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Thursday, 8 October 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - The Opposition does not propose to oppose this measure. We agree with the principle that the Government should come to the assistance of industries, whether primary or secondary, which are in need of assistance. When I say so much, however, it does not mean that we approve of what I might call the unscientific, piecemeal, and "no policy at all " method which the Government applies in such instances. It appears that, when an industry gets into trouble, it comes along to the Government and says so, and the Government merely does what, in its wisdom, it thinks fit at the moment to do, but declines all the time to do the only scientific thing in the matter, and that is to deal fundamentally with the tragic position, which an earlier debate this morning once more disclosed exists in connexion with the production and consumption of all of our primary products. The same observation applies to our secondary industries. Here, again., as I have so often stressed in this chamber, because of the ever-recurring nature of this legislation, is evidence that private enterprise, cannot be trusted to do its job thoroughly and efficiently, whether it be in the production, distribution, or marketing of a commodity, or in connexion with the prices charged to the consumer, or the benefits accruing to the producers. We shall never be able to trust private enterprise in this direction until another government assumes control and deprives predatory vested interests of the opportunity to exploit either producers or consumers. This kind of thing should not be allowed, but it goes on to-day. I know that the Assistant Minister ('Senator Brennan) is as kindly a gentleman as any honorable senator, and that, when he says that the Government is investigating the charges being made by overseas shipping companies, he believes that it is honestly doing its job in this direction. I point out, however, that the Government has been considering this matter ever since I was elected to this chamber about four and a half years ago. It is still investigating it. It should also investigate the depredations of the whole line of thieving sharks that stand between the producers in Australia and the consumers overseas, and take constant toll of products towards the production and distribution of which they contribute very little, if anything at all, of value. The Government should have the courage, ability and understanding of the problems confronting the orange-growers to submit ;i proposal tinder which they would receive a fair return for their labours, and at the same time the consumers would not be compelled to . pay extravagant prices. The members of the Opposition in this chamber support a. high protective policy, hut do not believe in revenueproducing tariffs. Tariffs which bring in excessive revenue are not really protective. Manufacturers and others sheltered behind high tariffs should not be allowed to exploit the workers, or to compel consumers to pay unnecessarily high prices. The same applies to primary producers. Careful investigation should be made to ascertain exactly what the fruit-growers and their employees in the orchards actually receive for their labour. Unless adequate assistance is given to the growers of citrus and other fruits their orchards will deteriorate and all the labour employed in bringing them to a state of productivity, which sometimes means years, will be lost, and efficient production will become impossible. This measure is at least an attempt to give a section, of the primary producers a share of the wealth they produce. I trust that the day is not far distant when a government will be in power which will ensure to all engaged in primary or secondary production a fair return for their labour, and that there will be no opportunities for exploiting the people. It 13 unreasonable to expect the growers of apples, pears, prunes or oranges to come to Parliament from time to time for a " hand out " and be satisfied. A thorough investigation should be made into all the facts surrounding the production of citrus fruits, and the best manner in which to assist those engaged in the industry. When we have a government with the courage and ability to handle these ever-recurring problems, this and other industries will be placed on a sound basis, and it will be unnecessary for contributions of the kind we are now considering to be made from time to time from Consolidated Revenue.

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