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Wednesday, 9 March 1977
Page: 13

Mr GOODLUCK (FRANKLIN, TASMANIA) -Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the serious problems facing the Tasmanian export apple industry? Does the Minister know what is happening in relation to the Tasmanian Government's proposal to establish an authority to market Tasmanian apples this season? Will Commonwealth moneys be used to support the operation of the authority? This is a very serious question.

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) -I thank the honourable member for Franklin for the question because he has been very vocal since his election to this House in expressing to the full knowledge of every one of us the plight that many of his constituents face in the fairly serious circumstances of the Tasmanian apple industry. The present position has been aggravated, as the honourable member knows and as many others may not know, because last year there were difficulties with fruit that was shipped on consignment, in particular to the United Kingdom from Tasmania, not coming out of the box as well as the importers had hoped. As a result some fairly heavy losses were incurred. As a consequence this year there have been some quite real difficulties in placing fruit both in the United Kingdom and I understand in Hamburg. Fortunately some fairly worthwhile placements have been made in the Scandinavian countries. I understand there is an expectation of some sales to Denmark. The position regarding the Hamburg and the United Kingdom markets and the disposal of fruit on consignment is such that there is a very real worry as to what might happen with fruit exports, particularly from Tasmania.

The Tasmanian Government, I am told, although I have not been advised officially, has decided on the recommendation of a number of protagonists in Tasmania to set up some type of a statutory marketing authority which is intended to handle fruit shipped to the United Kingdom and Germany. The circumstances and character of the proposed marketing authority, the arrangements that are to apply with respect to the financing of the fruit and to the payment of growers are, however, quite unknown to me. It is true that supplementary assistance is to be provided by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the States and that discussions are continuing to determine the way by which this might best be provided. However, I have no foreknowledge of this being in any way related to the statutory marketing authority.

I very sincerely share the concern of the honourable member for Franklin at what seems to be a quite critical situation developing in respect of the export of Tasmanian fruit. I assure the honourable gentleman that anything he or fruit growers in Tasmania seek to undertake will certainly receive a sympathetic hearing from the Federal Government. The Chairman of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation and Mr Reg Walker, who I understand is the Chairman of the Tasmanian Fruit Marketing Board, will shortly return from the United Kingdom and Europe. A meeting of the Apple and Pear Corporation will take place in Melbourne on 18 March to consider the situation. I would hope that by that time and after hearing that report the position might be a little clearer and perhaps the State and Federal governments will then be able to consult in respect of the necessary action to be taken. In any event, if there is any action being taken by the State Government it will of course not involve Commonwealth finance without the Commonwealth being aware of it and being agreeable to it.

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