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Thursday, 4 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I do not much care whether the duty upon prunes be 4d. or 4£d. per lb. What difference does a halfpenny make, anyhow? The Minister' (Senator Russell) has stated that the prune-growers of New South Wales have asked that the duty be 6d. Who were these people? I do not think they were the growers. Probably the request emanated from some company or Combine which has been handling the produce.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Batlow branch of the Fruit-growers Association of New South Wales made the request by medium of one of the honorable senator's party colleagues. I refer . to Mr. Parker Moloney.

Senator GARDINER - The honorable senator will not find that the actual growers have asked for another half- penny. All they want is a fair chance and fair play without Tariff handicap, or so-called encouragement, and they will hold their own against all-comers.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refer Senator Gardiner to Hansard (vide page 8530), in which is published a letter from the Batlow prune-growers, which was read by Mr. Parker Moloney in another place.

Senator GARDINER - No doubt, but I am not prepared to tax 1,000,000 consumers for the benefit of two or three, people, particularly when - according to the Government - they have ample protection already. The duty of 4d. per lb. is too high. I appeal for reason on behalf of the people. Apparently, however, this unhealthy encouragement by way of steadily increased protection is to continue for years. When are the consumers to have their turn ? First of all, we are asked to " give the orchardists a chance to establish themselves." The next cry is, " Give them an opportunity to grow their prunes"; and the next, " Give them a chance to secure up-to-date machinery for preparing the prunes for market, and then the people will reap the benefit." When? The Australian prune industry would appear to be growing weaker and weaker. Prunes imported from America are not grown with the aid of cheap labour. Freights cannot be secured for nothing. Why should the Australian growers require more and more protection? As for the appeal of the growers in the Batlow district, they have the good fortune to be established on one of the richest areas in New South Wales. Almost anything cultivated in the neighbourhood grows to perfection.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable senator ought hot to jeopardize the reelection of his colleague.

Senator GARDINER - My colleague can look after himself. Mr. Parker Moloney may be relied on to secure his return to the Commonwealth Legislature upon general merits, and not by the exclusive favour of the Batlow prune-growers. The duty has been increased by l£d. per lb. from what the Protectionists thought was adequate a few years ago. It is not a small increase, because it represents approximately 50 per cent, of the value of the product, and that has to be added to the price the consumer has to pay.. The Minister has said that it is 50 per cent, below what the growers have asked, and we appear to be legislating in this way: The Government impose a duty of 3d. per lb., the producers ask for 6d. per lb., and the rate is eventually fixed at 4£d. per lb. I desire to voice the opinion of the unorganized people who have to pay> because those who are formed into companies and Combines have offices, can frame resolutions and circulars, and distribute them throughout the Commonwealth. In that way their interests are safeguarded. During the last three weeks I have had an opportunity of visiting three States in the Commonwealth, and I have never seen so many unemployed as there are at present, notwithstanding that we have a Protective Tariff in operation, which is bringing in approximately £30,000,000 per annum. If the arguments of the Protectionists are sound, and high duties create employment, one would expect to find every one profitably engaged.

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