Opinion Number. 252

Subject

BOUNTIES WHETHER REBATES BY STATE OF PILOTAGE DUES TO SHIPS SHIPPING COAL PRODUCED IN THAT STATE AMOUNT TO

Key Legislation

CONSTITUTION, s. 90

Date
Client
The Prime Minister

Mr Watkins, M.H.R., has brought the following newspaper cutting under the notice of the Prime Minister and asks whether the proposal specified in the cutting is not equal to a bonus and whether it does not conflict with the Federal Constitution:

QUEENSLAND PILOTAGE REBATES

Mr Kidston, Premier of Queensland, has made a statement explaining the effect of the rebate of pilotage dues to be allowed to steamers shipping 500 tons of Queensland coal. All steamers shipping this quantity of coal will be allowed a rebate of the pilotage or harbour rates paid by them, the maximum amount of the rebate not to exceed 9d per ton on the coal shipped, and no rebate to exceed the actual amount paid as pilotage or harbour rates. The object of so fixing the rebate, Mr Kidston explains, is to provide that there may be no payments out of pocket by the Treasury. It is possible, for instance, that the pilotage and harbour rates paid by a steamer might only amount to 6d per ton on the quantity of coal shipped. In such a case the vessel will escape all pilotage and harbour rates. In the event of her pilotage and harbour rates amounting to more than 9d to the ton of coal shipped, the difference must be paid by the vessel.

The Prime Minister has forwarded the matter to me for an opinion.

It is difficult to advise on the effect of the proposed rebate without perusing the precise text of the proposed Act or Regulations.

The bounties as to which the Commonwealth Parliament has exclusive legislative power are bounties 'on the production or export of goods'. It is by no means clear that a rebate of pilotage and harbour dues to the shipper of coal can be considered as a bounty on the production of coal. Nor does it appear to be a bounty on the export of coal-as the intention, judging from the paragraph quoted, appears to be to grant the bounty to any shipper, whether for export or not.

Further particulars would be required to enable a definite opinion to be given.

[Vol. 5, p. 301]