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Thursday, 1 October 1936

Senator J B HAYES (Tasmania) .- I associate myself with the protest made by Senator Payne, who stated that a bounty of 4^d. a case was not sufficient. The bounty should be larger, and it should be made permanent. I do not propose to go over Senator Payne's figures, but I can epitomize them by saying that" from Tasmania last year 1.600,000 cases were exported on consignment, the average return being 2s. 6d. a case on the wharfs. It is estimated that, after picking, grading and casing the apples, it costs the growers 2s. 7-Jd. a case to put them on the wharfs. If we allow 2s. 3d. a case as a co3t of growing tho fruit - and I know it is difficult to arrive at a reliable estimate, due to varying conditions - it means that a loss of 2s. 4d. a case is sustained on apples exported from Tasmania on consignment. The f.o.b. sellers fare a little better. The orchardists cannot go on doing that. As a matter of fact, they are worse off than are any other primary producers in Australia. With the exception of wool, very little can be grown in Australia at the present time and exported without assistance. Sometimes that assistance is given in the form of a bounty, but more often it is in the form of a homeconsumption price. For my part, I cannot see any difference between creating a home-consumption price, and thus collecting an increased amount from the public, and paying a straightout bounty from the proceeds of taxation. In both cases the assistance comes from the public. In regard to wheat, prices are abnormal this year because of world seasonal conditions, but when they recede to their ordinary level, a homeconsumption price will be imposed in Australia. The wheat-growers have already received £14,000,000 by way of special grant, butter enjoys the benefits of an equalization scheme, and the interests of dried fruit-growers are guarded by the Dried Fruits Marketing Board. I do not begrudge the producers of these commodities the benefits they receive: they cannot get along without them. The point is, however, that these methods of assistance are not available to the growers of apples and pears, which are perishable, and, therefore, not amenable in the same degree to organized marketing. Further complications are introduced by the existence of different varieties, and by having to meet different competition at the various seasons of the year. ' Altogether it is not practicable to establish a homeconsumption price. I maintain, however, that the growers of apples and pears are as much entitled to a -livelihood as are the growers of dried fruits. Under the dried fruits marketing scheme, it is laid down that four-fifths of the crop shall be exported, leaving one-fifth to be disposed of in Australia at an average price of £17 a ton more than London parity, which represents an additional £238,000 collected by the producers from tho Australian public. Thus the dried fruits producers receive special assistance from the public to the extent of £238,000, while the apple and pear growers, whose industry is in many respects comparable, are to receive only £100,000. Now we are told that the growers must limit exports. That means that they will have to dump an increasing quantity of apples on the Australian market. The position of the growers is going from bad to worse. Some friends of mine grubbed their apple-trees but, as Senator Payne has told the Senate, the areas are not large enough, and very often the land is unsuitable for any other form of production. The position of the apple-growers in Tasmania is . extremely serious. If they could come under marketing regulations such as those governing other forms of production, have a marketing board and obtain a fixed price for the quantity consumed in Australia, their position, perhaps, could be improved. But they are unable to do this. Apple-growers are an essential part of the Australian population. The industry means as much to Tasmania as the wheat industry means to some of the mainland States. Applegrowing provides, or should provide, producers in Tasmania with a living. As at present the industry does not give them, a decant living, they feel that they have a claim - I use the word advisedly - on the Commonwealth Government for assistance. The suggestion made by Senator Payne for a- bounty of1s. a case is not a bit too high. I do not know how the bounty was fixed at 4½d. a case. I suggest that the Government appoint a board or commission of business men - the industry is importantenough to warrant such a course - to inquire fully into the position of the growers and recommend what would be a fair bounty for the Government to pay, having in mind the financial assistance given to other primary producers by the public in the form of home-consumption prices. I urge the appointment of a commission of business men, not because I have anything adverse to say about departmental officers, but because I think that the inquiry should be made by persons having a thorough knowledge of the industry. There is ample precedent fortius course. For years representations were made with respect to the amounts granted by the Commonwealth to the States, and finally the Government appointed the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which took evidence and obtained information that ' would not otherwise have been available to Parliament. The commission now makes its recommendations to the Government,- and the amounts so recommended are paid. Such a commission to inquire into the apple industry would satisfy itself about the difficulties of the orchardists, and would be in a position to recommend to the Government that a bounty should be paid, and what other measures should be adopted to stabilize the industry. I could offer some suggestions, but I am not sufficiently au fait with all phases of the industry to say definitely what should be done to ensure its safety. It isno exaggeration to say that the apple and pear-growers in Tasmania are worse off than any other primary producers in Australia. Last season they exported 3,000,000 cases, and for a considerable portion of the shipment the return barely covered thecost of picking, packing, freight, paper, and other incidental charges. I urge the Government to institute a full inquiry to ascertain the facts and then do what is fair for the growers. ' I am sure that such an inquiry would result in a largely-increased and permanent bounty. -

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