9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker(rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a questionwith reference to the registration of exporters of butter. There are some persons who buy direct from the butter factories, and, so far as the factories are concerned, the transaction ends there. These persons havein the past exported butter to agents in London. I wish to know whether, under the bill passed in this House last night, it will be possible for them to be registered as butter exporters.
– Under the provisions of the bill which passed this House last night, licences have to be obtained for the export of butter. These licences will be issued subject to the terms and conditions laid down by the Control Board. It will be possible for any one to obtain an export licence on the terms and conditions laid down. There is nothing in the bill to prevent the persons to whomthe honorable member has referred from obtaining licences to export butter.
– Last week the honorable member for Dalley (Mr.Mahony) asked the Prime Minister a question in connexion with a number of gentlemen in Sydney who have been given out of the public purse a donation of £5,000. The Prime Minister, in answering the question, stated that the gentlemen referred to had rendered great patriotic services in the hour tff our national crisis. I am informed that the workmen to whom the Government has given £5,000, after the time they were thrown out of work on the waterfront,were employed through the Shipping . Bureau by fourteen shipping companies and one stevedoring company, and received in wages £1 13s. 6d. per week less than the arbitration award rate. The fourteen shipping companies and the stevedoring company, in giving these workmen employment in this way, made a profit of. £30,000.
– Order ! The honorable member is exceeding the limits of a question. He is giving information, not asking for it, which is the purpose of a question.
– The request for the information I am seeking arises out of the information I have given. If the facts are as I have stated them, why should not the companies, who reaped £30,000 from the cheap labour of these men, pay them compensation for theirloss of employment ? Why should the country have to pay it?
– Thehonorable gentleman has given the House certain information the correctness or otherwise of which I have no means at the moment of ascer taining. If he will put the information he has given, and his question also, on the notice-paper,I shall ascertain the facts for him.
Construction on Standard Gauge.
– In view of the agreement made between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland for the construction of a certain railway, would the Government be prepared to execute a similar agreement with the Government of Western Australia, if so desired, to construct a railway from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle on the standard gauge.?
– At the conference of Premiers which was held in May, 1923, this whole question was discussed, and three stages of the unification scheme were laid down. It was decided by the commission appointed to deal with the matter that the first step taken should be the construction of a standard-gauge line from Kyogle to Brisbane, and afterwards the construction of such lines from Port Augusta to Salisbury, just outside Adelaide, and from Kalgoorlie to Perth. It is contemplated that these three stages towards unification shall be carried out as and when they are agreed to. The Commonwealth Government would be prepared to discuss with the Government of Western Australia the construction of the Western Australian line, as it was considered at the conference held twelve months ago.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that the souvenirs of H.M.A.S. Australia, promised to local bodies that applied for them several weeks ago, have not yet been delivered ? Can the honorable gentleman inform the House when they are likely to be forwarded to those who have applied for them ?
– Arrangements are being made to have the State Governments undertake the distribution of the souvenirs. Some of the State Governments have communicated their willingness to do this, and souvenirs have been sent to them for the purpose. We are awaiting replies on the matter from other State Governments.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs will remember that some two or three weeks ago questions were put to him by a number of honorable members, including myself, in connexion with the importation and censorship of picture films. Is the honorable gentleman in a position to give the House any information on the subject?
– I have a statement here in reply to questions by a number of honorable members on this matter, and with the permission of the House I shall read it.
– I assume that the honorable member proposes to make the statement in the form of an answer to the question which has been asked him. If so, permission to make it is not necessary.
– I take the opportunity of replying to questions that were asked me on this matter by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson), and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson). There is no distinct act of Parliament authorizing a censorship of films. The present censorship derives its authority from section 52 g of the Customs Act, which is the section giving authority to prohibit the importation of goods. Proclamations have been issued under the Customs Act prohibiting the importation of films and advertising matter except under certain conditions, and with the consent of the Minister. The conditions governing importation are contained’ in regulations issued under the Customs Act. These regulations provide for, inter alia, the following, matters: - (a) the establishment of Commonwealth film censorship; (b) registration of films; (c) examination of applications; (d) bars to registration. The regulations state, that, no film shall be registered which, in the opinion of a censor, is: - (a) blasphemous, indecent, or obscene; (&) is likely to be injurious to morality or to encourage or incite to crime; (c) is likely to be offensive to .the people of any friendly nation; (d) depicts any matter, the exhibition of which is undesirable in the public interest. The Commonwealth Film Censorship has set up certain standards for the examination of films in connexion with the above-mentioned regulations. A film refused registration by the censorship automatically becomes a prohibited import under the Customs Act. The censorship, however, may itself delete objectionable matter in a film and render it harmless; or it may give to an importer himself the opportunity of reconstructing a rejected film. This reconstruction generally takes the form of altering the story, or of making extensive eliminations. The censorship reserves the right to reject a reconstructed film if it is not satisfied with the alterations made- by the importer. Those remarks will serve to explain briefly the method at present being adopted by the Film Censorship. The question of the advertising of films is very closely related to the censorship of films. The censorship has,, of course, authority over imported advertising matter in the shape of posters and the like, and instructions have already been issued to the censor that in addition to the general censorship of films he must also judge them by the imported advertising. It often happens that a film reasonably harmless in itself is advertised as containing some salacious or at least objectionable matter. In such cases the censor will now also judge a film by the advertising matter, i.e., he will judge the film according to the standard set up by its manufacturer or exporter. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Government has no authority over newspaper advertising of films or locally-printed advertising matter, and criticism often arises from a newspaper advertisement of a certain film. It has often happened that matter eliminated by the censorship from the imported advertising matter has been used by either the importer or an exhibitor in connexion with newspaper advertising of the film or in locallyproduced advertising matter. This is an aspect of the question to which I intend to give very serious consideration, because such advertising is distinctly unfair both to the censorship and the public. Any offender in future in this respect will receive no consideration whatever from the department. Extreme measures will be used against any importer, or his showing agent, who thus flouts the decision of the department, and I hope to have the support of honorable members in maintaining the authority of their censor. This opportunity is taken of notifying those interested in the -importation of films that where1 any instance is brought under my notice .of- the use of an advertisement prohibited by .the censor, or the use in an -advertisement of any -direct or indirect reference to any matter deleted by the censor from a picture, the importer will, in addition to any other action taken against him, have the concession of reconstruction of his future importations withdrawn. Film advertisement can most readily and surely be controlled by the -owners of films, and they will be held responsible for the manner of advertising -them, and- must protect themselves when drawing up their contracts for sale or leasing. It is regretted that the State Governments so far have unfavorably considered the proposal to transfer to the Commonwealth authority over the local advertising of films. Attention will be given to what is being done regarding the -production of Australian films here. There is obviously a small maf ket here for films of our own production, but if suitable films for Australian people can be made here, L think some .measure of encouragement - even if only indirectly - might be given. .So far as British films are concerned, it might be possible to adopt some prohibitory measures respecting importations -of films from sources other than within the Empire, but the situation is a little difficult on account of the hold possessed by American films in the United Kingdom, where the bulk of British films is produced. This question will be carefully examined. In the United Kingdom certain films are passed as fit for exhibition to adults only. New Zealand is also moving in this direction, and it is proposed to carefully watch film legislation, and also the question of the encouragement of Australian and British films, in view of the undoubted propagandist nature of certain American films. It may be found necessary ;to instruct the censorship to adopt a stricter interpretation of the regulations -and of its standards. Possibly the privilege of reconstruction just recently curtailed will be further restricted. The censorship has in recent weeks refused to grant this privilege in three instances. Complaints have also been made that .there are one or more combines of film distributors, and that because of this it is impossible to show in the picture theatres of Australia even the pictures showing Australian scenes and industries that were -recently exhibited in the Queen’s -Hall. If this be true it is intolerable that .such a position should exist, precluding our own people in our own country from having some knowledge of our own land. An attempt will he made to impose a still stricter censorship of films dealing with the lurid side of life, in which infidelity, murder, intrigue, and shooting play so prominent a part. A determined effort will also be made to restrict any attempt to impose upon our people objectionable peculiarities and characteristics of other nations. I propose to take steps to revise immediately the existing regulations in order to give’ the censorship firmer control over some of the matters I have referred to. For example, any film objectionable to the sentiments of the people of the British Empire will be treated as a prohibited import. Any film produced in Australia which is likely to be detrimental to the interests of the Commonwealth will be refused export. In the past the censorship has worked under very great difficulties, but T feel that honorable members generally will support me in all reasonable efforts that are taken to strengthen the Commonwealth Film Censorship control.
– Since the report was received recommending for military purposes the construction of a railway from Hay to Port Augusta, the whole situation has altered. The New South Wales Government is at present constructing the line to Broken Hill, and has completed a southern line connexion from Narrandera, through Leeton to ‘Griffith, and from there to Hillston. An agreement has also been made between the New South Wales and Victorian Governments for opening up with railway extensions from Victoria practically the whole of the country suitable for agriculture which was originally proposed to be served by the suggested line from Port Augusta to Hay. In view of these facts, will the Government undertake not to enter into any arrangement to build the suggested line from Port Augusta to Hay until the whole matter of the rival routes has been fully inquired into by the Public Works ‘Committee ?
– All the facts mentioned by the honorable member, including railway extensions from Victoria into New South Wales, and the intended completion of the line to Broken Hill by the New South Wales Government, were considered at the Premiers’ Conferencelast year. No arrangement has been made with any state to build the Port Augusta to Hay railway, and no action is contemplated by this Government in the near future.
Y.- I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the obligation upon a member to obtain leave before he makes a statement is waived when a Minister is permitted to make a statement under cover of an. answer to a question?
Mr. SPEAKER. - A practice has grown up in Australian Parliaments which permits extensive information to be imparted to the House by means of an answer to a question. So far as I was able to judge, the information conveyed by the Minister for Trade and Customs, to which the honorable member’s inquiry obviously refers, was acceptable to the House.
Y. - Will the Treasurer inform the House whether the Grafton to South Brisbane railway has “ a broad national” aspect, or is it “blackmail,” of the kind referred to by the prime Minister in a public speech yesterday, in order to placate the Treasurer and the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green).
Dr. EARLE PAGE.-That railway project has been approved by various Governments and has always been recognized as the first section to be undertaken in the unification of the railway gauges. I am satisfied that all parties regard it as having a broad national aspect.
The following papers were presented : -
Railways - Report, with appendices, on the Commonwealth railways, for 1923-24.
Central Australia. - Report by Dr. V. Stefansson.
in) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether a recent decision of the Public Service Arbitrator, awarding to employees who are in receipt of £600 and less per annum an annual increase of £9, is to apply to temporary as well as permanent employees?
Mr. BRUCE.-The arbitrator’s determination will apply to temporary employees.
E asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Seeing that this Parliament has, by an act of Parliament, now declared that a certain institution in Tasmania is a proper source of revenue for the Tasmanian Government, will he immediately cause to be withdrawn that prohibition which prevents mails being sent through the post office to that institution?
Mr. GIBSON.- It is not intended to withdraw the prohibition.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 17th September (vide page 4413) on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is another bill for the alleged purpose of rendering assistance to the producers of dried fruits. If my memory is not at fault, I learnt at school that there were six tenses, including three main tenses - present, past, and future.
n. - And pretence - on the part of the Government.
