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Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Page: 4362

Mr NEVILLE (4:18 PM) —In the spirit of delivering greater outcomes for my electorate, I recently hosted the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, in my electorate of Hinkler. I was very pleased that the minister accepted my offer to visit a number of agricultural enterprises in the Bundaberg and Childers districts. I am sure the half-day tour I gave him broadened his understanding of such local industries as fishing, horticulture, food processing—especially chillies—flying fox control and the tertiary utilisation of sugarcane. On the latter, the minister now has firsthand knowledge of an impressive enterprise, Australian Prime Fibre, operating just outside Childers. It is a great example of industry diversification.

In July last year, the company opened the doors of its $10 million state-of-the-art processing plant, which is considered one of the most modern and technologically advanced agricultural processing factories in Australia. APF takes cane trash, which until recently was simply burned or ploughed back into the ground, and processes it into garden mulch and stockfeed, which is available to national outlets on the one hand and agricultural outlets on the other.

The company has also recently expanded its product line by processing tonnes of excess paper—print overruns, misprints and so on. It turns this into a cellulose roofing installation—a type of pink batt, if you like. This has had a twofold benefit for the community. First, the company is generating a new, locally produced product for the national markets. Second, APF is providing cane farmers with supplementary income for cane trash, which was previously just wasted. So it is a very good operation. Minister Burke was quite impressed.

Today, that company has seven permanent employees and by mid-year expects to grow to 11. Australian Prime Fibre is a classic example of how Commonwealth seed funding can turn a medium-sized fledgling operation into a flourishing one. An investment of around $1 million, which came from the sugar package and from the Regional Partnerships Program, was enough to get the business off the ground. As I said, it was a $10 million business. One of the important things that those grants give the proponents is leverage when they go to the banks. The fact that they have the approbation of government in doing this sort of thing is a very important part of getting the confidence of the banks, particularly in the current economic climate.