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Friday, 26 June 1914

Senator READY (Tasmania) . - I lay the report of the majority of the Fruit Commission on the table, and move -

That thereport be printed.

In submitting the motion, I should like to say briefly that it is clear to me, as a member of the Commission, that the Government have made a deliberate attempt to suppress this document and keep it from the many growers of fruit in Tasmania, and other parts of the Commonwealth, who have been waiting for its appearance for some time. I think it right that I should give the facts which have led up to my taking the action which has been supported to-day by the party to which I belong. We presented the report of the Commission to the GovernorGeneral some weeks ago, and after it was in His Excellency's hands, Mr. Finlayson and I, as representing the Commission, waited on the Prime Minister in connexion with it. The right honorable gentleman said that he would lay the report on the table of the House of Representatives, and would take charge of its distribution to members of this Parliament. We fell in with the course proposed, and did not worry ourselves any more about the matter. I am well aware that the gentlemen who comprise the minority on the Fruit Commission subsequently drew up a report from their point of view. To that we did not object, but we expected that the report of the majority would be laid before Parliament before the close of the session. We found a deliberate attempt had been made to prevent it being printed and circulated.

The report will be of special interest at the present juncture to the fruit-growers of the Commonwealth, and the Government are well aware of that. Not only did Mr. Cook give us his assurance that the report would be tabled, so that it might be printed and be available for distribution, but Mr. Shepherd, of the Prime Minister's Department, told us yesterday that Mr. Cook would table the report before Parliament was dissolved. Honorable senators can judge my amazement, as a member of the Commission, when this morning I was coolly informed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that the report of the minority of the Commission was not ready, and that if it was ready before Parliament rose, the two reports would be tabled together. It was quite clear to me that if that were to be the condition for the tabling of the report of the majority, the report of the minority of the Commission would not be ready.

Senator Needham - The honorable senator was ready, anyhow.

Senator READY -I need to be, when such tactics are pursued, to prevent the publication of a document which should at once see the light of day.

Senator Mullan - This is the Government of secrecy.

Senator READY - Yes; the Star Chamber Government, who conceal most of their actions. They endeavoured to prevent this report being made available for members of this Parliament, and the fruit-growers of the Commonwealth, who wish to read it. I have nothing to say concerning the minority of the Fruit Commission. Whether they see fit to have their report presented before the close of the session is a matter which I leave to their own judgment. I have no criticism to offer upon their action. Thereport of the majority of the Commission has been completed for weeks, and if the minority have not their report completed, that is no reason why the report of the majority should not be tabled, leaving it to the minority to present theirs when it suits' them.

As a member of the Fruit Commission, I must express my surprise and disgust that since the present Government came into power, every time this matter has been before the Senate, they have tried to burke its consideration. I remember that when last session I moved that the evidence taken by the Commission be printed, there was trouble about it, and strong opposition was offered to the proposal by Senator Clemons, one of the representatives of Tasmania. It seems to me that the Government have done everything they possibly could to prevent the work of the Fruit Commission being given the fullest publicity. Senator Clemons, when the matter came before the Chamber, objected to the evidence being printed.

Senator Clemons - I told the Senate that it could be very much better printed in another way.

Senator READY - We had to take the course of deciding to print the document against the wishes of the Government; and the final report, which sums up the findings of the progress report, is most vital at the present juncture, and ought not to be delayed in this way. Having made my protest I trust that the motion will be carried.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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