– The Government’ slegislative proposals in regard to dried fruits seem also to have three tenses. The bill already dealt with, which provided for advances to the growers, represent the past ; that now before us, the present ; and that which is yet to be introduced, relating to export charges, the future. I had one new parliamentary experience yesterday, when for the first time I was compelled to sit here all night after travelling all the previous night 500 miles by train from Adelaide. This piecemeal introduction of legislation, the “whole of which could be logically -embodied in one bill, is another novel experience. As a representative of many producers of dried . fruits, I cannot be enthusiastic over this bill. Perhaps that is due to the brutal and exhausting methods of the Government yesterday, which involved a continuous sitting from 3 p.m. on Tuesday until 7 o’clock this morning. Added to the fatigue following upon. the train journey, that strain, plus that due to the performance of the duties which an honorable member has to discharge before the House assembles each day, renders me less vigorous than I should like to be when discussing an important proposal of this kind. Another reason which prevents me from receiving the hill with great cordiality is that, whilst it may be of some assistance to the growers, one of the main troubles in. the dried fruits industry will not be even palliated by it. One of the reasons advanced by the Prime Minister for the introduction of the hill was the large number of returned soldiers established in the industry, but he carefully avoided mention of the fact that the private concerns that had been looking after the financial interests of the industry in the past had failed on this occasion. Evidently seeking for some excuse for a measure containing democratic principles, he said that in other countries the primary producers were well organized, and were, in many cases, backed in their marketing arrangements by governments. He added that . this was bringing about a change in the economic circumstances of many industries. That- is correct, and shows that even governments, which boast .that at all costs they will protect the rights of private interests, find that under the compelling spirit of the times they have to control to a certain extent, and sometimes finance, those private interests, so that they may not give way completely under the pressure of the combines. No doubt, as time goes on, we shall have
Mr. Gabb. many more illustrations of the friends - of private enterprise .being forced to choose control by governments to compete with combines. Even such staunch supporters of private enterprise as the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) will be compelled to choose the lesser of two evils, and stand by government control. The Prime Minister said that one of the benefits of the bill would be to bring about a. single selling agency in London. In the light of our experience of the Dairy Produce Export Bill, one does not know what- amendments may be accepted by the Government. Last evening the Prime Minister agreed to a simple amendment in that measure - the insertion of the words, “ to Europe ‘’ - which was far-reaching in its effect. If there are to be similarly important alterations to the present bill, it is quite possible that even the valuable proposal to establish one selling agency in London may be defeated through the Government accepting suggestions from big business interests. I hope, however, that no loopholes will be left. I regret that the measure attempts only to prevent export without a licence. Its underlying principle should be to compel export, but it is so framed that the board will be able only to prevent export overseas. I should like the board to have sufficient power not only to say who should be prevented from exporting dried fruit, hut also to require a certain quota of it to be shipped away. I am glad that the Government has recognized the principle of the growers electing part of the board. I fail to see why a similar .provision was not included in the bill dealing with the dairying industry. Why should the growers of dried fruit be allowed to elect half the members of the board when a similar privilege was denied to the producers of butter ? There is evidence of inconsistency on the Government’s part, since this bill is a companion measure to that relating to the dairying industry.
– The two bills are very different.
B. - I shall be glad to hear the honorable member give his reasons for that statement. If he can show that the Government has been consistent he will be as clever as the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham)” ‘was yesterday in pleading forthe proprietary interests. The bill provides that half the personnel of the board shall be elected by the producers and half by the Government. My first impression was that the producers should be allowed to elect more than half the members, but as the industry is to be financed largely by the Government, I cannot object to that provision. I recognize that as the Government will have so much financial responsibility in respect to the scheme, it is only reasonable that it shall have equal representation on the board. The Prime Minister has said that the cost of the scheme will be met mainly by a levy of one-eighth of a penny per lb. on all the fruit exported. As 80 per cent. of our fruit is exported, that levy will be more than ample, and unless something is said in this debate or in the debate on the complementary bill to lead me to alter my mind, I intend to move that the amount of the levy be reduced to one sixteenth of a penny per Jb. The Prime Minister has also said that the amount of the advance will be up to 80 per cent. of the market value of the fruit to be exported. I gathered from that remark that the full 80 per cent. would not necessarily be advanced, but that the advance would not exceed 80 per cent.
– Eighty per cent. would be the maximum.
B. - I am not quite sure of the basis on which the advance will be made. The Prime Minister said by interjection on one occasion that it would be made on the fruit “ when in the sweat box,” but in a later and apparently more careful statement he said that it would be paid on the fruit after it had been passed for export. I trust that he will make very clear the intention of the Government on that point. To make the advance on the fruit when it is put into the sweat box would, in my opinion, be altogether too loose a method to adopt, for when fruit is in the sweat box it is hard to say whether it will be suitable for export or not.
– The intention of the Government is to make available an amount up to 80 per cent. of the value of the fruit that will be exported as soon as it can be ascertained with safety that the fruit will be exported.
B. - The responsibility of the fruit-growers to repay both the advances that will be made under the provisions of the billthat we have already passed and those made under the provisions of this bill should be put beyond argument. Under the legislation already passed it has been agreed that a bounty shall be paid of 5s. a ton on currants, and 30s. on lexias and other raisins, based on last year’s export quota of the applicant. I can see that many needy growers will apply for the advance for six months under the provisions of that measure. What is exercising my mind is whether these advances will, or will not, be thefirst charge upon the advance of 80 per cent. under the provisions of this measure. Although I have made inquiries privately and from a Minister who has some knowledge of the matter, I have not been able to ascrtain the Government’s intention. I wish to know whether the first advance is to be repaid out of the advance of 80 per cent., or from the proceeds of the estimated remaining 20 per cent-. A feeling is abroad in some quarters that the first advance . will not have to be repaid, but in my opinion there is nothing in the measure which supports such a view. One of my reasons for saying that it is prevalent is a report which appeared in the Murray Pioneer on Friday, the 19th September. As all honorable members who are interested in the fruit industry know, that newspaper is looked upon as one of the most influential journals in the industry. The leading article in the issue I have mentioned was written by Mr. H. S. Taylor, whose authority cannotbe questioned. Part of it reads as follows : -
I find in some quarters a tendency to look askance at the advance, because it is an advance only, and not a straight-out grant or bonus.In this connexion it is important not to lose sight of the proviso that the advance is to be repaid out of the proceeds of next year’s crop, after costs of production and marketing have been provided for. In this respect, it is of much the same nature as the offer on the part of the Federal Government this year to make good any out-of-pocket loss incurred in the export of citrus fruits. A letter from a Mildura friend intimates that in that settlement, in view of this proviso, there is a disposition to look upon the advance as of the nature of a gift, but this is hardly a view to be encouraged. What the proviso does, undoubtedly, is to supply the federal authorities with a strong incentive to facilitate arrangements that will ensure the exported fruit selling at the best obtainable price, and also tn protect the grower, whose fruit is exported asainst any unreasonable loss in the transaction. The provision that costs of production must be subject to the Minister’s approval may be taken as a safeguard against unreasonable piling up of costs.
The article emphasizes the South Australian view that the advance will have to be repaid, and that is the view which I stressed in my speech on the second reading of the measure. There can be no doubt, I submit, that the advance will have to be repaid. He goes on to point out that the advance will have to be repaid after the cost of production and marketing have been met. In that there is a suggestion - probably a correct one - that if the grower cannot meet his expenses, the Government will be prepared, after the crop has been marketed, to forgo the repay - “ ment of part of the advance. There is nothing in the bill to that effect, and I agree with the editor that that view should not be encouraged. The editor further said that the grant “is of much the same nature as the offer on the part of the Federal Government this year- to make good any out-of-pocket loss incurred in the export of citrus fruits.” I should like the Prime Minister to make it clear if that is so, in order that every grower should be placed on the same footing. The growers in South Australia, who are looking upon the payment as an advance only, may exercise the most rigid economy, and where possible refrain from participating, while the growers at Mildura, which is a bigger settlement, may build on the idea that the money is, in part at least, a gift. The editor says that at Mildura there is a disposition to look upon the advance as being in the nature of a gift. If that is so, I very much regret it, because Mildura and the surrounding settlements contain more fruit-growers than any other part of the River Murray valley. He proceeds to say that the advance will have a tendency to induce the Government to do its very best to market the fruit, with the object of getting- back its own money and providing as good a return as possible to the growers. With that statement I agree, and it sets out one of the reasons why I welcomed the scheme, and why I have some regard for the bill now before us. Once the Government is involved financially, it cannot step back, but must continue to the logical conclusion and market the product on the best terms obtainable. In his concluding sentence the editor points out that it is left to the Minister - and rightly so - to decide what are reasonable costs of processing and production. I now wish to quote some figures regarding the advance. My object is to show that the Government’s loss on every ton of sultanas exported will be at least £3 6s. 8d. I base my figures upon a statement made by the State Rivers and Water Supply Commission of Victoria, and quoted in this House recently by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). The honorable member for Wimmera expressed the opinion that the estimates made by the commission were conservative. I shall not repeat the figures, for they can be read in Hansard. The commission said, and the honorable member for Wimmera supported its view, that the average sweat box return to the grower in 1924 would probably be £28 6s. 8d. per ton. I start my calculation on that basis. The commission has settled over 1,000 soldiers on the land in Victoria, and has every facility for ascertaining costs of production. The estimate covered all kinds of dried fruits, but I shall deal only with sultanas. I am satisfied that the figure of £28 6s. 8d. represents approximately the net return the grower will obtain for his sultanas this year. The first advance to the grower will amount to £9. I assume that the maximum of 80 per cent, will be advanced on fruit exported, although the Prime Minister may say that it will be less. Eighty per cent, of £28 6s. 8d. is £22 13s. 4d., which means that there will be a total advance to the grower of £31 13d. 4d. per ton. Personally, I can see no reason to hope for a very much better return to the grower in 1925 than in 1924. I cannot lose sight of the fact that not only in Australia, but also in California, South Africa, and other countries, an increasing number of vineyards is coming into bearing, and that the Mediterranean fruitproducing countries have got back to prewar standards. If my surmise .be correct, the Government will have to advance to the growers £31 13s. 4d., and the approximate return to the growers will be £28 6s. 8d., which will leave a deficiency of £3 6s. 8d. That will mean that if the Government compels the growers to repay an amount equivalent to what they receive for their fruit, there will be a loss to the Government of £3 6s. 8d. on every ton of sultanas exported.
– Has the honorable member any idea of the approximate quantity of dried fruits exported?
B. - I am unable to quote the figures, but it has been estimated that the total production will soon be 50,000 tons.
– The total production is now about 40,000 tons.
B. - If the Prime Minister’s figure is right, 32,000 tons, or 80 per cent. of the total production of 40,000 tons, would have to be exported.
– The total production is 21,000 tons and the export 12,000 tons.
B. - Hereis another authority. I prefer to take the figure given by the Prime Minister, because those concerned in the industry are basing their calculations on the anticipation that in the very near future there will be 50,000 tons of dried fruits produced annually in Australia.
– The estimated tonnage for export for the coming year is 32,000 tons. It was 28,000 tons last year.
n. - What is the local consumption ?
– It is 20 per cent. of the total production. If my assumptions are justified the Government’s loss will amount to £3 6s. 8d. per ton, at least on sultanas. According to the figures given by the board the cost of production is £37 per ton. If that be so, the grower will receive £31 13s. 4d., and notwithstanding the assistance given he will still be £5 6s. 8d. per ton to the bad. In view of these figures it is impossible to be optimistic with regard to the future of those engaged in. this industry. No doubt the Prime Minister in reply will state that the marketing arrangements will greatly reduce the present cost of marketing and leave a better return for the grower. I sincerely hope that will be the case, but if the advantage to be gained from the marketing of this product by the Government as against the present cost of marketing will amount to more than the sum of £3 6s. 8d. and £5 6s. 8d., or £8 13s. 4d. per ton it will be a great exposure of the exploitation by agents of those engaged in this industry. I shall hail such a result with satisfaction in the first place, because it would mean a better return for the growers of dried fruits, and in the second place, because it would be an illustration of the greediness of private agents and the inefficiency they show in the. performance of the duties for which they ares paid.I have said that I regret there is no provision in the bill to deal with the outsider, because he is always the cause of trouble.
– He is a non-unionist.
B. - He would be so termed in trade union circles. The effect of the operations of the. outsider is to weaken the home market. Not being tied’, he takes advantage of the home market. Unless something is done to compel outsiders to contribute their quota to the export: their number will increase and the position of the home market will shortly be as bad as that of the export market. The difficulty will, of course, be overcome to some extent if under the Government’s scheme the marketing of dried fruits can be conducted less expensively and a larger market opened up. But I cannot help feeling a little pessimistic, believing that even the arrangement which the Government has proposed will not make a very material difference in the near future.
– There will still be export parity for local sales.
Mr.GABB. - The honorable member is quiteright, and that position will not be of much use to the producers of dried’ fruits.
n. - That is exactly what I say.
