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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1971

Mr CUNNINGHAM(1.54) —I rise in the last 5 1/2 minutes of this grievance debate to raise a matter that I think is of great concern. It also deals with the farming community. Australia, with its changing economic situation, has become a very competitive nation on world markets. Despite the doom and gloom talked of on the opposite side, many of our farmers have taken the initiative and are moving into export markets. It is a great thing to see new horticultural industries expanding and developing products to sell on overseas markets. However, some of the farmers in Victoria, in my area in particular and in the Western District, have run into a particular problem in relation to those exports.

It has always been customary in the potato growing areas of Victoria for growers to sell potatoes through agents. Those agents, under State legislation, would normally be covered by a bond. In New South Wales and in Victoria they would also require a licence. But we have the position that these farmers, in all honesty, set out to export potatoes to the Pacific Islands through a company in Queensland. This company, registered at 379 Queen Street, Brisbane, was called Hebdeen Pty Ltd. Hebdeen Pty Ltd signed contracts with the producers to produce potatoes to send to Suva. The producers, in all good faith, bought bags in the name of Hebdeen by the thousands, because rather large tonnages were being sent out of the country. In good faith, they packed those into containers for shipment and went through all the proper procedures. They even went to the trouble of asking a bank to check out this company to see whether it was okay. Everything appeared to be fine.

After the first few shipments went out and the first 30 days for payment passed and no money appeared, people started to become worried as to what was going on with Hebdeen Pty Ltd, which was based, as I said, at 379 Queen Street, Brisbane. It appears that this company was one of those established with a couple of dollars. The directors were registered as Jean Edmonds of 8 Beilby Road, Kenmore, New South Wales, and John Conna Edmunds, whose registered address was Flat 1, 54B Darlington Point Road, Darlington Point, New South Wales.

What has occurred here is that the agent involved appointed a person in Victoria to sign up contracts with the farmers, who signed them in good faith and delivered the potatoes, which went by ship to Suva. They were sold in Suva and consumed in Suva, paid for in Suva by a company known as Dan Kennedy Investments. It just so happens that Dan Kennedy Investments has another company in Australia, also called Dan Kennedy Investments, which also happens to be in the same building in Queensland, 379 Queen Street, Brisbane. But Dan Kennedy Investments in Suva has not paid Dan Kennedy Investments in Brisbane and, of course, Dan Kennedy Investments in Brisbane has not paid Hebdeen. So these growers are out of pocket to the tune of $900,000 in their first effort of exporting potatoes to the South Pacific.

Whilst the Government has established our economic situation, making us very competitive on world markets, it is very important that when our growers export to these nations they have some protection from the sort of people they are dealing with. In Victoria it has always been the case that, when a farmer produces a vegetable product and sells through an agent, that agent must be licensed, and has to place a bond with the State Government. In New South Wales the same thing occurs under its legislation. A bond is required, and a licence is required. But in Queensland, under Queensland legislation, a bond is required, but the licensing area, the checking of the system, does not seem to operate. Hence this company, Hebdeen Pty Ltd, was able to move around Victoria, signing up these growers with contracts to produce the product to send to the South Pacific islands.

A person who is in the islands now has $900,000 of these growers' money. He has gone into liquidation in Brisbane and in Suva and the growers will have no hope of getting any funds. We have a Premier in Queensland who is so busy running around Australia, cruising around in his jet playing at wanting to become the Prime Minister of the country, at the taxpayers' expense, that he cannot even put his own house in order and prevent the sort of charlatan approach that has been taken in Brisbane, where- by a company can be established in this way, go all over Australia buying products to the tune of $900,000, ship them out of Australia, get paid for them and leave the growers high and dry without a single cent.

I say to the Queenslanders in this House, especially that group which supports the Joh for Prime Minister campaign, the group that is going to break away from the coalition: `Get your own house in order. Go back to your Premier, and make sure that he runs his own State and stops carrying on around Australia, leaving other people to be better off'.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! It being 2 p.m., in accordance with standing order 106, as amended for this session, the debate is interrupted.

Question resolved in the affirmative.