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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator Pearce - Because all are not grown in Tasmania.

Senator DOBSON - Not at all. The Committee is aware that a great quantity of apricot, raspberry, and black currant pulp is produced in the country. I do not include such goods,, because pulp may be adulterated by the addition of acids. But such arguments cannot be applied to the fruits mentioned in my amendment. Senator Mulcahy pointed out some days ago that the fruit-growers of Tasmania, doing their very best to open up a trade with Great Britain and Europe, now and then found themselves somewhat injured by the operations of one or two growers, who either carelessly packed or carelessly graded goods, or dishonestly sent home inferior fruit. They sent a large petition to trie Tasmanian Premier, asking him to bring in a Bill to provide for the inspection and marking of fruit before it left the wharf at Hobart. Thev asked that the Bill should be made as " watertight " as possible. A Bill was passed, but from the moment it was placed upon the statute-book it became a dead letter. My honorable friend, Senator Keating, quoted a communication from the Prime Minister of Tasmania to show that it was on account of expense that the Bill was not put into operation. But there is another reason for it. The measure was found to be utterly impracticable, and it was further discovered that to administer it a host of inspectors would be required on the wharfs and on the rivers, where the fruit is shipped, and sometimes in the orchards where it is packed alongside the trees. That was the reason why it was too expensive to carry out the measure. I suppose honorable senators will admit that, although Tasmania is described as a 'very small place - Sir William Lyne has dubbed it as a little fruit orchard - its experience in fruit-growing is considerable. We are proud of Tasmania as an orchard. We have had the honour and glory of opening up this fruit trade with Great Britain and Europe, of which the other States of the Commonwealth are now taking advantage. We know our own business. We have tried to put into operation such a measure as this, and it has been a failure. Is not that a good reason for asking the Minister to except fruit from the Bill? Senator Playford started off in a happy frame of mind by stating what was done in South Australia. I admit that he knows a good deal about fruit-growing. But in the "model State " there is no drastic measure of this kind.

Senator Playford - We have no Act at all dealing with the question in South Australia; but the exporters find that it is useful to have the Government brand placed on their fruit.

Senator DOBSON - It is extremely difficult to get any idea into the head of mv honorable friend. He has tried to bluff me over and over again, but he has not a leg to stand upon. Here is a drastic Bill, which every fruit-grower in my State thinks will do harm to the trade. I have already pointed out that Tasmania found such a measure to be a failure. I find that in South Australia they have never attempted to pass such a law, but have confined themselves to a harmless practice under which a fruitgrower may, if he likes, get his fruit marked with the Government brand. I find that only about 9,000 cases out of 80,000 were so marked last year. Is that fact in favour of my argument or against it? It is emphatically in favour of it. What better evidence can we have than that a similar law has been attempted tote applied in one State and has been a failure, - whilst in another State there ismerely provision .for marking fruit under st voluntary system? Mv. honorable friend the Minister said : " It is quite a simple matter. Here are 100 cases of ripstone pippins, marked 'prime.' The inspector opens one case, and if he finds that the fruit consists of prime rips(tone pippins, he will mark the lot." Of what earthly benefit can that be? Before the fruit is purchased in England, the buyer will open up, perhaps, twenty cases -out of 100. Furthermore, what guarantee can the Government brand be that fruit will land in England in good condition? It has to travel 12,000 miles. It may be perfectly 'good when it is inspected at this end, but when it arrives in England it may be absolutely rotten. In the early days of fruit exportation there were scores of cases of failure. One client of mine lost ^2,000 in one year in shipping fruit to England. In one case, perhaps, the engineer did not properly regulate the cooling chambers, and the fruit was spoilt. In another case the cooling chambers would be too cold, and the fruit would be frozen. In a third case the cooling chambers would be allowed to get too warm, and the fruit would be over -ripe on arrival. The English purchaser will only buy after inspection. In the case of butter or cheese a buyer cannot tell merely from inspection whether the article has been adulterated. He may think that butter is not. very good in colour, or he may not like the aroma; but in order to tell what is in it, the stuff must be analyzed. There is all the difference in the world between goods of that description and fruits. The way in which the trade is conducted renders any system of grading and inspection absolutely hopeless. The great mail-boats call once a week. Months beforehand the exact number of cases of fruit which they will take, away is arranged for. The contractor for space has to pay for that which he engages, whether he ships the full quantity of fruit or not. If a contract is made with a White Star boat to take away 45,000 cases of fruit, as was done last year, and the contractors, Jones and Company, or Peacock and Company, find at the last moment that they are a certain number of cases short of the total, they send round in a hurry to make up the necessary quantity. The fruit is picked and packed in the orchards in the Huon or New Norfolk district, and within fortyeight hours is put on board the steamer. What time is there to do justice to grading and marking under circumstances like that ? We are not cultivating on the part of our people a spirit of self-reliance. It was not until after so much wealth was produced by the gold diggers that Australia began to be known as a rich country. During the last half -century, we have built up a trade in minerals, wool, timber, grain and fruit, and other commodities, which is a credit to us. It has not been built up by means of aids and bonuses, but with that free-play for enterprise which must prevail if British commerce is to hold its own in the World. I submit my amendment with confidence to the Committee.

