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Friday, 12 July 1946

Mr McEWEN (Indi) .- I rise, not to state a case, but merely to endeavour to elicit some information upon a matter with respect to which I have not yet succeeded in learning the facts. A couple of weeks ago, I directed the attention o!' the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) to the report that a meeting had been held in Melbourne, attended, so I had been told, by the Deputy Controller of Meat, a representative of the Deputy Prices Commissioner, the honorable member, for Ballarat ("Mr. Pollard), and representatives of certain bacon-curers, exporters, and wholesalers. I stated that, as a result of thu discussions at the meeting, the decision was taken that the value of pigs at auction should bc reduced, and to that end, it had been reported, an inspector had been appointed and had been instructed to attend country auction sales. I asked whether the. Minister would elicit the facts and inform the House of them. My reference was to a report of a recent incident. On Thursday of last week, the Minister said in the House that such a state of affairs- had substantially existed a year ago, but my information is that the incident to which I refer took place merely a few weeks ago.

I now speak with a view to my remarks being eventually referred to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, so that he may inform the House later whether such an incident occurred again in Melbourne a few weeks ago, and whether there was a meeting of which no producers of pigs were informed, or at which no representatives of the industry had an opportunity to attend, but as a result of which a decision was taken to reduce the price pf their product at auction. I also wish to know whether,, as a result of that meeting and that decision, a Mr. Wilson,- or anybody else, was appointed to attend country auction sales, and by whatever method he chose to adopt, prevent the price of pigs at auction from rising beyond a certain- level. The whole point of my query at this stage is to ascertain whether, in the administration of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, a man who was himself a regular pig-buyer, or was associated with a firm which was a buyer of pigs, was appointed to attend country auction sales with authority to prevent the price from going beyond a certain level. I ask for a plain answer to that question, because an important point of public administration is involved. My second query is as to whether such a gentleman did attend pig sales, and did, by virtue of his authority, control the price at which pigs were sold at the sales which he attended. Do the books of the auctioneering firms reveal that' subsequently he or his firm was recorded as a buyer of pigs at those sales?

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