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Thursday, 14 November 1935

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - This afternoon the members of the Opposition are in the happy position of finding that, on this subject, the Government has beencon verted to the policy of the Australian Labour party. That party has always advocated the proper control and orderly marketing of all Australian primary products. In Queensland primary production is being controlled more effectively, and with greater advantage to the growers and consumers, than in any other part of the world. At the moment I cannot say the exact number of boards in operation.

Senator BADMAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The appointment of boards is an industry in itself.

Senator COLLINGS - The boards in operation in Queensland control a large number of important primary industries, and as a result of their operations great prosperity has been brought to primary producers generally. The legislation on this subject passed by the Queensland Parliament is more advanced than that in any other State of the Commonwealth. Every visitor to Queensland realizes that thereis greater prosperity there than in any other State, due largely to the fact that the industries are under proper control, and that marketing is conducted on a most scientific basis. That has been achieved by making a comprehensive survey of what the State can produce, and by controlling production and marketing, not only in the interests of the producers and consumers, but also for the advantage of the State. The Senate is indebted to the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) for the well-reasoned statement which he presented to the Senate this afternoon. Yesterday some honorable senators made a deliberate attempt to convert me to' their way of thinking on the subject then before the Senate, and I am hoping that this afternoon, Senator McLeay having seen not only the wisdom but also the righteousness of what the Assistant Minister has said, will withdraw his motion. He has now an opportunity to take cover with, honour, and to free himself from the wrath to come, particularly when those engaged in the industry realize what would be the effect of the adoption of his motion. The Assistant Minister said only one -thing with which I do not entirely agree, and on that point, perhaps, he has been misinformed. He said that governmental control of primary industries came about as a result of political parties bidding against each other. That may be true in some instances, but it is quite erroneous in connexion with the control and orderly marketing of primary production, because the members of political parties do not go through the country telling primary producers that they will do more for them than has been done by the supporters of any other political party.

Senator Hardy - Did not Mr. Gibbons say that the Labour party would guarantee to the wheat-growers 7s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat?

Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator should know by now that no such offer was made. Governments have assisted in the control of numerous primary industries, because, prior to control., those engaged in them were carrying on operations under chaotic conditions. Senator McLeay should realize that, until control legislation was introduced, only a small quantity of dried fruits were being produced in Australia, and that, in consequence of the passage of legislation, business is now being conducted on a thoroughly sound and scientific basis. I understand that the honorable senator desires that some regulations shall remain operative, and that others shall be disallowed. He has been advised that he can not make a selection.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -hughes. - But the honorable senator has since been informed that ho may do so.

Senator COLLINGS - In the first instance,, he was advised as I have stated. It is unfortunate that Senator McLeay should have aimed his first shot at a regulation which ensures effective control. Let us consider what happened in California, a country said to produce excellent fruit, which, however, is not superior to that produced in Australia. A gentleman who came to Australia from California said to me, "Do not let any one tell you that California can produce better fruit than can Australia. The American climate, sunshine, and products are not equal to those of Australia ". Last year the price of Californian dried fruits was £14 a ton, hut a little coterie of disgruntled individuals supposed to represent the producers acted in such a way that in one .year the price came down to £7 a ton. The position of the growers became so serious that government intervention was again sought, and they had to be paid a bonus of £10 a ton to keep thom off the dole.

Senator Hardy - That is what a misguided minority can do!

Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator, who is now the leader in this chamber of a misguided minority, should have some knowledge on the subject.

Seven years ago California was producing 300,000 tons of dried fruits, but after seven years, in which there was no control, the production fell off by onethird. Over 123,000 acres of vines went out of production, because of the low prices offered for grapes. Does Senator McLeay want anything like that to happen to the Australian dried fruits industry? Seven years ago Australia was producing about 40,000 tons of dried fruits, but last year the production had increased to about 75,000 tons, duc entirely to the sound control exercised by the board., concerning which we have heard so much valuable information from the Assistant Minister. Senator McLeay referred to certain disadvantages which producers experience in respect of shipping but, if the present arrangements were altered, satisfactory control of the industry would bc impossible.

Senator McLeay - The position with respect to Canada has now been altered.

