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Thursday, 25 October 1956

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden) - Order!

Mr DUTHIE - Wages, which are the main factor, and tin-plate costs, which are another important factor, have increased by only a little over 40 per cent., compared with a 100 per cent, increase of the cost of sugar. The jam-making industry absorbs approximately one-fifth of the total tonnage of sugar used by all manufacturers This proportion could be increased very substantially if the consumption of jam in

Australia were restored to the 1948 level. In 1948, more than 65,300 tons of sugar were used by fruit processors. Of this quantity, 53,000 tons were used for jam alone. In 1954-55, the total quantity of sugar used had fallen to 53,000 tons, of which only 21,000 tons were used in jammaking. In the same period jam production declined by 60 per cent., despite an increase of Australia's population by more than 15 per cent. This is a very serious state of affairs. I do not know whether it has been taken into consideration by the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government in increasing the price of sugar by £10 a ton under the new agreement, which will operate for six years. I am not sure whether the price now fixed must stand for the full period or whether provision is made for it to be reviewed.

The manufacture of jam in Australia has declined during the last decade. In 1948, more than 198,000,000 lb. of jam was produced, whereas this year the rate of production has fallen to only 78,000,000 lb. annually. That is a tremendous decline in eight years. During the same period the cost of sugar has increased from £36 lis. 9d. a ton to £82 ls. a ton. In 1947, the sugar contained in a dozen 24-oz. tins of jam cost 3s. 7d., compared with 8s. to-day. Before the war the annual consumption of jam in Australia was approximately 11.4 lb. a head. In 1952-53, it had fallen to 8.5 lb. a head. It is no doubt even lower at the present time. In round figures, the consumption of jam has declined by 13,000 tons in six years. This trend must affect the sugar industry, which will eventually find that its sales in Australia are not as great as they were expected to be.

The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has tried to help the fruitgrowers with publicity. Tasmanian berry fruit-growers who travel in inland Australia, for example, in the inland towns of Victoria and New South Wales, find that many people have never heard of the jams produced in Tasmania. That is due to inadequate publicity. Two years ago the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee allocated £50,000 to advertise jams in Australia. That was a big help in boosting the popularity of Tasmanian jams, particularly the IXL brand.

Mr Falkinder - Is the honorable member a Jones man?

Mr DUTHIE - I am not, but IXL jams are made in Tasmania from fruit grown in the Wilmot and Franklin electorates, and the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) and I should do our best to promote the sale of Tasmanian jam on the Australian market. The great decline of the consumption of jam in Australia will eventually have disastrous effects on the sugar industry. Even our exports of jam have declined seriously. In 1949-50 we exported 29,120 tons. In 1954-55 we exported 3,059 tons. This is a serious reduction in only five years. There has been a big decline also in the areas devoted to the cultivation of jam-making fruits. The recorded reduction of the acreage devoted to the growing of berry fruits in Tasmania between 1952-53 and 1954-55 is 1,300 acres. That is a tremendous reduction of acreage in an industry in which the farms are usually only a few acres in area. Much of that 1,300 acres is now devoted to dairying and orchards. Berry fruit production declined from 8,369 tons in 1951-52 to 3,635 tons in 1954-55. These figures illustrate the alarming events taking place in the great jam-making industry.

I propose to emphasize these events by reference to the domestic sugar rebate, which in the south is considered to be too low. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has many jobs to do. One of its tasks is to fix the domestic sugar rebate. It fixes the price paid for sugar by the processors of berry fruits also. The domestic sugar rebate, which is £2 4s. a ton, has not been increased since 1933.

Mr Wight - There is an additional £24 a ton, making a total of £26 4s. a ton.

Mr DUTHIE - I am speaking of the basic domestic sugar rebate, not export rebate, as stated in the new agreement at page 4 of the schedule to the bill. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee has again approved a rebate of £2 4s. a ton. It has not been increased by Id. in 23 years, although the price of sugar has increased from £30 6s. a ton to £82 ls. a ton, or by £51 15s. a ton, in that time. That is our main criticism of the new agreement.

The domestic rebate should certainly be reviewed. It was originally investigated by a committee, which apparently sank into oblivion after fixing the rebate at £2 4s. a ton. That committee has never been heard of since. Another committee of inquiry should be appointed to consider the matter from the stand-point of the Tasmanian and Victorian fruit-growers. A committee was appointed by the Government to inquire into the costs of the sugar industry in Queensland, and quite rightly. That committee has presented its report. A similar committee should be appointed to investigate costs at the manufacturing end and to consider whether the domestic sugar rebate should be increased. That would be fair, and that is the proposal we are advancing. It is a one-sided process to maintain the domestic sugar rebate at the same rate year after year and repeatedly approve increases of the price of sugar. It is not fair to the Tasmanian and Victorian fruitgrowers or the manufacturers of products in which there is a substantial sugar content.

Mr George Lawson - What about confectionery manufacturers?

