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Thursday, 12 November 1914
Page: 525

Senator READY - He is reporting on the fruit industry, and he carefully hedges round everything but the real issue.

Senator Bakhap - With which he is connected as a producer.

Senator READY - I shall deal with Mr. Tully presently, and the evidence he gave before the Fruit Commission. I went carefully through his report. I wanted to see something about questionable practices, consolidated charges, and wholesale and retail agents purchasing and selling together, because these are the things which concern the growers. These were the important things which we wanted investigated in the interests of the growers, and not in the interests of those whom my honorable friend opposite represents.

Senator Bakhap - Every grocer buys and sells the same commodity.

Senator READY - The honorable senator is on the defence again. Three times I went through the report of Mr.

Tully to see if I could find anything bearing on the specific questions we put in our memorandum. This is what he said in one passage -

There is keen competition between the auctioneers, and between the auctioneers and private treaty salesmen, and while this continues the growers' interests will not be neglected. During my stay here I have seen nothing that would lead me to believe that the growers' interests were being neglected by the salesmen to the advantage of the buyer.

That is a clear enough statement, whitewashing the salesmen, is it not?

Senator Bakhap - Is there anything wrong with it? How can you go so far as to say that it is whitewashing these people? Do you not believe that Mr. Tully may have honestly penned that sentence after an honest investigation?

Senator READY - Mr. Tullymay be a type of man who is incapable of making a thorough inquiry. He may be one of those simple people who, like my honorable friend, go along and believe everything that persons tell them. Here is the only word of condemnation of Covent Garden that he uses in his report, and we all knew this almost ten years ago -

I might state here, that to my mind Covent Garden is behind all the market's I visited as regards accommodation and conveniences for public auction sales. I hear it has just changed hands, and hope that under the new management improvements will be made in the interests of those handling Australian fruit.

That is the only passage bearing on the subject at all. There is nothing in the report which will throw any light on the subject, or which will be of material assistance to the fruit-growers of Tasmania.

Senator Bakhap - Are you sorry that he did not discover any questionable practices; is that it?

Senator READY - That is not the question at all. We know, and the honorable senator knows too, that the fruitgrower of South Australia is getting ; a service done through a State Department for 3d. for which the fruit-grower in Tasmania and Victoria is paying 7d. or 8d. We want , to know who is getting the difference between the two amounts, and why the State Department in South. Australia is able to do the work so much more cheaply.

Senator Bakhap - Then why does not every grower send his fruit through that channel ?

Senator READY - We are getting from the honorable senator a straightout declaration, which we do not often get, as to how he stands behind the financial institutions which practically have dictated to Tasmanian growers, and to politicians, too. This report, and the document from the High Commissioner's office, show that the latter gentleman has clearly neglected his instructions. For the High Commissioner, who was appointed to superintend and look after the interests of producers, to simply take a printed report which is common property and send that out in response to a clear and specific memorandum like that which we sent is an insult, not only to the Government of the Commonwealth, but to the producers, who are responsible to som-e extent for the present Government being in office.

Senator Mullan - You cannot expect Sir George Reid to dine with all the snobs and do your work, too.

Senator READY - I know that Sir George Reid has the reputation of being an - admirable phrase-maker and a great after-dinner speaker, but my short experience of the work of his office has convinced me that the sooner the Government attempt some reform of the office, and appoint a trade commissioner, who should be a highly qualified business man, to deal with these matters and attend to all our wants in London, the better it will be for Australia.

Senator Senior - In South Australia we had a similar experience.

Senator READY - That is so. South Australia has done more for producers in regard to distribution than has any other State, and the Commonwealth ought to be glad to co-operate with such an enterprising State in that regard. Let me state the reason why I say that the High Commissioner's -office is showing signs of incompetency, and why I express surprise at the action .of the High Commissioner himself. In my opinion he should have made some inquiry into the character, the capabilities, and the credentials of Mr. Tully before insulting gentlemen who, at the cost of a good deal of time and labour, went all over Australia and collated evidence, by accepting the printed report of Mr. Tully, and giving us a stone when we asked for bread.

Senator Bakhap - Why should he insult Mr. Tully?

Senator READY - In my opinion, Mr. Tully was not competent to make that inquiry.

Senator Bakhap - Not competent in connexion with an industry " from which he is getting his living?

Senator READY - No.

Senator Bakhap - Not as competent aa the honorable senator ?

Senator READY - No. Unless a man has an accurate knowledge of the export trade in fruit, particularly the business side of the question, he is not worth a snap of the fingers to make an inquiry., and it is absolutely idle to -expect anything useful from him.

Senator Bakhap - That is a great indictment of most members of the Commission.

Senator READY - The Commissioners went carefully into the evidence, which was taken on oath, from every point of view, and they were in a position to judge well. The Commission examined Mr. Tully before he was sent Home to investigate the export trade.

Senator Bakhap - By whom?

