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Wednesday, 15 November 1905

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) - I do not think that any honorable senator has the slightest desire to take any step which would endanger a prosperous industry in Tasmania or any other State. I feel quite satisfied that we would do all we could to assist the senators for Tasmania to prevent the passage of a measure which was designed to do any injury to its industries. But this Bill, instead of injuring, will assist to preserve the good name of Australian and Tasmanian fruit in the markets of the old world. We have heard a great deal about inspection in connexion with this amendment, and also about the small producer shipping small consignments. But I think that Senator Keating has entirely demolished any arguments which have been advanced by Senator Dobson.

Senator Playford - He has no case.

Senator GIVENS - Exactly. I am afraid that the small producer has been made a stalking horse for the benefit of two big shippers. It is well known that about nineteentwentieths of the fruit which is exported from Tasmania is shipped by two big firms, who buy up all the space in the steamers, and charge the small producer what they please for the carriage of his small consignment.

Senator Mulcahy - They are all com bined now. They are all co-operating. But for the efforts of those firms, the fruit industry would never have progressed as it has done.

Senator GIVENS - It is clear, from the Tasmanian communications, that the writers really do not understand the purpose of this Bill, and therefore their objections are not valid. For instance, it was pointed out in one communication that certain exports would be prohibited. There is not a line in the Bill which prohibits the exportation of any goods. Under its provisions a man can export or import anything he pleases, provided that it is truly described.

SenatorBest. - The Bill has to be read in conjunction with the Customs Act, which provides for the prohibition of goods.

Senator GIVENS - The Customs Act is not now under consideration.

Senator Walker - But by clause 2 the Bill is incorporated with the Customs Act.

Senator GIVENS - This is a separate measure, and it does not contain a single line which empowers the Minister or any one else to prohibit the importation or exportation of any goods, provided that they are truly described. It is simply a measure to compel men to give accurate descriptions, and to prevent fraud and cheating, and I am really astonished at the amount of opposition which it has received. I hope that the Tasmanian fruitgrowers will be told that they can export any fruit they please, whether it be small or inferior, provided that they tell the truth about It.

Senator Mulcahy - Yes ; but they may be compelled by the Minister to grade it for inspection, although I do not think they will.

Senator GIVENS - I freely admit that. For a great many years I have lived at Cairns, from which, I believe, as large an export trade in fruit is conducted as from any port in Australia. Frequently I have seen 60,000 bunches of bananas - and each bunch weighs1/2 cwt., which is heavier than the weight of an ordinary fruit case - shipped in one steamer. Every bunch has to be inspected prior to shipment. As the fruit is unloaded from railway trucks or drays on to the wharf, it is inspected by a Government officer, and passed on. The fruit is continually going along the wharf without interruption. Not the slightest trouble is experienced by the shippers. Why then should any trouble occur in a Tasmanian port?

Senator Macfarlane - In one case the fruit is packed, but in the other it is not.

Senator GIVENS - If a fruit-grower gives notice of his intention to ship a number of cases of fruit at a certain time, and the Government officer is satisfied by an examination of one or two cases, taken promiscuously, that the shipment is correctly described, he will pass the case for export. If, however, they are found not to bear a correct description, he may be empowered to see that a correct description is put on the shipment. It has been pointed out that a serious injury has been done to the trade of Australia in the markets of the old world by a few unscrupulous persons shipping inferior goods. Suppose that a consignment of fifty cases of Tasmanian fruit has been distributed amongst fifty towns in the old country, and found to be of very inferior quality. Tasmanian fruit has got a bad name in those fifty towns, and the whole fruit trade of the State has received a serious injury. No unscrupulous shipper or grower, merely for the sake of making an immediate profit, should be allowed to inflict such lasting damage upon a promising industry. From the quotations read by Senator Keating, it is clear that that fact was recognised to the full extent in the Tasmanian Parliament, and that some members who were particularly interested in the fruit industry went so far as to contend that the fruittrade could not be protected and nourished without an effective system of Government inspection. I also am of that opinion. I am astonished at the amount of factious opposition which has been offered to a Bill which is designed to compel men to tell the truth, and to prevent cheating and fraud. Now that the clause has been fully debated, I hope we shall proceed to come to a decision.

Senator O'Keefe - Oh !

Senator GIVENS - It is not with my consent, or by my wish that I am speaking on the Bill to-night. I have listened patiently to four senators for Tasmania, and I shall be quite content to listen to Senator O'Keefe.

Senator Pulsford - There is really nothing to prevent the honorable senator from sitting down.

Senator GIVENS - I shall remain standing as long as I please. If I were interested, as some honorable senators appear to be interested, in conserving a system which permits of fraud, cheating, and lying, I might be prepared to go on a good deal longer than they would like; but I am not interested in that sort of thing, I am interested in the passing of a Bill to prohibit dishonest practices, and that is why I have been prepared to do my level best to prevent its progress through Committee being unduly retarded.

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