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Thursday, 14 November 1935

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South Australia) . - The statements made during this debate seem to me to have been wholly black or wholly white. We have had one statement of the position of the dried fruits industry by the mover of the motion, followed by a strong reply from several honorable senators. There has been little attempt to tone down the two extremes of opinion. The Minister (Senator Brennan) stated his case very clearly and fairly, I thought, although I do not agree with all that he said. If 1 have any right to intervene in this debate I think it is because I am, probably, the only member of this chamber who is, in any sense, a grower. I do not know if either Senator Badman or Senator Collings has produced any dried fruits, but. I have been a grower for between 20 and 25 years. I may, perhaps, be said to be conducting a " backyard industry " as I have .only 10 acres under fruit, but by comparison with thesis who do not produce any dried fruits at all, I should be entitled to express my views on this subject. When the Australian Dried Fruits Association came into existence I was not faced with bankruptcy in connexion with, my currant crop, and I am not lushed with wealth as the result of its operations. The statements made on this subject have been pitched so highly that in speaking at this juncture it is somewhat difficult to attempt to do justice to. both sides. We are facing an antagonism of long standing. I suppose that every honorable senator realizes that it is only natural that the two parties to this contest should have their respective view-points, and that opinions have been expressed on both sides by extremists.

On the legal side, the High Court has decided that these regulations are in accordance with the act, and, therefore, if anything is susceptible to attack, it is the act under which they are framed. Senator McLeay, however, is quite justified in raising for discussion this important subject which is, or which should be, of interest to many honorable senators. My view in matters of this kind has been for years that there should be as little governmental interference as possible. In these days we are all agreed - most of us have been for some time past - that control in the grading and packing of dried fruits is essential, and that if it is advisable to introduce a home consumption price quotas and levies will be necessary. Apart from that, there are a great many in Australia who believe that it would bc far better for the growers if they were permitted to sell their own produce, whether it be dried* fruits, wheat, or even a relatively unimportant product such as oranges, instead of handing it to some one else for sale. I noticed with interest that the Orange Bounty Bill introduced by the Goverment does not in any way attempt to control the sale of oranges. It provides for the payment of a bounty on oranges exported to Great Britain, but t here is no complica ted machinery 'setting out the manner in which they shall be sold.

Senator Hardy - Does not the honorable senator think that, ultimately, all our exports will be sold under control?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - I should be sorry if that should ever be the case. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that Bawra controlled the sale of the whole of the

Australian wool clip, and that, when that organization went out of existence, it was a bad thing for Australia. Bawra performed good work, but it was concerned only with the disposal of wool sold at a fixed rate to the British Government.

Senator Collings - Had that organization continued in control, the position in the industry would have been much better than it is to-day.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Bawra, which did not control wool as the honorable senator suggests, had its genesis in the minds of individualists who laid the benefit of their experience before the Government; on their advice that organization came into existence. I should be very sorry to think that any governmental or semi-governmental body should control Australian wool. The Dried Fruits Export Control Board has performed very good work in the interests of Australia. So far as I have been able to form an opinion, I think it is the most satisfactory of all the control boards, being constituted of men like Mr- Howie, who are caapble of keeping an open mind, and of conducting the industry as far as possible in the same way as it was conducted before a board was appointed. I have been through a number of the packing sheds under the control of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and 1 have found that they are admirably conducted. At the same time, the members of the Export Control Board are perhaps too high-handed in' some of their actions. In one instance some independent packers asked the board members to meet them in conference, so that they could express their views on certain phases of the board's activities. There are some in this chamber who will say that such persons are a mere minority, and have no right to be heard, but the board is supposed to consider the viewpoint of every branch of the industry. This section of the growers wrote to the board on the 24th April asking for a conference, and, as no reply was received, another letter was despatched on the 8th May asking for a. reply. On the 9th May a formal acknowledgment of the letter was received, but it was not until the 24th May that a reply was received stating that no good purpose would be served by holding such a conference.

Senator Hardy - Who wrote the letter asking for a conference?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - The legal representatives of that section of the growers. The letter from the secretary of the board stated that -

The board does not see that any good purpose would be served by the holding of a conference such as is suggested, but the board will give its customary earnest and careful consideration to any written representations advanced by any exporter of fruit or interested party.

It will be seen that the board is not using its power in a courteous and reasonable manner.

Senator Hardy - Was the conference on the subject of co-operative marketing or on a legal matter?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Certain views were placed before the board by the legal representatives of a number of growers. They stated, among other things, that they agreed with the general principle of control so far as grading and export quotas were concerned, but they were against restrictions of sales and distribution on fixed price markets. They suggested further that a conference would remove some of the difficulties and result in a modification of some of the regulations.

Senator Hardy - If the honorable senator were elected as the representative of some political party with a definite policy, and a minority wrote asking for a conference to discuss another policy, would the honorable senator consent to such a conference?

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - My own tendency is to hear the point of view of every section. I say quite deliberately that, when a dried fruit organization writes to the board of control asking for a conference, it would be more courteous to reply in a shorter period than one month. If the board did not propose to grant the conference, why did it not send a letter to that effect within a few days instead of waiting for a month ? There is a good deal to be said on both sides. One of' the difficulties associated with the pooling system, and one open to attack, is that growers cannot obtain details from any pooling organization as to how amounts are made up or what mistakes, if any, have occurred. Naturally, every person or organization is liable to make mistakes. My answer to Senator Hardy's interjections is that the independent growers have rights. Does the honorable senator suggest that because they are a small minority they have no rights and are not entitled to be heard?

Senator Hardy - I claim that apparently they go very close to sacrificing those rights when they are not sufficiently interested in their industry to vote.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - They did vote. Mr. Howie is an immensely popular man who was elected by a four to one majority. I draw the attention of honorable senators, however, to the election of Mr. Russell to theState board. He stood practically as an independent representing the non-irrigation areas and was elected against two well-known members of the Australian Dried Fruits Association.

Senator Hardy - Nine hundred growers did not vote and it is only logical to assume that those 900 men, or the majority of them, are members of the independent association.

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - I do not know whether that is a fact or not. It seems to be extremely difficult to find out exactly how many members are in the respective organizations. Conflicting statements on this matter have been made to-day, and it may be that some growers sell to both organizations.

Senator Gibson - Are all growers entitled to vote?

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