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Thursday, 14 May 1931

Senator SAMPSON - They operate all over the world. If the honorable senator was soldiering in South Africa, as I was 30 years ago, he would have seen that their jams and other produce were the best. That is where they made their name -

In conclusion we would suggest that the fairest method of distributing this £315,000 for the benefit of the fruit industry, failing acceptance of the simple plan of reducing the price to manufacturers, is to maintain the present system without alteration, and as regards the extra money, make this available direct to the fruit-growers. The Sugar Board could distribute this to the growers themselves against certificates issued to the growers by the processors of the fruit. There would be no need to set up a special committee, and the sugar industry would have the satisfaction of knowing that the fruit that actually carried their sugar into consumption as jam or canned fruit, was bonused by them on a per pound basis without favour to any particular fruit or type of product, and in proportion to the actual quantity of sugar which it carried into consumption.

Yours faithfully,

For H. Jones and Company Proprietary Limited,

F.   Peacock, Managing Director.

That sums up the views of a firm of high repute. It does not want any more government interference in its business, and I am entirely in agreement with Mr. Peacock, its managing director who, on behalf of his firm, has expressed the opinion that the less governmental interference there is in trade and industry in this country the better it will be for every one.

The majority and minority reports are very disappointing to me, although I did not expect very much as a result of the committee's inquiry. The fruit-growers will not take very kindly to the crumbs thrown to them from the over-loaded table, so . to speak, of the sugar industry. What of the domestic consumer? It is interesting to turn back to 1912. In pre-war days it was stressed that we must support the Queensland sugar industry as part and parcel of our White Australia policy. We have been told that if Northern Australia is not effectively settled the door will be wide open to an invader, and that by encouraging the sugar industry we are assisting to protect ourselves and build up an industry which will be our shield and defender. In 1912 a royal commission referred to the unsettled areas in Northern Queensland in this way -

They are not only a source of strategic weakness, they constitute a positive temptation to Asiatic invasion, and may give the White Australia policy a complexion which must inevitably weaken the claims of Australia to external support. As we have already remarked, the ultimate end and, in our opinion, the effective justification of the sugar industry, lies beyond questions of industry and wealth production. It must be sought in the very existence of Australia as a nation.

What is the position in No. 1 district northern in which the largest number of persons are employed. We find that there are 6,034 British and Australian workmen, the percentage being56.6.

Senator Herbert Hays - Is the honorable senator referring to Northern Queensland?

Senator SAMPSON - Yes. The number of naturalized workers in that district is 2,130, or 20 per cent., and wholly foreign 2,488, or 23.4 per cent. To what extent could Australia depend on naturalized persons and foreigners in the event of another world war or an invasion of this country?

The majority report states that -

In our judgment this considered opinion of the royal commission has not been refuted nor shaken by any of the evidence given before this committee.

Yet in the same report the committee states -

That if the flow of aliens to Australia of a few (? ) years ago had been maintained, the dilution of British personnel engaged in the industry, and the measure of foreign control of the settlements " would have been a matter of some concern ".

With respect to the sugar business, I should like to know who, to use a vulgarism, gets all the " sugar " ? Is it the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the merchants, the cane-growers, or the canecutters? Although I have heard, in this chamber and outside, some enthusiastic advocates of the sugar industry extol its advantages to Australia, I have never been able to find out who derives all the benefit from the protection it receives. It is rather interesting to glance now and again at the "Wild Cat Column " in a certain weekly publication or at analyses of the balance-sheets of certain companies published in other newspapers in order to see exactly what they are doing. As a result of these investigations I am inclined to think that this great Colonial Sugar Refining Company gets a good bit of " sugar " but of sugar. A reference to Ryde's Business Journal shows that the original capital of theColonial Sugar Refining Company was £150,000 and the nominal capital £7,000,000, of which £5,850,000 has been issued and fully paid in shares of £20 each. In addition to the excellent dividend record, £11,225,000 has been distributed to members by way of bonus shares issues or cash return of capital. For the last four years the company's net profits have averaged over £900,000 a year, and it has paid dividends averaging 121/2 per cent. The total reserves up to 30th September last year were £1,450,590. The company has also a replacement and depreciation fund of £2,421,158, and a suspense account which has figured around £3,000,000 for the last few years. It is not disclosed if there is anything else: It will be seen that the company is not doing too badly out of sugar.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - But the company is conducting operations in New Zealand and in Fiji.

Senator SAMPSON - From these two reports it will be seen that the consumer is not to obtain any relief. Although the minority report recommends a reduction of something like1/4d. a lb., in effect the consumer is not to have one atom of relief. Having regard to the personnel of the committee and the futile inquiry it conducted, the domestic consumer who imagined that he was going to get any relief was an optimist or a fool.

The committee also reported against Hobart's claim for a sugar depot. I wish to say at once that if persistency and perseverance can do it the people of Tasmania are going to compel the company to provide a depot in the capital city of the State which I have the honour to assist in representing. I should like to read to the Senate a letter which I received on this subject from the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin). In company with my Tasmanian colleagues, I waited on the Prime Minister on two or three occasions, and he was good enough to write us early this month. Under the terms of the original agreement it was provided that the wholesale price of sugar should be the same in all capital cities; but the people of Hobart are paying £1 0s.2d. per ton more than is being paid by residents of the capital cities on the mainland. I mention this matter because it should be our endeavour to encourage a federal spirit. When my little State came into the federation she did not drive a hard bargain as did some of the other States. She entered the federation in a spirit of patriotism in order to secure a united Australia. But having done so, she expects to be treated in the same spirit as that in which she entered the federation.