– I have said that I think that the position of the home market may become as bad as that of the export market, and that is bad enough. I believe that even in the interests of outsiders; in this industry the Government should- have: taken its courage in both hands and should have made provision to compel them to contribute their quota to export. I am aware that the word “ compel “ is not palatable to the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), and other honorable members opposite, but so great is the trouble in this industry thatit requires a drastic remedy. It may. be argued that compulsion is unconstitutional, but. the. Prime Minister did not put forward’ that contention when dealing with the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill. It seemed to me that under the War Precautions Act we were able to do almost whatever we pleased, and some things were done under that act of which I could not approve. In time of stress it. was found possible under the War Precautions Act to do those things which seemed to be most effective in the interests of the bulk of the people; I see no reason why we should not have a Peace Precautions Act. The honorable member for Kooyong, being a K.C., will probably laugh at me when I say that it might be possible for the High Court to wink, at certain things. If it could do so in time of war, because of stress of circumstances, it should surely be possible for it to wink at things under a Peace Precautions Act to meet the stress in this industry. I assume that unless the issue was raised the court would not take cognizance of it, and I doubt whether any of the outsiders in the industry is sufficiently wealthy, and would think it worth while, to bring a case before the High Court in order to raise the issue. It seems to me that if it is right to wink at things at one time, it should not be wrong at another. I remind honorable members that only the growers in difficult financial circumstances are likely to apply for advances under the Dried Fruits Advances Act which has just been passed, and those only can secure an advance who contribute a certain quota of their output to the export trade. As a consequence the man in a small way will be compelled to pitt some of his fruit into the export trade. The . outsider, who will generally be in better circumstances than the struggling returned soldier or new settler on the. dried fruit areas, will not require an advance, and need not contribute any quota to the export. It will be possible for him to sell the whole of his output on the home market. He will be able to reap the full benefit of the home market at the expense of the returned soldier settlers. In view of the protestations from the other side of a desire to assist returned soldiers, the Government might very well have included in the bill a provision compelling every grower of dried fruits to contribute his quota to the export trade, and so bear his share of the loss on the export market instead of permitting the burden to fall upon the growers who are least able to bear it.
– The honorable member believes in a compulsory pool.
B. - I am prepared, to support anything that will secure justice for those engaged in this industry. The honorable member may describe it as a compulsory pool, or put whatever other label ha pleases upon it; what I am concerned about is to do something fir the benefit pf those engaged in the dried fruit industry. I am tempted, but I do not know whether the Chair will permit me, to move an amendment that the bill be now withdrawn, with a view to insert in it a provision similar to that contained in the New Zealand Butter Act, giving the board power not only to control the export of butter from Australia, but also to determine what proportion should be exported.
Mr. SPEAKER. - Might I suggest that the honorable member resist that temptation at this stage.
– I shall accept your advice, sir.. I also feared that if -I moved such an amendment the Government might withdraw the bill and attempt to throw the onus for its withdrawal upon myself and the Labour party.
– The honorable member would not object to that if he thought he was acting rightly.
B. - I am ready to do anything to assist the growers, even to the small extent afforded under the bill. I have grave doubts about the Prime Minister’s intentions respecting the bill relating to the control of exported butter, especially in view of the amendment that he accepted last night, and the fact that he has not yet tightened up the provisions of that bill along the lines of the New Zealand act. I am not sure that he has any serious intentions respecting this hill, and that if he had an opportunity of withdrawing the bill he would not readily take it. the Prime Minister stated that he did not believe there was any danger of over-production in Australia. Senator Wilson also made the same statement. But it cannot be denied that under present circumstances there is overproduction in this country. This is evident from the fact that fruit-growers sending fruit overseas have sustained losses. It is hoped that under the marketing scheme proposed in the bill we shall be able to dispose of our surplus products on the London market. I cannot lose sight of the fact that countries that were not directly affected by the war have since planted extensive vineyards. This is particularly the case in Australia, South Africa, and California. Production has increased more in California than here, and although that country has an excellent system of organization, yet the growers there are up against unfavorable conditions, although not so badly as here. The Californian growers are seeking in every direction outlets . for their surplus, production. All the producing countries in Europe have exceeded their production of 1914. In view of these facts, I am not so sure as is the Prime Minister that there is not over-production in the dried fruits industry. Let us hope that it is not so, and that the arrangement under the bill will enable us to dispose of our surplus production.
– No one said that there was not over-production for our home market.
B. - The Prime Minister and Senator Wilson both said that there was no such thing as over-production in Australia, and that there was an unlimited market for our products in London. Dried fruits from all parts of the world to-day are being placed on tha London market. Our own fruits are there being disposed of by agents who themselves possess vineyards in the Mediterranean countries, and until some measure of British preference is given in regard to ‘ our dried fruits, the same position will obtain as that existing in the meat industry. British capitalists interested in the Argentine place Argentine beef on the British market, and neglect the Australian meat industry altogether. This also applies to the dried fruit industry, and in that respect we are up against a big problem. I shall try to improve the bill in committee, but if we have to submit to what we experienced last night, when six of the most important clauses of a bill dealing with butter export had to be discussed and passed in one and a half hours, we shall have very little opportunity to give this bill the necessary consideration.
.- As a great lover of consistency, I cannot help admiring the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) for wishing to conscript the producers of dried fruits. Although I view it with a great deal of apprehension, I support the Bill. I fear the application of compulsion in matters of this sort. I do not know what action the Government will take respecting the proposed compulsory wheat pool. I have always been opposed to compulsory pools, but it certainly might be in the interests of the growers for the time being to have a compulsory wheat pool. Under the bill the number of Government appointees to the board will equal the number of those to ‘be appointed by the growers,, and as it is proposed that the Government shall have a controlling influence, I fear for the success of the scheme. For the protection of the consumer and the public generally, itis necessary that the Government should have one nominee on the board of control, but there is no necessity for any additional control to be exercised by the Government. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) spoke about overproduction in this country, but it is absurd to suggest such a thing. The trouble is that we have a vicious circle in Australia. We have so increased the cost of production that we are making it impossible for our producers to compete with those of other countries.. The cost of living is high, and - every item that the producer requires is sold at an exorbitant price.
s. - The high profits must also be considered.
– The honorable member for Angas has quoted figures respecting the prices obtained for the products of the settlers in the interior, who battle against great difficulties, and it is monstrous to suggest that those people are making high profits. I received the surprise of my life when I heard the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) speak the other night. In opposing a bill in this chamber he said that the habit of rushing to the Government is to be deplored. I agree with him. It would be far better if the Government were to assist the producers to build up their own organizations. The honorable member for Kooyong also stated -
It appears to be assumed now-a-days that if any industry, owing to market conditions such as the collapse of the German mark, finds ‘ itself in a difficult position for’ a season or two, it- is the business of some government - and in the first place it is to the Commonwealth Government that the appeal for assistance is made - to help it out of its dilemma. This is a very dangerous proposition to accept.
This position is not due to overproduction, but to the enormous duties that are placed upon imported articles. The honorable member for-
Wakefield (Mr. Foster), speaking the other, night’ about cream separators coming into this- country, said that,, iti addition to the ordinary duty of. £9 or £10, a dumping duty of £12 was placed” upon these articles. Everything is done to protect the people in the cities, but the claims of those who are taking the risks, of production, are passed over., I should be, only too pleased, if, the Government would assist, producers in seek? ing. markets, for. their, surplus products, even to. subsidizing steamship companies, so that goods might be carried overseas at low;er. freights. than at present. Australia is- the most isolated producing country in the world, its. people paying enormous, freights for the carriage of goods, overseas. The cost of living is high, and, although the wages are high-, the workers receive very little, if, any, advantage from that. Over two. years- ago theCanadian. Minister, for Customs,. - Mr. Robb, came, here and. made.- certain offers, to- the Government. There is. a. magnificent market for. US inCanada,, because that country consumes annually 33,000 tons- of dried fr.uits valued at $7,000,000; andi 12.000.000 lb. of tinned fruits, valued at §1,250,000. The consumption of brandy, is 70,000 gallons, valued at. $700,000. Recently, I believe, that country bought large quantities of Australian sugar.
– Does the honorable member object to Canada buying our sugar ?
Y.- No. The following extract was taken from a speech made by the Hon. S. Fielding, Minister for Finance, in the Canadian House of Commons : -
We are. proposing to increas.6 the duty on raisins and dried currants so they will be free from- Great Britain, and pay 3 cents a lb. under both the other tariffs;
Three-cents is equivalent to l$d.
– I draw attention to the state of the House. The ministerial benches are almost empty. [Quorum formed.]
Y . - The honorable member, for Angas has. stated that there is over-production, of currants and raisins: According to the Commonwealth YearBook for 1921-22, £he latest production in Australia was only. 21,000 tons, of which 12,000 tons was exported. The consumption in Canada alone was 35,000 tons, of a value of 7,000,000 dollars, or 50. per cent, more than Australia’s total production, in the latest year for- which we have- statistics. Canada has offered- to Australia a special .preference againstthe world of- l£d..per- lb. on currants and; raisins.
– Canada wants in exchange something more- valuable.
Y. - I do not know for what Canada, is asking, but I think the House should be told-, something of the negotiations between the Dominion and the Commonwealth. I- hope, the dried fruit’s- i-nr dustry will continue to develop. Magnificent irrigation works, are being carried! out along the Murray River, where we> hope to establish a large and prosperous! population, but we cannot afford to settle people there to produce a commodity. of which there is already a glut. It is untrue to say there is over-production when for two years Canada has been offering us. a special preference in an immense market. In a speech made- in the Canadian* House- of Commons on- the 11th May, 1923, Mr. Fielding; Minister for Defence; said-
We are proposing- to increase the duty on raisins and dried cur-rants so- they will’ be, free from Great Britain, and pay 3 cents a pound under both the other tariffs. My honorable friend, the Minister of Trade and Cora,merce (Mir. Robb) recently made a trip to Australia in the hope of coming to a commercial arrangement with the Australian Commonwealth: As we know, while he made some progress which gave him some encourage; ment, he was not able to conclude an agreement. We are advised’ that in addition to our British, preference which we offer to the Australians, they are particularly interested’ iv-, raisins and dried currants, and if we change, our tariff so as to offer some inducement to. them on these items, it will go far to- makethem content with our scheme andi bring about: an agreement. In the. hope- that” that may- foe. the case, we are going to provide, .that theduty on- raisins and dried currants shall be. increased to 3 cents a. pound under the intermediate and under’ the general tariff, but that, they shall be. free under- the British preference. If Australia, makes- an agreement, and. thus comes under the benefit of the- Britishpreference, this will be the rate- which will’ be imposed upon the things that she. is most anxious to send us.
Mr. SCULLIN.-What concession does Canada, want from, Australia-?
-^1 do not know, but I think we should know-. I have been, advised that Canada- desires that its news print should be admitted into the Com” monwealth at the British preferential! rate. If that is what’ Canada> is- seeking. we might well consider whether we cannot at least give to it a concession in the intermediate tariff. A large number of my constituents have entered upon the production of raisins and currants, ‘ and when -I hear of the special preference which Canada is prepared to give I am justified in demanding to know why such a good market is neglected.
– - Suppose Canada wanted a concession in regard to the duties on iron and steel ?
Y.- There ought to be no supposition on the subject. Surely we can be told by Ministers what Canada desires. Australia exports a large quantity of tinned fruits. Canada imported in one year 12,000,000 lbs. of that commodity worth 1,250,000 dollars, and 70,000 gallons of brandy.
Mr. SPEAKER. - It is not permissible on this bill to discuss the whole subject of .reciprocal tariffs with other Dominions.
– Over-production of dried fruits having been alleged by the honorable member for Angas, I am endeavouring to show that Canada offers to us an extensive market. There is also opportunity for developing markets in Great Britain for our produce. I would be gladto see the ‘producers of wheat, butter, and dried fruits, organize and control their own industries, so that they can refuse to sell in the local market at less than import parity. If that standard pf pricefixing is applied in other industries,- it should be equally applicable to primary production.
– And up would go the awards in the Arbitration Court.
Y- The high cost of living makes it very difficult for the man on the land in Australia to compete with other countries. The bill provides for the creation of a board, consisting of three members to be appointed by the Government and three to be elected by the producers. That provision may be very satisfactory for large, established settlements, like Mildura, or Renmark, but the dried fruits industry, is just developing in Western Australia, which I am convinced can produce raisins equal to the best from any part of the world. A big dried fruits industry is being built up, and it is growing by leaps and bounds. Therefore, I do not see why the same principle of representation as is contained in the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill should not be adopted in this measure, so that each of the producing states may have at least one representative on the board. I. have received letters from Western Australia, asking that the Commonwealth shall take action to prevent the dumping of dried fruits from South Australia. Of course, the constitution does not permit of any interference of that kind, but I am justified in demanding that on a board, created to control the export of dried fruits, some representation should be given to Western Australia, even though its production at the present time is not nearly as large as that of Victoria or South Australia.
– Is the honorable member asking that Western Australia should have equal representation with the other two states ?
Y. - I would be satisfied if, as in the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill, tha larger producing states were given greater representation, but I am not prepared to leave the Western Australian growers entirely to the tender mercies of their competitors in Victoria.
– As the board will deal only with exports, will not the interests of the producers in all states be identical ?
Y. - Not necessarily. The area under fruit trees and vines in Western Australia has increased enormously in recent years, and I cannot understand the Government proposing to take control of export in that state without giving to’ the producers there any representation on the controlling body.
