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Tuesday, 9 December 1986
Page: 3646


Senator MICHAEL BAUME(10.30) —What a pleasant surprise to see you, Mr President, and all of us here today. At present we are theoretically doing what we can in Australia to stimulate exports, to help this nation out of a serious balance of payments problem. I say theoretically because some aspects of government seem to be doing their darndest to prevent Australians from exporting and earning export income. I have received a letter from an old friend who lives in Lawrence, in northern New South Wales. I will briefly outline the problem he has. It is a problem that relates to the ludicrous and expanding bureaucracy which is choking off in this particular situation the prospects of earning export income. Rather than incorporate this letter, parts of which are private, I will read elements of it so that the Senate will get an idea of what the problem is. The letter states:

We own a 2,500 acre freehold property on the North Coast on which grow the common Banksias in weed proportions. They flower prolifically and the blooms are all going to waste.

Knowing that they appeal strongly to overseas people, in July 1984-2 1/2 years ago-we asked permission of the National Parks and Wildlife, Canberra, to export Banksia blooms; not the plants or seeds, just the flowers. We were told that because they were self sown (``in the wild'') no export would be allowed without a Government controlled ``management program''.

If artificially propagated, such a program is not required but an export licence still is!

After more correspondence, they told us in April 1985-

that is going from July 1984 to April 1985-

that they were ``now consulting'' with N.S.W. National Parks and Wildlife. Not hearing anything further for 4 months, we wrote to Neville Wran on 2nd September 1985 asking for help. We heard from Wran on 17th Sept. 1985-

he replies more quickly than the Federal authorities-

saying that he had passed our letter on to Minister Bob Carr. Bob Carr wrote on December 1985 that the N.S.W. authorities had advised Canberra that they had no objections to the export of our Banksia blooms.

After 17 months he reached the situation where the New South Wales authorities had no objection. That is made clear in the letter dated 24 February 1986 received by my friend from Professor J. D. Ovington, the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, saying that he had been advised by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in New South Wales that it had no objection to the export of flowers of species of banksia propagated or occurring on my friend's property. After 17 months that was the situation. In the letter of 24 February 1986 from Canberra the organisation that Professor Ovington leads stated that it wanted my friend to give an indication of the proposed quantities of each species to be picked, the area from which flowers were to be taken and the proportion of available flowers that would be left after harvesting. This was after the New South Wales authorities had said that it was fine, to go ahead, as there were no objections. The letter goes on:

All this when (1) we haven't the faintest idea of how many bushes we have-they are impossible to count over 2,500 acres, and (2) Banksias flower over a 6 to 7 months period and in that time can produce over 50 blooms per bush. Also we are surrounded by National Parks which have literally millions of Banksia bushes so why on earth is this information required.

To try and sort out this nonsense in April 1986 we took the trouble to visit the powers that be in Canberra.

After much discussion with three people in conference, we made another written submission in May 1986. To date, 7 months later, we have not had even the courtesy of an acknowledgment. Two small cheques have met the same fate.

As the key to this mess seems to be the magic words ``in the wild'' we are now knocking down mature Banksia bushes and replacing them with artificially propagated plants-we have produced 4,000 so far. Having been planted in rows they will be easier to harvest but it's just a pity that Banksias take 4 to 5 years to flower.

We could have exported samples in 1984. We could have started an export industry in 1985 (from Feb. to Aug. when they flower) and also in 1986. The way things are going, we are going to miss out on 1987 as well. Not only have we missed out on export income but there would have been a need for pickers and planters etc. etc.-

clearly jobs have been lost-

There can be no excuse for this. The Banksias we produce are by no means protected . . . they are extremely common. Banksia seeds can be bought on the Chicago U.S. market. And our land is freehold. There is no need for this Federal body, it is purely a duplicate of the State bodies and it seems to be getting bigger.

And the blooms? They are still going to waste-and picking and pruning does the bush the world of good.

Here we have a classic example of how Federal bureaucracy, Federal intervention, is destroying the capacity of someone to earn export income for Australia, to provide jobs for Australians and to assist Australia out of the difficult situation it is in. I could not agree more. It is absolutely ludicrous that after the State instrumentality concerned, the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales, said that it had no objection on 30 April 1985 we are still, in December 1986, having a Federal bureaucracy mucking around asking damn fool questions and preventing these people from exporting. I plead with the Minister for Resources and Energy (Senator Gareth Evans) to take up this matter with the appropriate Minister in his Government. This is the sort of thing that not only makes Australia a laughing stock but also explains one of the reasons why we are not exporting the way we should.