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Thursday, 17 October 2002
Page: 5454

Senator O'Brien asked the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, upon notice, on 15 August 2002:

(1) With reference to the Minister's public statement following his receipt of the report, The Australian Apple Industry Squeeze, in August 2001, does the Minister recall encouraging members of the apple industry to make greater use of the Agriculture- Advancing Australia (AAA) Farmbis Program, AAA-Farm Innovation Program and AusIndustry's Technology Diffusion; if so, did the Minister's encouragement extend beyond issuing a media statement on 7 August 2001 and what form did that encouragement take.

(2) How many members of the apple industry received, or will receive, assistance under the AAA Farmbis program in the following financial years (a) 1997-98;( b) 1998-99, (c) 1999-2000, (d) 2001-02 and (e) 2002-03

(3) Did applications for the fourth and final funding round of the AAA Farm Innovation program close on 31 October 2001.

(4) (a) How many applications were received from members of the apple industry in this round; and (b) how many apple businesses, if any, received funding

(5) Can the Minister advise whether the Technology Diffusion program he encouraged apple industry members to use, still exists; if it does, how many members of the apple industry are in receipt of its assistance

(6) If the program does not exist, can the Minister advise: (a) when the program ceased to exist; and (b) whether any members of the apple industry gained assistance from this program between his statement on 7 August 2001 and its abolition.

(7) Can the Minister advise if the report The Australian Apple Industry Squeeze is published on the Departments internet site; if so, at what internet address is the report publicly available; if not, was the report previously published on the departments internet site; if this was the case, for what period of time was the report available and who decided to remove it from the site

(8) Did the Minister take any action in response to the report other than referring it to the Minster for Justice and Customs

Senator Ian Macdonald (Minister for Forestry and Conservation) —The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Yes. The Minister's office as well as AFFA program and policy staff held a series of meetings with industry representatives to discuss an anti-dumping case and to assist the industry gain greater understanding of program parameters and application processes for the Farm Innovation and Farmbis Australia programs during August and September 2001.

(2) The number of members of the apple industry who participated in FarmBis is not available, as information on industries to the level of produce type is not collected.

(3) Yes.

(4) (a) Nil in round 4. (b) One in a previous round. Also, enquiries from the apple industry were directed to other government programs.

(5) The Technology Diffusion Program was essentially replaced on July 1 2001 by the Innovation Access Program (IAccP), which shares similar objectives. This change was announced as part of the Federal Government's Backing Australia's Ability statement. I am advised that it appears that no applicants that could be identified as apple producers gained funding during the operation of the Technology Diffusion Program.

(6) (a) The Technology Diffusion Program finished on 30 June 2001 and no applications were accepted after this date. b) However, industry interested in technology and innovation were directed to the IaccP, which replaced the Technology Diffusion Program.

(7) The Report is publicly available on AFFA's Internet site Access is gained by selecting “Publications”, then “Horticulture” then”Applestudy”.

(8) Yes. A series of meetings were held during August and September 2001 with representatives from apple industry businesses and the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association. These meetings involved Minister Truss and/or his staff and/or departmental officers. Additional meetings between the Minister's office and other Ministers also took place. A list of programs and public contacts was developed and given to industry representatives for dissemination within the sector to increase general knowledge of all relevant programs. One outcome was that some apple related businesses were successful in receiving funding from the New Industries Development Program (NIDP).

The report was also placed on the website to enable industry to access the material and to use its findings to help industry strategic planning processes. A draft strategic plan was released by the apple industry this year and discussions are continuing between AFFA, Horticulture Australia Ltd and the industry about this plan.

The apple and associated industries will continue to be eligible for assistance under government programs including the recently announced National Food Industry Strategy. Through this strategy, apple processors and growers can continue to apply for program funding as long as they fulfil program criteria.