Mr DUTHIE - They are affected, too, as also are the manufacturers of soft drinks. These people were complaining about the situation when we met them recently at a conference in Hobart, and this whole matter was thrashed out. It was one of the largest conferences dealing with such matters that I have attended. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) was also present. The representatives of cordial manufacturers attended the conference, but I cannot recall the details of the case that they submitted. I hope the honorable member for Franklin can remember them. They definitely made a case, however. It appears that, in the application of a certain formula that is being used, they are allowed no rebate. The application of this formula amounts to a splitting of straws. It deprives the cordial manufacturers of any financial assistance. For this reason, the formula should be reviewed. No users of sugar should be deprived of the advantages of this rebate.

Mr Wight - Who is to pay the rebate - the sugar industry itself?

Mr DUTHIE - It has been paying it in the past, through the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee.

Mr Wight - The honorable member is a bit unfair!

Mr DUTHIE - After all, we are being asked to agree to an increase of £10 a ton in the price of sugar, and I think we should support the claims of all the people who use sugar. 1 do not mean householders, or people who merely put sugar in their tea; I refer to people who use sugar in the manufacture of jams and cordials. As a teetotaller, I believe that their claims are well worthy of consideration.

Mr Bruce - Sugar is used in the brewing of beer, too.

Mr DUTHIE - That may be so, but the cordial manufacturers are out on a limb in connexion with this agreement, and they deserve some consideration. I drink so much raspberry cordial and lemonade during election campaigns that I am sure it rots my shoes. I feel that we should have some regard for the manufacturers of cordials. 1 come now to the question of the fixing of prices received by berry fruit growers. This matter is in the hands of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, which is a dictatorial body, lt runs and rules the industry, lt decides how much is to be allowed in rebates, and how much the growers in my electorate, and in other electorates in Tasmania, will receive for their products. It has tremendous power. As a result of the decline in the price of berry fruits, 300 acres have gone out of production during the last two or three years. That land was previously used for growing loganberries, raspberries, gooseberries, currants and the like.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Bowden).- The question before the House is not the growing of berry fruits, but the sugar agreement.

Mr DUTHIE - With all due respect, I submit that berry fruits are one of the ingredients of manufactured goods, in the making of which sugar also is used.


But the honorable member is now dealing with the growing of those fruits.

Mr DUTHIE - I shall make a passing reference to it, because, by ratifying this agreement, the Parliament actually fixes the price of berry fruits. The people of Tasmania would like the Fruit Industry

Sugar Concession Committee to give further consideration to the berry fruits industry, in order to revive, by the fixation of fair and just prices, an industry that has practically gone out of existence in that State. Tasmania produces 85 per cent, of all the berry fruits grown in Australia.

I should like now to refer to the composition of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee. The agreement provides that the committee shall be composed of one representative of each of the following: - The Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Sugar Board, the growers of canning fruits, the growers of non-canning fruits, the co-operative and State manufacturers of fruit products, and the proprietary manufacturers of fruit products. I believe that the Government should consider granting representation on this committee to cordial manufacturers. After all, the committee consists of only six members, and, as I said before, it is a very powerful committee. It exercises dictatorial powers within the industry, and wider representation on it would do no harm. Cordial manufacturers, who have increased in number during recent years, should be granted some representation on this committee.

I wish now to cite some figures showing how the berry fruits industry in Tasmania has declined. The total acreage of land used for the production of berry fruits in that State reached its peak in 1945-46, when 4,797 acres were under production. The number of acres in production eighteen months ago was only 2,450. Those figures indicate how the production of raspberries, loganberries, strawberries, currants and other small fruits has declined. In 1945-46, the total production amounted to 5,900 tons, but it had declined to 3,806 ton>; eighteen months ago. I have cited these figures merely to show the significant decline that has occurred in what was once a very important industry in my State.

I hold no real brief for the large manufacturers of jams, because they have become a monopoly economically. I am concerned, however, for the people who depend on the jam-making industry, such as the factory workers and the growers of the berry fruits. In Victoria, every one connected with the stone fruits industry is affected by this agreement. On behalf of those Opposition members who feel that there are two sides to this question, I put this case to the Government. 1 particularly ask that the matter of representation on the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee should be reconsidered. 1 also suggest that the domestic rebate on sugar should certainly be increased. It has been maintained at the same level, £2 4s. a ton, for 23 years.

Mr Wight - It should be abolished!

Mr DUTHIE - The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) says that it should be abolished. I am glad to say that honorable members on this side of the House have a wider outlook than has the honorable member for Lilley. The Opposition would not go so far as to advocate the abolition of that rebate. The price of sugar to domestic consumers is now £82 ls. a ton, less the rebate of £2 4s. The price, therefore, is still very nearly £80 a ton, which is a colossal price for a commodity which is so important in the manufacture of many products for home consumption and for export.

I trust that the honorable member for Franklin, when he speaks on this measure, will fill in any of the gaps that I have left, and will emphasize any points that I have failed to stress. I hope that he will show that there is a necessity for the Government to reconsider the domestic rebate system. Having met in Hobart the representatives of those affected by this agreement, I believe that if the price of sugar is increased by £10 a ton, the domestic rebate should also be increased. That argument, I feel, is unanswerable.

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