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Thursday, 1 October 1936

Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - I rise with some timidity, because invariably my remarks call down on my devoted head the wrath of some honorable senators, particularly Senator Leckie and the leader of the Country party (Senator Hardy). Nevertheless, it is impossible for me, as Leader of the Opposition,, to let pass this opportunity to emphasize the few innocent remarks which I made on the bill immediately preceding this one. What are the outstanding facts which present themselves to this Senate in the second-reading speech made by the Assistant Minister (Senator Brennan) ? Probably honorable senators opposite do not form the same conclusions from it as I do, and probably they will say that I approach consideration of measures such as this with a jaundiced vision; but it is for them to show that my judgment is astray. The admission by the Minister that 50 per cent, of the prunes grown within the Commonwealth have to bc exported shows, I contend, that there is no local demand for more than 50 per cent, of tho Australian crop.

Senator Brennan - Put it in another way - 50 per cent, of what is produced supplies the local market.

Senator COLLINGS - That is what I mean. The Minister inverts my statement because he realizes that, if I accept his words, my argument will not be so obvious. There are within Australia thousands of families which would be glad to accept a share of the prune crop, and would be able to do so if the policy of the Government were such as to increase their purchasing power. If that were done, their children would be able to enjoy this highly beneficial fruit.

Senator Hardy - How does the honorable senator know that the people have a taste for prunes?

Senator COLLINGS - "Well, I have. That raises another self-evident feature of this legislation. I know that my family likes to got the best prunes. Nothing short of the best should be good enough for tho Australian family. We are told that this industry, in the hands of private enterprise, is incompetent, and unable to arrange an orderly system of marketing or any thi sg else; in spite of having been warned how damaging to their industry is the export of inferior prunes, the growers continue to send them abroad. In other words, in spite of the furore caused by my few innocent remarks on the last bill, the fact is manifest that again the Government is coming to the aid of industry because private enterprise cannot carry on without such help. More and more the Government is taking out of the hands of private enterprise control of the products of this country.

Senator Foll - We are to eat the small prunes and send the big ones overseas.

Senator COLLINGS - As a matter of fact, that is the policy followed in respect of every primary product. We send the best of our beef away. The local consumer pays a higher price for a range of products inferior to those which are shipped abroad.

Senator Hardy - What about the sugar industry ?

Senator COLLINGS - The interjection by the Leader of the Country party, so far from disturbing me, supplies me with ammunition. Senator Hardy mentions the Queensland sugar industry on every conceivable occasion ; it has no connexion whatever with the subject under discussion. The statement is made, over and over again, and entirely without justification, that the people in this country arc paying too much for their sugar. No other Australian primary industry has been developed on such scientific lines, and in no other industry is there the same uniformly high quality of product. It does not export the best of its production and market sugar of inferior quality in Australia. The whole of the production is f.a.q., and so efficient is the industry that in Australia a greater return per ton of cane sugar is obtained than in any other country.

I heartily support the bill. We on this side wish to see the growers of prunes placed on a sound basis. I was sorry to hear the Minister say that in no circumstances in the future would the Government pay a bounty to prune-growers. It is our duty to do everything that is possible to ensure the well-being of every section of our producers, primary or secondary. If, as the Minister has said, the industry cannot meet the Californian competition in the United Kingdom, due to the reduced imports by Germany, obviously the industry is not properly organized either as to production or distribution, and there is need for more Government oversight.

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