– The honorable member’s contention is perfectly sound if he can show that Western Australia’s production entitles it to representation.
n. - As the Western Australian producers will have a voice in the election of the board, it cannot be said that they will have no representation.
– They would be outvoted by the growers in the larger producing states. In the year 1921-2, Western Australia had 3,951 acres of vineyards.
– The whole of that area is not devoted to dried fruits. In the Redcliffe settlement alone, nearly 20,000 acres has been put under dried fruits in the last four years. ‘
Y.- Whilst I am opposed to the compulsory control of any industry, I realize that something must be done to help the producers of dried fruits. Owing to the high cost of production and the necessity for organization, I am prepared to accept the bill, subject to the condition that Western Australia, with its increasing production of dried fruit, is given at least some representation on the board.
.- I wish to make some reply to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). Since the production of dried fruit is greater than the local consumption, the Government finds it necessary to dispose of the surplus production in a way that may not find favour with those honorable members, who doubt the necessity to apply compulsion. I agree with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) that all the producers engaged in the industry should be required to dispose of their output through, the same channel, just as every workman in a particular calling should be compelled to belong to his trade union. We still find a few honorable members who adhere to the nostrums of Cobden and Bright that I heard propounded in Manchester in the sixties.
n. - Cobden and Bright still have a few adherents in Great Britain.
– Yes, men who are prompted by self-interest. One honorable member stated that the trouble in the dried fruits industry was partly due to the high standard of living of the working classes. The Prime Minister, in a speech made a few days ago, was very emphatic in upholding the . White Australia policy and the present standard of living. Derogatory references to the effect of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court -fixing a decent standard of living for Australian workmen have ceased to carry much weight, for there is no better instrumentality than that for adjusting the wages of the industrial sections. My prediction is that success in the distribution of primary produce will only be achieved by the socialization of distribution. There is no other practical way of dealing with the problem-. Both the Dairy Produce Export Bill and the present measure merely tinker with it, but they lay a foundation upon which the Labour party will raise a useful superstructure when it is returned to power. Although the honorable member for Kooyong belongs to the Tory element that is opposed to state enterprise in every form, he knows as well as I do that the proposal in the bill is a step in that direction. He is inconsistent in opposing the principle of compulsion embodied in the bill, since he belongs to a profession to which that principle is most stringently applied. Even the journalists in the press galleries belong to an industrial organization. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) is a member of the Graziers’ Association, so that he may obtain the best possible price for his cattle.
– The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) belongs to the medical union.
T. - Yes. I remember a case in Adelaide, in which a member of the medical profession would not .meet another who did not belong to the doctors’ union, even to save a man who was at death’s door.
Mr. SPEAKER (Et. Hon. W. A. Watt). - What has that incident to do with the bill ?
– I was endeavouring to show that the honorable member for Kooyong has no ground for objecting to the element of compulsion in- the bill, seeing that that principle is applied to his own profession. I hope that provision will be made in the bill for all the necessary financial arrangements to be made through the Commonwealth Bank. The words “with the Commonwealth Bank or with any other prescribed bank “ are used in the bill, but I object to the provision, “ or with any other prescribed bank.” The Treasurer promised me some time ago that the use of that phrase would be discontinued in bills of this kind, and I shall move for its deletion when the bill is in committee.
.- I am anxious for the bill to be passed, and, therefore, will not delay honorable members very long with my speech. I discussed the dried fruits industry very fully some time ago, and I do not propose to repeat the points I then made. The weakness of this measure is that it deals only with the export trade. Although it should have a good effect in reducing the cost of marketing our products overseas, it does not take the local trade into account at all.
r. - Does not the duty protect the local trade?
– This is one of the few Australian primary industries in which the local price is, for the time being, higher than the export price. During the period 1919 to 1921, the reverse position obtained, for the price of dried fruits overseas was then much higher than in Australia. Sultanas at one time reached 120s. per ton overseas, and the local price was only 80s. per ton. It is creditable to the people engaged in the industry that they did not then force the local price up to the high price overseas. Having given that measure of consideration to the local consumers, they are entitled, now that the reverse position obtains, to look to the local consumers to assist them. The great problem which faces the industry is how to deal with the fruit-growers who will not join the Australian Dried Fruits Association. By doing so they know that they would be obliged to export a fair quota of their products overseas, whereas by remaining outside they can sell all their fruit at the higher price which obtains in the local market. These same people, during the period when prices were high in Australia, refused to sell a single berry in this country, and sent all their products overseas. I cannot see that the passing of this bill will compel those who now ride roughshod over their fellow fruitgrowers to submit to a certain amount of discipline for the common good of the industry. It will be apparent to all honorable members that it is only fair that they should be obliged to sell a fair quota of their production in the overseas markets. We are told that the Commonwealth Government has no constitutional power to control the local trade. That is a legal matter on which I cannot express an opinion. Suggestions have been made, however, which would meet the position at least in some degree. A letter written to me by Mr. Howie, the President of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, contains the following proposals: -
The Federal Government, under the Commerce Act, to compel the licensing and inspection of all dried fruit packing sheds.
Most of the larger sheds are now well conducted, and all sheds connected with the Australian Dried Fruits Association are nominally inspected.
There are, however; a number of small sheds that have no adequate facilities for proper grading.
It is suggested that either of the following alternative policies should be pursued: -
Licensing and rigorous methods of inspection would either bring the poorer sheds up to standard or else force them to close down.
Licences could be refused to all inadequate and unnecessary sheds, the owners of such sheds to be compensated by means of a short-termed government loan, which should be repaid by a levy on all licensed sheds of (say) from 2s. to 4s. per ton on all fruit packed.
I cannot help feeling that the Government has not fully explored the position with a view to seeing what could be done to overcome the difficulties created by these outside growers.
– “ Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
T.- I agree with the honorable member. At a largely attended meeting held recently in Mildura, I told the growers what I thought this bill would provide for, and my forecasts were fairly accurate. I asked them on that occasion for an expression of their opinion about what should be done to help the industry. They decided unanimously in favour of a compulsory export pool, and also determined to approach the state governments with a request for the formation of state pools to deal with the local trade.
– Would such local pools raise the price of dried fruit for home consumption?
T. - I think not, for if the price is raised higher than it now is Californian fruit will come into Australia.
– It is coming in already.
T.- That is evidence that we have reached the highest price which Australian producers can command for local sales. It is absolutely necessary that something should be done to compel the outside growers to join in a general marketing scheme. Under present conditions the outside growers at times force the local price down to a point at which the Australian Dried Fruit Association cannot compete with them. For instance if the average price of raisins for twelve months is £40, and alocal trader offers one of these outside growers £35 per ton cash for the whole of his output the grower will very likely accept it for the sake of having ready money. The Australian growers are compelled to pay Australian wages and observe Australian conditions in respect of the production of the fruit which they export. I do not object to the industry being controlled by the Arbitration Court, but seeing that four out of every five tons of fruit produced must be marketed abroad, the Australian fruit-growers are suffering a great hardship in comparison with Mediterranean growers.
– Is .not some method of piecework adopted in the local industry ?
T. - Occasionally, but generally speaking a daily wage is paid. N.ot only is the Australian producer, at a disadvantage in respect to wages and conditions, but he is also handicapped by having to j>ay Australian prices for all the material he uses. May I illustrate his difficulties by reference to the fruitboxes in which his products must be packed for export ? The purchasers of our product abroad practically demand that our fruit shall be packed in boxes made o£ white pine boards. They object to boxes made of local timbers. All the white pine used for making fruit boxes has to be imported, and the fruit-grower is compelled to pay an import duty on it, although it is exported again almost at once.
– Its importation militates severely against the local timber getters.
T.- That is so, but the fruit-growers are helpless seeing that the purchasers of their products abroad object to the fruit being packed in boxes made of Australian timber.
– I realize that the position is difficult.
n. - Is not most of the white pine imported from New Zealand ?
– I am not able te say definitely, but I think the bulk of it comes from the Baltic. The fruit-grower? are, in my opinion, entitled to a drawback of the duty -paid on timber that is imported and subsequently exported. The Government could at least give that measure of consideration to those engaged in the industry.
– Is anything other than the white pirie imported and later on exported ?
T. - Tes; quite a number of articles could be placed in the same class. I have refrained from making any extended remarks on the protracted negotiations for the preferential treatment of Australian dried fruits by
Canada and New Zealand, but the time is rapidly approaching when honorable members who are keenly intersted in the fruit industry will no longer be able to accept quietly the Minister’s reply to their inquiries that “negotiations are still proceeding.” The negotiations have been in progress for many months, and the time has arrived when we should know what the positon is.
– I think something definite will be announced within a fortnight or so.
T.- The honorable member for Angas is unusually optimistic. Clause 3 of the bill defines dried fruits as “ dried currants, dried sultanas, and dried lexias.” The Waltham grape is sold as a table grape or dried, according to the state of the market. When the fresh fruit market is slack Waltham grapes are dried: The growers at Mildura suggest that Waltham grapes should be included in the definition.
– Does the honorable member mean the Waltham Cross grape?
T. - The growers refer to - it as the “Waltham,” but possibly its correct name is “ Waltham Cross.” The bill provides that . the board, shall consist of one member to ‘ be appointed by the Governor-General, as the representative of the Commonwealth Government; three to be elected by the producers; and two, with commercial experience, to be appointed by the Governor-General. The argument of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) regarding the Western Australian growers has particular force in view of the fact that the dried fruits industry is rapidly expanding in that state. The Government would be well advised to increase the number of producers’ representatives from three to four, thus making the total number of members of the board seven. That would meet the wishes of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), and the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green).
– That would provide one representative of each of the four states concerned.
– It would not be wise to say anything about a state basis of representation, because it would’ be’ inequitable to have one Victorian, representing perhaps three-fifths, or at any rate two-thirds, of the dried fruit producers, while the remaining members of the board represented the others. The bill provides for a penalty of £100 for contravention of the regulations. A gathering of growers at Mildura suggested that the penalty should be increased to a maximum of £500, and I suggest that an amendment to that effect be made. I take this opportunity of referring to a gibe that is frequently made at representatives of the primary producers in this House; and particularly at honorable members who si’t in this corner of the chamber. It is stated that we desire protection for everything that we produce, but freetrade for everything that we consume. I am not permitted in this debate to enter into the eternal argument of freetrade versus protection, but I may make the observation that, not only the dried fruits industry, but also nearly every other primary producing industry in. Australia, is in difficulties! to-day owing, to the. fact that; while the cost of production in: Australia, is high, the return to the producers is fixed by conditions prevailing in oversea markets. If, while providing a tariff to enable ourmanufacturers to get high prices, and an Arbitration Court to maintain a high standard of living for the Australian workmen, we could pass abill to fix the price of dried fruits on the London market, we should be a very happy f amily.
– The honorable member realizes, of course, that some manufacturers are now having a. bad time.
T.- The depression is notso severe nor so widespread in the. secondary industries as it is in the primary industries.
– The manufacturer has a good run-in the local market. .
T. - He has. I have: not yet heard any of. the advocates of the legislative machinery that protects the manufacturers and. the workmen say how they will assist the primary producers out. of the plight they are in to-day. I shall not quarrel with their efforts.- to get high profits for the- manufacturers, and a high standard of living for the working men; if they will agree to legislate to place primary producers; on an equally profitable basis. I am sorry that I cannot, in this debate, refer to other primary products than dried fruits the prices of which in Australia to-day are fixed by oversea markets. What does it matter to the Australian primary producer whether he sells his product in Melbourne, London, or Hamburg, if he gets the same price for it ineach of those places? That point is usually lost sight of; Legislation over which the men engaged in the dried fruits industry have no controlhas placed them in an exceedingly difficult positon, and their difficulties have been aggravated by the fall in the prices of dried fruits oversea. It is the. duty. of. the Government to go farther than is proposed in the bill, and. to exhaust every means to place the dried-fr.uit industry on a proper basis, so that every grower shall share in both the local and export trade. The Government, should, thoroughly investigate the conditions of the industry, including; the duties placed, on importations used in the preparation- of. our. goods for export, deal, immediately with the matter of. preference; not only with Canada, butalso, with Kew- Zealand-, and keep alive the demand’ for Empire preference. Thegrowers have a> duty to perform. They know that.it is necessary to cut costs and to increase production.. On the fruitgrowing settlements the period of work is. eight hours a day. for the men, but not for the. masters.. On the. soldier settlements; in. an. endeavour: to make good,, the settlers often work eight hours before, noon and eight hours after. All this is caused through the increased priceof production and the high Arbitration Court awards. It is the duty of” this Parliament to assist these men who are trying to. help themselves.
