSELS WHILE EXEMPTING VESSELS TRADING WITHIN STATE
CONSTITUTION, s. 92 : MARINE ACT 1890 (VIC.)
The Minister for Trade and Customs:
The State Collector has written the following minute to the Comptroller-General:
There being considerable doubt as to whether certain vessels are liable to tonnage dues the papers are herewith submitted.
Tonnage dues are payable 'on all ships arriving in any port in Victoria'-Marine Act 1890 section 88, Part V Div. 3; exemptions in sections 3 and 5. It is presumed that vessels trading within the limits of and not going outside a port are also exempt, e.g. the Gem and the Queen.
But as regards vessels such as the Ozone and the Hygeia which go outside the port of Melbourne to the port of Port Phillip and similarly as to the small vessels carrying wood etc. to the port of Melbourne from outside its limits they are apparently liable to tonnage dues in the same way that the Edina and the Courier are which trade to Geelong, but the former have not hitherto paid whilst the latter have paid. These dues being collected on behalf of the State Government and it being difficult to insist on payment in some instances unless an authoritative ruling be given the matter is now submitted.
The Comptroller-General submitted the matter to his Minister with the following minute:
Submitted that this is a matter for the State Government to deal with and decide as the Department acts as the agent of the latter only and has no interest in the matter apart from this fact.
There is this point however to be considered in connection with this subject, viz. that under the Constitution Act no difference of treatment should exist between Victorian vessels and those of other States. If any of the ships belonging to Victoria were not charged tonnage would not such difference of treatment arise?
Sir George Turner(1) (for the Minister for Trade and Customs) refers the matter to me for opinion.
I understand that an opinion is asked for only on the question raised by Dr Wollaston.(2)
In my opinion, if tonnage dues are charged in the case of interstate vessels, for harbour services, and the same services are performed without charge for vessels trading within the State, there is a breach of the constitutional provision for freedom of interstate trade (section 92).
See my opinion of 17 August 1903(3) with respect to wharfage rates.
[Vol. 4, p. 37]
(2) Comptroller-General of Customs.
(3) Opinion No. 148.