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Thursday, 4 June 1970

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) - by leave- This is a matter of vital importance to Tasmania. It is always pleasing to be able to thank the Government for having done something constructive and helpful. On behalf of Tasmanian potato growers - there are a few left - I thank the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) for bringing down anti-dumping regulations to slow down the importation of processed potatoes. The countries that have been engaging in dumping are Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and our old friend the United States of America, which gives us such a rough spin with our exports of wool by imposing a duty of 25%, thus making it virtually impossible for us to export wool to that country.

I would stress that the potato industry is in a depressed state. I know that a lot of our rural industries are in this condition, but the potato industry is particularly depressed, especially in Tasmania. When an industry is facing disastrously low prices for its product the dumping of imported products could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Lifting tariffs on imported processed potatoes could reduce imports of potato products which are competing with local products and thus help the industry in some way. I congratulate local processors for the quality of their product. It is unfair that they should be pushed further into depression by the importation of overseas potato products. The industry in Tasmania has been in a state of gradual decline because of the difficulty in getting economic prices for its product, mainly on the Sydney market. Growers have been greatly disadvantaged by increasing freight rates. There is now no profit in the growing of potatoes in Tasmania. Growers are not always receiving even the cost of production. They continue to plant potatoes only because potatoes are not their main source of income. They are mixed farmers. Because of this they can carry losses on potatoes. Many of them work on the principle that they will plant 10 acres of potatoes a year irrespective of whether they get a good price or a low price. They feel that over a period of 5 years the average price obtained will repay their efforts. This is how they are carrying on with potato growing now.

The Tasmanian Labor Party Rural Committee, of which I am secretary - it is the only one of its kind in the Commonwealth, with 20 active farmers on it - meets every 2 months as a research committee. We are in the process of working out a stabilisation plan for the potato industry not only ;n Tasmania but in Australia. We feel that the industry has to be stabilised, underwritten and underpinned by the Commonwealth if it is to survive as a viable industry. As potatoes are often a cash crop for farmers it is important that prices keep at least ahead of costs. I support what the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) so graciously said about Tasmanian growers. On behalf of Tasmanian potato growers and the Tasmanian Potato Marketing Board I again thank the Minister and the Government for the bringing down of the regulations to reduce dumping of processed potatoes.

Mr ALLANFRASER (EdenMonaro)by leave - This matter is of very great concern to the electorate of Eden-Monaro and particularly to potato growers in the Crookwell d strict. The plight of potato growers in that area is parlous. For many of them it has not been possible even to attempt to market their crop. They have been forced simply to dig it in. For a long time I have striven to obtain some effective action against the dump ng of imported potatoes, particularly processed potatoes. I am glad that the Government is at last acting in this direction. I hope that its efforts will be effective in protecting potato growers.

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