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Tuesday, 15 May 1928

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - One's sympathies go out to the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) because, under very trying conditions, he is making a plea on behalf of a large section of the people he represents:

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yet he will vote for the Government.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Whether he does or not, the Government will have a majority. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) summed up the position rightly when he said that the party whip had been cracked. Of course, the Government will prevail, no matter what the honorable member for Angas may say. That honorable member may make very telling speeches to his constituents upon the iniquity of this proposal, but he will also have to explain why he is unwavering in his support of a Government that will commit this injustice against a large section of the primary producers of Australia.

Mr Duncan-Hughes - The honorable member for Angas voted against the Government on the motion for the second reading of the bill.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government has the number of supporters necessary to pass the bill, and, of course, it will allow the honorable member for Angas to have his little say.

Mr Parsons - I can assure the honorable member that I have neither sought nor obtained its permission to do so.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Government will tolerate the honorable member, secure in the knowledge that it has the necessary numbers at its back. The. honorable member is aware of that also. He is only beating the air. We -shall probably find the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) supporting the honorable member for Angas in his denunciation of this iniquity that is being perpetrated against primary producers; yet he is a supporter of the pact which makes it possible for a Minister who is a member of the party that calls itself the Country party, to inflict that iniquity. It ill becomes the Minister (Mr. Paterson) to make no effort to refute the arguments that were advanced on the motion for the second reading of the bill, and that are being repeated at this, the committee stage, in opposition to the proposal of the Government. I do not believe that he has answered one of the objections that have been raised by the opponents of the measure. If he were sitting in the corner, where he sat before the days of. the pact, he would condemn, just as strongly as has the honorable member for Angas, a government which is prepared to commit such an injustice upon a large section of the primary producers. This is an act of repudiation. When the moved the second reading, and again the other day, the Minister endeavored to excuse the attitude he is adopting by saying that the increased preference that has been given by- the British Government to Australia, has quite changed the face of the matter. He has repeated that argument so often that he has probably convinced himself of its truth.

Mr Parsons - He has not convinced any one else.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He has not convinced any one who wishes to see a fair thing done by the industry or the people who are engaged in it. He has ignored altogether the changed . circumstances in Great Britain itself. With a wave of the hand, as though it meant nothing, he has dismissed the arguments which have been advanced by those who sit on this side, as well as by some Government supporters, who for the time being are in opposition to it, with regard to the industry that has sprung up in Great Britain for the manufacture of a cheap wine from the "must," or unfermented grape juice imported from Spain, which, upon entering Great Britain, pays no duty, and is undercutting wine from Australia, and all other wines that are sold on the British market.

Mr Paterson - I dealt with that matter last week.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member may have dealt with it to his own satisfaction, but his words did not carry conviction to any other honorable member. The honorable gentleman said that Great Britain has increased the duty on foreign wines; but he lightly skimmed over the fact that the manufacture of this cheap wine in Great Britain nullifies the advantage, which appears on paper only, in favour of Australian wines. .

Mr Scullin - As a matter of fact, the general increase of the tariff on wine imports has stimulated the production of so-called British wines.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so! The Minister has made no attempt to explain that serious situation ; in fact, I do not know whether he is aware to what extent the wine industry of Great Britain is developing.

Mr Paterson - I am well aware of its development.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - According to the Wine Trade Review, the British company that is manufacturing wine from imported must is called the Vine Products Limited. A few years ago it had a capital of £30,000 ; but that has now been increased to £585,000.

Mr Scullin - And two-thirds of the capital is watered.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is so. Last year the company's profits amounted to £48 per cent., and its manufactures to 2,500,000 gallons of wine.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is cheap wine against which the Australian wine .has little chance of competing. The Minister cannot dispose of those facts with a wave of the hand. As a matter of fact, the Australian wine industry is receiving no advantage from the British preference. The honorable member for Angas said that the preference was the same now as previously. The Minister contended that the preference had been increased.

Mr Paterson - I said that the effective preference had been increased.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - -Even if the preference has been increased it must be admitted that it has been nullified by the stimulus that the increased tariff has given to the production -of British wines.

Mr Parsons - The preference is still 4s.


Mr Paterson - The preference has not been increased ; but it is now effective.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The only construction that I can put on the Minister's words is that the position now is the same except that it is different.

Mr Paterson - I shall clear the honorable member's mind when I reply.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister has, up to the present, failed to give us any satisfactory information. According to the honorable member for Angas a deputation is coming from South Australia to place before the Minister the case for the growers there. Evidently those engaged in the wine trade of that State Have not been convinced by the Minister's statement. As I have said before, if the Minister were to-day sitting iu the Corner, as a private member, he would be just as loud as we are in protesting against the conditions of the export wine trade.

Mr Scullin - The Minister as a private member would be more convincing than he is to-day.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think so, and his arguments would certainly be more eloquent and forcible. The difficulty is to get from the Government any reliable information. The Prime Minister, when replying to a deputation which waited upon him, said that the quantity of Australian wines in bond in Great Britain was 2,000,000 gallons, and not 3,000,000 gallons, as had been stated. Luckily, w# have at hand a cable received by the Renmark Growers' Distillery Limited, which company, the honorable member for Wakefield will agree, is a reliable source of information.

Mr Foster - That, company knows all about the wine trade.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe that it is a co-operative concern controlled by the growers.

Mr Foster - It is owned by soldier settlers.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That company cabled for information to Harper's Wine and Spirit Journal, of Great Britain, and received a reply to the effect that 3,386,000 gallons of Australian wines were in bond in Great Britain, and that the quantity of wine manufactured in Great Britain last year amounted to 2,488,872 gallons.

