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Wednesday, 23 March 1927


Senator CRAWFORD (QueenslandHonorary Minister) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Honorable senators are, perhaps, unaware that Australia produces 85 per cent, of the world's supply of pearl shell. The annual production in the Commonwealth is, approximately, 2,250 tons, of an estimated value of £361,000. Broome produces about 1,200 tons, Thursday Island 1,000 tons, and Darwin 50 tons. The number of persons engaged in the industry is in the region of 3,300. The cost of production of pearl shell ranges from £150 to £170 per ton, whilst the prices realized for last season's shell ranged from £160 to £180, packed and delivered at Broome. The advance offered to pearlers by overseas agents for shell shipped on consignment is from £130 to £150 per ton against freight paid bill of lading. The freight and shipping charges amount to, approximately,£10 per ton. Practically the whole of the output of pearl shell is exported. In order to eliminate the speculator, whose actions are having an adverse effect on the industry, the Pearlers' Associations of Broome and Thursday Island have urgently requested that an Overseas Marketing Board be established, vested with the powers that are set out in the bill. This request was supported by the Commonwealth Board of Trade. The Commonwealth Government decided to accede to the request of the producers, and the bill has been framed on lines similar to those of the Dairy Produce, Dried Fruits and Canned Fruits Export Control Acts. Honorable senators are well aware of the principles underlying those measures. I shall state briefly the proposals that are contained in the bill. Clause 2 provides that the act shall not commence until it is approved by a poll of producers taken throughout the Commonwealth. The Pearl Shell Overseas Marketing Board will consist of three members, one representing the Commonwealth, one representing the Western Australian producers, and the third representing the producers of Queensland and the Northern Territory. As in the other acts mentioned, provision is made for the appointment of overseas agencies of the board. The functions of those agencies will be to keep the board advised as to current prices and matters relative to the disposal of the pearl shell in England and elsewhere, and generally to act as agents of the board. The most important provision of the bill is clause 13, which provides for the prohibition of the export of pearl shell except under licence, and subject to such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed after recommendation to the Minister by the board. Under this clause, the control of the export of pearl shell will be placed in the hands of the producers, who will act through their' elected representatives on the board. The remaining clauses are on the same lines as the corresponding sections in the acts dealing with dairy produce, &c. I emphasize the fact that the pearl shell industry is an Australian industry. I understand that all the owners of pearling vessels at Thursday Island and Broome are Australians of European de scent. There are many coloured people employed in the industry, but that is unavoidable, as the members of those races are specially suitable for diving operations.


Senator Grant - What is meant by " pearl shell "?


Senator Payne - Prior to the introduction of the bill, were steps taken to ascertain the desires of those engaged in pearl shelling?


Senator CRAWFORD - Yes. Application for this assistance was made by them, and their application was recommended by the Board of Trade.







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