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Wednesday, 9 March 1932

Mr HAWKER (Wakefield) (Minister for Markets) .- One of the safeguards in a democratic Parliament is that certain members are prepared to take up any case presented to them by anybody who has a grievance, and although many unsubstantial grievances are dealt with in this National Parliament, it is certain that serious grievances will not escape notice. The case brought forward by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) falls within the category of cases which are forwarded to members considered to be imbued with the spirit of agitation, because their correspondents know that their- grievance will be ventilated. In taking up this matter, the honorable member for West Sydney is no doubt performing a useful public function. The particular complaint that he raises is that the export of certain varieties of apples may be prohibited, and he has dealt particularly with those known as Hoover and Prince Alfred. Some time ago, a considerable quantity of these apples was grown in various parts of the Commonwealth. They are early varieties, and being of a soft nature, do not carry well. But, on the other hand, there are occasions when, because they are ahead of the general crop, and, despite the fact that the loss to the growers may be considerable, they bring in a fair return, compared with the average price obtained for the whole of the apple crop. These varieties often arrive on the other side of the world in a relatively poor marketable condition, and this fact is detrimental to the good name of Australian apples generally. The honorable member remarked that some of the trees of this variety in Tasmania had been planted, I think, 30 years. On the other hand, there are many other trees of this variety in that State which have not been planted so long. The Tasmanian State Fruit Advisory Board, which is a semi-statutory body, has been advising the growers to graft over the stocks of such trees as the Hoover and Prince Alfred varieties to other and more profitable sorts. As the supply of these soft apples diminishes, the value of this fruit as an early variety increases, and therefore, a few growers who have persisted in their cultivation may have obtained exceptional returns; but in handling a fruit which does not stand the long period of transit to the overseas markets, they are doing something which may damage the good name of other varieties of Australian apples.

The discrimination provided for under the proposed regulations complained of has been made only after the fullest inquiry by officers of the department, upon the advice on various matters of officials of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the experts in the State agricultural departments. If the honorable member will give me the name of the gentleman who has provided him with the information furnished to the House, I shall be pleased to have the grievance further investigated; but according to the information supplied by my officers, who, I understand, are guided by the best scientific advice obtainable, there is no justification for allowing the growers of one or two special varieties of apples to risk the good name of Australian export apples, the trade in which amounts to from 3,000,000 to 4,000,000 cases per annum. Nothing is more important to Australia than the maintenance of the good name of her exports. Every honorable member of the House, and particularly those who represent constituencies in which shipping is a.n important factor, should jealously guard our export standard, and do everything possible to see that the inspection of exports at the seaboard is rigidly carried out, otherwise our good name may become tarnished.

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