HMSS 0364 ACT Potato Marketing Board Records

ACT Heritage Library Manuscript Collections

HMSS 0364 ACT Potato Marketing Board Records 

Scope and Content Notes 

Call Number 0364
Collection ACT Potato Marketing Board Records
Date Range 1949-1951
Quantity 0.01m (1 wallet)
Access Conditions open
Copying Conditions with attribution
Related Collections HMSS 0125 Max Hill Papers

The ACT Potato Marketing Board was established without the benefit of legislation, although it sought legislative recognition.

The Board was instigated by the ACT Potato Growers Association. 

The ACT Potato Growers Association elected to cease lobbying for a local Potato Marketing Board and instead affiliate with the NSW Potato Marketing Board at its Annual General Meeting in February 1952.

The collection consists of one file of correspondence, manuscript minutes and newscuttings maintained by Mr N Maxwell Hill, the inaugural Chair. Its correspondents were other State Potato Marketing Boards (particularly the Queensland Potato Marketing Board), local Member of Parliament Jim Fraser and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.

This following reminiscence of the ACT Potato Marketing Board was written by Mr Hill and published in the Canberra History News, the newsletter of the Canberra and District Historical Society, number 448, August 2013, pp.12-13.  It is reproduced here with permission of Mr Hill.

ACT Potato Marketing Board 1949, By, Max Hill OAM

Within the ACT, during the war years and later, there had developed a quite large potato growing industry with production amounting to very many hundreds of tons.

During this period the Commonwealth Government working through the State Governments sought to control the production and marketing of potatoes as an essential foodstuff. All the Australian States had put in place statuary regulations to set up Potato Marketing Boards with power to control both production and distribution. 

As a Territory the ACT fell through the cracks. NSW Potato Marketing Board appointed a marketing agent in Queanbeyan who, by default, sought to include the ACT in his area. He had no interest in or regard for ACT growers and single growers were at a great disadvantage in attempting to market their own production. An ACT Potato Growers Association was formed to advance the local interests. This Association met regularly to hear their members complain about their marketing difficulties.

This group began to realize that they had the combined ability to forward their own interests and as the NSW Marketing Board and its regulations were working against the interests of ACT growers, perhaps they should seek regulatory powers within the Territory.

When we set out to establish an ACT Potato Marketing Board we knew the going would be tough. The Federal Government paternally controlled the ACT. There seemed to be no mechanism for protecting sectional interests and for a handful of local growers to seek the protection of the law from the ravages of inter-state predators must have seemed faintly amusing to Federal Officials. It did, in fact, take an amount of table thumping and serious talking before the appropriate officials were prepared to sit and listen to the proposals

In the meantime there did not seem to be anything to prevent us from setting up a Board without waiting for legal powers and this we did. On 27 October 1949 the ACT Potato Growers Association passed the following resolution--- “That growers of more than half acre of potatoes in the ACT be licensed and that the potato industry in the Australian Capital Territory be controlled. Such control is of a similar nature to the NSW Potato Marketing Act. That a board of three members consisting of one Government member and two growers administer the controls. That this control be brought about by means of an ACT Ordinance”. This was later amended to three grower members and those nominated were Max. Hill Chairman, George Gouge and Hilton Clothier.

So I found myself Chairman with two primary tasks, firstly to establish our existence with the Marketing Boards in all states especially NSW Victoria and Queensland. This was perhaps a little easier than at first thought. We declared that we were a Board and I think they were not sure of our legitimacy or how soon we would have the necessary regulations, so just went along with us! Secondly I sought to get the assistance of the Commonwealth Government’s ACT Administration to give us the protection of the law, and this became an exercise in futility. We were the first group to ever attempt such a thing, and within the ACT Governing body such a move had never been contemplated, so they did not quite know what to do with us.

Over the next year or two we continued to make some noises, with a small degree of success. We hammered on the door of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and local Member Jim Frazer raised the matter in Federal Parliament.

My first task was to meet with officers of the Queensland Potato Marketing Board in Brisbane, and they were immediately supportive. This was followed by an invitation from the South Australian Government for us to meet in conference with representatives of all State Marketing Boards in Adelaide.

These were tough times for me. I was easily the youngest and least experienced. I had limited knowledge. I was sitting in with experienced businessmen and Government Administrators. The South Australian Minister for Agriculture acknowledged my presence, but said he could not see that “Canberra” would have any interest in growing and marketing potatoes. It was an occasion when the less I said the better, then they could not discover just how limited my knowledge was. However the mission was successful. All States were now aware of our existence and only NSW showed any hostility.

Marketing our own potatoes now became easier, we sought and obtained publicity and there was acknowledgement and sympathy with our problems. With the help of the especially created District Producers Co-operative Society, we also established a buying and marketing business, bringing quite large quantities of potatoes from Queensland and making connections with Crookwell, a large growing area, and Victoria and it was not long before we were supplying almost the total requirements of the ACT. The Queanbeyan marketing agent of the NSW Board ceased to be a threat to local production.

Overall the decision for collective action and the setting up of The ACT Potato Marketing Board simply by declaring its existence and without any legality did seem to accomplish its purpose at the time. I had kept many of the papers relating to this exercise and recently refreshed my memory before handing them to the ACT Heritage Library. It makes for interesting reading and perhaps reveals a different world to that of today.