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Wednesday, 10 April 1946

Mr DEDMAN (Corio) (Minister for Post-war Reconstruction and Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) . - The suggestion of the honorable member is hedged round with so many " ifs " that it is difficult for me to disentangle his meaning.

Mr Guy - Surely it is possible to find out whether there were adequate supplies in the depots, as provided in the agreement.

Mr DEDMAN - After I have exhausted all the honorable member's " ifs " I shall try to find out. The honorable member has put up an argument for the establishment of a refinery at Hobart.

Mr Guy - If sufficient sugar cannot be otherwise provided.

Mr DEDMAN - Claims for the establishment of a refinery at Hobart have; I think, been mainly actuated by recent shortages of sugar in that State. Whilst I appreciate the difficulties with which Tasmanians have had to contend during the past few years, I mustpoint out that other -States have also been adversely affected by the general fall in sugar production and the shortage of shipping. These shortages, of course, are a temporary war-time phase, and not a permanent condition. For a number of reasons it is very doubtful whether the establishment of a refinery in Hobart at present would be economically sound. Further, it would not result in the alleviation of the shortage of refined sugar in Tasmania. The establishment of a refinery in Tasmania would not relieve that State of its dependence on shipping. On the contrary, it would place Tasmania in a more unfavorable position. The raw sugar which would need to be shipped would be of a slightly greater tonnage than refined sugar, and would be transported from Queensland in coastal tramps instead of by the more regular shipping service, which is now used to carry the refined product. The availability of adequate coal supplies in Hobart is also an important consideration.

Another factor to be considered is the advantage which Tasmanian consumers now enjoy over other States in the prices they pay for sugar. Tasmanians, as a whole, get their sugar cheaper than do people in any other State. Sugar is made available in mainland capital cities, where refineries are established, at a uniform price, but transport costs to all other mainland ports and inland towns, except Fremantle, are borne by the purchasers. Tasmanian consumers, however, are given special concessions. Hobart and Launceston receive their sugar free of transport costs, and are given allowances to cover landing charges. In addition, persons purchasing through such ports as Burnie, Devonport, and Regatta Point, served by direct shipping routes, are granted concessions which enable them to obtain sugar at approximately capital city prices. The establishment of a refinery in Hobart would probably result in transport costs of refined sugar from Hobart falling fully on the purchasers. Whilst the Commonwealth is, of course, vitally concerned in the Australian sugar industry, the establishment of refineries is more the province of the Queensland Government. The Commonwealth Government has no control over production. However, I shall obtain for the honorable member the information for which he has asked.

Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

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