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Monday, 27 November 2000
Page: 22710


Mr CAMERON THOMPSON (1:32 PM) —It is very timely and I think worth while that we should be reviewing this motion that has been put forward by the member for Hindmarsh. Horticultural industries really are expanding, and the variety and the relevance of a broad range of horticultural industries to areas right across Australia are increasing all the time. We used to have—and we still do have to some extent—really concentrated areas of horticultural industry, that is for sure, but the reliance of various districts on a variety of horticultural industries is increasing all the time. For example, I could quote some of the things going on in my area around Kingaroy where, for example, olives are now being grown. There are tremendous opportunities for these sorts of varieties to march across the landscape, to be tried and to be used to provide employment and wealth and to stimulate the economy in many different regions of Australia. The classic example is the way the grape wine industry is spreading. In the travels of the Harvest Trail Working Group we found new grapes being grown right across the south-eastern part of Australia. No doubt they are being grown beyond that area. It really does boggle the mind to think how much wealth will be generated when those grapes come off the vine, go into wine and are exported from Australia. We really have tremendous opportunities, not only in that industry but also in plenty of others which are reliant on horticulture.

As a member of the Harvest Trail Working Group, having seen all this growth in opportunity, I think this motion is very timely. I would like to congratulate the member for Hindmarsh not only for this motion but also for the key part that she has played in forming the Harvest Trail Working Group. The problems that affect workers in rural industries and the problems that affect growers have been on the edge of many people's consciousness. Until now, the problems have not been successfully drawn together in the way that the Harvest Trail Working Group has done. It was a very successful group, because it brought together people actively involved in a whole range of industries as well as members of this parliament. The Minister for Employment Services, Mr Abbott, was very cooperative and very helpful in the process leading up to this report which is named Harvesting Australia: report of the National Harvest Trail Working Group. In fact, I had the pleasure of going out and picking apples with the Minister for Employment Services. I think we filled three bins. I do not think that that would have earned us a huge amount of money, but I do have to claim that the media intervened and somewhat reduced our tally for the day. If we had been given greater opportunity, we could have earned ourselves a motser. Unfortunately, it was our first day and we did not continue. Perhaps some of my political opponents might say it is a shame that we did not continue in that vein, but it was a very worthwhile exercise to work there and to discuss with many of the pickers and many of their employers some of the serious issues that they have.

One of the things that came out of it for me was an issue that was subsequently highlighted in the report called Numbers on the run, which has already been tabled in this parliament. There are differing rates of tax that are applied to working holiday-makers and Australians who are working side by side in the field. It seems to me to be obvious that when people are being encouraged to lodge false tax file numbers and to basically rort the system—when we have systems in place that encourage that kind of behaviour—that we have to get out and actively find ways to deal with it. I believe that the Harvesting Trail Working Group did find ways for those problems to be addressed. I urge the parliament to get amongst it. These are very valuable industries for the future of our country and we cannot have their reputations continually damaged by the raids and things that have occurred in the past when we have had people acting illegally and at the wrong time. (Time expired)