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Thursday, 15 March 1973
Page: 606

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr SINCLAIR - I do. My attention has been drawn to a newspaper called 'Murrumbidgee Irrigator' and to an issue of Monday, 19th February 1973, in which it is alleged by the honourable member for Riverina, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), that I have deceived growers over outstanding payments for fruit delivered to canneries last season, in particular with reference to payments to the Leeton cannery. The position regarding the offer made by the previous Government to the Leeton Co-operative cannery is outlined in a letter which I sent to the honourable member on 4th December 1972. I table that letter.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman may do so only by leave.

Mr SINCLAIR - I ask for leave to table the letter.

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Mr SINCLAIR - I now table the letter. In that letter I stated:

You will now be aware that the Government recently took steps to provide financial assistance to the canning fruits industry in the form of loans through State Governments to co-operate canneries to enable the canneries to accelerate their payments to growers for 1971-72 season peaches, pears and apricots.

The funds available to co-operative canneries are sufficient to enable them to raise their cash payments to growers to 85 per cent of the FISCC price except where cannery levies would prevent that amount of cash from being passed to growers. Some $781,000 has been provided to the New South Wales Government for the Leeton Co-operative Cannery and growers should soon be receiving the additional payments.

Dr Gun - 1 rise on a point of order. Yesterday morning the honourable member for Bowman was not permitted to read from a document whilst making a personal explanation. I think the rules should be applied consistently.

Mr SPEAKER - There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for New England is not debating the question. He is only stating where he has been misrepresented.

Mr SINCLAIR - The point of misrepresentation is that it has been alleged that instead of the amount of money being made available to the actual growers -

Mr Keogh - 1 rise on a point of order. I refer to the matter which was raised by my colleague the honourable member for Kingston. Yesterday morning when I sought to table a document and was refused leave by the honourable member for Griffith because he did not want to know the truth of the matter, I was not permitted to read it.

Mr SPEAKER - There is no substance in the point of order.

Mr SINCLAIR - Prior to the former Government providing this sum of money, growers were likely to receive no funds, or if they were to receive any funds it would have been only a small percentage of the growers' normal entitlement. The former Government decided that because of the growers' financial circumstances urgent help was necessary. As a result, $78 1,000 was made available to the State Government. As I have explained, there was a reservation that funds which were related to a levy with respect to the past debts of the Leeton Co-operative Cannery would be withheld. An immediate cash payment of $500,000, representing 65.8 per cent of the amount, was paid to growers. The balance of the amount was $281,000.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member is now starting to debate the question. 1 ask him to complete his personal explanation.

Mr SINCLAIR - I have been misrepresented in that the allegation was that the balance of these funds was not available to growers. In order to identify the misrepresentation it is essential that I point out that the former

Government made the $781,000 available; as an immediate allocation, 65.8 per cent of the amount was paid to growers; and, as to the balance, they were advised that a further amount would be payable once the percentage of the-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! 1 point out to the honourable gentleman that he has been given permission to table a document, the substance of which he is now repeating.

Mr SINCLAIR - With regard to the allegation by the Minister for Immigration, the present Government took office on 2nd December. A 2-man junta, composed of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Barnard) in a multiplicity of roles until a full Ministry was sworn in. was responsible in the following 2 weeks-

Mr Keogh - I rise on a point of order. I make the same point as was made previously by the honourable member for Gwydir: The honourable member for New England might like to take part in the grievance debate.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I remind the honourable member for New England that he is now debating the question. I would have presumed that he would seek leave to make a statement.

Mr SINCLAIR - Mr Speaker, I accept your ruling. The point at issue is that the funds paid to growers and to the Leeton cannery were paid entirely in accordance with correspondence between myself, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture and the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). The allegation that we in any way deceived the growers is completely untrue. In fact, the amount paid to them represented a significant improvement on their financial circumstnces as they then expected and, as a result, they were put in a position which benefited them considerably.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable gentleman is now out of order.

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