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Wednesday, 29 September 1971
Page: 1618

Mr BARNARD - My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I preface it by reminding him that yesterday at question time the Prime Minister said he had referred to the Minister a request from the Premier of Tasmania for a single national fruit marketing authority. Is the Minister aware that delay in answering the Premier's request has deferred action by the Government of Tasmania to set up a State fruit authority? Does the Minister think that a Federal authority is feasible? If so, how much would it cost and how long would it take to establish?

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) - As I recall the question yesterday it related to whether or not the Prime Minister had received an approach from the Tasmanian Premier as to whether the recommendations of the Grant Committee should or should not be implemented. The Grant Committee was commissioned by the Tasmanian Govern ment under the chairmanship of Professor Grant, who I think has the chair of economics at the University of Tasmania, to inquire into the circumstances of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania and to make recommendations about the present marketing methods and possible improvements to them. The Premier of Tasmania has approached the Prime Minister who, in turn, has referred the letter to me as he said in his reply to the House yesterday.

The Grant Committee has drawn attention to a number of alternative ways in which the apple and pear crop in Tasmania, and possibly in the rest of Australia, could be marketed. These include either a Federal export authority, a Federal marketing authority - which would involve marketing all fruit, not just exporting - a Tasmanian export authority or a Tasmanian marketing authority. The implication as far as a Federal marketing authority or a Federal export authority is concerned is that this is not just a consideration for the Commonwealth Government. If any Federal scheme were to be introduced it would be equally the concern of the other 5 State governments; they would need to consider the implications of this proposal with respect to their own fruit industry and their own present marketing techniques. This is a matter on which I have not yet made recommendations to the Prime Minister or the Government. It will involve very considerable and deep examination.

There are, of course, separately quite critical immediate problems facing the fruit industry in Tasmania. I had discussions on these problems not only with the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture but also with the Ministers for Agriculture from Western Australia, South Australia and Victoria in Hobart last Monday, and as a result of those discussions I raised with producers and others at the meeting some of the difficulties that we face now in Australia in handling techniques by comparison with our competitors in, for example, New Zealand and South Africa. I believe that to solve the immediate problems of the apple and pear industry it is essential that those who are marketing the Australian crop take account of the improved methods of marketing and handling in those countries and ensure that some of those methods are introduced so that the very severe freight increase that has been requested for the cartage of the fruit this year can be offset. But I see that as an immediate problem and one which must perhaps predate any final conclusion on the recommendations of the Grant Committee.

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