Senator PLAYFORD(South Australia - Minister of Defence). - The argument of Senator Dobson that, in times gone by, Tasmanian apples did not sell very well on the London market, in consequence of certain growers having sent away bad apples, does not tally with the statement which he always makes, that the buyer examines the fruit. _ If in every instance the buyer examined the fruit to see if it was up to the mark, how was it that Tasmanian apples got a bad name on the London market, and realized a low price?

Senator Dobson - They were examined in the presence of the Agent-General, who reported that one or two shippers had sent inferior fruit.

Senator PLAYFORD - Undoubtedly the shipment of inferior fruit was the means of giving a bad name to the apples of Tasmania. The shippers of good apples found that they were being injured. And all this inspection which the honorable and learned senator talks about, and which, no doubt, is applied to a certain extent-

Senator Dobson - No ; it is not applied.

Senator PLAYFORD - According to the honorable senator, the buyer on the other side of the world only buys according to quality. But that is not done to the extent to which the honorable and learned senator imagines, and there is a necessity for inspection at the port of shipment. I attended Covent Garden market in the apple season for four years. I looked after the shipments of apples which came through the South Australian Depot, and were subject to Government inspection.

Senator Dobson - About 100 cases a year.

Senator PLAYFORD - No; thousands of cases a year. I also saw the Tasmanian apples. I know, as a fact, that -apples are bought to a very considerable extent on their reputation. Some times the buyer will knock the lid off a case, and see a sample which may represent a shipment of 30, or 100, or 500 cases, but the apples are bought on their reputation. The reputation which the South Australian apples obtained from being sent through the Government depot was such that they realized 3s., 4s., and 5s. a case more than did Tasmanian apples, which never underwent any inspection. The producers in South Australia derived a benefit from the inspection.

Senator Macfarlane - Most of the fruit was not inspected.

Senator PLAYFORD - All the fruit which came through the Government depot to me, as Agent-General, to arrange for its sale, realized the best possible price, because the buyers could depend upon its quality, if it were known that the shipment had arrived in anything like sound condition. If the ship had not destroyed the apples either by freezing them, or by keeping them in too hot a chamber, and the shipment was recognised as a good one, there was no trouble in effecting a sale. The buyers in London knew exactly the condition in which the apples had arrived.- A wire would be sent to Adelaide, saying that a ship had arrived with apples in splendid condition, or in poor condition, or in very bad condition. When the apples are sent through a Government . inspector the buyers on the other side of the world know that they are of the quality stated. It is also a guarantee to the buyer that the fruit is not full of codlin moth, or other pests. Fancy a shipment of oranges going from Sydney at the present time to London. When I went to the Parramatta a short time ago, the whole country was smothered with red1 scale, and the oranges were in a dreadful state. Occasionally, the growers) brush off the red scale. In the . Central Cumberland district the same condition prevailed. I can imagine that if fruit, like apples) and oranges, had not to be inspected, unscrupulous shippers might send away fruit which was covered with red scale on the' off-chance of getting a fair price in London, and thereby damage the reputation of Sydney fruit in "that market.

Senator Dobson - What nonsense the Minister is talking ! That would not occur in one case out of a hundred.

Senator PLAYFORD - I am not talking nonsense.

Senator Dobson - Are there any Acts in: England to keep out codlin moth, and other pests?

Senator PLAYFORD - I do not know that there are any Pests Acts.

Senator Dobson - Of course, there are not.

Senator PLAYFORD - If any Tasmanian shippers send away apples riddled with the caterpillar of the codlin moth, will that be likely to add to the reputation of Tasmanian fruit ? There is codlin moth all over England, Europe, and America, but Tasmanian fruit-growers must take care that there are not too many caterpillars of the codlin moth in the apples they export. If they wish to establish a reputation they must send home clean fruit. The Tasmanian Government have recognised that fact by passing a very drastic law.

Senator Dobson - The Minister knows that there are no Pests Acts in England, and that he is, misleading the Committee.

