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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) . - I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) briefly to the situation that has arisen in the marketing of blue peas. Late in March, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) gave me an assurance that the Government would take the whole of the crop next year, whether it amounted to 6,000 tons or more, and would pay not less than 15s. a bushel. In reply to questions by Senator Herbert Hays, the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce said that the Government would take up to 7,000 tons next year, but he did not state what might happen to the surplus if there should be any. The present position is that if there is a surplus it will be left to the merchants unless the Government is prepared to take the whole crop. The merchants will 'have two courses open to them. One course will be to pay £1 or £1 5s. - they could pay £1 7s. - a bushel, thus ruining the Pea Board, while blackguarding the Government for robbing the growers. On the other hand, they could say, " "We will give you no more than 5s. or 10s. a bushel ". in which event the growers would lose proportionately. If the Government is going to buy any of the peas it should take the whole crop, as it has done with wheat, barley, apples, and many other commodities. It cannot take part of the crop and say, "You can do what you like with the rest".

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - "Was it an acquisition, or a pool?

Senator AYLETT - It was an acquisition this year. Furthermore, I direct attention to the fact that peas imported from New Zealand have been sold in Sydney at 28s. 6d. a bushel. That information has been given by the Minister in reply to questions.

Senator Keane - "Who is buying them ?

Senator AYLETT - I am concerned not as to who is buying the peas, but as to the price they are bringing. If the Government allows the New Zealand peagrowers to profit by the Australian market conditions to the extent of receiving approximately 25s. a bushel, and cuts down the Tasmanian growers to 15s. a bushel, it will not be acting justly. The anomaly could easily be rectified by putting the New Zealand growers on the same footing as the Tasmanian growers. The Government could .bring the Prices Commissioner into the picture to fix the price at which peas will be sold in Australia. It is not our concern if the merchants choose to gamble, nor is it the concern of the growers.

If the growers had been allowed to continue to complete sales for which they had already contracted, they would have received £220,000 for the 220,000 bushels of crop, but as the Government has acquired the crop for 15s. a bushel, the growers have lost £55,000. Whilst the Tasmanian growers are making that contribution to the war effort, the Government is allowing New Zealand peas to be sold on the Australian market at 28s. 6d. a bushel. I wish to know whether the Government will acquire the entire crop next year at a fixed price, or only a part of the crop, leaving the remainder to the merchants, who will thus be able to break the Pea Board. Also, I wish to know whether the Government will continue to allow New Zealand peas to be sold in this country at 28s. 6d. a bushel. I am not going to remain silent while the Australian growers suffer and the New Zealand growers benefit. To show how tricky the crop is, the Prices Commissioner, with the assistance of the departments of agriculture, estimated that the crop this year would be in the vicinity of 10,000 tons. However, the early estimates have not been realized, and this years crop will total 5,900 tons, or slightly more than half of the crop on which the price was based.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - What has the Prices Commissioner to do with the matter, if the crop has been acquired by the Government?

Senator AYLETT - The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beasley) acquired the crop, and asked the Prices Commissioner to fix a price for it.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Then he exceeded his powers.

Senator AYLETT - The Prices Commissioner fixed the price for Australian peas at 15s. a bushel, but New Zealand peas showed a return of 25s. a bushel to the growers. That discrimination is not just.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I advise the growers to consult a lawyer.

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