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Tuesday, 29 November 1960

Mr ADERMANN (Fisher) (Minister for Primary Industry) ). - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938-1957 to increase the maximum rate of levy which may be imposed on exports of apples and pears from 2d. per case, as at present, to 6d. per case. The proposal gives effect to a recommendation of the Australian Apple and Pear Board which is the statutory authority responsible for the orderly marketing overseas of apples and pears from Australia. The proceeds of the levies collected under the provisions of the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act form the sole income of the board and are used to finance the working operations of the board, as well as for trade publicity and research purposes.

The board has made its request with a substantial measure of support from fruitgrowing organizations in the various States, with a view to placing the board in the financial position necessary to implement plans for a concentrated trade promotion drive in the important United Kingdom and Continent of Europe markets for apples and pears. In the United Kingdom, in particular, which absorbs, on average, 66 per cent, of total apple and pear exports from Australia, the fruit consumption level is lagging well behind that in some western European countries. The greatly increased fruit supplies becoming available from most countries for export to the United Kingdom are posing difficult marketing problems for the Australian apple and pear industry.

As I have mentioned, the bill seeks to raise the maximum rate of export levy to 6d. per case. The act already provides that any lower rate of levy may be determined by regulations prescribed from time to time, after report to the Minister by the board. The present rate of levy as prescribed by regulations is Hd. per case, the maximum rate being 2d. per case. This rate yields about £40,000 per annum in a normal export season, and this has enabled the board to engage in relatively modest campaigns of promotion in the United Kingdom, West Germany, Sweden and Norway after meeting the regular expenses of board administration. At the present time, the board's income is barely sufficient to meet its financial commitments. The board, with the approval of the fruit-growing industry generally, is anxious to have its proposal endorsed by legislation during the present sitting of Parliament so as to place the board in a position to recommend that regulations be prescribed providing for a substantial increase in the rate of levy to be applied on the 1961 season's apple and pear exports, commencing in February next.

The board is also considering the possibilities of developing a plan of central research into the problems connected with pest and disease control in apple and pear production. This is, however, more of a long-term project and concrete proposals have not yet been formulated, but the board is aiming to be financially responsible for the establishment and co-ordination of a programme of scientific research into fruit production. This is a further factor behind the board's decision to seek an increase in the maximum rate of levy to 6d. per case. The board's recommendation represents yet another practical example of how our primary industries are prepared to provide funds for self-help purposes. The Government commends the board and the fruit industry for their positive approach to a direct attack on the marketing problems and is pleased to give effect to their wishes. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.

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