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Thursday, 12 November 1914
Page: 521

Senator READY - They did not call it a secret commission. The agents at this end took care that nobody knew about it. It was a confidential matter between the Covent Garden sellers and the agents who shipped the fruit at this end. Even if we had asked them about it openly they would not have owned up to it as a secret commission. We found, however, that they did get it, and that it was a common practice among all the bigger firms in Covent Garden market to pay it. As soon as Perry and Company, the biggest exporting firm here, found that the Commission had hold of the fact that there was a retaining fee, they issued a circular to growers to this effect: "We represent So-and-so in Covent Garden market, from whom we receive our usual retaining fee," and attempted to bluff it out by saying that the grower knew this all the time. When Perry found that all the facts were placed on the table, and that the growers were being educated up to what was going on by the evidence taken by the Commission, he went so far as to say that if he was doing the business Jones and Company were doing in Tasmania, with an export of nearly 1,000,000 cases of fruit, he would exist on the retaining fee alone, and would not charge the growers in Tasmania anything to handle their fruit at this end.

I want honorable senators to realize the gravity of the position from the standpoint of the growers. There is also a charge in Covent Garden for handling fruit for Australian growers, called a consolidated charge, which runs into 7d. or 8d. per case. The growers have been led to believe that this charge returns no profit to the big broking firms in Covent Garden, but that they pay the 7d. or 8d. per case out of pocket on behalf of the growers, and just charge them accordingly, thus making no profit. We found, however, from sworn evidence at this end that the services for which they were charging the growers 7d. or 8d. per case cost them only 31/2d. to 5d. per case. Therefore, another concealed profit was going into the pocket of the Covent Garden firms. The agents here knew all about it, but being in close relationship with the London firms were quite content to let the growers be fleeced. Even more definite proof of this fact is furnished by the fact that the South Australian State Export Department does the same service for 3d. per case, which they say covers all the expenses. This shows clearly that 3d. or 4d. per case is going into the pockets of the London brokers by means of the consolidated charge. I have outlined very briefly the position which obtains-

Senator Bakhap - Who sells the South Australian fruit at Covent Garden?

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