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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1658


Mr JAMES (Hunter) - I hope that the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron) will pay me the courtesy of listening to my speech. After hearing it he might hold the view that something should be done about nationalisation or socialisation of the broiler industry which is in the hands of free enterprise. I wish to relate to the House some of the experiences of the unfortunate people who are breeding chickens for big combines. I have a lot to say to the House on this matter and because of the limited time available to me I will have to speed up my speaking rate. I want to point out what I consider to be prima facie evidence presented to me of considerable injustice imposed upon one of my constituents. I understand that his experiences are not uncommon amongst people engaged in his occupation throughout Australia. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) recently stated to the media that he was concerned about conditions in the broiler industry. I wish to quote a letter written to me by Mr E. Bichard of 3 Government Road, Kersley, near Cessnock, on 13th January 1973. He wrote: 1 wish to make a complaint against 2 combines trading under the names of Steggles Holdings and Mountain View, both processors of poultry. These 2 companies deliberately went out of their way to ruin me financially. They refused to supply me with chickens for continuation of my business in which I have invested thousands of dollars. To top it all, obstacles have been put in the way of my selling my property. I must point out that Mountain View was under the managership of W. Halliday and his son, Phillip. W. Halliday finished his contract at the same time as they put me out of business. My property was worth between $40,000 and $50,000 on the market in 1968, but today because of deterioration since 1968 the value has dropped to zero.

As the solicitors, Messrs E. H. Tebbutt and Sons have pointed out to Mr Crawford, Minister for Agriculture in the State Parliament of New South Wales, these companies have far too much power; they can get people to go heavily into debt and at a whim of any source finish him up and nothing will the State Government do. Every grower that has gone out of business can give a poor story. Mr Morris, Minister for Transport in New South Wales, has also received complaints from growers.

This has all developed to me from an item inserted in a newspaper by Mr G. Neilly, MIA for Cessnock, and referring to government help for the growers to form a co-operative. The following, although condensed, will show you what each one of these companies did to me.

STEGGLES HOLDINGS

I say that Steggles was after revenge.

I worked for these people growing 20,000 chickens at a time, but they wanted more chickens and pestered me to erect another 2 sheds, raising my capacity to 40,000 chickens. Steggles loaned me $4,000 towards the cost of such sheds, supposedly interest free.

By the time these 2 extra sheds were ready for use I found myself in debt to the tune of $17,000 to $20,000 and prices of feed at Steggles had risen alarmingly. The price of chickens had dropped. I found that it would be impossible for me to get out of the situation for years, or go bankrupt. I was man enough to approach Mr B. Steggles and tell him that I would have to leave him and grow for Mountain View (a fatal mistake).

Mountain View is another firm in the Newcastle region. Mr Bichard's letter goes on:

He was very upset and I still had 4 sheds of chickens to be picked up by them. I can show you my statements from Steggles which will prove that I grew average chickens regularly. My wife, son and myself always made it a practise to weigh a quantity of chickens on the morning of each pickup. We always found our weights correct. The first 2 sheds

Steggles picked up after I told him I was leaving lost 6 ounces in weight from Kearsley to Beresfield, costing me $1,500 or $1,600.

From Kearsley to Beresfield is between 12 and 15 miles. The letter continues:

After consulting a solicitor and much arguing over their weighbridge, they collected the remainder under my conditions, which were that 1 select my weighbridge and my son and myself would witness the taring of trucks and the gross weights also. (Steggles did not like this). There was a lot of animosity. We come to a time in 1968. P. Wrigley reads the newspaper article referring to co-operative. Within a week 1 receive a message through the grapevine that Steggles would like me to go back and grow chickens for them. I wait a few more days and I see an advertisement in a newspaper. Steggles were advertising for growers. I phoned D. Marshall and asked him if he would accept me back as a grower. (Answer) 'Yes Ted. I will be out tomorrow to see you.' Appointment was kept and my wife was present at the interview. (This is where 1 think there was collusion between D. Marshall P. Wrigley, W. Halliday, manager of Mountain View, and his son P. Halliday.) I would like you to take notice of the conversation. D. Marshall promised me a permanent job with his firm. But he said '1 want you to grow one more batch for Mountain View' (which was a killer batch as you will read under the heading Mountain View'). 'Let me know when Mountain View takes delivery of that batch.'

I had to phone him twice before he came to see me after that batch was picked up. My wife was present again. D. Marshall apologised and told me he had Te-engaged another grower who had left him on 2 previous occasions, but he was negotiating with yet another one of Mountain View growers. He was experiencing some difficulty and if he could not get him I would take his place. I said, 'You would not be giving me the run around'. Answer, 'Of course not Ted, what makes you think that'. I told him that when my last batch was only 3 weeks old, news had reached me from Steggles farm next to me that I was finished and out of business. Answer, 'He should not have said that'. (Comment - it came true). Later 1 found out that he could not get the second grower. J phoned him and told him the news. He said, That's right. Keys and Co. would not come to the party.' I said 'Where do I stand?' Answer, 'Where you always stood'. 1 am asking you, did this man ever have any intentions of re-employing me or did he just want to be in on the kill?

The last time 1 had an interview with Steggles he said that I could sell my property and he would promise to put chickens in for the new owners.

I appeal to honourable members to listen particularly to what follows. The letter goes on:

As the result of advertisements, 2 people were very eager to purchase and make any alterations necessary. But, when they approached Steggles he told them he did not need any more growers.

All this time my farm is deteriorating. 1 have had to sell the brooder pipes and various other items to pay debts.

I told Mr Crawford-

He is the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales- in my first correspondence that had there been an ombudsman I would never have been out of business. Mr G. Neilly told him that I had been victimised.

MrBichard went on to say that he believes that he has been the victim of the monopolies and mismanagement and bungling in the broiler industry by the 2 companies which have been named. He goes on - I stress these points - to say:

They reduce the price of chicken from 2.1 lc per lb to 20c per lb. This on ils own meant about $1,500. They cut my chickens down from 40,000 to 32,000 (another loss). P. Wrigley told me that if I do not prepare all 4 sheds the number of chickens would be reduced more. They delete the 6c guarantee under which 1 had been growing previously. 1 have to order my feed through Mountain View office for the first time so they would make sure I received medicated feed. Extra cost of feed medicated being $6.50 per ton.

I interpose by saying that this constituent did not want to use medicated feed. He believed that he could breed the chickens to a point of satisfaction to himself and the industry without using medicated feed. It was imposed upon him at an extra cost of $6.50 a ton. He goes on to point out that as a result of the treatment of these organisations - Steggles in particular, a company which is well known in Newcastle - he has been reduced to a point of bankruptcy and has had to take work at Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at a very small wage. He is over 50 years of age and this makes it difficult for him to effect a new start in life on his own initiative. He ends by saying:

I paid a visit to the new manager, Ron Pittard, whilst in the office P. Halliday walked in.

J said, 'Can I ask you two questions'. 'What are they?' 'Why did you take my chickens away so quickly?' 'You would not adhere to the medicated feed program set down for you'. 1 urge an inquiry into the matters I have raised.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.







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