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Thursday, 4 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - The remarks "of Senator Gardiner in regard to New South Wales fruit-growers, if taken at their face value, might prove extremely dangerous to the fruit-growing industry. He has referred to the fact that twelve or eighteen months ago speculators were buying up canned fruit for export to London. Not only was fruit canned by the Government being bought up, but also the fruit canned by everybody else, because the prices in London were so abnormally high that the speculator could make a profit by buying up the Australian supplies and shipping them to London. Another point is that the canning of fruit by Government enterprise at Yanco has resulted in a huge loss that is computed at six figures. And there are 4,000,000 tins of canned .fruit in the Government cannery at Yanco for which no sale can be found, either in Australia or abroad. With the imminent possibility of a return to pre-war conditions in regard to dried fruit, with Greece again coming into the market and the American surplus available for export to Australia, our fruit industry, without adequate duties upon fruits of all sorts, will be in a very much worse position, than it is to-day, and goodness knows it is bad enough. The canneries are stocked with goods that they cannot sell, and the Government have given advances that may never be realized. In order to give protection to the fruitgrowing industry and fair play to the growers, I would prevent even a pound of fruit being imported. Senator Crawford put the position very well last night when he said that there was an overproduction of fruit in Australia. I, therefore, refute the argument of Senator Gardiner, that New South Wales/ by virtue of her development in fruit production, is able to compete with the world without Tariff assistance.

Senator Gardiner - When the honorable senator stands' for the Parramatta seat I shall fight him on that point.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not wish to fight anybody, but "thrice armed is he who hath his quarrel just," and the fruit-growers of Parramatta will have something to say' about the honorable senator's attitude. The statement that an industry such as that at Yanco can exist without any protection at all is dangerous talk. It is admitted throughout Australia that the fine developments at Mildura and Renmark would not have been possible without adequate duties on imported dried fruits, and that those enterprises without Protection would have been smothered by Greek competition before the war. To return to the case put up by Senator Earle for an additional duty of1d. per lb. on dried apples, and the further proposal by Senator Cox that an additional duty' of 1d. per lb. be imposed upon dried apricots, peaches, and nectarines in the interest' of the Yanco fruit-growers, I would point out that if such a request were agreed to, it would mean that currants, sultanas, and raisins, the preparation of which involves probably far more labour, would be dutiable at . a lower rate. In order to' test the feeling of the Committee, I propose to move at the proper time that the duty on all dried fruits, including apples, peaches, pears, apricots, and ginger, be increased by1d. per lb.

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