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Tuesday, 9 June 1970


Mr McEWEN - 1 have learnt of the lower freight rates reported to have been negotiated for certain fruits exported from New Zealand. These freights are reported to be lower than rates which prevail for Australian exports. I have not yet had time to study fully the facts of the situation but I have learnt this: The freight rate applying in the case of New Zealand relates to unmarked cartons sold in bulk. I am advised that they come from 1 seller and are for delivery to 1 buyer. That is the information I have at the present time. This involves a situation different from that of the trade from Australia. Every carton from Ausis marked. Australian sales are from a multiplicity of sellers to a multiplicity of buyers and all cartons are directly marked. lt is obvious that a bulk, non-discriminatory trade can be conducted at a lower cost than one which involves a measure of identification and discrimination and great diversity of buyers and sellers, such as apply, I am told, in the case of the Australian trade. Whether or not that lower freight would justify the disparity that apparently is to exist, I do not know. I will study the matter.

I repeat to the honourable member and to the House, as I repeated on a different matter last week, that until 1956 it had been the practice of Australian shippers - that- is the term applied to exporters - to conduct their negotiations with the shipowning companies on the best arguments that they could marshal. If they were dissatisfied with the outcome they would then turn to the Government and invoke the aid of the Government. Indeed, in 1956, I think it was. my own Department succeeded in negotiating a freight rate 7£% less than the rate which the industries had been able to negotiate. But in 1956, without consultation with the Government, all the shipper interests in Australia sent their representatives to London and negotiated a basis of freight determination there with the organised shipowners. It was a basis of freight determination which had relationship to the costs of the service to the shipowners and a measure of profit which the shippers agreed the shipowners were entitled to. This concluded an arrangement which retained within it no place whatever for the Government to step in to aid.

What we are talking about now is the private property of a multiplicity of people and the private property of some statutory boards. It is not within the philosophy of this Government to seek to intervene and tell people who have produced property at their own cost, who are selling it and shipping it, that they do not know how to run their own- business and that the Government will step in and take charge over their heads. That might be the philosophy of some people but it is not the philosophy of this Government. Until we are asked to take a part we will leave it to those who are acting with confidence in their own skills and capacity, to argue. As I told the House last week, when the point came that Australian shipper interests decided in their own judgment - I do not quarrel with it; I merely state the facts - that they would without Government aid pit themselves against the shipowners in negotiations I took the stand that in this situation they must be equipped with research services, or whatever the people were to be called, with people skilled and experienced in assembling information and furnishing the shipper interests with the capacity to argue their case. To that end I went along to the Cabinet of the day and asked my Cabinet colleagues to make available a substantial sum of money to help the Australian shippers to establish their own research services, and that they did.







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