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Wednesday, 9 June 1915

Mr TUDOR (Yarra) (Minister of Trade and Customs) . - In reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Cook, I would like to say that the Government did take action. In October, when the Premiers met in Melbourne, I visited the Conference on more than one occasion, and afterwards, on behalf of the Federal Government, I approached the Premiers individually, with a view to some joint action being taken. It was known that there was likely to be a shortage of about 300,000 tons of fodder in Victoria.

Mr J H Catts - What amount was available t

Mr TUDOR - Seven hundred thousand tons, instead of a million - I think those are the figures, but I am speaking from memory. Our idea was that all the Governments should act together, and that the Federal Government should make arrangements to Buy in New Zealand on behalf of the States. We could have bought then at the price of £3 10s. per ton.

An Honorable Member. - That was the time to buy.

Mr TUDOR -We tried to get the State Premiers to move, but the response was not encouraging. South Australia asked for oaten straw, and Western Australia asked that the duty on maize should be remitted, though, as we were producing five or six million bushels, the Government did not consider it desirable bo accept the Western Australian suggestion.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Was it not the desire that you should allow private enterprise to import?

Mr TUDOR - That was suggested, but I may point out that if the suggestion had been accepted, a dozen or more purchasers would have been operating in the New Zealand market, with the result that prices would have at once gone up, and that the people would not have obtained any advantage from our action.

Mr J H Catts - Were you referring to hay and chaff?

Mr TUDOR - Yes.

Mr j H Catts - What is the price now?

Mr TUDOR - I think it is somewhere about £10 or £11 per ton for chaff.. "South Australia, as I have stated, did take action by asking us, towards the end of January, to make oaten straw. I pointed out that I did not think this would be of much effect, but that is what the South Australian Government asked for. Subsequently the Government agreed; - and a public announcement was made to this effect through thé press - that as Parliament was not sitting, and in view of the shortage^ - as far as we knew it then existed, judging from the prices that were being, obtained - instead of importing ourselves, to do the next best thing, .While we could hot remit the duty, as Parliament was not sitting, it was agreed that whatever duty was paid should be ear-marked, and subsequently repaid to the importer. It is in order to validate that action that this proposal has nOW been brought forward.

Mr J H Catts - Did the States ask th§ Federal Government to import?

Mr TUDOR - No. We were asked by the Government to remit the duty on Western Australian maize, and subsequently by the South Australian Government on oaten straw. Mr. Hutchinson, and Dr. Cameron, representing Victoria, saw me on many occasions with regard to the matter from the Victorian stand-point. This Bill is drawn up in the interests of "the agricultural community, notwithstanding what my honorable friends opposite have said about the interests of the cab- driver.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - I said they compelled action.

Mr TUDOR - Whatever amount of hay, or straw, or bran, or pollard, or oats is consumed by the horses of cabdrivers, a hundred, or probably a thousand times as- much is consumed by the animals of other people in the community.

Mr J , H Catts - Can the Minister tell the House how much hay and chaff will be covered by this proposal?

Mr TUDOR - No. The record has been kept, but I have not got it here.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - It has not arrived yet.

Mr TUDOR - Oh, yes. Some of it has been brought in, and the importers are asking that, as we promised the duty should be remitted, it shall be remitted at once, so that they can get back the money which they have paid in duty

Mr Atkinson - Can you say how lon'g the Government intend that this resolution shall remain in operation ?

Mr TUDOR - Until the Tariff is considered by Parliament - and we are hoping to get on with the Tariff next week. The matter will then depend oh Parliament.

Mr Atkinson - But what is your idea about it? You must have something in your mind

Mr TUDOR - We have. The idea of the Government is that these duties shall be reimposed as soon as possible for the benefit of the Protectionists in the honorable member's electorate.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Assuming the Tariff has not been reached before the harvest, will the duty be reimposed before then?

Mr TUDOR - The Tariff will be reached before the harvest. I can assure the honorable member on that point.

Progress reported.

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