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Thursday, 28 March 1957

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- Being a fellow Tasmanian with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), I should like to go .on record as having supported this bill, and to contribute to the delightful degree of unanimity which so far has characterized the debate. We have moved from the subject of housing, and now we are enjoying, as I said, a degree of unanimity.

The important aspect of this bill is the boost it will give to publicity - a matter that was dealt with very effectively by my colleague the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and my colleague from Tasmania, the honorable member for Franklin. The greater part of the Tasmanian apple industry is within the borders of the Division of Franklin and the remainder of it isin the electorate that I represent with a small section in Bass on the East Tamar. So both of us are vitally concerned in this industry, which is important not only to the island state of Tasmania, but also to the whole of Australia. As the honorable member for Franklin said, if I heard him correctly, the rise of a halfpenny a case in the levy will return another £10,000 a year to the Australian Apple and Pear Board, making available a total of approximately £30,000 for administrative purposes and for boosting overseas publicity. The board's report for the year ended 30th June, 1956, reveals that it received £18,392 from levies at the rate of three farthings a case.

The measure before us provides that the board shall have authority to raise the levy to 2d. a case, should it need to do so, for 1958; but it is assumed that it will need to raise it to only lid. I hope it will not be necessary to raise it beyond Hd., because added costs to primary producers mean less money in their pockets. The middleman never suffers in any increase of costs, because the cost is always passed on to the producer on the one hand and the consumer on the other. I agree that, when one has regard to the great advantages which flow from overseas publicity and the resultant increase of exports, the increased levy is not excessive. We are all aware, as is the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), of the very great competition we are now experiencing from countries which before the last war did not export certain primary products. The effect of that competition on Australia, which depends so much on exports, has been very great.

The popularizing of our products is the primary aim of the Apple and Pear Board, and that is the justification for its existence. A certain amount of expenditure is incurred by all boards. A form of socialism attaches to them, but I have noted that, whatever government has been in office, it has retained existing boards. This Government, which claims to be a great supporter of private enterprise, which it has placed on a pedestal almost for the purpose of worshipping it, has retained 90 per cent, of the socialist enterprises that were established by Labour. Th;a is the direct answer to all its clap-trap about the evils of socialism. The Australian Apple and Pear Board is a socialist board which is helping the industry to obtain markets overseas.

Government supporters interjecting,

Mr DUTHIE - I regret that my remarks have not met with approval on the other side of the chamber. The board's report indicates that in 1947 only eleven countries bought our apples and pears, but that in 1956 the number had risen to 17. That is a great tribute to the members of the board, particularly when it is recalled that competition from South Africa, the Argentine and other countries within the last few years has been so great. Our apples and pears go to the following destinations. The United Kingdom, which is our biggest buyer, Eire, Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Aden, Egypt, the Persian Gulf, Ceylon, India, Pakistan, Burma, Philippines, Malaya, Indonesia. Hong Kong, Indo-China, Mauritius, Mombasa and the Pacific Islands. To get our products into some of those countries has required the exercise of very great pressure by our selling agents, and one must pay tribute, first, to our trade commissioners and, secondly, to the men who interview the buying organizations for the work they have done in selling our products. There is no doubt that they have made a great effort. In 1948 we exported from Australia 3,666,224 cases of apples, and last year, 1956, we exported 4,609,536 cases. A consideration of those figures will show the value of publicity and of the work of our trade commissioners overseas.

An interesting suggestion is made in this report about improving the condition of our exports. Mention is made of packaging, labelling and wrapping as being very important matters in the selling of our products overseas. The suggestion is made that all our apples should be marked "Australian ". The report says -

So as to make the publicity more effective it is most important that the labels on export boxes give prominence to the word " Australia ", as the whole campaign is directed towards the consumption of " Australian " apples and pears.

I am sorry that I must disagree with that suggestion. Tasmania produces 40 per cent, of the Australian apple crop totalling 5,297,000 bushels. I know that a lot of people would like to see all connexion between Tasmania and the mainland severed, and would like to see us handed over to another country, because we cause so much trouble with shipping and other difficulties. However, we grow a distinctive apple. It is known all over the world and appreciated in every country. We should, therefore, have the privilege of labelling our apples " Tasmanian ". It is unfortunate that we have six States when we undertake to publicize our products for export, but I believe that if a particular State is world renowned for its special kind of production, then its products should be labelled with the name of that State. The label should show " New South Wales, Australia ", or " Victoria, Australia ", or " Tasmania, Australia ". This is merely a suggestion. I realize that the campaign is an Australian campaign, but we should not overlook the fact that the produce of certain States is distinctive, and in this case I feel that our apples deserve the special designation " Tasmania " when they are sent for sale in the United Kingdom.

