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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) . - On "Wednesday last I asked some questions which are of considerable importance to a number of primary producers and .to members representing Tasmania in the Commonwealth Parliament. The questions remain unanswered although I understand that the subject matter has been discussed with the Minis- ter for Agriculture in Tasmania, and that an agreement has been arrived at between the Commonwealth Government, and the Tasmanian Minister on the subject. I shall repeat the questions to enable honorable senators to see that they are plain and straightforward and could, I think, be answered readily by the Minister concerned. They read -

1.   What are the terms and conditions under which the Government has undertaken to purchase 0,000 tons of the blue pea crop of 1942-43 harvest in Tasmania?

2.   Does the Government undertake to purchase the balance produced (if any) over and above the 6,000 tons now arranged for; if so, at what price and under what conditions?

3.   Has the Government made any arrangements or agreement for the production of peas in other States; if so, what are the terms and conditions under which these arrangements have been made?

The Minister representing the Minister for Commerce replied that departments other than the Department of Commerce were concerned in the matter and that the information desired was being obtained. That reply was given a week ago. I now ask if the Minister will make an early statement setting out the terms and conditions under which the Government proposes to deal with the proposal to encourage the increased production of potatoes and other vegetables for the financial year 1942-43; and, will the scheme be carried out and controlled bv the Stares on behalf of the Commonwealth, or by officers of the Commonwealth? Those questions relate to Government policy which has been decided. The Government has given certain information on this subject to Ministers in another State. Agreements have been reached but the Government has made no pronouncement which would give information on these subjects to the representatives of .the people in the Commonwealth Parliament. Members of Parliament, when asked questions concerning the matter, are unable to give detailed information to their constituents. They are questions on which the Government must at present have information and I ask the Leader of the Senate why the information given to people outside of Parliament has not been given to us. Much discussion has arisen on the subject and I understand that the Government has appointed a control board in connexion with the production of potatoes, that it is giving a certain price in Tasmania, and, I presume, in other States, but still the questions I have asked remain unanswered. "Why was the information withheld from members of this Parliament. We should be in a position to explain the details of the decision reached by the Government. I understand that the Government has made a contract for the purchase from Tasmania of 6,000 tons of blue peas of A-grade quality at 15s. a bushel. If there be a surplus above 6,000 bushels, does the Government intend to control that quantity or is it to be sold on the open market? If there is a quantity of peas available over and above the needs of the fighting services, under what terms does the Government propose to take over that quantity? The producers are now preparing for next season's crop, and the information desired should be made available so that there will be no misunderstanding over the next crop such as there has been over the last crop. It, may be that, the decision has been conveyed to the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, but members of this Parliament should not be placed in the invidous position of not knowing exactly the nature of the decision reached.

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