Senator READY - By the Victorian Fruit-growers' Association - an association such as that which "barracks" for my honorable friend politically in Tasmania; an association run and supported by the present agents, and backed up by big financial institutions.

Senator Bakhap - All nincompoops and incapables, I suppose?

Senator READY - No; I do not say any such thing.

Senator Bakhap - No; but you imply it.

Senator READY - I say that Mr. Tully is not capable, as I shall proceed to prove by quotations from his evidence before the Fruit Commission. He was examined at Doncaster on the 23rd November, 1912, when Mr. Foster, .the Chairman, put this question - 14405. As growers, have you any grievances in regard to the oversea export trade in fruit? - Personally, I have done very little In the oversea export business. With the exception of one or two experimental shipments that have gone Home, I have practically done nothing.

That is pretty sweeping.

Senator Bakhap - Did he say how much fruit he grew?

Senator READY - 1 will give my honorable friend some more evidence, as he evidently needs it. 14406. Do you know of any grievances with respect to the export trade in fruit? - I have heard complaints made to the Central Association's meetings, but I cannot say that I have any from my own practical experience.

I wanted to be sure on this point, because I had heard Mr. Tully mentioned as an authority, and, therefore, T asked this question - 14528. Have you sent fruit to London yourself? - No, unless you include the Somerset shipment; I had 150 cases in that vessel. 14529. Have yon obtained space for any other grower of fruit here? - No.

So that he had no experience whatever of the export fruit trade, which he was specially sent to England to inquire into. My honorable friend puts his experience against mine, but I am content to let honorable senators judge as to who is best qualified to speak on this question.

Senator Bakhap - Had the Victorian Fruit-growers Association any acquaintance with Mr. Tully?

Senator READY - The Fruit-growers Association is largely dominated by Perry and Company, the biggest exporting firm, and their satellites get preferential treatment.

Senator Bakhap - Do they represent the fruit-growers ? Do they really grow fruit?

Senator READY - The next question I put was -

Do you know whether the profit of the exporting agents depends on the 3d. per case which they get from the growers? - I could not tell you ; I have no dealings whatever with exporting firms.

Senator Bakhap - But do the fruitgrowers grow fruit?

Senator READY - If my honorable friend had any brains he would not need to ask that question.

Senator Bakhap - I ask it because the honorable senator is trying to mislead the Senate. He is trying to induce honorable senators to believe that fruit-growers know nothing about their own business.

Senator Senior - Members of the Fruit-growers Association may not be fruit-growers themselves.

Senator Ferricks - Such associations are often composed of middlemen.

Senator READY - Senator Bakhap is aware of all that, but the evidence I am quoting is not palatable to him, and he has no desire to hear any more of it. I next asked Mr. Tully -

What is the general idea in this district as to what profits the exporting agents get out of the growers who ship fruit oversea?

Senator Senior - That was secondhand evidence.

Senator READY - That is so, but I wished to know whether this gentleman had even a secondhand knowledge of the subject. His reply to my question was -

I do not think I could give you the name of a grower in Doncaster who is an exporter in the proper sense of the term; we are not an exporting district.

This man is self-confessed without knowledge or experience of the overseas fruit trade. His only experience of the distribution of fruit was "gained by the fact that he had agencies for Inter-State firms in Sydney and Melbourne, and received from 6d. to ls. per case commission. Yet this is the gentleman who has been sent Home to conduct a thorough investigation into the devious methods of the middlemen in London. This is the man from whose reports the High Commissioner quotes in response to demands for information made from Australia.

I say that the sooner we get an inquiry into the conditions obtaining in London the better. I hope that honorable senators representing both sides on the Fruit Commission will take definite steps, as soon as possible, to see that the present Government enable us to obtain what the fruit-growers desire, and that is a knowledge of the true facts. It cannot be harmful to a great and growing industry like the fruit industry to be armed with the fullest knowledge of the ramifications of the distribution of their fruit at Home.

I hope that the present Government will take heed of the requests of the fruit-growers. The agitation is growing in Tasmania. Recently a representative body of one of the most prosperous districts in that State waited upon the State Premier, Mr. J. Earle, to ask him to establish a State Export Department as speedily as possible. Mr. Earle promised that he would do so. Yet. Mr. Earle's efforts ito establishing a Department, which I hope will eventually be associated with a Federal Trade Commissioner in London, are hindered and hampered by the fact that no complete inquiry has yet been made at the London; end. The Premier of Tasmania told the deputation that waited upon him that until the Federal authorities completed their inquiry he would prefer not to take action. He was perfectly right in adopting that attitude, because we should be in possession of the fullest information before attempting to establish so important a Government enterprise. I hope that the ventilation of the matter will, if it results in nothing else, lead to a reform in the High Commissioner's Office in London, and to a recognition of the fact that our fruit-growers have genuine and legitimate grievances which ought to be remedied by the democratic Government that now- occupies the Treasury benches in the Federal Parliament.

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