Senator COLLINGS - I know the extent to which it has been altered. A few weeks ago the honorable senator told us, with tears in his eyes, of the nefarious - he did not use that word - conduct of the board of control. He said that growers, who could not get their fruit away on the boat prescribed by the board, had been denied the right to ship by another vessel. The board did advise the exporters that they would be unable to ship their fruit by the Canadian Conqueror in April, and that their cargo could not be lifted until the following month. But the board pointed out that the shipment would be deemed to have been effected during April. Senator McLeay wishes the Senate to understand that he has a grievance because the shippers were not allowed to get their fruit away by a. certain vessel, and that they were thereby inconvenienced, but he did not tell the Senate that, under an arrangement with the board, if consignments arc despatched by the vessels of a certain line a. reduction of 20s. a ton in freight is available. That concession, on the production of 50,000 tons a year, is of sow' consequence.

Senator Badman - Is the honorable senator sure that that reduction applies to shipments to Canada?

Senator COLLINGS - I know that ihe Canadian Government gives a preference to Australian dried fruits of £19 n ton, and that there is nothing wrong in shipping by other than American vessels, which are heavily subsidized by the Government of the United States of America. On the 26th April, 1934, the board despatched the following letter to shippers : -

With reference to the board's circular letter of the 23rd April, I am directed by the chairman to state that the board has had before it representations in regard to the delayed sailing of the SS. Hauraki for Vancouver.

In view of the special circumstances, I am to advise that licences for the shipment- of dried vino fruits by the SS. Hauraki during early May will be subject to the terms and conditions announced by the board in respect to shipments during April.

Ihope that the board will stick to its guns. I heard this afternoon that that arrangement had been somewhat modified; to what extent I propose to find out later. Marketing for the industry cannot be satisfactorily controlled if any grower or his agent can ship by any line ho chooses. Such a practice strikes at the very root of marketing control. The same may be said in respect of insurance. After the Egg Export Control Board was established in Queensland, one misguided producer refused to send his eggs to be marketed by the board. He was prosecuted and finally - to put it in the vernacular - he went " balmy " over the matter. He barricaded his hut on his farm and arming his wife with an outofdate shot gun and himself with another obsolete weapon told the police, when the latter came to serve process, to go away, lie said that he was not going to send his eggs to the board, and that if the police did not go away he would blow out, their brains. Of course, the board went ahead with its business as the Dried Emits Export Control Board is doing, with tho result that this misguided young man had to relent. When the Assistant Minister was speaking, one honorable senator asked whether it would be fair to prevent a grower from selling his produce for cash, and Senator Abbott asked, in the course of this discussion, whether there was a control board for the marketing of wool.

Senator Abbott - When the honorable senator was speaking of control boards, I asked him. whether he would approve of the establishment of a board for the marketing of wool.

Senator COLLINGS - I have already expressed the views of the Opposition on that point. The wool industry derived one of its greatest benefits from the establishment of Bawra, and it suffered one of its greatest calamities when that organization was allowed to be served as this board will be served if Senator McLeay's motion is agreed to. Many small growers at that time were growling because exception was taken to their selling direct to buyers who approached them on their selections.

Senator Abbott - And offered cash in order to make bigger profits for themselves.

Senator COLLINGS - That is so. Buyers, or their agents, do not follow such a course in the interests of the wool producer; they do so in their own interests. Only last year, when there was so great a shortage bf apricots all over the world that the price soared to £80 and nearly £90 a ton, buyers' agents approached growers and offered them cash. They did this, not from philanthropic motives, but, as Senator Abbott has suggested, in order to make bigger profits for themselves by taking advantage of the fact that many fruit-growers, like many other producers, are all too frequently in need of ready cash. The incident to' which I refer occurred in the Murrumbidgee area. The agent remarked that the grower had a good crop of apricots, and he was prepared to take the lot. He did not tell the grower that the ruling price for apricots at that time was anything from £80 to £90 a ton, but said ho would pay spot cash and give the grower £40 a ton. Of course, the unfortunate grower was tempted by the spot cash offer and sold his apricots at £40 a ton, the agent netting a handsome profit. At any rate, the grower did not get the balance; it went into the pocket of the buying agent or to the firm he represented. I congratulate the Assistant. Minister (Senator Brennan) on his address and the Government on the stand it is taking on this matter. I make a final appeal to Senator McLeay to extricate himself from an awkward position by withdrawing his motion.

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