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Wednesday, 8 November 1905

The PRESIDENT - No ; I find (hat I was wrong.

Senator Playford - The statement was handed to me.

Senator MACFARLANE - I have information which is beyond question that only 9,600 cases out of 87,000 were in spected for export. I will show the account to the Minister if he wishes. I think this shows that the honorable senator was not quite sure of where he was when he introduced the Bill.

Senator Playford - I thought there was a larger proportion; that is all.

Senator MACFARLANE - The general impression regarding this Bill is that it is wrongly named. It is not a Commerce Bill at all. It was originally a Fraudulent Trade Marks Bill, and if it had been confined to fraudulent trade marks a great deal of the objection I have to it would have been removed. Why should we go out of our way to help foreign buyers who do not ask for our assistance, especially when we are told by the fruit-growers and by the Chambers of Commerce that the measure will actually injure them by forcing them to put brands upon their goods?

Senator Playford - It is not so in South Australia, where . the producers are unanimously in favour of it.

Senator MACFARLANE - I have information from buyers in London, who state that they pay no attention whatever j to a Government brand. They examine for themselves the goods that they buy. Moreover, a considerable proportion of the fruit that is exported to England is purchased by English buyers in this country. Naturally, they inspect the goods before they buy them, and consequently there is no need for Government inspection. And, further, if goods were marked as "inferior," it would tend to depreciate their value in the eyes of purchasers.

Senator Playford - They would not be marked as "inferior."

Senator MACFARLANE - This is an instance of how Ministers differ. The Minister in charge of this Bill in another place said, in regard to apples, for instance, that if they were small they would possibly be branded as " inferior." If the measure is to be left to the regulation of a Minister who entertains that idea, it will be particularly injurious to the interest of our exporters. It is for us to do all we can to help the producers of Australia. The fruitgrowers of New South Wales and Tasmania and the Chambers of Commerce have said that, judging the Bill in the light of their experience, it will injure the export trade. They are the people who will suffer. They are men of experience, and surely they are better judges of this matter than we are. I may say at once that a large body of people who are interested in this subject, and who speak from knowledge, condemn the Bill entirely. They say that it will not benefit them, and, therefore; will not benefit the purchasers. Senator Dobson has quoted extracts from the letter of Jones and Company, copies of which have been sent to most of us. That is one of the largest exporting firms in Tasmania. This year, my State will export something like 750,000 cases of fruit. There are applications for space to that extent. The whole of that trade, which has increased by leaps and bounds, has been developed without any Government interference whatever.

Senator Mulcahy - It has had a little Government interference in Tasmania.

Senator MACFARLANE - The people interested asked to be left alone. It is true that there is an Act on the statute-book of Tasmania, but it was found not to be workable.

Senator Keating - The information supplied is -

This Act has been practically inoperative from its inception owing to want of funds.

That is the statement of the Government.

Senator MACFARLANE - We may take that for what it is worth. The real fact is that exporters objected to the measure, and if it meant' an additional charge on them that was another reason for objecting.

Senator Keating - The Tas.manian Act contains stiffer provisions than does this Bill.

Senator MACFARLANE - The Minister stated, in introducing the measure, that in his model State apples, realized from 3s. to 4s. per case higher than Tasmanian apples. I take the liberty to doubt that statement.

Senator Playford - The honorable senator can doubt it as much as he likes, but I can give the figures.

Senator MACFARLANE - South Australian apples, are ready for export earlier than Tasmanian apples, and look a little better Our Tasmanian apples are shipped unripe. They have to be. They improve on the voyage. They do not carr\ so well if they are sent away fully ripe. I know something about the trade, because my firm was the first in Australia to export apples,. Twenty years ago we shipped 4,000 cases to England, and realized as much as 30s. per case for them, without any cool storage, simply good ventilation. Since then our trade has expanded to such an extent that this year 1 suppose there will be close on 1,000,000 cases of apples available for export. I understand that sufficient space is not to be had in Victoria, New South Wales, or even in South Australia to meet the demands of the shippers,. That trade has grown up without Government interference, and there is no need for it.

Senator Pearce - Does the honorable senator say that there was no Government interference in "Victoria?

Senator MACFARLANE - Not in regard to apples,, I think.

Senator Pearce - Yes, there was ; there was examination, and the fruit was branded.

Senator MACFARLANE - I never heard of it before.

Senator Pearce - It is true. I know a man engaged in the trade.

Senator MACFARLANE - 1 should like to see the exportation provisions of the Bill removed altogether. Their only effect can be to protect the foreign buyer when he does not ask for protection. He protects himself in buying his, fruit. I will give one reason why the Government brand is of very little use. A buyer who purchases fruit from a private individual considers that he has a right to some compensation if there is anything wrong with the consignment, or it does not turn out well. He has no confidence in the Government brand, because if anything went wrong with fruit branded by the Government he would get no compensation. An instance was given in another place, where a gentleman. speaking from his. own experience, stated that he had 150 lambs frozen for export. The inspector in Victoria declined to allow them to be branded. His neighbour, however, had an equal number of lambs from the same district branded by the inspector. The two lots went by the same ship, and were sold at the same time in London, but the unbranded lambs were sold at a higher price than the branded. That shows that the Government inspector was not correct in his ideas.

Senator O'Keefe - That must be an isolated case, or it would show that the inspector was not fit for his work.

Senator MACFARLANE - It shows that the Government brand is of no value. That is the reason why I contend that in attempting to do this sort of thing we ought to look to our own buyers, and help our own people in every way. We ought to protect our Inter-State trade. But to attempt to benefit foreign buyers and consumers seems to me to be the height of absurdity.

Senator Trenwith - This Bill is in-' tended to benefit our own producers by gaining a character for their produce that it has not now.

Senator MACFARLANE - Our producers say that it would not benefit them, and they ought to know. If the Bill goes into Committee, I intend to move a provision in order to allow goods to be exported unbranded. If that is done, and the Bill is, for the rest, made a fraudulent marks Bill, so that 00 inspection shall be directed unless the inspector has good reason to believe that there is a false description, or false packing, or that there is a false intention somewhere, when he can inspect and act accordingly, the measure will be improved. No one desires to in any way to excuse fraud or to help it. To my mind, to provide that goods shall not be exported and sold without a Government guarantee of quality is the height of foolishness. It will only recoil upon ourselves, and will not help us in any way.

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