Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 1 October 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - It is essential that something should be said on this bill. It may be asked why a senator from Queensland should be specially interested in the arrangements for marketing fruits of the kind we have been considering this afternoon, because the figures given by the Minister in his second-reading speech show that the value of the Queensland exports of such fruits is very small; but it is necessary to say that the Labour party has a definite policy in connexion with the organized production and distribution of all essential products, and that that policy is distinct from that of honorable senators who do not belong to the Opposition. We believe that primary production in Australia is a national and essential operation, and therefore we are always ready to support without too much inquisitorial questioning the payment of bounties on primary products. Another reason why definite consideration should be given by honorable senators to bills of this description, and, incidentally, why I interest myself in the subject, is that this chamber should study these problems regardless of their effects on one State as against another State. Therefore, the representatives of the Opposition will always be found to be taking an intelligent, and, I hope, scientific interest in proposals that come before us for the encouragement of primary production in this country.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - 1 thought the honorable senator said that we should consider this subject on other than party grounds.

Senator COLLINGS - The trouble is that I find so many different opinions among honorable senators who support the Government. As the Minister stated in his second-reading speech an amount of £125,000 was provided in 1934 for the encouragement of the apple and pear industry. In 1935 an amount of £100,000 was provided for the same purpose, but £20,000 of that sum was earmarked for certain research work in the interests of the industry by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The Opposition considers that the growers of apples and pears are not being sufficiently generously treated under this measure. The amount of bounty to be paid should be much greater than that proposed, and if I thought that there was an opportunity to increase the amount, I would move an amendment to that effect. During the war when the growers of apples and pears were unable to export their product because all available shipping space was required for more important purposes, thousands of tons of good fruit was allowed to r.ot under the trees or was used as pig feed. At that time tens of thousands of families in Australia would have been glad to have used Hie fruit. Moreover, there were then thousands of men in military camps in Australia to whom the fruit should have been supplied by making transport facilities available. After the war, boom prices were realized, but a quota system was adopted ' which prevented the growers from exporting anything approaching the large quantities they had shipped previously. Since 1933. over £18,000,000 has been devoted to the encouragement of primary production, and of that amount £15,000,000 has been expended to assist the wheatgrowing industry. Of the £15,000,000, £12,000.000 was obtained from revenue, and £3,000,000 by some form of taxation. Of the total of £18,000,000, less than £500,000 was used to assist those engaged in the fruit-growing industries. According to tho statements made at a recent conference of interested parties, the growers of apples and pears should receive at least 8s. for every bushel case placed on the British market. I believe it is certain that this year the growers will lose 2s. 6d. on every case shipped overseas. Why has no attempt been made to secure a reduction of overseas freights and in that way assist the growers? On numerous occasions the Government has approached this subject in the interests of primary producers without any satisfactory result. Is it afraid to tackle the great overseas shipping interests? If we- were to ask the growers of apples and pears in those States where the largest quantity is produced what the present freight charges mean to them, they would say that they are an important factor in rendering the industry unprofitable. Prompt stops should be taken by the Government to see if freights can bc reduced. Under existing conditions the growers pay freight charges and exchange in Australia. The position is very different from what it was some years ago. \vhen the exchange rate was not so favorable to the Australian primary producers as it is to-day, the shipping companies insisted upon the paying of freight in Australia. When an endeavour was made to ascertain, the reason, their representatives said that the money was needed in Australia and not in England. Now, when the exchange rate is favorable to the producers, the shipping companies still insist on payment of freight and exchange in Australia. A deputation representing the growers of apples and pears asked the Minister to recommend to the Government a bounty of ls. a case, and had that recommendation been accepted a great deal of the difficulty now confronting the growers would have been overcome. Although I know a case of oranges contains one and a half bushels, upon which a bounty of 2s. a case is paid, I cannot understand the relationship between 2s. a case and the 4-id. a bushel case of apples and pears proposed in this bill. The fruit-growing industry employs a good deal of labour; in fact, I estimate that it employs as many as are employed in growing wheat.

Senator Hardy - That is only a rough guess.

Senator COLLINGS - I have not the official figures before me, but I should say that there are as many engaged in growing fruit as there are in growing wheat. This measure is of particular interest to Tasmania, and if I thought I could enlist the sympathy of honorable senators representing that State, I would move an amendment to increase the rate. Tasmania produces more than one-half of the total quantity of apples and pears grown in Australia. The Tasmanian Fruit Board declared that on all apples shipped overseas on consignment this year, the Tasmanian growers will lose 2s. id. a case. Some honorable senators opposite know of the conditions prevailing in this industry, and are aware of the fact that many of the growers not only do not receive the full reward of their industry, but also fail to make the basic wage. I put it to the Government that the bounty should be increased to at least ls. a case. As I said when I was speaking on the prune bounty, there is an immense market in Germany for apples and pears. Is the Government doing anything to secure a share of this market for Australia? Of course not. As i3 the case, incidently, in respect of many other primary products, it is failing to do much that it could do to encourage more efficient and more profitable marketing.

In spite of what the Assistant Minister has said, I should still like to be told to whom this bounty is to be paid. It appears that the agent is to be charged with the duty of computing the amount of payment due, but, so long as the bounty is to be paid direct to the grower, I shall bo satisfied. I ask the Assistant Minister to give me an assurance on this point, because I object to the Government acting as a debt collector on behalf of any one.

Suggest corrections