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Friday, 20 August 1920


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) .- I do not complain of the honorable member bringing up this case ; indeed, I am rather glad he has mentioned it, for an opportunity is afforded me of showing how we have tried, as far asis humanly possible, to meet the demands of everybody fairly and squarely. I think I shall be able to show that if there is any man in Melbourne who has had any favoritism at all in the distribution ofsugar, it is this particular man; what ismore, since the deliveries of sugar were resumed, he has had his fair quota.


Mr Mathews - He denies that.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I dare say he does.


Mr McGrath - What has he had?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I can tell the honorable member that it was not the quantity stated by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). I took the trouble this morning to see both the merchant who supplied this man, and the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who brought the dockets to show what the deliveries have been. There is no doubt as to the accuracy of the information I can give the House, or as to the inaccuracy of the information given by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.

In the first place, I wish to state one or two general considerations. Owing to the lateness of the Queensland season, which was entirely due to seasonal causes, over which the Government have no control, deliveries of Queensland raw sugar to the refineries have been much lower than usual, and we have had for & considerable time past difficulties in shipping. One of these difficulties was that a boat we had chartered for delivery of sugar in Melbourne scraped its bottom when trying to get into some port, with the result that its cargo was not delivered in time. Such circumstances as these it is impossible to control; and we have been trying to get along as well as possible with- a very short supply. It naturally follows that not a single distributor of sugar, or manufacturer, has got his full quantity. The only people who have had their full supplies, according to the orders which they always give, are those who have the control of hospitals; and, under the circumstances, nobody will complain of that discrimination. It follows, of course, that otherwise we have had to give short deliveries of sugar all round.


Mr Mathews - Nobody can growl ,at that.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - But what we endeavour to do, as the orders come in, and the quotas are allotted from the very limited amount of sugar we have, is to serve each man in turn; as the orders carnie along every man is being given his quota.


Mr Mathews - Who governs the orders ?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The distributor.


Mr Mathews - Of course, and he does not do it fairly.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - As the orders come in the merchants send them on to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Everybody knows that the company delivers sugar direct from its own refinery; the sugar does not go through the merchants' stores except in comparatively few instances. As each order comes along the quota is allotted from the very limited stock.


Mr Mathews - That is not a fact.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The company 'meets all these orders in their sequence, and there could not be anything fairer.


Mr Mathews - That is so; but orders are kept back.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The only orders that are kept back are those which come in subsequently to the previous orders. To give honorable members some idea of the difficulties under which we have been working; I shall give some dates. On the 1st June the Tarraville refinery stopped work owing to the engine-drivers and firemen's strike, and ceased taking orders from both manufacturers and merchants. Every order, that was then in was fulfilled according to the quota we were able to allot. On the 29th June the refinery started again, and on the 30th resumed taking orders from merchants and manufacturers, unexecuted orders on the books also being proceeded with. I ought to explain here that, owing to the extreme shortage, it was impossible to introduce a new system at once, and allow everybody to go direct to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company if desired.


Mr McGrath - On what were the supplies based - on the orders "or on the supplies previously?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The orders were fulfilled according to the annual consumption of the customer, whoever he might be, and we have been obliged to do that as the only means by which we can get a basis.


Mr Mathews - That is quite fair if it is done, but it is not done.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - It is done. On the 21st July the refinery stopped altogether owing to the exhaustion of raw sugar we had just a few pounds that were kept for the hospitals. I think there was a little reserve kept for the milk condenseries, for otherwise we should have lost a very large amount of one of our primary products.


Mr Austin Chapman - Why was there no sugar?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I have already endeavoured to explain- that the shortage was due to the lateness of the Queensland season, and to the delay in the delivery of something like 6,000 tons owing to an accident to a vessel. The man referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports got his half-ton of sugar on the 9 th July.


Mr Mathews - After waiting weeks while others were being supplied.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) -And if anything he got that sugar out of his turn.


Mr Mathews - We deny that.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - But he did.


Mr Mathews - He did not.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - He got it out of his turn, and solely because the honorable member was so persistent in his cause.


Mr McGrath - Has he had any sugar since the 9th July?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Yes, he has. On the 26th July the refinery ceased taking orders from all manufacturers. We never fulfilled one, but small lots of raw sugar were delivered as received direct from Queensland; that is, rather than start the refinery on very small lots we delivered raw sugar. The refinery was unable to start again until 9th August. We then had only very short supplies of raw sugar, and orders were accepted and delivered as supplies continued, according to the proportion of sugar we had. To give some idea of the very narrow margin on which we were working; I might say that at 5 p.m. on the 18th of that month all the sugar we had for the supply of Melbourne, Victoria generally, and part of Tasmania, was 270½ tons. When I tell honorable members that we have in the vicinity of Melbourne alone some 4,000 distributors of sugar, and that this particular man is in a very small way, taking only half-ton lots, they can imagine how much his quota would be; nevertheless, he got six bags.


Mr Atkinson - Was that also due to political influence?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Merchants tell me that very largely owing to the fuss he kicked up he got a little more than he was entitled to.


Mr Mathews - How about those who are competing against this man, and who get supplies?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) -There is not a single person who gets more in proportion to this man; indeed, if anybody has got more in proportion, according to the allotment, it is he. The sugar administration has, I think, done its very best to meet the peculiar and very difficult cir cumstances, and there is certainly no cause forcomplaint on the part of this man.

Question resolved in the negative.







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