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Friday, 19 May 1939

Sir FREDERICK STEWART - That may be so. The implication behind much that has been said during the last half hour is that this Government in some mysterious and subtle way is endeavouring to use its customs embargo powers for party political purposes.

Mr Frost - Hear, hear!

Sir FREDERICK STEWART - I suggest that those making these suggestions would be well advised to hold a little caucus meeting with some of their own colleagues, because my recollection is sufficiently clear to recall that within the last fortnight one not very inconsequential member of the Opposition asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, if the Government would take action in the direction of removing the embargo on New Zealand potatoes in order to' prevent the exploitation of consumers in Australia. My recollection goes back a little further than two weeks. It goes back two years, when another rather prominent member of the Labour party, during the course of his visit to New Zealand was unwise enough to suggest that a change of government in Australia would mean a. change of attitude towards the importation of New Zealand potatoes into Australia. What is the use of this sort of propaganda? Obviously, the whole subject has no party implication. A suggestion was made by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) while I was absent from the chamber that action had already been taken by the Government. That is entirely incorrect. There has been no change in the position whatever during the last few weeks. The modification of the embargo still remains and will remain pending further consideration of the whole matter by the Government. Before any final determination is reached, the Government will be, prepared to give the fullest consideration to the representation; of all interested parties, including the potato-growers, whether in Tasmania: or in Ballarat, who care to place their: case before the Government. I wish iti to be clearly understood that the Govern-: ment and I are as much concernedabout the living conditions of the potatogrowers of Australia as- we are about the; living conditions of any other section, of; the community. We shall not whittle away their rights or do anything that will make their lot harder than it is to-day. I suggest that those who claim some divine right specially to represent the potatogrowers of the Commonwealth would be well advised if, instead of concentrating their attention on the protection of the. interests of the potato-growers during times of scarcity and high prices, they endeavoured during all seasons to provide them with better conditions of living and a better return for their labour. Whether I am or am not in the Ministry I shalL devote my attention to that worthy objective.

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