Opinion Number. 895



Key Legislation

CONSTITUTION, ss. 92. 112: MEAT INDUSTRY ACT 1915 (N.S.W.), ss.6, 7, 19: COMMERCE REGULATIONS 1913

The Comptroller-General of Customs

J.C Hutton Proprietary Limited have pointed out that its hams and bacon, upon importation into Sydney from other States, are required, by the Metropolitan Meat Board, to be inspected, and that the Board makes a charge for the inspection. The inspection is alleged to be performed in a very perfunctory manner and to consist merely of stamping the outside wrapper of the goods.

It is stated that the goods in question are subject to three inspections, namely: upon export from the State of production, upon importation into Sydney, and upon re-export from Sydney. The last-mentioned inspection is carried out by the Commonwealth under the Commerce Regulations.

The matter has been submitted to me for advice 'as to the legality of the charge made by the State authorities, New South Wales, on meat forwarded from Queensland, after having been approved for export by Commonwealth meat inspectors'.

It is assumed that the inspection carried out by the Metropolitan Board is performed under the authority of the Meat Industry Act 1915 (N.S.W.), section 19, paragraph (2) of which makes it an offence for any person to bring or send or cause or allow to be brought or sent into the metropolitan abattoir area, any carcase or meat derived from any animal slaughtered without that area, except with the consent of and under the conditions prescribed by the Board. The Board is the Metropolitan Meat Industry board constituted under the Act and the metropolitan abattoir area consists of the County of Cumberland, New South Wales, wherein the port of Sydney is situate.

Section 112 of the Constitution is as follows:

After uniform duties of customs have been imposed, a State may levy on imports or exports, or on goods passing into or out of the State, such charges as may be necessary for executing the inspection laws of the State; but the net produce of all charges so levied shall be for the use of the Commonwealth; and any such inspection laws may be annulled by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.

I am of opinion that the fact that the goods are subject to inspection on export from other States and upon re-export from Sydney, does not affect the right of the State of New South Wales to inspect the goods upon importation into that State. It will be seen that the net produce of the inspection charges levied is declared by section 112 to be for the use of the Commonwealth, and that any inspection law within the purview of the section may be annulled by the Parliament of the Commonwealth. By 'net produce' is meant the balance after deducting the cost of inspection and collection. The State of New South Wales might be called upon to pay the Commonwealth the net produce of the inspection, but the validity of the inspection itself can only be attacked upon the ground that it is an unnecessary or unreasonable burden upon interstate commerce (Constitution, section 92), the question of necessity and reasonableness, under all the circumstances, being for the court (Railroad Co. v. Husen 95 U.S. 465 at p. 472; Asbell v. Kansas 209 U.S. 251 at p. 256).

[Vol. 16, p. 97]