Senator PLAYFORD - I have not misled the Committee. I have been relating my personal experience. During my residence of four years in London, I saw the advantage which accrued to the grower from the grading of his fruit, and the sending of it home in decent-looking deal cases, instead of stringybark paling cases. Very often a case that attracts the eye of a buyer helps to secure a satisfactory price. I believe that the unsightly cases which came to Covent Garden from Tasmania had a certain effect upon the sale of the fruit. My opinion is that it will help a grower to realize a good price if he will pack his fruit in a nicelooking case. For instance, the chocolates which come out from England are out up in beautiful boxes, with floral and other embellishments, in order to catch purchasers. I have often seen theatre-goers give is. to a boy for a box of nicely -packed chocolates. I would advise my Tasmanian friends in the future to pack their < fruit in more artistic-looking cases than they have hitherto used. Why should Senator Dobson single out apples, pears, oranges, and lemons ? I have never seen any oranges grown in Tasmania, but, of course, apples and pears are grown 'there. Why did not the honorable and learned senator include plums, grapes, and a variety of other fruits? From Adelaide we send to England a good many packages of grapes., which are called leather-jackets. Why should the honorable and learned senator require those grapes to be inspected, and allow the apples of Tasmania to escape scot-free?

There is no necessity to single out a particular class of horticultural produce. All fruit should be inspected prior to shipment, and the package should indicate the quality of its contents. We have had quoted to us a letter which was sent to the Comptroller-General of Customs from Tasmania by a gentleman named Jones, who evidently knows a great deal about these matters. His trouble^ is not that apples will be inspected, but that the little ones will not be allowed to be exported. A little apple is not necessarily a bad apple. French ladies are in the habit of scenting their dresses by carrying little apples iti their pockets. I have grown1 a very small apple called api, which is most sweetly scented. I can imagine the ladies of Tasmania inducing there husbands and brothers to plant the api apple, in order that they may add to their many charms. After the apple has been grown, and; its sweet scent has been appreciated, I can imagine that the growers will want to export it. I can assure honorable senators that if a shipment of this little apple arrived in London in good condition, it would realize a good price. There are many kinds of small apples which are of most excellent flavour. It is simply absurd on the part of Mr. Jones to suggest that the export of apples would be objected to on account of their size, because we all know that some of the most valuable articles are done up in little parcels ; at least, I have been so informed on many occasions when allusions have been made to my size. I shall read what Dr. Wollaston says on the subject of little apples. Speaking of jam, he says that we should not allow the people of Tasmania to send away Tasmanian apricot jam made from carrots or swede turnips, and he goes on to say -

As to apples, the same thing applies. There will be no objection to good apples, though small, being sent away properly marked, but we desire to prevent their being branded " Finest Tasmanian," and so damage the reputation of the State.

In the same way we do not want pastry butter to be described as " best Victorian." Of course, inspection is necessary to prevent this kind of thing. If the butter is marked " pastry," it will go as " pastry butter," and so long as goods, are marked truthfully and honestly we shall not interfere with their exportation in any way. Dr. Wollaston further says -

The sections of the Bill relating to inspection are not understood. Customs officers have the right now to examine. Every care will be taken not to hamper Australian trade. It would be so contrary to our best policy to do so that such a thing could not be tolerated for a moment by Parliament.

It must not be forgotten that our regulations must be of such a character that they will stand the test of parliamentary criticism. "Unscrupulous as Ministers are sometimes supposed to be, no Minister is likely to injure his reputation by submitting regulations to Parliament which will not stand the test of fair criticism. In the framing of these regulations, the advice of experts will be obtained. I can assure honorable senators that there is no necessity to exclude apples, little or big, from inspection, any more than other kinds of produce. I ask the Committee not to agree to the amendment.

Senator MACFARLANE(Tasmania).I have been rather amused at the honorable senator from South Australia attempting to teach Tasmanians, how to conduct the fruit export trade. The best answer to the suggestion that South Australian apples are better than" those produced in Tasmania is that South Australia does not do one-third of the trade done by Tasmania. A feature in connexion with the industry which Senator Playford does not understand is, that a number of English buyers now come to the Commonwealth to buy, and it must be clear to honorable senators that if the producers are compelled to brand their cases of fruit as " inferior " or " e.mall " the price will be depreciated. There can be no doubt about that. I propose to offer two good reasons why the amendment should be agreed to. One is, that not only Chambers of Com.merce, but all the fruit-growers we know of in New South Wales and Tasmania, ask that the industry shall be excluded from the operation of this Bill. That is the opinion of men who mav be assumed to know their own business, and the reason is, therefore, a strong one. The other reason why the amendment should be agreed to is that it will be quite impossible to carry out the provisions of the Bill, as applied to this trade. When we consider the enormous quantity of apples that are brought together for shipment in a few hours, it must be admitted that an adequate inspection would be absolutely impossible. The Minister made some reference to scale on fruit, but how is an inspector looking at the fruit on the top of a case to know whether there is scale on the fruit at the bottom? How is he to tell from the fruit exposed at. the top of a. case, the quality of the fruit in the middle ? Is he to turn out the whole case? I might say that that is, what is done by the buyers in England.

Senator Playford - They do not turn out the whole case.

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