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Friday, 19 May 1939

Mr FROST (Franklin) .- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) with regard to the Australian potato-growers. That honorable gentleman is familiar with the circumstances of the industry and is well qualified to express an opinion on existing conditions. Potato-growers in the northwest of Tasmania and, in fact, throughout Australia are much perturbed because the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), who was instrumental in stirring up the people of Sydney against the embargo on New Zealand potatoes, is now a member of the Cabinet. The agitation for the removal of the embargo was due to pressure from New South Wales citrus-growers who desired to market their products in New Zealand. But it is a gross misrepresentation of the position to say that there is a complete embargo on the importation of citrus fruits to the sister dominion. For many years it has been possible to send this class of fruit from Australia to New Zealand. Last year, a larger quantity than ever before was shipped from South Australia. The embargo applies only to fruit. grown in districts which are not declared free of the fruitfly pest. Whether or not the embargo on New Zealand potatoes be removed, the shipping of citrus fruits from Australia to that country will continue. But what is going to happen after the Wilmot byelection ? That is the important question. I propose to read to honorable members a newspaper report of a statement made by the honorable member for Parramatta, now the Minister for Health and Social Services, in Sydney some time ago -

Nothing hut a complete and permanent removal of the embargo will be satisfactory. Anything else Will be just tinkering with the problem.

I ask the honorable gentleman whether he still stands up to that statement, or whether he was merely trying to tickle the ears of his electors when he was not a member of the Ministry ?

Mr Curtin - The inclusion of the honorable member for Parramatta in the Ministry, after that statement, is tantamount to a declaration that the Tasmanian potato-growers do not count.

Mr FROST - When replying to remarks which I made on grievance day, the Minister said that the Government approved of what he had done. I read an extract stating that he had accused the Speaker and the late Prime Minister of being connected with a racket in potatoes. I would say the honorable gentleman should not have accused anybody of being in a racket, although there was no doubt that there was a racket in New South Wales at that time. The high price of potatoes recently occurred between seasons, following a serious drought in potato-growing areas throughout the Commonwealth. The price of potatoes in Sydney to-day is from £7 to £10 a ton for ordinary lots, and about £12 a ton for choice lots.

Sir Frederick Stewart - The New Zealand growers cannot sell potatoes in Australia under that price.

Mr FROST - The Minister knows perfectly well that if the embargo on New Zealand potatoes were lifted, Dominion growers would dump their surplus crops to the detriment of our growers in Australia. The Sydney merchants, whom the Minister has been championing would take advantage of the position and make no effort to obtain Australian-grown potatoes. Because of the embargo on the importation of potatoes Western Australia was able to sell at a payable price many hundreds of tons of potatoes in the eastern States this year. An agitation against the embargo was supported by the Minister, and as a result, the embargo was temporarily removed; but only one and a half tons was imported from New Zealand and 70 per cent, of the shipment was not fit for human consumption. It could not pass the inspector. The Minister claimed that the removal of the embargo would force Tasmanian growers to dig their large stock of potatoes out of thepits and put them on the market.

Sir Frederick Stewart - The honorable member knows that that is not correct.

Mr Mahoney - The Minister, said it in Sydney.

Mr FROST - The Sydney Daily News. of the 13th March last, published the following: -

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