.- I listened with great interest to the- informative speeches of’ the honorable members for Angas (Mr. Gabb) andWimmera (Mr. Stewart). The production of dried fruits in Western Australia is rapidly inGreasing, and difficulties like those of the growers in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia are being experienced in the Upper Swan district in Western Australia. The honorable member for Angas quoted certain figures showing that on the exportable surplus of 32,000 tons of dried fruits there will be a loss of £3 6s. 8d. a ton. This means that a total loss of £106,000 must be faced by the Government. We must make up our mind at once that this loss will be irrecoverable. The Government has already sustained losses in helping the dried fruits, canned fruits, beef, and hops industries.
n. - There is no loss yet on hops.
– That may be so; but there have been losses on other industries to a marked degree. I admit that it has been necessary for the Commonwealth Government to assist certain industries to enable the primary producers to carry on. These industries are being assisted because they are represented in this chamber by a party that has fought consistently for them. During ihe war the Australian gold was commandeered by this Government, but up to date the gold producers have received no consideration at all. There was a loss of £2,000,000 to the gold producers in Western Australia alone. I have persistently, hat unsuccessfully, brought this matter under the notice of the Government, but .1 am prepared to support this measure under which, it is proposed to assist the driedfruit growers. Because of this, I trust that the representatives of the primary producers will- support my efforts to get justice for the gold producers.
– Who are- also primary producers
EN. - The gold miners, as well as the growers of. dried fruits, are primary producers. Unless some radical alteration is made in the bill, the small fruit-grower will receive no benefit from it. He will have to accept the immediate help offered under the bill, and will, therefore, be unable to keep stocks long enough to compete on the local market. I have on several occasions visited China, the Malay Peninsula, Java, and Singapore, and while there I made inquiries regarding the possibilities of trade with Australia. Those countries, because of their geographical position, should present favorable markets for Australian produce. Unfortunately, Australian lexias and sultanas are practically unknown there. There is no doubt that the Australian Dried Fruits Association has done a great deal to try to capture the Eastern trade, but the low cost of Cali-. fornian dried fruits has prevented
Australian competition in the East. We can well understand that position, because even in our home market, if duties on ]111ported raisins were lowered, there would be danger of our locally-grown fruits giving place to the dried fruits of the United States of America. The price of our currants, c.i.f., London, last year ranged from £48 to £58 a ton, representing about 6d. a lb. in London;. Sultanas brought from £50 to £56 a ton, representing 6d. a lb., and lexias from £45 to £50 a tcn, representing’ 5d. a lb.
– Not net to the grower.
EN. - That is so. As 80 per cent, of our dried-fruit production has to be exported, it is our bounden duty to use every effort to find markets abroad. I wish to know what is preventing the Government from entering into a reciprocal agreement with Canada and New Zealand, which dominions have offered us a preference on dried fruits of 1 1/2 d. and 2d. respectively. The annual consumption of dried fruits in Canada is 15,000 tons, and in New Zealand, 4,000 tons. Of course, if the Governments of those dominions are asking in return for this preference that, say, harvesting machinery manufactured in Canada should be admitted to this country free, to the detriment of our own industries, that proposal could not be entertained for one moment. Senator Wilson while abroad negotiated with the Canadian Government respecting a preference on dried fruits, and any information that he then obtained should be made available to the public. I cannot think of any diplomatic reasons why that information should not be made available. If the Commonwealth is able to come to a reciprocal agreement with New Zealand and Canada their purchase of 19,000 tons of our dried fruits would absorb over half of our exportable surplus.
– The reciprocity proposals are still the subject of negotiation.
EN.- I was in the Go- vernment service for seventeen years, and every request for promotion was met by the reply that the application was still the subject of inquiry. When shall we have a Government that will display business acumen, and be able to deal with matters of this kind speedily and openly? Even if the negotiations with
Canada and New Zealand are not completed, surely the Government could without any breach of confidence let the House know how far they- have proceeded. With the advantage of the substantial preference that Canada is prepared to give Australian dried fruits we could easily compete against the American producers. Wages in California in all industries are as high as, if not higher than, corresponding wages in Australia. Therefore we can dismiss from our minds the idea that the Californian producer has the advantage of cheaper labour. I am r.ot prepared to say whether or not his methods of production are more efficient than ours, but Australians might well emulate the American marketing organization. The Californian producers are able to control the whole of the markets in the Orient. They are not satisfied with trial shipments of fruits, but trade commissioners are constantly travelling up and down the coast of China and into Singapore and Java, and are able to offer thousands of pounds worth of free samples in order to open up new markets. Their fruits are sold cheaply in attractive cartons, and, as . a result of hustle and organization, raisins are a regular item of dessert in the houses of the better class Chinese. The Americans have demonstrated that a country must keep its travellers and trade commissioners at work continuously if it is to hold its own against keen competitors in other parts of the world. When I was in California over twenty years ago dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and figs, were selling at 5 cents a lb. .1 do not say that that price was payable to the growers. They are now receiving a very much higher price, but they have developed a trade in foreign markets in which they are serious competitors with the Australian producer. The production of dried apricots ought to be a payable business, because the better quality is not retailed under ls. 9d. per lb. There is no exportable surplus of thai; fruit because Californian competition has made the foreign markets unprofitable, and therefore only sufficient trees are grown to supply Australian requirements. The local market is exploited by charging a rate which counterbalances the low prices received for lexias and sultanas. As, how ever, 1 lb. of dried apricots will make 6 lbs. of jam the charge of ls. 9d. a lb. is not unreasonable. Even at that price growers are not keen on the trade, and many of them are pulling up their apricot trees. So far as that fruit is concerned, the Australian consumer is doing his duty to the industry, but it cannot be contended that the prices of sultanas and lexias on the local market are high. Western Australia . is particularly well adapted for the production of dried fruits. In the Upper Swan Valley dried fruits are .being produced without the aid of irrigation. That is not being done, so far as I am aware, anywhere else in the world. We can produce more cheaply than the irrigationist but I understand that the quality of Western Australian lexias and sultanas is not as high as that of the products of the eastern states.
– The Western Australian raisins are quite as good as those, from the eastern states; in fact, this year they are better.
EN. - I am very glad to hear that testimony from the PostmasterGeneral. I have been told that the Western Australian currants are superior to the products of Zante and Corfu. The Upper Swan Valley, is situated between the Indian Ocean and the Darlling Ranges, and the rainfall is too heavy .for the production of wheat or oats. The soil is a light loam, but, although it has a depth of from 20 to 30 feet, it was not considered arable until experiments proved its suitability for the’ production of currants. I prophesy that we shall make many similar discoveries regarding Australian soils and climate, and areas which are now considered practically worthless will be found by experiment to be especially suitable for certain products. Research in manufacturing, also, will open up possibilities of secondary production that are not even thought of to-day. Some of the land in the Upper Swan Valley was sold for £1 per acre, and to-day it is producing the best currants in the world. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked that Western Australia, should be given special representation on the proposed board. It seems to me that any man from the eastern states, who understands the industry, will be able to do justice to the Western Australian producers. The products of all the states will be in the same
.- I am very glad: that the Government, has introduced this bill. Although it does, not go so far as some honorable members who are very, much interested in- the. dried fruits industry think is necessary,, it will be found to be at least a- most valuable instalment. Experience of its working- may induce Parliament to extend its- scope- later, or, possibly, as a result of the better organization to be broughtab.out by the board, further assistance. will be. unnecessary. Few of us fully realize the worth: of the dried fruits, industry, and the wonderful asset, it has created- in; districts’ which a few- years ago were notesteemed very- highly.. Parliament call: not alford to refuse, help to this industry, during, a very, strenuous- period of. its history. In, company, with other members- of, this Parliament, I. nad- the, opportunity recently of visiting Mildura-,, and noting the, developments, there; I had- always taken a keen interest in the settlement of Mildura, and had heard, a great deal about its. development, and therefore. I was- surprised at my ignorance about its- actual condition. I earnestly, suggest to those honorable, members who. have not had’ an, opportunity ofseeing the Murray irrigation areas, that they should pay a visit to. Mildura. When. I saw what had been- done- with land similar: to some in New. South Wales-, whichhad been, considered to, be- of. very, littlevalue, I felt that I should, like to- take off my: hat to. that grand old man.- of Mildura, Mr. W. B. Chaffey. That man- who went into- .what was, then, an inhospitable district, and- visualized- its- future productivity under a system of irrigation
R - All the Renmark country, was once covered with giant salt-bush.
– There is plenty of it in the Mildura district. Not only has a new industry developed, but an area, that would, have been a liability has been converted into a national asset. The industry is entitled to assistance owing to the number of soldier settlers engaged in it. and also because of the money spent on water conservation on the River Murray. I have no doubt that when the temporary difficulties of the settlers have been surmounted, the greatest rural production in Australia will take place in the Murray valley. Honorable’ members should forget their political differences in dealing with this -bill, and try to make it of the utmost; value to the industry. Every avenue for the promotion of economy should be exploited in order to place the industry on a paying basis. The Government research farm in the Mildura district should receive every encouragement. Experimental, farms have Been of great, value in proving that the scientific cultivation- of wheat leads to a considerable increase- in the yield. I am given to understand that the price of dried fruit has fallen about £20 a ton, and as the output from the Mildura research farm- is about. 30 tons a. year, it has lost a- revenue of about £600 annually. A levy- was- imposed on the producers for the maintenance- of this farm, but. the settlers, owing to the- collapse of the market for their produce, are at present unable to pay if. The officer in charge of-‘ the farm is- typical’ of a class- of men who do most valuable work in the public interest, and’ I am sure that, if the annual grant were increased by £2,000 or- £3, 000, the value of the work ofthe farm;would he considerably enhanced. I understand that the institution receives about- £900 a year from, the Institute^ of Science and- Industry;, but it is essential that its financial position should be improved. I was informed’ by the representatives of the settlers, “ onthe occasion of my visit- to Mildura, that the Chairman of the Commissioners for Railways stated’ recently that any reduction of freight’ that could be obtained’ onthe Victorian- railways: would be- a merebagatelle. This- is not the- case, as every avenue for possible economics must be explored. The unfavorable exchange position has resulted in a loss to the producers of about 30s. a ton, which, I hope, will be reduced as the result of the appointment of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank. While the overseas freight on wheat is only about 30s. a ton, the charge on dried fruit amounts to about £4 6s. a ton, although it lends itself to economical carriage. I hope that the bill willresult in improvingthe marketing conditions of the industry, for there is every opportunity to increase considerably the consumption of dried fruits in Great Britain. A great deal, of course, will depend on appointing the right men to the board. In considering the position of the growers, I am impressed by the seriousness of the action of the British Parliament in rejecting the preference proposals of. the Prime Minister.
– There may be hope next time.
G.- I trust so. The fact that the House of Commons rejected them by the narrow margin of six votes shows that the importance of the subject is appreciated in Great Britain, and that there is reason for hope that the interests of the dominions will eventually be fully recognized. I attribute the rejection of the proposals to the failure of honorable members opposite to support them. On his return from England the Prime Minister submitted the following motion in this chamber: -
That this House approves of the conclusions of the Imperial Conference, as set out in the Summary of Proceedings, relating to -
That this House approves of the Resolu tions of the Imperial Economic Conference relating to -
When honorable members opposite face the electors in the fruit-growing areas they will have a lot to answer for.
– Do not forget that the motion was linked up with the subject of defence.
G. - When I have finished my remarks, honorable members opposite will consider that I have remembered too much of what took place. The question was raised whether the vote should be taken on the various paragraphs of the motion collectively. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) asked the Prime Minister if he intended to combine the three motions. The reply given was in the negative, but the Prime Minister pointed out that on the first portion of the motion the whole field was open for discussion.
– On a point of order, may I ask whether an honorable member may now traverse the subject of the Prime Minister’s visit to Great Britain?
Watt). - Strictly speaking, the subject of imperial preference is not before the House. A reference to it is not out of order, but it would be out of order for an honorable member to spend any considerable time in discussing that matter as distinct from the provisions of the bill.
– I do not desire to transgress the Standing Orders, sir, but Imperial preference for our fruit industry is vital to its success, seeing that our producers are now receiving about £20 per ton less than formerly for their product. Had Imperial preference been granted the growers would be in a much better position than they are in now. The position of the industry at the time when efforts were being made in Great Britain by the Prime Minister to secure preference was set out in a letter written to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) by the chairman of the board of management of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, Mr. Howie, on the 21st December, 1923. That letter read as follows: -
As chairman of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, I am taking the liberty of communicating with you upon a matter which is of the utmost importance to a very large number of growers who are engaged in the production of dried fruit in Australia.