Mr Cleaver - The honorable member wants to sell them, does he not?

Mr DUTHIE - That is my point. I am afraid that labelling Tasmanian apples " Australia " will not help to sell them.

I now wish to deal with the subject of shipping freights. The Australian Apple and Pear Board referred in its report to the increases in freights negotiated in 1956. It will be remembered that the shipping companies originally demanded an increase of 10 per cent., but after the Government had exerted certain pressures - which it did not exert on the last occasion that a freight rise was granted - the shipping companies said they would be satisfied with an increase of 7i per cent. However, at the' end of last year the shipping monopolies, led by the conference line, which controls 21 shipping lines, were able to obtain an increase of 1-4 per cent, in freights between Australia and overseas countries. This means, in effect, that freights have increased by 21i per cent, in two export years, 1956 and 1957. The report says that this increase will have a very serious effect indeed on our export trade in apples and pears. Naturally these freight increases affect every industry. We know that producers' margins are low enough in any case, but the increase of 21 i per cent, in freight rates in two years will add greatly to the difficulties of the apple-growers in Tasmania and in all other States. Honorable members on this side of the House protested when these increases were negotiated. As far as we know, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), apart from ' arranging negotiations between shipowners and exporters, did nothing constructive to prevent the shipping companies from obtaining that 14 per cent, increase in freight rates.

Mr Curtin - Shame!

Mr DUTHIE - As my colleague reminds me - unnecessarily, I may say - the Government deserves a strong censure for the way that it lay down and allowed the shipping companies to walk over it.

Mr Cope - That is private enterprise!

Mr DUTHIE - Yes, and this is a private enterprise government. It allowed the shipping companies to get away with these increases in freight rates, and probably there will be another request for an increase this year. The Minister hides behind the argument that the Government must not interfere in negotiations conducted between shippers and shipping companies. That is merely a cheap, easy way out. The Minister showed no fight whatever in this matter. The only hope that we have of obtaining justice in our dealings with the shipping companies is to change the government. The shipping monopoly has Australian producers and consumers by the throat, and is strangling them most effectively. Until we break the shipping monopoly's control of freight rates we will continue to go down hill instead of progressing. We are an exporting country, and on our shipping freights depends the prosperity or otherwise of thousands of small farmers, small fruit-growers, small wool producers, wheat-growers and dairymen. A government that will lie down and allow these private monopolies, with head offices in London, to control our destinies, without putting up a fight, is not worthy of the name of a federal or national government.

Mr Curtin - What is the Australian Country party doing about it?

Mr DUTHIE - I have not heard any protest from its members.

In conclusion, 1 wish to refer to the matter of palletization. As honorable members may be aware, this technique is being introduced into Tasmania for the handling of apples and pears that are exported. Instead of being handled in slings between wharf and ship, the cases of apples are now placed on pallets, the bases of which are about 4 inches from the wharf floor. A fork-lift truck picks up the pallet, which may hold 40 or 50 cases of apples, and takes it to the side of the ship. The pallet and its load are then lifted on board and lowered into the hold. The pallet, together with the cases of apples that have been placed upon it, is then moved around the hold, and the cases are stacked in position by means of a fork-lift truck. This is a most effective method of handling apples and pears. The members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Tasmania, to their credit, have co-operated in this quicker and cleaner handling of our produce between wharf and ship.

Mr Buchanan - They just watch the cargo go by, do they?

Mr DUTHIE - Practically. But the interesting point is that if the Waterside Workers Federation had not agreed to this technique, we would have had to continue with the old, slipshod methods. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) is probably suggesting that we could reduce the number of waterside workers because of the introduction of palletization, but that is not the answer. When the fruit ship is in port there may be other cargo ships there as well, so that we would still have to retain the present complement of waterside workers. I wish to read from the report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board some interesting remarks on this subject. The report says -

During 1956 the use of pallets was extended to the port of Hobart and confirmed the experience at Port Huon. Among the main advantages are the freedom from bruising because of the less number of handlings of individual boxes, the smoothness of stacking operations on the wharfs and the time saved in the turn-round of ships. Tasmania, with the large volume of exports which has to be moved by road transport in a limited time, is ideally situated for this type of loading.

It is to our credit and to the credit of our waterside workers that this new, modern method of handling apples and pears has been introduced, and I hope that it has come to stay in Tasmania. With these few remarks, I have great pleasure in supporting the bill.

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