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Thursday, 11 November 1948

Mr ABBOTT (New England) . - I bring to the notice of the Government a matter of very grave importance to the farming industry of New South Wales. I direct the attention of the House to the manner in which a deputation arranged by the Wholesale Cooperative Society of New South Wales through Mr. George Booth, member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly for Kurri, was received on the 4th November last by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley). On the 23rd September last, I asked a question in this chamber relating to the reduction of imports of power kerosene, lighting kerosene, and distillate. For the year ending the 31st March, 1949, the quantity of power kerosene that the oil companies are permitted to sell in Australia has been reduced by 59,528 tons or 19.9 per cent., lighting kerosene by 29,290 tons or 25.8 per cent., and distillate by 2,394 tons or 2.1 per cent. compared with the actual sales for the year ended the 31st March, 1948. You will recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that when I raised this matter in the House some weeks ago. there was a slight disagreement between us. I shall not refer to that matter now, but the rural cooperative societies in New South Wales are alarmed at the reduction of imports. Those societies have a wide membership. According to the New South Wales Pocket Year Booh for 1948, the number of active societies in New South Wales in 1944-45 was as follows : -


Members of those societies are mostly working people. Following my question in this chamber, representations that I made to the Prime Minister on behalf of the co-operative societies, and representations made by Mr. Booth, M.L.A., who is also chairman of the Wholesale Cooperative Society of New South Wales, it was arranged that a deputation should meet the Minister for Shipping and Fuel on the 4th November last concerning that meeting. I have received the following letter from Mr. Doak, secretary of the Tamworth Farmers Co-operative Society Limited who was a member of the deputation: -

Please find enclosed a copy of the discussion that took place at the meeting between the co-operative societies and the Minister for Supply and Shipping on Thursday last at the office of the Minister.

Hie remarks were definitely uncalled for and insulting. We felt that he could have shown a little manners and at least listened to what we had to say, but he didn't want to hear a thing and opened his door for us to go four times in a space of twenty minutes, which was the time we spent with him.

There were no recorded minutes, but the copy enclosed is fairly close to detail ae to what was said and can be used by you as you wish.

I shall also quote from a letter written to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) by one of the leading Labour supporters in the City of Tamworth. The address given is Peel-street, Tamworth, and the writer is well known to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully). It is dated the 24th September, 1948, and states -

The quota scheme recently announced, and made retrospective to April, has created very great consternation and indignation amongst the farmers in this area of the State. I pass along to you the following comments in good faith with the idea that you might have a very thorough inquiry instituted to see whether some of the so-termed major companies have been granted favours at the expense of the Ampol Company. ... It is very, sincerely suggested that the quota system is a result of such influence. . . .

That is the influence of the larger oil companies -

Unless the matter is handled to the satisfaction of the farmers, the outcry will develop into a very unpleasant set up.

I propose now to read some of the remarks made by the Minister to the deputation which waited on him on the 4th November. Members of the deputation were Mr. Sims, representing Curlewis and Gunnedah; Mr. Endicott, representing Nelungaloo; Mr. Duprez, representing Manilla; Mr. Tome, representing Inverell; Mr. Doak, representing Tamworth, and Mr. Bawden, representing Narrabri and Bellata. The record, that I -have received of what was said at that meeting with the Minister is as follows : -

Mr. Simsintroduced the deputation to Senator Ashley and stated that it represented 54 co-operative societies and the interests o'f the fanners generally. (Mr. Sims took the place of Mr. Booth, M.L.A., who arranged the deputation and who was absent through illness.)

Senator Ashley.Let us be frank I have not time to listen to propaganda, It is Ampol you are representing?

Mr. Simsendeavoured to explain the case but was continually interrupted by Senator Ashley and explanation was impossible.

Senator Ashley.You are here as a deputation from Ampol to get an increase in their quota. I can tell you now that Ampol ib going to get nothing from me.

Mr. Doak.; I represent the Tamworth Co-operative (consisting of 800 farmers), not Ampol, and I would like some message to take back, to the farmers.

No reply to this from Senator Ashley

Senator Ashleysaid he though we wore there to state individual cases, and had he known this was not so, he would not have received ns He went on to say, "You have the wrong story ".

Mr. Doak.; If we have the wrong story, can you tell us the Tight story.

Senator Ashley.If you interview Sir George Wales, he will tell you the right story. This has been discussed with him and he knows all about it and he agrees with me. He will be in Sydney this week.

I do not know what Sir George Wales has to do with the Government or why he should be delegated to reply to a deputation representing rural co-operatives. According to " Who's Who ", he was knighted in 1937, is a former member of the Legislative Council of Victoria, was Lord Mayor of Melbourne from 1934 to 1937, has been a member of the Melbourne City Council since 1925, plays golf and billiards, belongs to the Athenaeum Club and the Savage Club, and his address is 669 Burke-road, Toorak. His business associations are not. mentioned, and the book does not say whether he knows anything about oil, or whether it was because he lived in Toorak, was a member of the Athenaeum and

Savage Clubs, and played golf and billiards that he was brought into this matter. The record continues -

Senator Ashley.I am very busy, and I want to get the facts of the case. This is all propaganda for Ampol.