It will be within your knowledge that recently, very great efforts havebeen made on behalf of the fruit-growers of the Commonwealth to obtain from the United Kingdom preferential treatment for their products. To that end a delegation was appointed by the Commonwealth Government to proceed to the United Kingdom for the . purpose of investigating and advising them in regard to the matter. Included in that delegation was Mr. F. L. McDougall, who is a prominent fruitgrower at Renmark, South Australia, and a member of our association. Mr. McDougall proceeded to the United Kingdom in connexion with this work in October, 1922, and he is still retained in that country by our Government upon the same mission, having, since the arrival of Mr. Bruce, the Prime Minister, there, been closely associated with him. You are so well-versed with the efforts of Mr. Bruce in the United Kingdom in this direction that it is unnecessary for me to enter into a recapitulation of them, and, further, you will remember that, prior to the recent election, promises were made by the Baldwin Government that certain preferences, including dried fruits, would be granted to the dominions.Unfortunately, these promises are’ seriously endangered as a result of that election, and the present political crisis in the Old Country.
In view of the situation which has now arisen, we feel that we are justified in approaching you for the purpose of obtaining the valuable assistance of yourself and party towards securing this much-desired preference. You are no doubt aware that our industry is now in a very precarious position by reason of the very low prices which we arc at present receiving for our dried fruits in the markets of the United Kingdom, which we regard as our principal outlet apart from the Commonwealth. Our fruit has to compete with the fruit of foreign countries, produced by very cheap labour, and the present prices we are obtaining are so low that the existence of our industry is very seriously jeopardized. For some years the Commonwealth and State Governments have been placing large numbers of young settlers in the Murray valley and other districts; for the purpose of producing dried fruit. This increase has been carried on to such an extent . that, within the very near future, the present production will be practically doubled, and unless an adequate and profitable outlet for this excess production can be secured we feel that disaster must overtake an industry which we regard as one of national importance, and thus result in ruination to all those engaged in it.
You will have observed from the newspapers during the last few days that Mr. Bruce has deferred his departure from the United Kingdom for the purpose of carrying out further negotiations in regard to. these preference proposals, which are now imminently in danger, and it is with a view to obtaining your valuable assistance at this stage of those negotiations that I enclose a copy of a cablegram of 17th December, from Mr. McDougall, to whom I have already ‘alluded, with the request that you would be so good as to give the matter your early and most favorable consideration on the lines desired.
For your further information as to what the promise given at the Imperial Conference really means to the dried fruits industry and to- the English consumer, I will briefly state the present duties and preference on dominion dried fruits are as follows: -
The preference desired by Australia is as follows : -
And the British Government have signified their willingness to grant the following : -
This would mean that whereas the Australian grower would benefit to the extent indicated, the public of Great Britain would not be penalized at all, as the proposal is only a remission of duties already existent.
The cablegram referred to was dispatched from London on the 17th December, 1923, and read as follows: -
While elections endanger promise preference hope to save situation. Bruce concentrating on issue. Most useful if Australian Labour would publicly announce importance of preference. (Signed) McDougall.
The Leader of the Opposition replied to the letter and cablegram on the 24th December, 1923, in the following terms: -
Mr. H. D. Howie.
Chairman Dried Fruits Assn.
Yours of the 21st instant to hand re the granting of preference to Australian Dried Fruit. I realize that the production of fruit in Australia is rapidly increasing and that we cannot obtain markets oversea to dispose of our surplus. I will place your letter before the first meeting of the party for consideration.
Although from that day to this Mr. Howie has had no other communication from Mr. Charlton, nor has the Labour party attempted to support Imperial preference, I still trust that the party will realize the importance of the issue, and instead of remaining neutral or indifferent, come out openly insupport of the policy. It should declare its attitude on Imperial preference as definitely as it did its attitude on the proposed Singapore base. It had no hesitation in supportingthe British Labour party’s opposition to the Singapore base project. This has been previously brought before this House by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis), who quoted from the British Hansard. I trust that it will be equally definite in stating its view of Imperial preference to the British Government.
n. - On a point of order, I ask what the Singapore Naval Base has to do with dried fruits ?
Mr. SPEAKER. - Nothing so far as I am aware. I was about to remind the honorable member for Macquarie that.it was time he applied his references to Imperial preference to the measure now under consideration.
– He is only concerned with making political capital.
G. - I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, that I feelso warmly on this subject that I have permitted myself to digress from the bill. It is highly important that a bigger market shouldbe made available to our dried fruit producers, and I dwelt on the subject of Imperial preference for the reason that a much better market would be available to us if such preference could be secured. The Australian fruit-growers are entitled to this preference. It is of no use for the British electors to praise the Anzacs and put them on a pedestal if they will not give them some practical help in marketing their products. It must be remembered that many of the fruit-growers in these days are returned soldiers. If the proposed export control board is appointed, it will be able to do a great deal of propaganda work in the interests of the fruit-growers, and particularly of the returned soldiers among them. A private letter I received recently from a member of the British House of Common’s stated that, although he did not expect the present British Government to change its attitude, yet, if the Australian Labour party would express its views on Imperial preference, it would make an impression upon the British electors, even if it did not move the Government. He believes that the British electors will alter their decision when they are given another opportunity to do so. I trust that honorable members opposite will not withhold from expressing themselves in favour of Imperial preference simply for fear of jeopardizing party interests. The loan that was floated by the British Labour Government recently to assist Russia seemed to show that it has more sympathy with its Russian comrades than with the Australian producers. The fact must be faced, however, that if our Empire is to make progress it must be united in trade as well as in sentiment. The hospitality that was shown to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) and myself when we were in Mildura and Red Cliffs recently would, I have no doubt, be shown to any honorable member who visited the river settlements. We saw during ourvisit not only the well-established homes of the older settlers in Mildura, who are continuing the cultivation of their orchards and vineyards in the hope of better days coming, but also the new homes of the 600 returned soldiers who are settled at Red Cliffs. The vineyards of some of the new settlers are just about to come into bearing, but others are only being planted. Honorable members should do their very best to make available the largest oversea markets that we can possibly get. It has been suggested that there is danger of an over-production of fruit. I do not agree with that. If we could secure preference for our fruit-growers, we should be able to trade in an overseas market which would absorb all our exportable production, and so give, not only the older settlers, but also the returned soldier settlers, every chance to establish an industry that would be a great national asset.
Sitting suspended font 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I preface my remarks by directing attention to the fact that we are discussing the Dried Fruits Export Control Bill. Like other honorable members who had to endure the exhausting experience of the allnight sitting, I recognize that it requires an effort of will to recollect what we are discussing. I have been induced to rise to correct the splenetic statements of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), whose speech was remarkable in that it contained practically no direct reference to the bill. It was a general attack upon the party to which I belong. I resent his threats, and remind him that his election majority is very small, and does not justify him in threatening honorable members. While I have every sympathy with the object of the bill, which is to find markets abroad for our dried fruits, and while I have every sympathy with those engaged in the industry, I would again direct attention to the fact that the Australian dried fruits producers have not yet captured the Australian market. A few weeks ago I said that a considerable quantity of American dried fruits was for sale in Sydney, and that it was difficult to get Australian dried fruits in certain shops in that city. Following upon that statement by me, Senator Wilson denied, in another place, that dried fruits were being imported. I was impelled by his statement to get’ into touch with the Comptroller-General of Customs, and to ascertain from him the facts. The Comptroller -General, Mr. Oakley, informed me that the imports of dried fruits during the year 1923-4 were as follow : -
In value, those imports represented about£50,000. A large portion came from the United States of America, and some from Greece and Spain. It is a disgrace that dried fruits should be imported into this country. The producers of dried fruits are proclaiming their inability to find markets for their produce, and the industry needs the financial assistance of the Government; but honorable members in the corner; who never lose an opportunity of complaining about the treatment of primary industries, allow £50,000 worth of dried fruits to be brought into this country without even protesting.
t. - A large part of the imports mentioned by the honorable member are not dealt with in the bill.
– The bill deals with currants, sultanas, and lexias, and a large part of the importations I have mentioned consists of currants, and dried raisins. .
– But not the greater part.
N. - I admit that; but surely the honorable member does not wish to split straws. He recognizes that the fruit industry needs every possible encouragement, and that the importation of such large quantities of dried fruits is a serious reflection upon the Government.
– It is not so serious as it sounds when stated in terms of pounds weight. The local consumption amounts to thousands of tons.
N.- I am aware of that, but the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) surely admits the absolute absurdity of bringing dried fruits to this country. My argument would apply if the value of the imports was only £1,000, instead of £50,000. Ifthe tariff protection provided is inadequate, let us increase the. import duty or prohibit importation. Does not the honorable member think that these importations should be prohibited ? Can he see that any good purpose is served by selling foreign dried fruits on our markets when our own dried fruits are superior?
– I hesitate to adopt the principle of the prohibition of dried fruits, because if I did so we might “ get it in the neck “ on something else.
AN. - There may be something in that argument, but I cannot see that it would apply in the case of the dried fruits industry. We make full use of the weapon of protection in other directions, and surely no one in the country could resent the protection of such a stable industry as the dried fruits industry. Although the honorable member has drawn attention to the relative proportions of importations and consumption, I feel sure that he will agree with me that the importation of dried fruits is unwarranted.
– It is undesirable, but it is not so bad as the honorable member alleges.
N.- Does not the honorable member think that an increase of £50,000 in the consumption of Australian dried fruits in this country itself would very materially relieve the industry ?
– More than half the fruit imported is not affected by the bill.
N.- That does not alter the fact that £50,000 worth of dried fruits is being imported every year. I have alwaysbeen an uncompromising protectionist, and have consistently put forward the view that both primary and secondary industries should be protected and fostered in every possible way. I suggest that the Government should place an embargo upon the importation of dried fruits . It has already applied the provisions of the anti-dumping law to Spanish muscatels, and I cannot see why the duty on other dried fruits should not be substantially increased. It would appear from the remarks of honorable members that one of the greatest difficulties in exploiting oversea markets is the high rate charged for ocean transport. I urge, as members of this party have urged on previous occasions, that the Commonwealth Government line of steamers should be used for transporting our produce. That line should receive the mail subsidy, and should be employed in exploiting oversea markets and fighting the Inchcape shipping combine. If it did that it would force freights down, and would materially assist us in competing with Californian and Spanish dried fruit products. Another reform that would assist the industry is the better packing and grading of Australian dried fruits.Ispeak from personal experience when I say that Australian dried fruits vary in quality, and are sometimes not properly cleaned. I do not say thisin a “stinking-fish” spirit, but as a suggestionto the Dried Fruits Association to give more attentionto grading and packing. I have already referredto the excellent way in which the Moray Park Company of South Australia select and pack their products, which are a credit to the dried fruits industry of South Australia, and are superior toanything I have seen in any other part ofthe world. It has been suggested that because of the fluctuating conditions in the industry, anadvisory board should becreated to inform the growers when there is likely to be a glut in any particular line. At present large quan tities of prunes are being imported, and if the production of them in Australia is inadequate for the requirements of the Australian market, the advisory board could point out to the growers that a ready market was available to them. In conclusion, I again protest against the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie. His attack upon the Labour party for its attitude on the subjectof imperial preference cannot be allowed to pass without a protest. The Government must accept a good deal of responsibility for the absence from this House of unanimity on the Imperial Conference proposals. The Labour party asked theGovernment to separate the imperial preference proposals from defence and other subjects, and had it done so there is no doubt that a unanimous vote would have been recorded in favour of preference. Shortly after the debate on imperial preference, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) gave theGovernment an assurance that, had the different proposals been separated, there would have been a unanimous vote for imperial preference.
– But even then preference would not have been carried in the British Parliament.
N.- There is nothing to show that, had the imperial preference resolutionsbeen carried unanimously by this Parliament, the course of British domestic economic policy would have been influenced. As a member of the Labour party, I contend that we have no right to attempt to influence Great Britain’s domestic policy.I would no more associate myself with an attemptto influence any other parliament than I would permit the government of any other country to attempt to influence the legislation of this Parliament. If any government tried to do it, I should regard it as an unwarrantable intrusion upon our rights of self-government. The attitude of this party on that subject is justified in the minds of all thinking people. I shall not occupy the time of the House in replying to the honorable member’s arguments regarding the Singapore base,for they have been dealt with on previous occasions. Members of this party, regardless of what interests they represent,are preparedat all times to give every sympathy to the primary producers, as well as to those engaged in the great secondary industries of this country.
