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Thursday, 13 September 1928

Mr SEABROOK - -The commission should find new markets. The orchardist would not need anybody to tell him to produce if he were able to find a market for what he produces. Only the other day I read that an orchardist in New South Wales ' had grubbed out 7,000 trees. That does not look as if fruit-growing .is a profitable industry. I propose to show how it is possible to afford substantial relief to the peach and apricot growers of Tasmania, as well as at Shepparton in Victoria, Leeton in New South Wales, and many other centres throughout the Commonwealth. It is a scandal that up to the present so much of their produce should have been allowed to rot on the ground. Last season no less than 2,000 tons of peaches were lost in the Shepparton district alone, because of the difficulty in marketing the produce. It is true that the Commonwealth Government has assisted producers by the payment to canners of a bounty of ls. 6d. per doz. 30-oz. tins; but the bounty amounted to only £5,000 last year, and, therefore, it did not affect a considerable proportion of the fruit crop. If jam manufacturers could obtain sugar at a reasonable price they would be willing to pay Id. a lb. for all this surplus fruit. Practically the whole of it could be utilized. If the manufacturers ' bought it at the price stated, the growers would get £9 6s. 8d. a ton, and the manufacturers would be able to find a market for the jam in Australia. I am afraid that honorable members do not fully appreciate the decline in the sale of jam in the Australian market. The Sugar Board sells Australian sugar in New Zealand at £21 10s. a ton, but Australian manufacturers are obliged to pay £30 6s. a ton for it.

Mr J FRANCIS (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) - Manufacturers get a rebate for the quantity of sugar used in all jam manufactured for export.

Mr SEABROOK - They get no rebate on jam manufactured for consumption in Australia. As I have stated, they are compelled to pay £30 6s. a ton, or 3£d. a lb. for all sugar used by them for the manufacture of jam to be consumed in the Commonwealth. If the amount of the bounty were paid to the Sugar Board, that body could supply sugar to manufacturers at £21 a ton, and the manufacturers would then be in a position to handle thousands of tons of fruit which at present is allowed to rot on the ground. The adoption of this policy would benefit, not only the fruit-growers, but also the manufacturers and consumers of jam to a much greater extent than the payment of the present bounty. If the fruit-growing industry is to progress we must eliminate all waste. Only in this way can we expect to encourage the man on the land. What is the use of making provision for the payment of a paltry bounty if fruit-growers are unable to dispose of their crops? It is extraordinary that under the agreement with the Queensland Government, over 200,000 tons of surplus raw sugar is exported from Australia and sold principally to England at £11, f.o.b. Australian ports. It should not be necessary to do this. If it were manufactured in Australia as mill-white or second-grade sugar, it would be good enough for the manufacture of jam, and it could be sold to our manufacturers at £21 10s. a ton.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and practically every member of this House, is continually urging that the home market is the best market. But what are we doing to develop it? It cannot be argued that the sale of Australian sugar to Great Britain and New Zealand at a price below that at which it is sold to Australian manufacturers, is likely to bring about this result. If this surplus sugar were made available to Australian manufacturers at £21 10s. a ton they would be in a position to purchase the surplus fruit at £9 6s. 8d. a ton for the manufacture of jam for the home market. There would then be more employment for the man on the land, more employment in our factories, the producers would benefit, the people would get cheaper jam, and the community generally would benefit. Prior to the war jam was sold in Australia at 6d. lb. To-day, largely owing to the effect of Arbitration Court awards, the people have to pay from 9d. to l0d. lb. . for it.

Dr Nott - The quantity of sugar used in the manufacture of a pound of jam does not affect the market price.

Mr SEABROOK - I have just stated that Arbitration Court awards are, in the main, responsible for the increased price of sugar, and my contentionis that, if second-grade sugar could be supplied to jam manufacturers at a lower price, the fruit-growers would be able to dispose of their surplus crop. The figures relating to exports of jam, and jam manufactured for consumption in Australia, are alarming. In 1919-20 our exports totalled 44,000,000 lb. In 1920-21 they had declined to 14,000,000 lb., and in 1926-27 to the insignificant total of 2,300,000 lb.- a decrease of 41,000,000 lb. on the figures for 1919-20. In 1912, when our population was 4,700,000, the total of jam manufactured and consumed in Australia was 85,800,000 lb., representing a consumption' of 18 lb. per head. In 1925-26, when our population was 6,100,000, the total was 67,300,000 lb., representing a consumption of 11 lb. per head. It will be seen from these figures that there has been a remarkable decline in the quantity of jam manufactured for both the export and home markets. Until our manufacturers get sugar at a reasonable price there will not be much prospect of building up the home market. The agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments provides that sugar used for the manufacture of jam for export shall be sold at world's parity. I have gone into this matter very carefully with the departmental officers concerned. It has taken me several months to get any satisfaction or information from them. They appeared to be reluctant to give it to me; but finally I was able to force it out of the department. I find that, in fixing world's parity, the department takes the lowest price paid for sugar at a particular time, and to that price it adds £1 a ton freight, as if we were getting our sugar from Cuba. The manufacturers are not allowed to use imported sugar; therefore the extra charge of £1 should not be levied.

Dr Nott - The honorable member knows that Cuban supplies control the parity price.

Mr SEABROOK - We are dealing not with Cuban sugar, but with Australian sugar. Mr. Berchdolf, who represents Nestle and Company, the largest users of sugar in Australia, agrees with me that the £1 should not be charged. I am advised that sugar from Belgium can be landed, c.i.f., Australian ports, at £15 17s. 6d.; yet our manufacturers are paying £17 7s. 6d. as parity price. How can they compote with the manufacturers in Belgium and Holland who are getting their sugar for £14 a ton ?

Dr Nott - The Australian manufacturers receive a preference from Great Britain.

Mr SEABROOK - They are receiving practically no preference. The manufacturers in Tasmania found it unprofitable to export jam overseas and almost unprofitable to manufacture for Australian consumption. The only solution of their problem waa to build a large factory in Africa, send Australian fruit pulp there, and convert it into jam by cheap labour and cheap sugar. That expedient explains why the export of jam has decreased from 44,000,000 lb. in 1919-20 to 2,300,000 lb. in 1926-27. I shall continue my remarks to-morrow.

Progress reported.

House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.

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