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Thursday, 28 March 1957

Mr DOWNER (Angas) .- Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker,may 1 just say, very briefly, a few words about this legislation. In common with other honorable members, I support the bill. This, of course, is one of the few, but nonetheless welcome, opportunities that we have of seeing some degree of unanimity in this chamber. What is being asked for in the increase to a maximum of an extra Id. a case is, by the nature of things, a very small additional levy, and I should imagine that every apple and pear grower would welcome it for the purpose set out by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) in his short speech.

So far, we have heard comments on this bill from honorable members from Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia, but I take the opportunity of reminding the House - because I have a horrid suspicion that honorable members may not be fully aware of this - that without question the most palatable apples and pears in Australia are grown in the Mount Lofty ranges of South Australia; and 1 invite honorable members in a week-end, or during a wellearned recess, to visit my district, because, after all, I live in this delectable area myself, I grow a few of these fruits, and I can vouch for their excellence.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Do they eat the cores up there?

Mr DOWNER - I would suggest to the right honorable gentleman who has just interjected and to other honorable members that they should become more discriminating in their choice of fruits, and should go out of their way to insist upon a variety from this part of South Australia.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - South Australian grapes are very good.

Mr DOWNER - They are indeed, but the South Australian apple, on occasions, can match the grape, too. What I would like to suggest to the Minister for Primary Industry is that we should not only consider the wisdom of this legislation for making this levy to provide more money, with the Government contribution, for trade promotion purposes overseas, but we should also not forget the possibilities of the internal market. It is true that there is a very real degree of fruit consumption in Australia, but with the rapid development of our population, which is increasing, as we all know, at an unprecedented rate, I feel, and

I have felt for a long time, that we should be doing far more in the way of advertising at home the merits of our fruits and inducing, by devious means, many of our new settlers - to use an old cliche which I remember from my school days - to eat more fruit.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - Would an apple a day keep Dr. Evatt away?

Mr DOWNER - The right honorable gentleman has suggested that, and the same thing, I must confess, had occurred to me, too. It is a very good maxim i: ed for Government supporters, and for all the people in this country, that an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

The only other thing I want to do, sir, is to make some observations on what my friend the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) said about overseas freights. There cannot be a single member of this Parliament who views with equanimity these constant rises. None of us likes them; all of us, no doubt, gnash our teeth with indignation when we hear of these ever-mounting freights and, I might add in parenthesis, the constant increases of passenger fares between this country and Europe. But the honorable member and. 1 suspect, those who sit with him, whilst fulminating against these increased charges, simply will not face up to what is the alternative. The Opposition, so far, to my knowledge, has not put forward any practical suggestion that sensible people in this country could follow. How can we possibly contemplate effectively breaking the overseas shipping monopoly, distasteful and possibly injurious as it is to our interests, unless we ourselves can put an effective mercantile marine on the seas, at competitive rates, and which can trade between Australia and other countries at rates which exporters can pay? We can do it, as I see it, only on one condition, and that is that the Government comes out with an immense subsidy which, of course, will involve a considerable additional burden upon the taxpayers.

I did not intend to raise this point, sir, but as the honorable member for Wilmot took it up I feel that these observations should be made. It is not good enough to express our natural indignation against these increases unless we ourselves, in the management of our own economy, are going to take steps to see that our own merchant shipping conditions are increased to such a degree of efficiency that we can trade with other countries of the world and can carry our produce to countries abroad at competitive freights. So far as 1 see it, no alternative suggestion has been put up, and until that is done it certainly is not good enough, for propaganda purposes, to castigate the Government and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and to try to represent falsely to the people of this country that this Government does not care, and is not doing enough. If the truth were known, of course, it would be appreciated that the right honorable gentleman has been doing an immense amount; but he is not a magician. He cannot suddenly produce ships out of a hat and carry our cargoes abroad at freight rates that our producers will gladly pay.

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