Opinion Number. 238



Key Legislation

CUSTOMS ACT 1901, ss. 4, 19 : THE MARINE BOARDS ACT 1889 (TAS.)

The Minister for Trade and Customs

The Marine Board at Hobart has been asked by the Customs authorities to provide office accommodation for the use of a Customs officer at the Dunn Street Pier, Hobart, a pier which is used as a wharf and is under the control and management of the Marine Board.

The Marine Board, acting on legal advice, refused to provide the office accommodation required.

The matter has been referred to me for my opinion.

Under section 19 of the Customs Act, the owner or occupier of every wharf is bound to provide suitable office accommodation for the exclusive use of the Customs officer employed at his wharf, under a penalty of £20.

The Marine Board is, under The Marine Boards Act 1889 of the State of Tasmania, a corporate body capable of suing and being sued in its corporate name and has the charge, management and control of all public wharves within its jurisdiction. It is unnecessary for me to express a definite opinion as to whether the Marine Board is the owner of those wharves within the meaning of the Customs Act 1901, as it is a Department of the Government of Tasmania and a prosecution against a Government Department should not, in my opinion, be contemplated, at all events unless no other remedy is available.

I am of opinion that office accommodation for the use of the Customs officer doing duty thereat is part of the necessary and proper equipment of all wharves at which goods subject to the control of the Customs are landed or shipped in sufficient quantity to render office accommodation for an officer necessary and that it is the duty of the wharf-owner (whether such owner is a State Government or a Department of a State Government or a private individual) to supply the necessary accommodation. I understand that no difficulty is experienced in other States.

If a wharf is not properly equipped for the purposes of the landing or shipping of goods subject to the control of the Customs, it need not be allowed to continue to be used for those purposes if any other wharf can be used without public inconvenience, and in that case its appointment as a wharf might be cancelled. No steps should be taken for this purpose until fair notice has been given to the State Government and the Marine Board.

[Vol. 5, p. 212]