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Tuesday, 6 December 1938

Mr THOMPSON (New EnglandAssistant Minister for Commerce) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill provides for the appropriation of the money derived from a sales tax on apples and pears sold within Australia and the crediting of such moneys to the Apple and Pear Publicity Fund. The fund is to be used for publicity directed towards increasing the consumption of these fruits within Australia and for such research as may be possible into the production and marketing problems of the industry. The fund will be vested in the Apple and Pear Board recently constituted by this Parliament, and may only lie used for the specific purpose stated in clause 5 of the bill - briefly, for publicity and research.

This proposal arises from repeated requests by the Australian Apple and Pear Council over the last few years for the provision of a means of collecting such a fund. The council, which represents growers' and merchants' organizations throughout Australia, has long realized the importance of propaganda to extend the consumption of apples and pears, and also of research.

For the past two years, the Commonwealth Government has contributed towards apple and pear publicity in Australia. In 1937, an amount of £5,000 was granted and was supplemented by the States and by certain sections of the industry. In 1938, an amount of £2,000 was granted by the Commonwealth. The results achieved from the campaigns conducted in these two years indicate that excellent results may be anticipated if a continuous and practical campaign be conducted. In Victoria alone this year it is considered that sales of apples have increased by 300,000 cases as the result of the publicity campaign. Much keener interest is now being displayed by the public in the health-giving qualities of apples and it would be a pity to let the good work recently commenced cease on account of lack of funds.

The industry desires that the campaign for new markets should be continuous, and that it should not be necessary to come cap in hand to the 'Government each year seeking a grant from Consolidated Revenue for publicity purposes.

During the debate on the Apple and Pear Organization Bill reference was made by various speakers to the necessity for expanding our markets for the fruits in question. Production in- Australia is approximately 1-2,500,000 bushels, of which about -5,400,000 bushels are exported. Overseas markets cannot bo expected to absorb" very much larger quantities and therefore producers must sell more on the Australian market 'or reduce their output. Under present conditions about 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 cases per annum can be profitably marketed in Australia so that, even after allowing for about 1,500,000 bushels which are processed, there still remain about 1,000,000 bushels to be disposed of in Australia. In addition, it would probably pay the producer to divert fruit on to the local market, thus enabling better regulation of supplies on to overseas markets and relieving the selling pressure for overseas outlets which may or may not be profitable. Export losses mean a reduction of the average return over the whole crop and, as a rule, applications to the Government for export bounties. Safe home markets are far preferable to doubtful markets overseas which may be subject to severe tariff variations or affected by exclusive trade agreements.

The industry asks Parliament to help it by providing it with the means of contributing its own fund for expansion of markets in Australia. The levy, although specified at a maximum of fd. a case, is not expected to exceed -Jd. a case, and in fact, it may not even be as much as that. It cannot affect the price paid by the consumer, nor can it be said to be harsh upon the producer who is expected to benefit materially from the increased sales which may be anticipated.

The desire of the industry to help itself is a very praiseworthy one, and I am sure that honorable members generally will give their support to the measure.

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