Senator Foll - And she has been begging on the door mat ever since.

Senator SAMPSON - Tasmania has never begged for anything. She has asked for justice, but has not yet received it.

SenatorFoll. - It is a suppliant State such as Western Australia is.

Senator SAMPSON - No, Tasmania has never begged for anything. Tasmania asks only for justice. The people of that State do not want charity; indeed, they would scorn it. But when these fat and bloated sugar lords start squealing, I feel full of contempt for them.

The only reason why I rose to participate in this futile debate - for it will be futile - was to express the views of the people of Tasmania, who are suffering as the result of national policy. If pegging away will get us justice we shall keep on pegging away. Our very importunity will probably get us a depot at Hobart. Why cannot a depot be established there? Is it because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company objects to the expenditure of the necessary money? That monopoly has been so well-fed that it has become lethargic; it is so arrogant that it thinks that it can rule Australia. I submit that it is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to compel the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to carry out the terms of the first agreement and establish a depot in Hobart, the capital city of Tasmania, in order that that State may be placed on the same footing as the other States.

We have to go back a long way to get to the genesis of the recent inquiry into the sugar monopoly. Tasmania has good reason to complain of the composition of the committee that was appointed. In face of the desire of an overwhelming majority of the fruit-growers - I do notmean processors or canners of fruit - that a certain gentleman should be appointed to represent their interests on the committee, the Government appointed another person. A deputation waited on the Prime Minister in that connexion, and also to urge the necessity for establishing a depot at Hobart, but without obtaining any satisfaction. Knowing the views of the gentleman who was appointed, I was not surprised that he signed the majority report. His interests were not those of the fruit-growers. Small though it may be, Tasmania produces a very considerable proportion of the soft fruits grown in Australia. In reply to the propositions placed before the Prime Minister, the following reply, dated the 2nd May, 1931, was sent to each member of the deputation : -

With reference to your personal representations at the deputation that waited on me recently in regard to several aspects of the sugar position in Tasmania, I now desire to furnish you with the following information: -

With regard to the proposal that a sugar depot ' be established at Hobart, I desire to point out that a system was inaugurated about two years ago by the Queensland Sugar Board whereby business people in Hobart may obtain extra supplies of sugar from the agents of the Queensland Sugar Board under a bank guarantee - such extra sugar not requiring to be paid for until actually used. This system was introduced in order to prevent, as far as possible, any shortage of supplies of sugar as had previously occurred owing to transport or other difficulties. I have been informed that witnesses appearing recently before the Sugar Inquiry Committee at Hobart admitted that no shortage of sugar had occurred during the past two years. Furthermore, the Sugar Inquiry Committee found that quite a number of business people in Hobart were not aware that it was possible for them to obtain extra supplies of sugar under the arrangements indicated above.

In tho circumstances, I am of opinion that it would bo unreasonable to compel the Queensland Sugar Board to incur the considerable expense of establishing a sugar depot, whilst there is no evidence that the present system for supplying extra sugar under a bank guarantee is not working satisfactorily. However, the Government recognizes the necessity for doing everything possible to ensure sufficient supplies of sugar at Hobart at all times, and it is, therefore, including a special clause in the new sugar agreement under which the Commonwealth Government may compel tho Queensland Sugar Board to establish a sugar depot in Hobart, if at any time the Commonwealth Government finds that Hobart purchasers, although making adequate use of the guarantee system, are suffering from u shortage of sugar.

With reference to the second question raised at the deputation in regard to the statement that retail grocers in Hobart were required to pay approximately fi per ton more for sugar than grocers in mainland capital cities, this matter was brought under notice in the report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee which recommended that an amount of 4s. 9d. per ton be allowed in the new sugar agreement to wholesale merchants in Hobart to cover certain wharfage and cartage charges - provided that same is passed on by the wholesale merchants to the retail grocers. This recommendation has been adopted by the Government in connexion with the new sugar agreement. A preliminary inquiry regarding the excess charges imposed upon retail grocers in Hobart shows that they are partly due to wholesale merchants not abiding by the conditions governing cash sales of sugar under the sugar agreement. It appears that wholesale merchants are - levying certain charges in excess of their prescribed discount of 2 per cent., but that the total excess charges, on a properlycomparable basis, are not as rauch as the £1 per ton claimed. Suitable representations arc being made to the Queensland Sugar Board in the matter, with a view to rectifying the position, and I shall advise you of the result of the action now being taken as early as possible.

A request was also made at the deputation that refined sugar should be supplied to ports on the north-west coast of Tasmania at the same price as obtains for refined sugar delivered at Hobart and Launceston. I desire to point out that the policy of uniform selling prices for refined sugar only applies to the capital cities of the Commonwealth with the exception that Launceston has been regarded as being tantamount to a capital city for this purpose, due to the fact that that city obtains its supplies from the Melbourne refinery, whereas Hobart is supplied from the refinery at Sydney.

After carefully considering all the circumstances, I cannot agree that the principle of uniform selling prices should be extended to towns on the north-west coast of Tasmania, as such an extension would involve very many similar extensions to towns and cities in the other States of the Commonwealth and would tend to a re-adjustment of all the selling prices of sugar.

I forwarded a copy of that letter to the people concerned in Hobart, and asked them for their views. In reply, I received from the Grocers Association of Tasmania, the following letter, dated the 8th May: -

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