.- I shall not occupy the time of the House at length, because I desire to see the bill passed and placed on the statute-book. The people along the Murray River have for a very long time been anxious that the promises of assistance made to them shall be fulfilled. I regard this bill as a good business proposition. During the war period, when high prices ruled, the growers of dried fruits were prosperous. The success of the industry at that period stimulated increased development in Victoria and South Australia. The provision subsequently made for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land led to further expansion of the industry. With a falling market since the war period there has been an enormously increased production, but, despite the present adverse conditions, I have not lost the faith I had from the beginning in the ultimate success of the River Murray settlement. I should not even now like to see further development of the dried fruits areas arrested, because I believe we are nearing the time when a good market for all the dried fruits we produce will be available. I have faith that we shall yet receive some assistance in the way of preference to our products in Great Britain. I was greatly interested in a report which I saw of a very thoughtful move by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson). With Mr. Orchard, of Sydney, a former member of this House, and Mr. Percy Hunter, of the Immigration Department, the honorable gentleman spent a whole afternoon in the House of Commons with members of the British Labour party, and took advantage of the opportunity to place before them in the clearest manner the advantages of a policy of preference, not only to Australia, but also to Great Britain. They were greatly impressed when they learned that Australia by means of its tariff is already giving Britain a generous preference in respect of trade of the value of £60,000,000, the advantage given by the preference to British manufacturers amounting to between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000. It was pointed out at the same time that the reciprocal preference given by Great Britain to Australian products is not worth more than from £50,000 to £70,000. The British Labour members of the House of Commons were reminded that the enormous preference given by Australia to British imports to this country enabled thousands of men in Great Britain to be employed in British factories who would otherwise be receiving doles. I am told that the Labour members of the House of Commons whom the Postmaster-General met were so impressed that they subsequently voted for the preference resolution in theHouse of Commons, and it was lost by only about seven votes.
e. - In about 600 votes.
– The resolution was so nearly carried that we may reasonably hope that it will not be long before the preference we have asked for from Great Britain will be granted.
– The voting will never be so close again.
R. - When the matter is next dealt with it is very likely that the majority will be on the other side, and should that be so I am satisfied that the honorable member for Perth. (Mr. Mann) is so loyal to this great country that he will rejoice with the rest of us, in spite of his fiscal ideas. I wish to refer to a statement made by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). I am quite sure that it was made with the best possible intention, and that the honorable member desires this matter to be brought to a successful termination. The honorable member suggested that the advances to be made under the Dried Fruits Advances Act will not be repaid. He quoted figures, and suggested that it is possible that after next year’s harvest the producers of dried fruits at Renmark and along the Murray River will find themselves about £3 per ton short of the return necessary to cover their expenses. If their return is merely sufficient to cover expenses they will not be in a position to repay the advances made to tide them over their temporary difficulties. I have spoken to the honorable member on the subject, and he appreciates the statement I am now going to make in order that a wrong impression shall not be created, to the effect that it is more than possible that the advances made under the Dried Fruits Advances Act will not be repaid. This bill is on all-fours with the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill. The purpose of both is to secure the highest efficiency in production and marketing. In this connexion we have done” fairly well in regard to butter, but we might do much better, and there is no doubt that we could do better in regard to fruit. The purpose of the bill is to ensure that we shall process, pack, and market our dried fruits with such a high degree of efficiency, that once we get hold of the overseas market the quality and make-up of our .product shall be such as to enable us to hold that market permanently. We should be able to secure a better price for a- perfectly processed and properly packed article than for one so indifferently marketed as to destroy our reputation. If by better processing and marketing we can secure an increase of Id., or even an increase of 1/2 d . per lb. in the price received for our dried fruits, that would enable our producers, to whom advances are made, to pay back every penny advanced to them. I trust that the bill will be speedily passed, and that’ it may bring ‘ comfort to the people settled along the Murray River.
.- During the last and the present session this Parliament has frequently given assistance to the primary producers of Australia. I say that this Parliament, and not merely a section of it, has done so. In the course of the debate this afternoon two honorable members opposite stated that honorable members on this side wish only to protect manufacturers engaged in the secondary industries of the country, and are neglectful of the interests of the primary industries. That is not a fact. The_ records of this Parliament, if carefully scrutinized,, will show that every measure brought down by the Government for the encouragement or assistance of primary industries has received generous support, from honorable members on this side. All sections of the House have given generous assistance to the producers of apricots, peaches, and other fruits, by passing the Canned Fruits Bounty Bill. We have assisted the cattle raisers of Australia, although, perhaps, many of them did not require very much assistance, because whilst there are men in a small way amongst them, there are also many wealthy men engaged in the cattle industry. The bill providing for that assistance received a generous measure of support from the Opposition. We assisted the producers of dairy produce only as lately as within the last 24 hours. So eager were we to assist them that the
Prime Minister thought it necessary to keep honorable members sitting here for seventeen or eighteen hours to pass a measure for the purpose. Honorable members on this side did not object, although they know it would have been better for their health to be at home getting, their natural rest. So anxious were we to pass the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill that we continued to sit until nearly 7 o’clock this morning, assisting the Government to get the measure through. Recently this Parliament passed a measure providing for advances to hopgrowers. I am particularly interested in hops, because Tasmania is more concerned with the hop-growing industry than any other state. Although some relief has been given to the hop-growers, there is still room for further assistance, and I believe that within a few days, the Government will again be approached by representatives of the hopgrowers for additional relief. The bill under discussion has been introduced by the Government for the benefit of the supporters of the Country party. The Labour party do not object to it, but would point out that it is another of many illustrations of the manner in which the Government is mindful of the interests of the members of the Country party, whose votes are required to keep it in office. The bill conforms to the principle of socialism, which honorable members supporting the Government, are always. decrying. I have heard the .honorary Minister (Mr. ‘ Atkinson) when addressing his constituents, fulminate most eloquently against socialism, contending that it was ruining the country. Th» honorable member is now a member of the Ministry, which has for the past two years been introducing nothing else but socialistic measures. The supporters of the Government vote for anything that will benefit their constituents. According to the newspapers-, some people are unkind enough to say that such measures as this are bribes thrown out by the Government for support. The Prime Minister, in his famous speech at the show the other day, stated that certain sectional interests in this country were blackmailing the Government.
n. - What did he mean?
– The Prime Minister, in that reference, could have had in mind only one party - the. Country party. Although the supporters of the Government decry socialism, they are prepared to support a socialistic measure. I shall support the ‘bill, because I believe in giving every assistance to our national industries. I ‘do not care whether the relief be given *by the federal or the state governments, -because it is all a part of Australian socialism. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) this afternoon said :that there was no over-production of dried fruits in Australia. I shall quote a few figures to show the increase in the production of raisins and currants. The production in 1912-3 was 12,573 tons, and in 1913-4, 13,688 tons. In 1921-22, it was 26;607 tons, and in 1922-3, 29,609 tons.
– The Canadian market, with a special preference, would absorb the whole of our dried fruits.
Mr. -O’KEEFE. - That may be so, but JI -am replying to the honorable member’s assertion that there is no over-production of dried fruits in Australia. I maintain that, as far as the local market is concerned, there is over-production.
r. - We are only consuming 20 per cent, of the production.
– We ought to consume more. Taking the average for the years 1912-14 and 1921-23, the production of raisins and currants has increased by 114 per Gent. I shall now deal with the dried fruit exports, the figures ‘for raisins and currants alone not being available. In 4912, the exports from Australia were 25,457 centals, valued at £48,012; in 19’13, 24,786 centals, valued at £32,099-; and in 1914-15 23,138 centals, valued at £35,691. The total exports for those three years were 24,460 centals, valued at £38,600. It is interesting to note the tremendous increase within ten years in the quantity and value of dried fruits ^exported. In 1920-21 the exports from Australia were 195,987 centals, valued ait £806,134: in 1921-2, 259,557 centals, valued at £969,457; and in 1922-3, 360,480 centals valued at £1;232,I24. The total exports for those three years were 272,008 centals, valued at £l;002,572. Taking the average for the three years, 1912-3, 1914-5, and the three years 1920-21 to T922-3, the exports increased by 1,012 per cent., and the value of exports by 2,495 per cent. It is common knowledge that 4 out of every 5 tons of dried fruits produced -in Australia are exported. I do not know what other evidence is needed to show that there is an over-production o’f ‘dried fruits in Australia. This emphasizes the great need for increased local consumption. I am unable ‘to understand why the producers of dried fruits and their local organizations have not taken steps to bring about increased consumption. Surely some scheme could have been formulated to make dried fruits easily accessible to the public at a reasonable price. During this last ‘week tens of ‘thousands of people from all over Australia have congregated in Melbourne to view -the agricultural show and the exhibition of Australian manufactures, and no better opportunity could ‘have ‘been afforded to the dried fruit producers through their representatives to place their products before the public. I know that at the show small packets of dried fruits were .sold at an exorbitant rate, panning out at about 2s. 8d. a lb. Would not the poor settlers, many of them returned soldiers placed on the land by the State Governments, be delighted if anything approaching that price could be obtained for their products? The members of the Corner party, although they may not know it, always endeavour to limit the number of local consumers in Australia. The honorable member for Swan has done it, perhaps unwittingly. Hie is obsessed with the old idea of freetrade. He bows to the fetish of cheapness. It is his god. If freetrade were adopted in Australia, the settlers would soon be driven off the land. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said that we on this side of the House frequently direct against members of the Country party the gibe that ‘they want freetrade when they are buying, and protection when they are selling. That that is the attitude of those honorable members has been too painfully apparent throughout this Parliament. Although honorable members on this side of the House are hurt by some of the .unfair criticism that is directed against us by members of the Country party we, as good Australians and protectionists, tura the other cheek, and return good for evil. Frequently we are charged with being unmindful of the interests of the primary producers, but from the very inception of this Parliament, in 1901, no party has striven more consistently for the protection of all-Australian industries than has the ;party which at present occupies the Opposition benches. Probably there are more honorable- members on this sid’e of the House than on the Government side who have been directly associated with primary production, and because of the bitter experience that many of us had in our younger days when we were employed in rural industries, we are sympathetic towards the man upon the land. I can remember leaving at daylight to attend the threshing machine, and returning home at dusk. The painful experience many of us have had of the lot of the primary producers makes us ready at all times to do what we can to assist them. Probably when the Labour party occupies the ministerial bench it will bring forward measures that will give more practical aid to the primary producers than will this measure or that which was dealt with yesterday. We shall be concerned about the actual producer rather than the big export agencies and middlemeu who “farm the farmers.” But we shall also ensure as far as is practicable that the primary producers give to their employees adequate wages and reasonable conditions. The Prime Minister cannot charge honorable members of the Opposition with having unduly delayed the passage of this bill, and urge that as an excuse for again forcing the House to sit all night. At least, as many members on the Government side as on the Opposition side have participated in this debate. We have shown an honest and practical desire to increase the usefulness of the bill, and if amendments are moved in committee from this side I hope that the Prime Minister will for once be reasonable. We ask for no favours, but in the interests of the primary producers, whom the right honorable gentleman is always so anxious to placate, notwithstanding that yesterday he called them “blackmailers,” he should be prepared to consider on their merits any amendments, regardless of the party from which they emanate. “ I hope we shall not have a repetition of the experience of last night, when, after an amendment moved from this side of the House had been rejected by the Prime Minister, an almost identical amendment submitted by one of his own supporters was accepted by him. I support the bill, and hope that it will have a speedy passage.
.- Certain statements which have been made during the course of this debate may create a wrong impression in and beyond the Commonwealth. It has been said that the necessity for this bill arises out of the rejection by the British Parliament of the proposals for Imperial preference. I should regret very much if the people in the Old Country were wrongly led to believe that that statement is an accurate expression of the opinions of the majority of Australians.
r. - It is not true; it is only one of many reasons.
– I am sure it is not true, In this House last year I spoke at some length on the preference proposals, and expressed the opinion that Imperial preference was a delusion and a snare, and that its realpurpose was being misrepresented to the people of Australia. Whilst I believe that the Prime Minister was quite sincere in the views he expressed, I think those views were wrong. The endeavour to impose preference upon the people of Great Britain was neither wise nor fair. During the debates upon the resolutions of the Imperial and Economic Conferences I expressed myself in similar terms. I have consistently maintained that the increase of our export trade in dried fruits by means of British preference would be at the expense of the people of the United Kingdom. ;
– Oh, no !
r. - It meant the very opposite to that.
– My statement is confirmed by the suggestion made to-night that because the Imperial Parliament refused to grant preference it is necessary that Government assistance shall be given to the dried fruits industry. The inference is that if preference had been conceded this assistance would not have been necessary. From what source would assistance have come through a policy of preference? From the pockets of the people of Great Britain. That is the logical deduction to be drawn from the statement that has been made.
