Opinion Number. 261

Subject

PROHIBITED IMPORTS WHETHER COMMONWEALTH HAS POWER TO PREVENT INTRODUCTION OF MICRO-ORGANISM CAPABLE OF CAUSING ANIMAL DISEASE

Key Legislation

CONSTITUTION, s. 51 (i), fix) : CUSTOMS ACT 1901, ss. 50,52,56,236

Date
Client
The Minister for Trade and Customs

The Minister for Trade and Customs asks to be advised on the following questions:

  1. What is the power of the Commonwealth in relation to the proposed introduction of a micro-organism capable of producing disease in animals?
  2. Is there any means whereby responsibility can be fixed-
    1. upon persons at whose expense, and by whose action introduction of such micro-organisms takes place;
    2. upon the State authorities who permit the introduction and use-experimentally or otherwise-of such micro-organisms?

My opinion upon these points is as follows:

The Commonwealth Parliament has power to prohibit, either absolutely or conditionally, the introduction of such micro-organisms.

Parliament has legislated on the subject in sections 52 (g) and 56 of the Customs Act 1901, and a proclamation by the Governor-General declaring such microorganisms to be prohibited imports, either absolutely or subject to any specified conditions or restrictions, would be effective to make it penal for any person-whether acting under the authority of a State or not-to import such micro-organisms contrary to the proclamation; see section 50. Any person concerned in importing the goods would be equally liable; see section 236.

[Vol. 5, p. 364]