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Tuesday, 8 November 1938

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) . - I support the amendment moved by the honorable member forFranklin (Mr. Frost), who seeks the stipulation of a quota for Tasmania, in connexion with the export trade. The Minister is prepared "to make some amendments empowering the newly constituted board to determine this question, subject to certain other factors. I do not profess to be sufficiently well versed in the matter to appreciate fully what those other factors involve, but I am disposed to accept the Minister's assurance that he feels that he has good reason for making this qualification. The honorable member for Franklin feels that from the point of view of the growers in Tasmania, it is undesirable that any qualification should be imposed and that an export quota should be guaranteed. The opposition to this amendment seems to be coming chiefly from the representatives of Western Australia.

Mr Pollard - And Victoria.

Mr BEASLEY - I have not heard any Victorian member express opposition so far. I appreciate the desire of honorable members from Victoria and Western Australia to safeguard the interests of the growers in their respective States, but I believe that Tasmania, has special rights in this regard. I cannot believe that the honorable member for Franklin wishes to impose conditions that would be harmful to the growers in Victoria or the other States.

Mr Nock - But if his amendment is accepted the method of fixing the quotas will be arbitrary.

Mr BEASLEY - Then it would be equally arbitrary in its application to all the States. I do not believe that the honorable member for Franklin wishes Tasmania to obtain an undue advantage over the other States. We must remember, however, that some of the States have special interests in particular industries. In Queensland there is the sugar industry, which is vital to the economic welfare of that State, and Queensland representatives naturally endeavour to ensure that the interests of that industry are safeguarded. Tasmania is in much the same position in regard to fruit, and I say that without under-estimating the importance of the industry to Victoria, or any other State. We should remember that Victoria has many industries. It is not dependent upon fruit-growing alone.

Mr Pollard - Does the existence of other industries make any difference to the individual grower in Victoria?

Mr BEASLEY - I am trying to look at this matter in a general way. It cannot be denied that Tasmania depends, largely, on its fruit-growing industry for its economic existence. Tasmania suffers under many disabilities, and it has, year after year, had to approach the Commonwealth for a grant to compensate it for the disabilities alleged' to be due to federation. In that State, the applegrowing industry has been raised to a very high standard, and for that we must commend the growers and the Tasmanian Go- vernment. We in this Parliament should do our best to support a State that is trying to develop an industry suitable to its conditions and in which a large capital outlay has been involved. There is a long period of waiting for the trees to come to maturity, the right types for export and for home consumption have to be selected, scientific investigation has to be made regarding the control of pests, &c, and marketing arrangements have to be carefully organized. No one will deny that, in regard to all these matters, Tasmania has played its part well.

Mr Prowse - It is only a matter of degree.

Mr BEASLEY - I do not blame the honorable member for taking up the attitude he does, but, as the representative of the consumers, I regard myself as unbiased on this question. We offer the home market to the growers, and we hope to get the fruit as cheaply as is consistent with providing the growers with a reasonable return. Western Australia, apparently, is setting out to develop an applegrowing industry, but it has not yet been developed to the same degree as in Tasmania. It cannot he overlooked that there is a definite limit to the quantity of fruit that can be absorbed by the export trade and by the home market. This problem revolves round the question of which so much is heard nowadays, namely, planning. We frequently hear mention of our wide, open spaces in Australia that are calling out for development, and of the need to establish irrigation schemes, with a view to increasing production. That sounds very well, but I always ask myself: What are we to do with the produce of these areas if they are developed? If there is no payable market for what is produced, then all our efforts are vain. If we set out to expand the apple and pear growing industry without having first a definite plan for disposing of its product, we shall be merely leading a large number of people in Western Australia and elsewhere up a blind alley. It takes many years for trees to come into full bearing. At the end of that time the growers will have no market for a large part of their produce, and they will be forced to approach the Commonwealth Government for a bounty or a subsidy. There is no alternative. Of course, I admit that it would be possible to increase the home consumption of fruit, but that is bound up with matters which lie outside the scope of this discussion. Just to touch upon it briefly, however, I may say that in every second home in the district which I represent more fruit would be eaton if the people had the means to buy it. I cannot ask that the fruit be made available at a price below the cost of production. If I fight for good conditions for the workers, that is, the consumers, f cannot forget that the growers are also entitled to a fair return. Unfortunately, far from bringing about conditions which would make for an increased consumption of fruit, we seem all the time to be tending in the opposite direction.

It seems to me that Parliament should give first consideration to that State where the industry is already established. After all, we have an obligation to Tasmania, because this industry is the basis of its prosperity. It would be bad taste, to say the least of it, to do anything which would rob Tasmania of its rightful place in this regard. There must be a limit somewhere to the amount of fruit produced, because of the restricted market in our export trade. Honorable members will recall that after the war we set out on an orgy of closer settlement. The cry was to put the soldiers on the laud, to grow more wheat, to increase production. Well, production was increased, and then it was found that we could not sell the produce. We shall find ourselves in a similar difficulty if we encourage people in Western Australia or elsewhere to embark upon an industry in which there is no room for expansion. I am not convinced that there is much room for expansion in regard to exports. Practically all nations are now so arranging their economic development as to make themselves, as far as possible, independent of outside sources of supply.

The honorable member for Franklin is not only seeking to advance the interests of his State, but he is also, in an indirect way, sounding a note of warning against the danger of unplanned development in this industry. As I have said, Tasmania has special rights in. the matter, and I, as a representative of one of the largest

States, am prepared to support the amendment of the honorable member for Franklin.

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