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Wednesday, 1 November 2000
Page: 21925


FRAN BAILEY (10:28 AM) —It was very entertaining and interesting to listen to the member for Corio; 20 minutes into his speech he noted that he did not have time left to speak about the legislation. However, it was very pleasing to hear the member for Corio give credit where it is due in praising the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for the enormous effort she has put into achieving this outcome and getting the Horticulture Marketing and Research and Development Services (Repeals and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2000 and the Horticulture Marketing and Research and Development Services Bill 2000 into this chamber today. I also want to commend the work done by the parliamentary secretary.

I cannot actually share the childhood memories of the member for Corio of growing up on the farm, especially amongst the onion patch. What I can share with the member for Corio is that I represent a very large and diverse electorate with a very diverse range of horticulture and the emphasis on value adding and marketing is, of course, as he rightly mentioned, extremely important for those most important industries.

However, we are here today, and I am very pleased to be here, to speak on the Horticulture Marketing and Research and Development Services Bill 2000 and the Horticulture Marketing and Research and Development Services (Repeals and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2000. I would like to begin by noting that one of the most important outcomes of this legislation is that it will streamline the current horticulture marketing and research arrangements. This will serve to make them more efficient and responsive to industry needs and requirements with resulting benefit in terms of increased innovation and technical expertise.

At present, there are three separate statutory authorities that have responsibility for horticulture marketing and research: the Australian Horticultural Company, the Horticultural Research and Development Corporation and the Australian Dried Fruits Board. With the introduction of this bill, one company, Horticulture Australia Ltd, will assume this role and, most importantly, it will transfer ownership and responsibility for horticultural issues to the industry and its members. In addition, there will also be considerable operational savings by the streamlining of the current AHC and HRDC arrangements. With industry representative bodies and voluntary funding contributors as its members, the new company will not only work in accordance with industry but, most importantly, it will be responsive to the needs of industry.

This government has worked closely with the horticultural industry through the Horticultural Industry Alliance Steering Committee to ensure that the establishment of this company is geared towards working to the needs of industry, in terms of both marketing, and research and development requirements. Indeed, the government will continue to match R&D funds provided by the horticultural industries. This rate will be up to 0.5 per cent of the gross value of production. This is no less than that which applies to other rural industries. The establishment of the Australian Dried Fruit Trust will also allow previously accrued funds to be released from the trust to meet the marketing needs of the export of dried fruits.

Horticultural industries form one of the main areas of economic activity in which this country has a real comparative advantage. I know that in my electorate I have a broad and diverse horticultural industries base—industries that include fruit and vegetable growing as well as floriculture. These industries are among some of the most efficient and productive in Australia and in many instances they are engaged in export activity. In order for them to experience continued growth and for greater efficiencies to be realised, a single industry owned marketing, research and development company will be best placed to contribute and support such achievements and activities.

The horticultural industry is as complex and involved as any other industry. In important research areas such as plant health, there are many and varied disciplines including entomology, mycology, bacteriology, virology and nematology. Coupled with this is the need to develop integrated strategies in order to deal with such issues as pest and disease management. More focused and responsive R&D programs can lead to increased productivity and quality for growers, improved capacity to meet market requirements and reduced pesticide load and residues on produce and the environment.

A critical role for Horticulture Australia Ltd will be to assist producers and processors to develop the skills and knowledge needed to achieve world's best practice by utilising the latest research and the latest market information. At this very moment there are emerging market trends in the international apple, potato and cut flower industries. It is imperative Australian horticultural industries are in a position to capitalise on these exciting opportunities.

A marketing and research development company will also greatly enhance the process of innovation in horticultural industries. It is vitally important for such a marketing and research development company to bring together the undoubted expertise and knowledge that exist currently in the horticultural industries. Innovation is what makes industries and companies competitive, not only in the domestic market but also in an international setting. Considerable export opportunities exist, particularly in Asian countries that lack the expertise and technology that is so abundant in our Australian industries. There are horticultural companies in my electorate that have made considerable inroads into that Asian market, establishing valuable and profitable niches. In order for them to capitalise on this they need support in the areas of research and development and marketing. We all know that a growing export industry not only means better trade figures but also has strong benefits for the domestic economy in terms of job and wealth creation, and provides that much needed growth for so many of our regional communities.

Research and development and marketing arrangements will now be determined by the industry, allowing it to have the flexibility with which to best address its own particular circumstances and needs. There will be tremendous scope to improve and to sustain the competitiveness of Australia's horticultural industries by combining effective R&D and marketing activities. The further development of the horticultural industries will comprise cooperation and coordination of R&D, technology transfer, marketing, education and training, and commercialisation. There are many small individual growers and harvesters who do not have the benefits of economies of scale. This bill will ensure that these small businesses will gain access to a significantly wider array of research and development and marketing services, services that may otherwise be out of their reach and which may detract from their competitiveness.

It is not the role of government to try to tell industry what it already knows. This government recognises that private industry is the most effective gauge of future trends and directions. As the most important stakeholder it must have significant input and responsibility for its development and future prosperity. I believe that these bills will help to galvanise an already flourishing industry into one that will promote and reinforce the image of Australia as a world leader and innovator in the area of horticulture. I commend these bills to the House.