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Friday, 19 May 1939

Mr FROST - The article went on to quote Mr. "Walker as having said -

The Prime Minister and Mr. Bell, M.H.R., ure both concerned in a shocking scandal. They hoth represent big potato-growing electorates in Tasmania,

Now. that Sir Frederick Stewart is a member of the Cabinet, the potatogrowing industry in Australia is not safe. Evidently the present United Australia party Cabinet is in favour of what he intends to do. His opinion is that nothing but complete and permanent removal of the embargo will be satisfactory. Should that occur, Australian potato-growers will be at the mercy of those who engage in dumping. I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that our potato-growers have not done well for a number of years.

Mr Pollard - .Their living has been most precarious.

Mr FROST - It has. I started one of my boys on a place in 1936. His first crop of 50 to 60 tons he was unable to sell because the price offering would not defray the cost of the bags, and he had to feed the potatoes to stock. Many thousands of tons which have been placed on the Sydney market have not paid for the cost of digging. The Minister for Health and Social Services should have come forward when prices were low, to see what could be done for the growers. He bases his argument on one fortnight in Sydney when the market was bare of vegetables', and ignores the fact that during the same period green vegetables were at practically famine prices peas and beans realizing ls. per lb. There is now a glut of peas and beans on the Sydney market, and the price of potatoes has fallen to a figure that is within the reach of all. "Who got the " rake-off " when potatoes were at a high price ? Did "the growers get it ? They did not want it. The honorable gentleman played into the hands of some speculators in Sydney. The Tasmanian growers were digging their potatoes as soon as they ripened. It is certain that no grower will leave his potatoes in tho ground when they are fetching over £20 a !ton, if they are fit to market. The Sydney newspapers published the statement that 80 per cent, of the potatoes landed from Tasmania were unfit for human consumption. My inspection of a shipment on the wharf proved to me that there was no truth in that statement. Inspectors told me that they were not responsible for it, and that some agency was making every effort to ruin the industry in order that the embargo on the importation of New Zealand potatoes might be lifted. They expected to be able to buy thom cheaply and make large profits on their sale. These are the people whom the Minister was sheltering; they forced up the prices and made large profits. I admit that the Tasmanian growers received a very high price for a couple of weeks. They were not looking for it, and did not want it, but they received it, not because there was a scarcity, of supplies, but because speculators desired to force the price so high that the embargo on the importation of New Zealand potatoes would be removed. The Government should state definitely that that embargo will not be removed-, because it has been proved that Australian growers can supply all requirements.

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