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Friday, 19 February 1932

Mr LYONS (Wilmot) (Prime Minister and Treasurer) . - In reply to the request of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), I. will undertake to telegraph to the Governments of the distant States a synopsis of the Financial Agreement Enforcement Bill. The Governments of the nearer States will be furnished with a copy of the measure.

Reference has been made to a promise I made some time ago that I would visit the Queensland sugar districts, and to statements that I have made that the sugar agreement should be reviewed. I do not propose to diseuss the merits or demerits of that agreement at the moment. I have promised the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. * Corser) that I Will visit the Queensland sugar districts at the first reasonable opportunity. I now promise the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that I shall look at this whole subject from an Australian stand-point. I intend to take every opportunity I get to inspect many industries with which I have not a first-hand knowledge. I shall visit, not only the sugar districts, but also the districts in which sugar is extensively used. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) would like me to visit the districts where the unfortunate grape-growers to whom he has referred are living. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) has. said that the statements that I have made with regard to the sugar agreement have impaired the confidence of the canegrowers. My statements' should not have had that effect. As the honorable member for Wide Bay has stated, no action will be taken by me to destroy an agreement entered into with the approval of this Parliament. But I cannot accept responsibility for any unreasonable interpretation that may have been placed upon my published statements. I emphasize now that I shall consider this subject from an Australian standpoint. If there is to be any review of the sugar agreement, it must be on a voluntary basis. No advantage would follow an immediate inspection of the sugar districts by me, for, after all, it would not matter very much whether I think that sugar should be sold at a particular price; that is a matter which should be determined by persons thoroughly qualified to express an opinion. At a suitable time I propose to convene a conference of all the parties to the sugar agreement, to reconsider its terms with the object of granting some relief to the sugar consumers of Australia.

Mr Forde - Will that conference be held before the expiration of the threeyear period of the current agreement?

Mr LYONS - -Undoubtedly. But any revision of the agreement must be voluntary and not compulsory. A contract has been entered into with the sugar-growers and any variation of it must be made by agreement. I recognize that a binding contract has been made.

Mr Prowse - Other binding contracts have been made and broken : that with the bondholders, for instance.

Mr Lane - Has any communication come from the cane-growers which suggests that they would agree to a voluntary revision of the agreement?

Mr LYONS - No. The suggestion that this should be done was made by this Government which is representative of all the industries, and of both the producersand consumers of Australia.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

House adjourned at1.7 p.m.

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