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Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1945


Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - I move:

That the clause be postponed. (As an instruction to the Government that specific provision should be made in the clause that the regulations, in fixing the support price for a season, shall make such increase or decrease, if any, in the amount as is considered appropriate by reason of increases or decreases in prices, wages or rates of charges (including rates of interest) payable in connection with:

(a)   the carrying on of operations wholly or partly for the purposes of the production of apples and pears, and

(b)   the transport, handling or storage of apples and pears).

This is an important matter which relates to one of the key points in the apple and pear stabilisation scheme. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in his second reading speech made this clear when he said:

In the determination of the average export support prices for a season other than the first season, regard will be had to established movements in cash costs.

The Opposition agrees with this principle but nowhere in this Bill is there any provision for this intention. What the Minister said is certainly an expression of intent. The Parliament is not passing judgment on the second reading speech but on the legislation before it. The precedent for such a provision as we advocate is the wheat stabilisation scheme. Honourable members will recall that there was a change in the formula for varying the guaranteed price according to movements in the price indices relating to full costs of production. The variation provided that the guaranteed price in the future would be adjusted according to movements in certain cash costs, principally the one deleting the interest on land factor. The Opposition supported this principle and there is no point now in going into our reasons. The Minister knows these full well. At that time I dealt at great length with the interest on land deleted and my arguments then also apply to this Bill.

The logic behind the argument is simply this: When the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill was introduced the then Minister for Primary Industry made virtually the same second reading speech as far as it concerned this type of clause and said that the price would be varied each season according to movements in cash costs or having regard to cash costs. In the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill this was made clear to the satisfaction of this Parliament by the inclusion of clause 7 sub-clause 3 (b) which is virtually word for word the same as the amendment I have moved except that I have substituted the words apples and pears' for the word 'wheat'. However, the principle is the same. If this provision is good enough to go into the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act why can it not be included in the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Act?

Honourable members might ask why I have moved for the postponement of clause 7. lt is not really an amendment to move that the clause be postponed and honourable members should not jump to the conclusion that I am trying to have this clause deleted from the Bill. I am not. But because of the procedures of this House this is the only way in which I can get a debate on this clause. It would seem from the advice that the Opposition has received that an instruction would be given to, I assume, the Governor-General to vary, possibly by increasing, the appropriation in the future to take into account the variations in cash costs. On the advice the Opposition has received this may not be possible by way of introducing legislation in the Parliament. That does not cut any ice with me. The Parliament will decide what does and does not go into the Act and I am conscious too that the Senate has some say in the matter. The logic is quite clear. If the Government's intention is to vary the price of apples and pears according to movements in cash costs - after all, this is most important in a time of inflation - surely in the legislation there should be some provision under which this can be done. Every member of Parliament on both sides of the House would agree with this and if any honourable member does not agree it is quite obvious that he does not understand the elements of the Bill.

The Minister gave an assurance to the industry but the only assurance worth anything is that which the legislation contains. The second reading speech is not legal in any sense of the word; it is the legislation that is passed by this Parliament which is legal and that is all that can be taken notice of. If this provision is omitted from the legislation every apple and pear grower in Australia will be fully entitled to argue that the Government has no intention of varying the guaranteed price in accordance with movements in cash costs. I do not intend to argue, and I hope the Minister will not suggest that I am arguing, that the Government will not make such variations in the price. Of course it will. It is a responsible Government, 'responsible' being used in the legal sense, and has authorised a statement which would be binding on any responsible government. On the other hand there could be some very doubting apple and pear growers who do not believe that this Government is responsible. Therefore, they might say 'unless we see this in the Act we will not take any notice of what the Minister tells us.' The right thing to do is to make certain that this provision is placed in the Act somehow and if it cannot be done by the procedure which the Opposition has adopted I hope the Minister in reply will suggest how it can be done.

To give honourable members some idea of the importance of cash costs, the average total cash costs for apple and pear orchards in southern Tasmania vary between $18,000 and $19,000 and packaging materials, sprays, services and hired labour are the main elements. In the northern area total costs amount to approximately $14,000. The average gross return from the apples and pears produced is between $24,000 and $26,000. This gives honourable members an idea of the small margin between cash costs and total returns. When imputed costs, that is, depreciation, owner-operator's labour, family labour, interest on land, and other interest items, are taken into account the total costs in many cases exceed the gross return in recent years.

It is obvious that the total cash costs are of vital importance to the future cash income of apple and pear growers. This is why it is essential for this Parliament to find some way to enable this provision to be included in the Bill. I find it incredible that we cannot get it into this Bill because of some procedural matter involving an instruction to the Governor-General. As far as I am concerned we ought to abolish the Governor-General's part if the position is that this sort of procedure holds up legislation in Australia which is of national importance and which affects industry, the economy and the States. I hope that the Minister will inform the House whether this clause can be incorporated in the Bill because it should be included in this legislation, (f it is not the statements made by the Minister in relation to cash costs would not be able to be challenged in this Parliament.

We on this side want to know more about the type of cash cost movements, for example, and how the Bureau of Agricultural Economics will weight the various price indexes by the use of price relativity methods. I am fully aware of the methods that the Bureau has used in the past but I would like to find out more about the details of the specific cash costs involved.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Hallett) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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