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MELBOURNE NOTES

(fBOM ODB OWK COBBMPOHDBHT.J It is generally understood that a Custom House is_x respectable, if not. at all timet a dignified institution, rendered necessary by the exigencies of State for £sc*l put poses. Governmcts are a necessity of all civilised communities; Governments cannot be carried on without money ; and, m order lo raise money, dues and taxes have to be imposed and paid. The Custom House is, therefore, established fpr the collection of dues leviable upon imports from beyond sea ; and m order to check smuggling, and to prevent traud, the law has placed ample powers m the bands of the Customs authorities for the punishment of evil-doers. One oT these punishments consists m the power to inflict heavy fines for attempts ia defraud the revenue ; another provides for confiscation of merchandise } and, m fact, there are several ways m wnich condign punishment can be meted out to the man who attpmpts* to' cheat thip Government^ or, m other words, to cheat all honest "men who contribute towards the revenue. In strictly enforcing the observance of the revenue laW6 the Customs authorities simply perform their duty, and at the same time maintain the dignity of the department. The Victorian Custom House has, however, made an abrupt departure from the dignified course usually followed by other governments. Some time ago an importing house passed entries for payment of duty, upon seventy-four pianos and three organs, with which the Custom House was dissatisfied. If proof of false declaration existed, the firm ought to have been heavily fine. Nothing, however, should have been done io the absence of absolute proof. What the Custom House did was to detain the instruments, paying the importers' invoice price, with ten per cent added ; and then sell the pianos by auction- - almost m & retail wwainy — m pretty much the same way as a huckster would have done. After each auction the newspapers were furnished with the net- result of the "Account Sales," the departmental officers parading before the eyes of an admiring country the handsome profit they had made. The amount paid into t)ie public treasury, as the result of their' cuteriess is £785 17s ud. This profit will not compensate the country, however, for the loss of . prestige an important department has sustained by the pettifogging transaction here mentioned. What renders the thing more worthy of notice is the circumstance that the' Custom House has itself set fhe bad example of cheating the public— first by charging the purchasers of these'pianos about double thetiraount of duty fixed by law, and; s&ibnd, 1 by charging duly upon ' instruments vfhich ha>e previously ' p&ssed through the Customs House* Aa if there wMBQt friction enough already vfttiPS bejweeq New South Wales ana her

I eldest daughter, Victoria, there is another cause of difference looming m the near future. The border duties are bad enough, whilst the . Free Trade p->licy of New South Wales, as opposed te the Protectionist policy of this | colony, is a: other troublesome factor to deal with. Personally, my own sympathies go m the direction of Free Trade, and so far I am with Sir Henry Parkes. But there is a great difference tetween that and acquiescing with his desire tb lock up the waters of the Murray river. The Murray belongs to those colonies which occupy the southern half oi Australia. It belongs 'o no one colony iv part cular. Rising iv Queensland, the river traverses New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. Neither of the four colonies can >ay— • " Thou shalt not use these waters, for they are mine." Even Sir Henry Parkes did not understand their importance until Messrs Chaffey Bros, cime to Australia and taught him their value. But when they tapped those waters at Mildura and at Renmark, and demonstrated how they were capable of being turned into gold, then th? old gentleman woke up, and demanded— not a fair share, but the whole. This was hardly consistent with an enlightened Free Trade policy. Ido not think, however, that even he can seriously entertain the idea that such an absurd claim can be enforced. He is merely worrying our Duncan about it m the hope of obtaining some, concession or other upon which his heart is set.

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MELBOURNE NOTES Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2152, 19 June 1889

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