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Thursday, 26 August 1920

Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), the unsatisfactory distribution ofsugar, which is a matter of consider able importance to very many people. For some time past difficulty has been experienced by the co-operative societies in getting supplies, and although the matter has been previously brought to the notice of the Minister ground for complaint still exists. For instance, the Cessnock society is unable to get anything like a fair and adequate supply, and the secretary in a letter which I have received to-day says -

I wish to bring under your notice that for several weeks we have only been able to obtain very small quantities of sugar in comparison to the turnover of the above society, which for grocery only is at the rate of approximately £85,000 per annum.

From observation and information received, I am of the opinion that several storekeepers in this district are receiving larger quantities of sugar than we do, and their turnover is considerably less.

Our normal requirements are approximately 4 tons per week, and for the last six weeks we have only received 7½ tons to satisfy the requirements of 1,500 families (approximately 24 tons). When you take into consideration that we supply practically the whole of the requirements of the above families it must be brought very forcibly before you that several of our shareholders are without sugar.

For the last six months we have obtained the whole of the sugar that we have received from the New South Wales Co-operative Wholesale Society, Newcastle.

Personally, the writer would like to know if it is on this account that the society's sugar is received in such small quantities?

I have been requested by certain members of the Committee to point out that in their opinion we are not receiving a fair distribution of sugar, and several shareholders are thinking about taking industrial action unless we receive sugar in larger quantities in the future than we have in the last few weeks.

Trusting that you are in a position so that you will be able to take steps and try to get this matter rectified, and stop any thought of industrial action.

I hope that some effort will be made to reach finality in this matter. The secretary of the society says that he does not know whether the reason for his society not receiving greater supplies is the fact that it obtains its sugar direct from the co-operative wholesale company, but I know, and I think the Minister knows, that when that company was established some years ago it supplied all the co-operative societies in the Newcastle district, and it found the greatest difficulty in getting any supply at all. Even when it did get a supply it was denied the 2½ per cent. rebate which was given by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to other customers. I do not know whether that anomaly has been rectified.

Mr.Watkins. - The Minister promised me that it would be rectified.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - So far as I know, every customer who takes upwards of a specified quantity receives the same rate of discount.

Mr CHARLTON - It must be evident that the wholesale co-operative company would take the specified quantity, because it is a very big concern. There is another difficulty which suggests that for some reason or other the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is working in harmony with other storekeepers to the detriment of the people interested in the co-operative society. Local storekeepers who have not anything like as big a turnover as has the co-operative society are yet able to get greater supplies than are allowed to the society, which is thus placed at a disadvantage. Many customers who require sugar are obliged to go elsewhere, and the storekeeper says to them, " I cannot supply you with sugar unless you purchase your other goods from me."

Mr Maxwell - That is what the storekeepers do say.

Mr CHARLTON - That ought not to be permitted. The Government have control of sugar supplies, and there should be no differentiation between a co-operative store and any other. Every store should get, in proportion to its requirements, a fair share of the supplies available. There can be no complaint if that is done, but it would appear that some traders are able to get adequate supplies of sugar while others can get nothing like the quantity required for the purposes of meeting the demands of their customers. Co-operative stores are particularly affected, especially the wholesale co-operative concerns, which have recently been established in an effort to cut out the middleman, but which are meeting with great obstacles. As the Government control the distribution of sugar, this obstacle at least could be removed. The Government ought to be able to tell the Sugar Refining Company to act fairly, and in the event of a shortage to distribute the amount of sugar availablein proper proportion to all traders.. I appeal to the Minister to put the supply of sugar on a more satisfactory basis.

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