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Tuesday, 15 May 1928

Mr GREGORY (Swan) .- I congratulate the Minister for Markets on his great development since he took charge of his department. The argument that he used in regard to the protection accorded to colonial wine reminded me of the debates on the earlier tariffs, during which it was said that the duties on binders were equal to only 4d. or 6d. per acre. It shows how far Ministers will go in adducing arguments to show that anything they propose is right.

Mr Paterson - I was not speaking of the tariff.

Mr GREGORY - The Minister was referring to the fine protection afforded to the growers in Australia. The prices insisted on by the Ministry for the purchase of grapes will only mean so much extra cost to the consumer. If the cost of wine production is increased, thereby increasing the price to the consumer, it necessarily follows that less will be sold. The committee is discussing the subject of a bounty on the export of wine; but we refuse to allow a single bottle of wine to be sold in Canberra. If anybody dared to offer to supply an honorable member with a case of wine, according to a decision given here recently, he would probably be prosecuted.

Sir Neville Howse - Certainly.

Mr GREGORY - How wrong it is to endeavour, by offering bounties, to induce the people of other countries to drink our wine,- while Ave are not allowed to purchase it in the Federal Capital Territory. What I particularly object to is the manner in which the reduction in the bounty is to be brought about. The time for it is most inopportune. I hold no brief for the wine manufacturers; they can look after themselves, and probably do not need any special consideration from us. But we should do all we can to promote the production of wealth in this country. I agree with, the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) that anything done to increase the cost of production must make it increasingly difficulty to carry on an export trade. For what purpose are enormous sums being spent annually by the three riparian States, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, on huge water schemes along the Murray Valley? The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Henty, which the Government proposes to accept, is that no bounty shall be paid in respect of wine produced from areas planted with vines after March, 1928. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera that the situation isextremely grave when we have to say that production must be reduced. We cannot escape from the fact that industry after industry is crying out for support. This should not be the case. It was not so in the past, and if we passed sound legislation it would not occur to-day.

Mr West - Change the Government.!

Mr GREGORY - The honorable member for East Sydney, no doubt, imagines that his party's accessionto office would solve many of the country's difficulties; but even he will admit that the dairy-farmer is a valuable adjunct to the development of Australia. This producer has found it necessary to appeal to the' Government, and the Government has lent a, sympathetic ear. The result is that the price of butter has been increased by at least 3d. per lb. The workers are the principal consumers' of butter in Australia, and they are required to pay this extra price simply because of conditions that this Parliament is enforcing. Other industrieshave found themselves in similarstraits, and now we are in trouble with wine. My principal objection to the present proposal is that the time forit isinopportune. We passed an act granting a bounty for, three years, and now, before thatperiod has expired, a reduction is proposed after a large proportion of the grapes have been purchased.Not only this year, but every year since the bounty has been in operation, the Customs Department has been late in announcing the price that the wine-maker must pay for the grapes. To my mind, the administration is somewhat faulty. The department appears to be unsympathetic. Wine casks made in Australia and sent, full of, wine, to England, have been returned to Australia : empty, and £1 9s. 6d. has been charged on each cask. If the reduction of the wine bounty is attributable to the financial stringency, I point out that other bounties have been paid.For instance, over , £1,300,000 has been paid by way of bounty on the manufacture of wire and wire netting, and one of these manufacturers now intends to spend £200,000 out of the profits he has made in erecting further plant to supply this commodity. Substantial bounties are also being paid to the manufacturers of sulphuric acid, who have failed to come up to the promise they made to this Parliament.In view of our financial position, the Government should have reduced or withdrawn some of the amounts being paid to some of these manufacturers.

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