Opinion Number. 79

Subject

CUSTOMS
WHETHER OFFICE ACCOMMODATION TO BE PROVIDED BY WHARF-OWNERS MUST BE FREE

Author
Key Legislation

CUSTOMS ACT 1901, s. 19

Date
Client
The Minister for Trade and Customs

The Port Adelaide Dock Company Limited has sent in to the Customs an account for £7.10.0 for rent, from 1 July to 31 December 1901, of an office on their wharf used by the landing waiters of the Department.

The State Collector forwards the account to the Comptroller-General with the following minute dated 12 June 1902:
I should like to be informed if under clause 19 of the Customs Act we have to pay for the rent of the offices provided by the wharf-owners. In any case I presume that we are liable for the rent (which was paid quarterly) prior to October 3rd, the date on which the Customs Act was assented to.

From answers to inquiries made by the Minister for Trade and Customs it appears that in South Australia and Tasmania, prior to Federation, no offices were provided by wharf-owners; but in all the other States offices were provided rent free (in Victoria by the Harbour Trust and in Western Australia by the Railway Department).

The Minister for Trade and Customs forwards the papers to me with the following minute, dated 5 July 1902:
Forwarded to the Honourable the Attorney-General. I take it that under section 19 of the Customs Act the Department has a right to require wharf-owners to supply suitable office accommodation for officers on the wharf free of charge.

From the commencement of the Customs Act (4 October 1901; see proclamation in Gazette of 3 October), wharf-owners are obliged to supply free accommodation under section 19 of the Act.

As to the precise obligations of the Commonwealth in this particular case I cannot express an opinion without being informed of the terms of the agreement (if any) under which the offices were leased before the commencement of the Customs Act.

[Vol. 2, p. 82]