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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr BECK (Denison) .- While the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) is facing a barrage, I should like to have a " shot " at him on behalf of certain primary producers in Tasmania who consider that they have been let down by the Commonwealth Government. I refer to those who, at the request of the State Government, put in large crops of blue peas under a virtual promise given through the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture, that the British Government would take the entire crop at a fixed price of 21s. a bushel. The Minister for Commerce will remember that a few weeks ago a deputation consisting of the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture and members of the Parliament of Tasmania waited on him and the Minister for Commerce, and put up a very strong case. We now find, however, that although the Tasmanian growers were promised 21s. a bushel, the Federal Government, acting, it is stated, on the advice of certain economists, is offering only 15s. a bushel for the peas. As a matter of fact, I do not blame Professor Copland for this; the Government must accept responsibility. The only argument I have heard in justification of the Government's action is that 15s. is a payable price for blue peas. I have no doubt that it would be a payable price in ordinary circumstances, but the growers had to pay up to 30s. a bushel foi seed, and then struck the driest season experienced in Tasmania for many years, so that the crops were extremely light. The growers feel that they have been turned down by the Government, and I am inclined to agree with them. I have received the following telegram from the growers : -

Big meeting lost night Sheffield largest blue pea district Tasmania Resolution passed expressing loyal desire of growers to cooperate fully with Government in production food and other essential national commodities but regards 15s. as breach of faith view of price virtually promised. Cost production very high this season particularly seed. Yield probably half average. Fear expressed that unless present price increased many growers will lose heavily creating lack of confidence necessary for complete co-operation in future.

These growers are willing to do their utmost in order to produce a maximum harvest, but seasonal conditions in Tasmania this year have operated against them. For the fixation of this unsatisfactory price, it is useless to blame Professor Copland; the growers believe most definitely that they have been " turned down " by the Federal Government. I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter.

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