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Wednesday, 29 April 1942

Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) . - When the Senate adjourned some weeks ago, I spoke on a question concerning the Department of Commerce. It had reference to the Government's acquisition of the pea crop in Tasmania. As a. number of questions relating to that subject have been placed on the noticepaper to-day, I shall content myself merely with referring to one important aspect of it, regarding which an explanation is due from the Government. A month ago I drew the Government's attention to the need for making a payment to the people whose pea crops had been acquired. If the growers had been allowed to sell their crops through ordinary trade channels, they would havĀ« received, not only a higher price, which would have .been of great moment to them, but also prompt payment. If, for instance, they had delivered their crops during a week, payment would have been made in cash as soon as delivery was made. I should like to hear from the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce (Senator Fraser) or from some other representative of the Government, why the Government is not able to conduct this business in the way that it would have been conducted by private enterprise. I remind the Government that it is ever ready to condemn the methods of private enterprise.

The product taken over has not been placed in a pool, and the price to be paid is not dependent on the. amount of money that will be received from sales. For all practical purposes, the transaction is an outright purchase by the Government of a product to be sent overseas. Why should there be any delay in making payment? We were advised a month ago that payment would be made. The growers have had to pay all. expenses incidental to' the growing, harvesting and marketing of their crops, but so far there is no indication as to when payment will be made. Is there any reason why the Government should not have used the brokers, who would ordinarily handle the produce, to conduct the transaction, and to make payments to the growers? The Government did the growers a great wrong by acquiring their property at a price lower than the ruling market price at the time when the pea crop was acquired. I shall not deal with that aspect this afternoon, but rather with the question of payment, which is of great moment to the growers. There is no point in withholding payment. I find, and other honorable senators find also, as we move about the country; that the Government is taking over - quite properly in a. time of emergency - various properties and businesses. It should, in such transactions, set the example for making payments as promptly as they would be made if the sales were arranged privately. There is no reason whatever, seeing that it is the outright purchaser, why it should not pay these deserving people at once the full price due to them. It has assessed the price of the A grade crop at 15s. a bushel, and of the B grade crop at 12b. a bushel. Why. not send the growers their cheques in the ordinary business way? There is nothing difficult or complicated in the transaction, and all it calls for on the part of the Government is the same procedure that would be followed by private enterprise. The British Government, which was buying the commodity, said that it desired to do the business through the ordinary channels of trade, and if the Australian Government had decided to form a pool one could understand that final payment would depend on the results of sales. 1 shall not -say any more now except to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce to see that early action is taken.

Senator Aylett - Have the growers received any advance?

Senator HERBERT HAYS - There is nothing to show that they have. I know that some growers who sold their crops at fi a bushel have received payment through ordinary channels. The Government should apply ordinary business principles and should pay these thousands of people what is due to them. That would have settled the whole transaction, and every body would have been happy. As it is, every body is annoyed and many people have been embarrassed because of the Government's action in not dealing with the matter promptly. I urge the Government to see that this question is cleared up and that payment is made to these people without further delay.

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