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Thursday, 27 March 1941


Senator COLLINGS (QueenslandLeader of the Opposition) . - I desire to refer very briefly to two important matters concerning which I have asked questions recently. The answers which I have received are most unsatisfactory. On the 19th March, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce the following questions: -

1.   Is it a fact that in government institutions in Canberra it is impossible even to see good apples at any price?

2.   Is it a fact that in every Australian capital city apples are unprocurable at less than 2d. each, and that the New South Wales Government has ordered 10,000 cases of apples which the Director of Marketing admits he is unable to supply?

3.   If so, can the Minister inform the Senate just where the reported immense over-supply of apples, causing a serious glut in the market, is located?

The answer I received read -

1.   The Department of the Interior provides regular supplies of fresh apples of good quality to all government boarding establishments in Canberra.

That answer is incorrect. No such fruit is supplied to Gorman House, Canberra. When the women who reside there make complaints to the housekeeper, they are told that it is a matter for the Department of the Interior, and when the complaints are carried to that department, they are told that it is a matter for the housekeeper. In connexion with Canberra hostels, the latest report of the Auditor General states -

With the exception of two establishments, all government-owned hotels and guest houses are leased. The working accounts of Gorman House show that a profit of £530 was returned.

Despite the Minister's statement that fruit is being supplied to all hostels, 1 say that the women at Gorman House arc not getting fruit. Possibly some who take their lunches to work do have fruit placed in them. I am not quite sure about that, but the fact remains that fruit is not supplied at Gorman House.

In answer to my second question, the Minister said -

2.   No. Apples are procurable in every Australian capital city at less than 2d. each.

That may be true. I said that apples were not procurable for less than 2d. each. When I spoke of apples, I meant good apples and I also included " pears. We had some pears supplied to us at the Hotel Kurrajong last week. They looked exceedingly nice, but the first one I sampled was rotten inside, and I tried a second which was in the same condition. I say definitely that good apples, free from fruit fly, arc not procurable at any capital city iu Australia at less than 2d. each. When in Sydney last week, .during the visit of the American warships, I did see some apples on the barrows at less than 2d., but they could not be bought in the shops at the same price.


Senator Cooper - They were being sold at David Jones Limited for a Id. each.


Senator COLLINGS - Well, I did not see them. The Minister's reply continued -

The Apple and Pear Board has arranged to provide fruit free of charge to the New South Wales Government for distribution to charitable institutions, hospitals, &c. Supplies of fruit to be provided under this scheme are being made available by the board according to requirements.

The answer given to my third question was -

3.   The over-supply of apples resulting from the cessation of exports will be located mainly in the States of Tasmania and Western Australia, and, to a lesser extent, in Victoria and South Australia.

I draw the attention of the Senate to the following report published in a Sydney newspaper recently: -

While cases of hail-marked fruit are being fed to the pigs, Sydney residents are being asked to pay as much as 2d. for an apple for which the grower receives but id.

I contend that, in view of the inf ormation I have given, I am justified in bringing this matter before the Senate.

The other matter to which I wish to refer deals with a question asked by me on the 26th March. I regret that the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce is not in the chamber at the moment, but I hope that my representations will be passed on to him. I asked the following questions: -

1.   Is it a fact that the British Government agreed that the Central Wool Committee should allocate sufficient wools to employ all scours and carbonizing workers in Australia to capacity?

2.   Is it a fact that although New South Wales scours have an annual capacity of 70,000,000 lb., and during 1938-39 season actually scoured 38,195,743 lb., they were allocated only 22,191,304 lb.?

3.   Is it a fact that as a result 200 men have already been dismissed, and 200 more men are to go at the end of March?

When I resumed my seat, the Minister interjected that he would be very surprised if my statements were correct, because he understood that there was a greater quantity of wool being scoured than ever before. However, he referred ray questions to the proper authorities, and then gave me the following answers : -

1.   Although the Commonwealth Government has more than once communicated its views to the Government of the United Kingdom, no actual agreement hasyet been reached between the two governments that the Central Wool Committee should allocate sufficient wools to employ all scouring and carbonizing works in Australia to capacity.

That agreement should have been reached. It seems to me that there has been an utter lack of consideration for people whose employment depends entirely upon such an arrangement. The answer to my first question continued -

By arrangement with the British Wool Control, the Central Wool Committee has to date allocated large quantities of wool for scouring and carbonizing in Australia.

That is a delightful generalization which does not mean anything. My charge is that the quantity available for scouring has been reduced'. It may be quite true that large quantities have been made available for scouring. For instance, 22,000,000lb. is a large quantity, but if the quantity for the previous year was 33,000,000 lb., it represents a substantial reduction.

The answer given to my second question was -

2.   For the season 1939-40, 22,191,304 lb. of greasy wool were allocated for scouring in New South Wales, and this comprised practically all the available scouring types ex appraisements.


Senator Gibson - Is the honorable senator suggesting that the wool should be scoured for the British Government?


Senator COLLINGS - I suggest that, so far as possible, the wool should be scoured in this country so that our people can get the advantage.


Senator Gibson - What would the honorable senator do with the wool when it was scoured?


Senator COLLINGS - It has already been sold to the United Kingdom Government. The honorable senator is quite wrong, because the Minister does not take that stand at all. The answer to my second question continued -

For the season 1940-41, the quantity of greasy wool allocated ex appraisements to date is 29,716,000 lb. The annual capacity of 70,000,000 lb. would appear to include output of scoured skin wool, as most of the scourers in New South Wales are also fellmongers. Fellmongers are at present seeking more sheepskins than in normal times and, in addition, the Central Wool Committee is allocating for treatment a large number of sheepskins which have been appraised for and on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom.

The answer to the third question was -

3.   The Minister was advised on the 12th March by Mr. Glasson, secretary of the Wool and Basil Workers Union, that 200 hands had been dismissed, and that others were on notice.

That, of course, is exactly what I said, and what I had authority to say. The Minister appeared doubtful at the time, and now these answers prove that my statement was correct. I take this opportunity to place before the Senate figures issued this month by the Commonwealth Statistician concerning the quantity of wool scoured in Australia -

 

In order to bring the figures up to date - because it is the current position of which I am complaining - I quote the following table for 1939-40 : -

 

It will therefore be seen that the total of 158,229,551 lb. for 1938-39 was reduced to 80,050,939 lb. in 1939-40.

We on this side of the chamber are interested in the question of employment. Here we find that 200 men have been sacked and another 200 more are to be put off. As the figures which I have quoted indicate, that is taking place, not only in New South Wales, but also in every State of the Commonwealth, because in every State there has been a serious reduction of the quantity of wool scoured. The Minister, by way of interjection, suggested that my information must be wrong, and that he believed, as I am sure he did, that the position was the reverse. To make quite sure of my grounds, I obtained these statistics, which show conclusively that I was right.







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