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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Senator KEANE (VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I have seen a statement attributed to Senator Crawford which appeared in that journal on the 1st June regarding the sugar industry. I assure honorable senators of the strict attention which is, and has always been, paid by the Commonwealth Government to the sugar industry, and the close contact which is being maintained with leading persons in the industry. As a result of this the Government has a keen appreciation and full knowledge of the present position. With regard to the 1941 crop, I am pleased to state that the whole of the sugar has now been moved from Queensland ports. The harvesting of the 1942 crop will commence within the next few days, and my department, in collaboration with the Department of Labour and National Service, is making every effort to ensure that sufficient man-power for both canecutting and milling is available. A senior officer of the Department of Labour and National Service recently conducted a full investigation' of the manpower position in the sugar-growing areas. Provision has been made whereby workers engaged in the sugar industry may transfer from a protected industry provided that they have been engaged in the sugar industry during the last two years. Furthermore, a seasonal register is being compiled for this type of labour. It is not expected that the 1942 crop will be as large as the 1941 crop. Nevertheless, it will be more than adequate to supply Australia's full needs, both for household consumption and manufacturing requirements, and will leave a quantity available for export. In addition, emergency stocks of sugar have been built up throughout the country. Public statements of the nature of that made by Senator Crawford might have an alarming effect on the general public, and might cause a rush of panic buying, thus creating an artificial shortage of sugar. As honorable senators will remember, there was an unprecedented volume of buying by the public some months ago, due to a fear of a sugar famine. I made public announcements at the time reassuring the public on the sugar supply position, and am happy to state that the demand is almost back to normal. With regard to the 1943 crop, preparations for which are now being made, I assure honorable senators that my department is closely watching the position, and is doing everything practicable to ensure that the sugar yield will be as high as possible.

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