– That is right.
N. - For that reason I have always said that the attempt to get the English people to agree to a system of preference for Australian produce was unfair to them, and I rejoiced when the proposals were rejected by the Imperial Parliament.
– Thank God the honorable member is alone in that view.
N. - I may be alone in having the courage to express that opinion, but I am not alone in holding it, as the honorable member will discover in due course.
– It does not take much courage to express that view.
N. - I think it does. The failure of the negotiations to get British preference for Australian dried fruits is not the real cause of the difficulties which confront the industry. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) unconsciously stated the main cause, when he said that members of the Labour party had shown by their attitude lately that they are prepared to protect not only the secondary industries but also the primary industries. That is perfectly true. They have been forced into that attitude by the policy of extreme protection for secondary industries. When_artificial conditions in the manufacturing industries are created in that way, logically and inevitably, the primary industries, which have been detrimentally affected thereby, must be similarly propped and supported. Much of the anxiety that the protectionists in this chamber profess to have for the interests of the primary producers is based upon a growing conviction that the present artificial system of government will break down of its own weight, and that something must be done to give the primary industries subsidies similar to those received by the secondary industries. There must soon be an end to such a system, for it means helping certain sections of the. community at the expense of the consumers, who comprise the whole of the community. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) pertinently interjected a few evenings ago, when the interests of the manufacturers and importers were under consideration, “ You are forgetting the third and most important section - the community.” The present deplorable position into which the primary industries have been forced is due to the neglect of the interests of the consumers, for both primary and secondary industries have been artificially nurtured under conditions that prevent them from competing in the markets of the world. The fact that Parliament is now asked to deal with legislation for the granting of subsidies to various industries shows that the pressure is becoming so great that the system must eventually break down. As the honorable member for Denison truly observed, many of the measures dealt with of late have a distinctly socialistic tendency. No party that is anti-socialistic, can be strongly protectionist. I do not like the principle underlying the bill. We are enter-, ing upon a dangerous course which will have a had effect on the country as a whole. The people will have only themselves to blame if pursuance of this policy imposes upon the community a burden that it cannot bear. Such legislation can only result in an increase in government control, with the corollary of wasteful - expenditure. It has been stated that the purpose of this bill is to bring about greater efficiency. Whoever heard of that result being achieved by any system of government supervision or control ? It has never yet been done, and never will. As far as the measure means government interference in industry it will be mischievous to the country, and will fail to , accomplish any permanent good. I have never known a government proposal that has not led in the long run to large expenditure. There is no guarantee that the money to be invested will be. ultimately recouped. I realize that the primary producers need help, and I have every sympathy for them in their difficulties, but the proper way to assist them is to remove the artificial barriers to their progress. The fatal mistakes of the past are becoming patent to all.
.- Public prosperity may be likened to a tree. The agricultural industries may be regarded as the roots of the tree. Industry and commerce are its branches and leaves. When the roots are affected the leaves fall, the branches break, and the tree dies. The prosperity of the community is now threatened with the same fate. I do not know one primary industry in which those engaged are making ordinary wages. The policy of placing men on the land, without payable markets for their produce is just as futile as setting off in a . balloon to explore the moon. The state governments have gone to the expense of settling large numbers of producers on the land, and the Commonwealth Parliament is now asked to subsidize them in order to keep them engaged in their various pursuits. This means a loss of Government money, and what will be the ultimate result? Great Britain is sending ner sons to Australia. “We have undertaken to place them on the land, where we expect them to make at least 10s. a day. Britain, however, prefers to trade with countries such as Greece, where men are employed for lOd. a day. The sooner the Mother Country realizes how unfair she is being to her own sons settled in Australia, the better it will’ be for her and for us. She should be told this by some one in this House.
n. - The honorable member had better write to her about it.
– Honorable members opposite may grin, but how can the primary producers of Australia compete against the products of the poorly-paid workers of Europe ? Australia is entitled to proper treatment from the Old Land, ff we fail to receive it, we should tell Britain not to send her sons to this country at the present time, because we do not wish them to starve here, and curse the day when. they left England. To put them on the land under present conditions would be a fatal policy. I doubt whether we are developing our inheritance on practical lines. Australia is the best country on God’s earth. It is capable of producing almost any commodity. It not only has great climatic advantages, but it is peopled by the most able men in the world. Then, why do we not produce everything we require ? I would place an embargo on all imported goods that could be produced in the country. We shall never populate our land if we continue to send our primary products overseas to provide employment for the teeming millions of other countries. We are living entirely on borrowed money, with the result that our national indebtedness is rapidly increasing, and we must continue to borrow for the purpose of developmental works. We are governing this country on artificial lines, and if we are not very careful we shall lose it. We should change our methods of government, and develop a continuous stream of trade and commerce between the various dominions, otherwise the Empire must go under.
– The discussion has ranged over a considerable number of subjects. The fiscal issue has been touched upon, and somewhat exhaustive references have been made to Imperial preference. Reference has also been made to the principles which should guide the Government in assisting the industries of this country.
t. - The subject of socialism has been mentioned.
– All these matters have been regarded as germane to this measure, so that it must be considered one of fundamental importance. In enunciates certain principles, to which we must give effect if we are to take practical steps to improve the method of marketing overseas Australia’s surplus production. Regret has been expressed by some honorable members that no provision is made for .the marketing of dried fruit in Australia. It has been pointed out that there is a great difference between the prices of dried fruit here and overseas, and thatsome, who have refused to join the growers’ organization, which apportions the quota which its members must market overseas and the quota they must market locally, are selling all their produce in the more remunerative local market, thus forcing the organized growers to accept the less profitable export prices. The problem of these outside producers is a grave one, with which I dealt at length some time ago, when I also referred to the fact that, whereas formerly we had to market only one-fifth of our production overseas, now we have to export four-fifths of it. I wish to make it clear that the Government is not prepared to take action to control the local market, or to accept responsibility for schemes for price-fixing, or anything of that kind, within Australia.
– Is it a case of “ will not,” or “ can not”?
E.- The Government will not interfere with the local market, control of which’ is primarily the responsibility of the state governments. We recognize a. responsibility in respect to the export trade, and this measure is confined to that branch of the industry. I am confident, from my investigations in Great Britain, that the operation of this measure will be much more effective than many persons now expect. Having seen the conditions under which our dried fruits are marketed in Great Britain, I feel certain that the issuing of licences to control the marketing arrangements will, in itself, be a considerable help to the industry, but if, in addition, the great bulk of the producers voluntarily place their dried fruits under the control of the export board, as I believe they will, in order to ‘benefit by the financial arrangements which the Government propose to make, immense advantage will accrue to them. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) complained that he was obliged te- discuss this measure withouthaving before him the supplementary measure which is to be introduced. Seeing that, in my second-reading speech on this bill I explained the provisions of the supplementary bill, I do not think that he has any real ground for complaint. The Government has introduced this bill for the reason that it realizes the paramount necessity of improving our overseas marketing arrangements, and I believe that every honorable member who appreciates the necessity for a better system of overseas * marketing, will support it. I disagree with the view of the honorable member for Angas that there is not a very great market available for us in Great Britain. He referred to the increasing dried fruit, production of California, and the Mediterranean countries.
– I said that we shall have to compete with those countries.
E. - There can be no question .about that. If we could establish ourselves in the British market we should have available a larger market than we could at present continuously supply, and we could safely develop the Australian dried fruit industry to a. still greater extent. References have been made to the efforts of Senator Wilson and myself in Great Britain last year to obtain a preference for Australian dried fruits. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) went so far as to say that he was glad that we had been unsuccessful, and that he regretted that we had made any attempt to obtain British preference in respect of these products. 1 disagree entirely with his view. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) rightly contended that as we are settling a number of British migrants in Australia it would be ad vantageous to Great Britain to assist us to use her markets. It is highly important to Great Britain to find a market for us, for by enabling us to increase our population she would strengthen the Empire. The honorable member for Perth suggested that we had asked the people of Great Britain to bear an extra burden by requesting the British Government to give us a preference, but that is not the case. At no time has “the suggestion been made that extra taxation should be imposed upon the British people in order to make possible the preference in respect of Australian dried fruits. The granting of’ such a preference would probably lead to a reduction in the price of dried fruit in Great Britain, and it is certain that no increase could be justified by the granting of it. Our production of dried fruits is increasing enormously, and I informed the. British authorities, when I requested a preference from them, that if we could not find a market in Great Britain we should be obliged to look for one somewhere else. I also said that as it had been our desire throughout our history to increase our trade with the Mother Country, it was only fair that she should assist us by granting us some measure of preference in respect of our surplus production. Having failed, so far, to obtain any assistance from her in respect of the marketing of our dried fruits, we have a very serious position to face. References have been made during this debate to our negotiations for a trade treaty with Canada. Some time ago the Canadian Government intimated that it was prepared, under certain conditions, to give us a substantial preference in respect of dried fruits. I have promised the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) that before the end of the session I shall make a statement on the whole position, and that is all that I oan say on the subject at the moment. I can tell the’ House now that the negotiations -are still proceeding, and that the subject has not reached finality, but I shall say no more at the present time.
– That is hardly fair to the House, for it is over two years since the offer was made by Canada.
E.- The negotiations, I admit, have been continued for a long time, and when I make a statement I shall give the House all the facts, and shall place honorable members in a position to judge for themselves of the wisdom of the action taken.
– Will the honorable gentleman make that statement before the session closes ?
E.- I have already said that I shall make it before the House rises, and I now go so far as to say that I hope to be able to make it in the near future.
– I thought the session would close in the near future.
E. -I do not hold myself responsible for what the honorable member may think upon that subject. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) referred to certain advances made under a recent act. That act provided for advances to be made to the dried-fruit growers on a monthly basis up to the end of the year.He asked whether those advances were a bounty or an advance, and indicated that there was some misunderstanding in the fruit-growing districts regarding the need for making repayments. He quoted the views of one newspaper circulating in the fruit-growing districts, which stated that the money was in the nature of an advance. The act makes it quite clear that the money is not a gift or a bounty, but is an advance that is secured upon the crop for the coming year. It provides that -
The grower shall repay the advance with interest at the rate of Six per centum per annum.
The repayment of the advance and the payment of interest thereon shall be a charge on the proceeds of thesale of the dried fruits produced by the grower in the year One thousand nine hundred and twenty-five after the costs of production and marketing (not exceeding such amountas the Minister determines) of those dried fruits have teen provided for.
The conditions under which the advance is made are set out in the act beyond the possibility of misunderstanding. The conditions under which the money is advanced are also set out in the application forms issued to the growers. The regulations under the act have now been issued. Application forms have been prepared, and have been sent to the persons entitled to the advances. These persons are required to sign an undertaking, the first clause of which relates to how they will spend the money, the second contains a promise to repay the advance with interest, and the third is an undertaking to deliver the fruit produced in the year to a packing organization or export organization approved by the Minister. The person receiving the advance is also required to allow proper inspection of his property. Various questions have been raised as to what will be the position of the industry after the next crop has been harvested and the advances have been repaid. It is impossible for any one to say at the present time what it will be then. That will entirely depend upon the market and the prices obtained during the coming year. The indications are that the condition of the industry six or nine months hence will be much better than it. has been during the past season. If the bulk of the fruit is placed in the hands of the control board, that board should be able to make very substantial reductions in the cost of marketing. Every one mustagree that the present expenses of marketing are extremely high, and that there is considerable scope for the reduction of them if the board does its work efficiently, The board should also be able to organize better methods of distribution in Great Britain. The bill is one which to a great extent must be dealt with in committee, and I trust that it will be passed at the earliest possible moment, and that honorable members will give full consideration to the basis upon which the exportable produce of this industry shall be marketed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives in this bill.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I take advantage of the motion to mention a personal matter. Last night I was at variance with the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Bamford), dissenting from what I regarded as his conflicting rulings. Some discussion took place, during which hot words were used, though there was no ill feeling underlying them. The Melbourne Argus this morning has attributed to me a statement that I do not think I made. Two or three honorable members whom I have asked, say that I did not make it. My feelings on the matter at issue were distinct from my opinion regarding the capacity of the gentleman who occupies the position of Chairman of Committees. The statement to which I take exception is that I dissented from the Chairman’s. ruling on the ground that he was not fit to rule. I believe that I did not make any such statement, but that I made it perfectly clear that my disagreement with the Chairman was on the ground that he had given conflicting rulings.
Watt). - In the absence of the Chairman of Committees, I should like to say that the characteristically generous statement of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) will be appreciated by him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240924_reps_9_109/>.