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Tuesday, 8 November 1938

Mr FROST (Franklin) .- The Minister is only partly right in regard to convictions. Under the Commerce Act there is the right of appeal to a customs officer in the State, or to a court of law. A grower knows that when he has had convictions recorded against him by inspectors, he has very little chance of winning an appeal in a court of law.

Mr Archie Cameron - But that is where the honorable gentleman wishes to send him.

Mr FROST - If an inspector wishes to victimize a grower, he can do so. I have been associated with this trade for a number of years. At one annual fruit, conference in Hobart, in, I think, 1933 or 1.934, 1 had a good deal to say in criticism of the inspection of fruit, which at that time was fairly bad. When I left the conference, seven or eight growers from the Huon fruit-growing district said to me, " Change your brand ". When I asked why I should do sothey replied, " Change it next year, or you will get ' copped ' ". I said, " What do you mean " ? and was told, " They will have a conviction against you if you do not change your brand. We agree with e very word that you have said to-day, but you will be victimized next year ".I said I do not care whether they victimize me or not, I am going through with it ". In the following year I made about 40 shipments. In the first boat I shipped 100 bushels of Ripston Pippins. The packer had packed 107 bushels, and asked whether he would ship the lot. I. replied, "No, we are restricted to 100 bushels; send only that quantity'". That shipment was passed. On the following day I proposed to ship 93 bushels of another variety, and to make up the balance with the seven bushels of Ripston Pippins that had been left over, but the seven bushels were condemned. In the middle of the season I submitted 80 bushels of Cleopatras, and was told that they were of irregular size. I rang the inspector, who toldme there was not a blemish on the fruit but that some were larger than others. That was the second conviction. While on an election campaign, a further 93 bushels were packed, with an additional seven bushels of Democrats to make up the shipment, but the seven bushels were rejected. The authorities were determined that the three convictions which must precede a penalty should he recorded against me. When I returned home after the campaign I decided to have my case tried by the Collector of Customs. When that officer had heard the evidence of my grower and packers, ho said, " It seems strange that you were convicted on that". The seven eases had not been touched ; they were still in the lorryman's sheds. They had been picked out of 200 bushels. I issued the challenge, "I will drive you in my car to the orchard, and if you can find one apple affected with black spot in the 200 bushels I shall give the lot to charity". That challenge was not accepted, and I was fined £1. If a grower stands on his rights, he does not always get justice. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has referred to a number of other boards. Those that he mentioned deal not with a perishable product but with an article that can be kept. Once fruit has been taken off the wharf, it cannot be reinspected. Other growers have told me that they have been harassed in the same manner. Last year, certain growers who had been convicted seven or eight times were not fined, although I had been. Other growers with seven or eight convictions were not even questioned. Yet it is contended that there is no risk of injustice.

Mr Archie Cameron - That was not the action of a board.

Mr FROST - The board will be told by the inspectors of contraventions by the shippers of fruit.

Mr Archie Cameron - Is there any appeal to a court of law from the decision of the Tasmanian Fruit Board ?

Mr FROST - The board does not have to deal with the export of the fruit.

Mr Archie Cameron - It must have some authority.

Mr FROST - It has authority only to give an opinion in regard to fruit on the wharf; it has nothing to do with the export of the fruit, or with the refusal of a licence. Last year, members of the board took me down to the wharf and I disagreed with some of the decisions of the inspectors.

Mr Archie Cameron - Can the honorable gentleman cite a case in which a licence has been cancelled by the Department of Commerce?

Mr FROST - The Department of Commerce has never had the power to cancel a licence in the past, but this measure provides statutory power for cancellation under certain conditions. Any man who criticizes the inspection of fruit can be victimized. There is sufficient power to enable the authorities to prevent a grower from exporting his fruit, and thus ruin him. I can produce letters from leading fruit brokers in Great Britain, informing me that I had obtained the best prices for my fruit. My averages have carried me through for the last 30 years. I have a good name on the English market, because I send only good fruit there, yet I have been victimized by the officials. I trust that the committee will agree to the amendment, and thus give the grower an opportunity to prove the justice of his case. If it could be proved that a mau had been contravening the act by shipping bad fruit, he would not appeal, but if his conviction were merely for the purpose of victimization because he had aired his views at fruit conferences, or had aroused the antagonism of inspectors, he should have the opportunity to get redress.

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