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Friday, 27 March 1942

Mr BAKER (Maranoa) .- I desire to deal very briefly with the apple and pear acquisition scheme, particularly as it applies to apple-growers in Queensland. From the mists of antiquity right down the corridor of time the apple seems to have been the symbol of discord. We have all heard the story of Eve and the apple, and I am sure that most of us have read, no doubt with mixed feelings, the story of Atlanta and the apples.

Then, of course, there was the interesting tale of the apples in the garden of Hesperides. Shakespeare's well-known allusion to this fruit, "Like a goodly apple rotten at the core ", is also familiar. Then again, there is the. neat story of the two boys who sought to divide an apple evenly. The boy with whom the apple was to be shared finally asked the possessor of the coveted fruit for the core. The reply was " There ain't goin' to be no core ". Most definitely the apple is a source of discord in the Stanthorpe district of Queensland, which is in the electorate of Maranoa. There, the plight of the apple-growers is tragic. They are getting a very raw deal indeed. They are allowed ten units for a bushel case, and until recently the price for each unit has been 4d., making a total of 3s. 4d. for a case containing between twelve dozen and fourteen dozen apples. As the result of strong representations made by the State member for Maranoa and myself, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) raised the price to 6d. per unit, making a total of 5s. a case. Rut these cases are sold on the Brisbane market at anything up to fi each. In my opinion the grower should get a much bigger proportion of the retail value of his product. Notwithstanding the relief given by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) in that direction, I contend that the growers are entitled to a 'little more. The apple-producers in Queensland work under special difficulties. In drought seasons apples are scarce, and in normal times there is great danger of damage by hail. Labour is costly, and, although just as much labour is required, the trees do not bear as heavily as they do in Tasmania, averaging only from li bushels to 2 bushels a tree. Last year the Australian taxpayers contributed approximately £1,500,000 to the apple and pear acquisition scheme, and I have been informed on good authority that no less than 5,000,000 bushel cases of good apples were buried, dumped, or fed to pigs. That is a tragic state of affairs in a country where the people need this class of food so badly. The position is aggravated now by the presence in Australia of large numbers of allied troops. After all, our cardinal obligation is to feed the men of our fighting forces and the allied troops in this country. Every one knows that the first obligation resting upon a military leader is to feed his men. I strongly believe that the apple-producer should get more than 5s. a case. The following is an extract from a letter written to Senator Brown and myself by the State member for Carnarvon, Mr. Paul Hilton :-

The increasing unit price has appeased, ti) some extent, the growers of the late varieties of apples, but the people who produced the varieties marketed in January and February ave still very sore. The early varieties are a much lighter crop than the late ones and they always bring higher prices. Most of the early stuff brought fi and over per case, but the growers will receive 5s. and in many instances less than that.

The apple and pear acquisition scheme is an ill-conceived one, and it should be put into the melting-pot. It cannot be improved ; it must be recast entirely. TVc must remember that it was introduced primarily because of the lack of shipping occasioned by the war, and its object was to give the growers a fair price for their product. Under the present conditions the growers in Queensland are not getting a fair price, and I make a very strong appeal to the Minis ter for Commerce for some action to alleviate the position of these unfortunate people. I have had quite a lot of dealings with the Minister lately, and I know that he is sympathetic to the applegrowers. I trust that they will be exempted from the scheme. If there is one section of the community that needs sympathetic treatment, it is the men who produce the food, both for our fighting forces and our civil population.

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