Mr. BAWDEN; We represent co operative Societies and in the event of fuel supplies being cut off, the co-operative societies would go out of business.

Mr. ENDICOTT; Do you approve of cooperative societies?

Senator Ashley.I am not in the witness box to answer questions and will not be cross-examined by you or any one else. The co-operative societies arc the people who go out and sell shares to the farmer and then sell him kerosene at Id. per gallon cheaper.

Was there any sin in letting the farmers have cheaper kerosene? -

Mr. SIMS; The reason why we are tied up to Ampol is because: they were the only people in the early days who would deal with us.

Mr. Endicott.; ls it a fact as quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald about the 14th August that power kerosene imporations were to be reduced by TJ per cent?

Senator Ashleyrefused to answer and stated it was propaganda and he was not there to answer questions.

Mr. Bawdenstated he resented Senator Ashley's remarks about the delegation being purely propaganda for Ampol.

Senator Ashley.What are co operatives? If you say Ampol, you mean co-operatives and, if you say co-operatives, you mean Ampol. They are the same thing. You are only wasting my time and your own. (Starting to leave.) I have another meeting and cannot waste any more time with you.

Mr. Dupre.; How is the Government going to save dollars if they restrict our kerosene and so prevent us producing? You are responsible to us and the people for supplies of kerosene for production. .

Senator Ashleyin reply stated this is a matter between the Government and the oil companies.

Mr. Simssaid we will have to report to our people that we have had a. most unsympathetic hearing.

Senator Ashley.A.M..1*. Company has gone out on a definite sales and advertising campaign and they were asked not to.

Mr. Doak.As far as we are concerned, at Tamworth, we have not, but if the A.M.P. Company had done so, they were not the only ones.

Senator Ashley.It is no use arguing it is just a waste of time.

Mr. Sims.; As far as we are concerned, we have definitely not gone out on any sales campaign.

Mr. Simswent on to say that is was anticipated that there would he a definite shortage of fuels in the next year.

Senator AshleyYou can rest assured that no one will go short and essential services would be sure of kerosene and, if you give iiic specific cases 1 will have them investigated.

The record continues -

Mr. ENDICOTT; In view of the case in the Sydney Morning Herald re 19 per cent, reduction in imports of power kerosene-

Senator Ashley.I do not want to listen to this - it is all propaganda.

Mr. ENDICOTT; (continuing) and the importation of 19,000 tractors this year, is it a fact we will be short of kerosene?

Senator Ashleyrefused to listen and would not answer the question.

Mr. Doak.Both Mr. Sims and myself are in business where we carry a full range of groceries, hardware and produce, and my society has approximately ?7,000 worth of stock.

Mr. Sims.; Now we have to go back to our people and report an unsympathetic hearing.

Senator Ashley.As far as you are concerned, I represent all New South Wales and 1 do not want any help from any one. We fixed Queensland up and we will fix New South Wales up the same way. We are now checking the Tamworth district.

Mr. Doak.We are unable to procure lighting kerosene and distillate right now. What will we tell the farmers?

Senator Ashleyreplied that any essential services would be sure of supplies. He said you could get supplies from some other company. Mr. Sims said that there was an advertisement in the Inverell paper stating that another company had supplies for its own clients only, if this was the case, how are our customers to get supplies'?

Senator Ashleyreplied that he could not waste any more time - got up and commenced to leave.

He finally stated that he would deal with individual cases when produced.

Mr. Bawdenreplied that he would have his work cut out dealing with 30.000 individual cases. Senator Ashley replied, " I do not believe you have them ".

Mr. Doak.I told him that we supply lighting kerosene to our customers over the counter in bottles in all quantities; what was the procedure there - would we have to make individual application for all these people to him or would he give us some assurance that supplies would be there for that purpose.

Senator Ashley.Get in touch with me and I will deal with each case on its merits.

That is nonsense. It would he impossible for him to deal with each case on its merits, because people came into the stores and bought what they wanted over the counter. The deputation was received with discourtesy and hostility, and it was plain to every member of the deputation that the Minister did not intend to hear what they had to say. Tn fact, he summarily dismissed them. They felt so strongly on the matter that they despatched the following telegram to the Prime Minister : -

Incensed at reception to-day by Senator Ashley of Co-operative Wholesalers Societies' deputation re kerosene and distillate. Apparent that the senator had no intention of hearing our case. Respectfully request your personal attention. (Sgd.) Sims, Chairman of delegation.

I trust that the co-operative societies will not let the matter rest where it is. It is a disgraceful thing that a responsible body of men should be treated so discourteously by a Minister who is supposed to see that, food is produced to feed starving people overseas.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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