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Friday, 19 February 1932

Mr GABB (Angas) .- The reduction of 10s. per ton in the price paid for grapes by wine-makers who desire to secure the bounty on export wine is not justified under present circumstances. It may be argued that the bounty has been reduced, and, that, therefore, relief should be afforded to the purchasers of the grapes, but as last spring there was a very heavy frost throughout the main wine-grape growing districts -of South Australia, and very dry conditions, practically amounting to a drought, have been experienced since, the growers will be hit hard enough without having to suffer the additional loss of 1 0s. per ton in the price of their product. Omitting the name of the firm mentioned, 1 shall read portion of a letter that I have received. It indicates the position of the grape-growers in South Australia, owing to their treatment by some of the wine-makers -

Information has come to hand, which we have every reason to believe is authentic, that certain wine-makers are endeavouring to have the price of grapes reduced by 10 per cent, from the price fixed by the Minister for Trade and Customs for the i931 vintage. We beg to point out that such action is unjustified. Growers here are struggling for their very existence. Those who delivered grapes to ... in 1931 have not yet received any payment whatsoever for same, nor has any one been given any form of negotiable security. The last instalment of 25 per cent, for 1930 was paid only a few weeks ago, and without interest, while, in many cases, interest has had to be paid by growers to the banks on overdrafts. This is the true position.

I notice from a press report - and no statement has been made by the Minister other than that published in the press - that, in future, it is intended that the wine-makers who receive the bounty and do not pay for the grapes, shall pay interest at, I think, 6 per cent. If that is thu intention of the department, I hope that the Minister will make a clear statement to that effect, and that the department will see that the arrangement is strictly observed.

The grape-growers last year were so much in the hand3 of the winemakers that they had to process many tons of their own grapes in order to dispose of them ; but this year, I hope, their grapes will be sought, and that is one reason why I object to the 10s. per ton reduction at a stage when the winemakers may need the grapes. In regard to the Beaume test3, I hope that some of the things which I was informed were done last year will not be done this year, but that the, growers will be paid in accordance with the tests and be given an opportunity to check those tests. The Minister stated, in answer to my question to-day, that one of the reasons for the reduction in the price was the tremendous stocks of spirit held in this country, but it seems to me that the reduction will benefit certain sections of growers along the Murray, at the expense of the grapegrowers in the older districts of South Australia. I point out to the Minister and the House that the old growers in various parts of South Australia were penalized by the development, under government pressure, of grape growing areas along the Murray, and in other parts of Australia. It seems to me that it is hardly just at this stage, when the growers in the older districts are carrying light crops, that they should be compelled to accept a reduction of 10s. per ton in the price of- their grapes. I realize that the die has been cast, but I regret that a reduction, which I do not consider to be necessary, has been made.

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