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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2063

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - The estimates for the Department of Primary Industry provide for an expenditure of $78,646,00fr for this year compared with ยง103,797,219 for 1970-71. When one examines these figures we find that there is a considerable reduction which requires some investigation. We find that 2 large items of expenditure are responsible for this reduction. These items are the emergency assistance to wool growers in an amount of $30m for the last financial year compared with the provision of $150,000 this year. The other item of a large nature is the payment to industries in respect of reduced returns in Australian currency arising from the devaluation of sterling and other currencies. Last year it was $21m and this year it is down to $9,700,000. The Department of Primary Industry has certainly increased in importance over the years and at the present time it faces problems of immense importance to the nation. The greatest problem, of course, is that of our wool industry which over the years has been the mainstay of Australia's economy. Even for the period ending 30th June 1971 it was worth $567m in export income and, as has been mentioned in this chamber by me on several occasions, no government can afford to let an industry of this magnitude die. The Government scheme to guarantee a price of 36c a pound for greasy wool will certainly assist the wool growers and the country areas of this great Commonwealth.

We should make every effort to open new markets for wool. In this House last week I asked the Minister for Primary Industry a question concerning the investigation of sales of wool to the People's Republic of China. This is a very important market for this commodity and every opportunity should be taken by our exporters and by the Government to exploit it. The People's Republic of China, with 750 million people, could provide a market for 1 million bales of wool if that market could be broken into. I have no doubt that the Minister for Primary Industry, as promised in this House, will certainly take this matter up with the Australian Wool Commission. We should make every endeavour to develop our trade in this field.

The primary industries are still the backbone of this country and the Minister and the Government are making provision for research into wheat, tobacco, barley, wine, wool and meat, as well as providing agricultural extension services, and dealing with many other matters of great importance to primary industries. We know the valuable work done by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. The Government has provided bounties on butter and cheese under the Dairy Industry Act. The downturn in farm income has had one beneficial effect as far as the farmers are concerned. Farmers generally, or at least those farmers who can diversify, have been forced into diversification. Unfortunately there are many farmers in the western sector of New South Wales and in other parts of Australia who cannot diversify, but those who can do so have diversified and we find that new avenues of agriculture, for instance, the growing of course grains, have been opened up. Farmers have taken to growing sunflower, safflower, linseed and soya beans. An excellent market exists for these products in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines and I have no doubt that our Trade Commissioners will be making every effort to increase this trade with these countries.

The wheat situation has improved considerably and the Australian Wheat Board is to be congratulated on its successful sales campaign. Record sales of 375 million bushels have been made this year and it appears that the carry-over will be approximately 150 million bushels. This is a most satisfactory position and a good crop will be of great benefit to Australia. Despite pessimism in the industry, the Government has allocated funds for research in this field. This is a very wise course to adopt because it is a highly important industry to this country and to our export income. The amount of $52,000 provided for wine research will help this growing industry but with the tremendous development that is taking place, particularly in the Hunter Valley in my electorate, there could be a danger of over-production. In Australia 300,000 tons of wine grapes, or over 40 million gallons of wine, are produced annually. New South Wales, which ranks a poor second to South Australia as a wine producing State, produces 53,000 tons of grapes annually from 13,000 acres. The Hunter Valley at present produces only 2,500 tons of grapes annually, which is 4 per cent of the New South Wales production and .6 per cent of Australian production. Although responsible for only a small proportion of the total production, the Hunter Valley holds an important place in the Australian wine industry because some wines produced there are among the finest and most distinctive in Australia.

Since 1965 there has been a wine boom and wine consumption has increased because of changing tastes. Resulting from this, large investments have been made, particularly in the Hunter Valley, to take advantage of the increase in demand. Most of this investment and expansion of the area under grapes has been undertaken by wineries and large companies. In 1963 the area under wine grapes stood at 1,232 acres. By 1967, after the start of the boom, it had reached 2,300 acres. This increased to 3,450 acres in 1969. In 1970, 3,000 additional acres were planted and it is predicted that this rate of expansion will continue for several years. By 1975 the total acreage could be in excess of 12,000 acres. This compares with 7,500 acres in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and 17,000 acres at present in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. With wine production in 1980 expected to be ten times what it is now questions arise about the future of the wine industry in the Hunter Valley and I would advise caution because of the possibility of over-production in this industry throughout Australia.

One primary industry with bright prospects is the meat industry. We have maintained a splendid level of meat exports. There is every indication that we will continue to do so. I have been rather alarmed to hear over the last 2 or 3 days of the possibility of a threat to this great industry from synthetics. I understand there has been a small importation of synthetic meats into this country and that there is an attempt to manufacture synthetic meat locally. I hope that we will watch with great care the developments in this field which could possibly destroy one of the finest industries we have in Australia. Exports of meat have been extremely good. Our main market for beef, of course, has been the United States of

America, closely followed by the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia and Canada. I know that the meat industry in this country is doing all it can to develop these markets at the present time. The American market is the most important one and here we are given quotas each year. We have to see that we fill these quotas. If we do not fill these quotas to the United States of America we could be jeopardising further exports to this market which is a most lucrative one and of great value to Australia.

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