Mr Foster - Those are the latest figures taken from the statistics of the United Kingdom on the 29th February, 1928.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Those figures show that the statement of the Prime Minister is unreliable, and that our statements about the increase in the manufacture of British wine have not been exaggerated. Great Britain last year produced a quantity of wine from cheap imported juice which totalled only about half a million gallons less than the quantity of wines exported from Australia. That is a serious situation. When the Minister says that the increased preference has placed Australian wines on a better footing, he forgets that a new competitor in the British market is doing serious injury to our trade. The Minister should explain the situation in the interests, not only of the wine-growers, but also of honorable members supporting the Government, who will be forced against their will to vote for this measure. The Government's proposal is to reduce the bounty by 9d. a gallon, and it is no concession to be told that the amendment now moved will confer some benefit on those who have entererd into contracts. The benefit they will get will not extend beyond twelve months. The most serious objection to the Government's proposal is that the growers were given to understand that the bounty would operate until August, 1930, thatis, for three years.

It has been said that the late Minister for Trade- and Customs (Mr. Pratten), made it plain to the growers and distillers when the original bill was introduced, that although the bill proposed to pay a bounty of ls. 9d. a gallon for three years, that rate would last only until the British preferential duties were altered in favour of Australian wines; but I submit that all that the growers and distillers had to guide them was the act itself. The growers probably never heard of the Minister's statement, and I am not aware that steps were taken to convey to them the words uttered by the Minister. In the circumstances it is quite reasonable to suppose that they knew nothing about the Minister's words, and that all they had to guide them was the act itself, which contained nothing to indicate that the. full bounty would terminate this year; but on the contrary stated that the bounty would last until August, 1930. Some growers are referring to the present measure as a repudiation bill. The term is not too strong; in fact it is the only way in which one would expect them to describe the bill. The Minister for Markets cannot put forward the excuse that when the late Minister for Trade and Customs was introducing the' bill in March of last year, he informed the growers and distillers that the bounty might terminate when the British preference was altered.

Mr Paterson - On several occasions since then I have reminded them of what was likely to happen.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not know what steps the Minister took to remind them. The wine-growers I have met have assured me that they have had nothing to guide them but the act itself. I should like to know if the Minister went among the wine-growers in South Australia or wrote to their associations. I have not heard that he has communicated with any of them in the areas in which I come into contact with the growers.

Mr Foster - That is their great cause of complaint.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I should like to know what steps the Minister took to make the growers aware of the possible termination of the bounty. -The growers themselves tell me they regard this measure as a repudiation bill, because after reading the act they were under the impression that the bounty would last until August, 1930, and they made their arrangements accordingly. They now declare that they were disappointed when the Government announced that the payment of the full bounty was to terminate immediately something happened in regard to the British preferential duties. As I have already pointed out, this preferential advantage is pure myth; it has been nullified by the establishment of a British industry that can sell wine at 5s. a gallon, a price with which Australians cannot compete. Although the Minister claims that the growers were told to be prepared for this reduction they say that they have been taken completely by surprise. The Minister has said that under the bounty of 3s. a gallon the exporters were 6d. a gallon better off than they were under a bounty of 4s. a gallon. He alleged that during the period of the 4s. bounty the price of wine was ls.. l0d. a gallon f.o.b., and during the period of the 3s. bounty it was 3s. 4d. a gallon f.o.b.; in other ' words, that the exporters got ls. l0d. plus 4s. under the 4s. bounty, equalling 5s. l0d. a gallon, and 3s. 4d. plus 3s. under the 3s. bounty, making a total of 6s. 4d. Those figures were used by the Minister to justify a reduction of the bounty by 9d. per gallon; but deducting 5s. lOd. from 6s. 4d. the difference is seen to be only 6d. If the Minister's figures are correct, what justification can there be for a reduction of the bounty by 9d. a gallon? That is another of the serious objections the growers have to the present bill. It will leave them 3d. a gallon worse off. That is equivalent to about 25s. a ton to the grower.

Mr Paterson - It is equivalent to about £1 a ton on sweet wine grapes. But that does not affect the grower.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A loss of 3d. a gallon to the distillers must affect the growers.

Mr Foster - It certainly does.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It only shows what reckless statements the Minister is prepared to make in order to support- his case. No grower would believe that a reduction of 3d. a gallon in the price paid to the distiller would not be likely to affect the price paid to the grower. If the price paid to the distiller is affected it is a natural corollary that the price paid to the grower must likewise be affected. Every argument used on the second reading could with justification be advanced in opposition to this clause, which is the kernel of the bill. I think the Government must have been convinced of the arguments used by honorable members on the second reading. I attended a deputation to the Prime Minister from men engaged in the industry. Many members of that deputation were returned soldiers who had been induced to embark on the growing of grapes. In answer to the appeal made by the Commonwealth Government to " Produce, Produce, Produce," they went out to do so. Some succeeded, others did not, but nine-tenths of them were genuine triers, and as such were deserving of every advantage the Government could offer to them. At all events, they had a right to expect the Government to stand up to a solemn contract it made with them when they were induced to settle on these wine-growing areas.

Speaking on this matter previously, I said that the success of the Murray river valley development depended upon the success of the wine-growing and dried fruits industries. Apart altogether from the assistance given to the growers, I think the Government should go further and give a bounty on dried fruits. It claims to have given way a little in regard to the payment of the bounty on wine, and I trust that it will go the whole of the way, and thus treat fairly those people to whom it gave the assurance that if they engaged in the industry of vinegrowingthey would receive fair treatment at its hands.

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