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Thursday, 2 December 1976
Page: 3187

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jenkins) - Order! The honourable member will address his remarks to the Chair.

Mr GOODLUCK -The purpose of these Bills, the Apple and Pear Levy Bill, the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bill, the Apple and Pear Export Charge Bill, the Apple and Pear Export Charge Collection Bill and the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Amendment Bill, is to provide for the imposition and collection of levies on the production and sale in Australia of apples and pears and a charge on apples and pears exported from Australia. These legislative proposals give effect to the recommendations of the

Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association for a new basis of financing the activities of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation. -

The Corporation has derived its funds from a charge on apple and pear exports. With the steep decline that has occurred in the export trade, particularly in apples, the Corporation is lacking the necessary financial reserves to carry out adequately its functions, particularly those related to the development and promotion of the Australian domestic market. Given that the great bulk of production is sold in the domestic market, the Apple and Pear Growers Association has proposed and the Government has accepted that m the interests of equity all growers should contribute financially to assist the activities of the Corporation. The Bills are designed to assure a firm financial base for the Apple and Pear Corporation which has a vital role to play in assisting the industry in the face of problems which have developed in recent years, resulting in a severe cut back in the volume of apples moving to export markets.

The additional funds to be placed at the disposal of the Corporation from the new levy arrangements will enable it to make a more positive contribution towards market development, particularly on the domestic scene. As many honourable members will be aware, the apple and pear industry has for some seasons now been facing problems of increasing seriousness and complexity, mainly in the export field. These problems derive principally from the large volume of exports which the industry has traditionally sent to markets in the United Kingdom and Europe. Because of the developments in these markets, the export operation is characterised by increasing uncertainty. These developments include increased competition in this field from European fruit and the increasing competition from other exporting countries supplying the British and European markets. The general uncertainty created by these developments is aggravated by difficulties in the field of shipping. Much has been said about the cost of freighting a carton of apples from the wharves at Hobart to the United Kingdom. In 1969 the cost to freight a case of apples from Hobart to the United Kingdom was approximately $1.70. In 1975 it had increased to $4.74 and it may be as high as $5.50 in 1977. Thankfully, the devaluation ofthe Australian dollar will assist this industry and will enable it to be more competitive with other countries which, in the past, have had a distinct advantage in the rate of exchange.

Once again, I make no apology for being parochial. The situation of the export apple industry in Tasmania is serious and it depends heavily on the export trade. It is absolutely imperative that the United Kingdom and Europe take the bulk of its apple exports. I realise that Western Australia has significant problems but the Corporation, with a great knowledge of the problems relating to this industry would, if given the financial assistance, be able to look at ways of overcoming the problems, particularly in the area of marketing and in the context of the fruit going for the producer to the ultimate consumer. I firmly believe that there is a need in the industry for a highly skilled, effective and nationally organised body that can come to grips with the marketing problems that beset the industry. I believe that the Corporation will supply this need, and that its operations, hand in hand with the industry's own efforts, will once more place the industry on a sound economic foundation.

Many experts, including those from Government and industry, have come forward with recommendations for a viable fruit industry. Some have considered that it should be restructured; some have also looked at the social implications but I believe that we have now been able to pinpoint the problems. They have not been the problems ofthe growers. I have said before that Tasmanian orchardists are among the finest in the world. They are able to compete, on the basis of quality, on any given market. If I may say so the reason why there has been such controversy from other growers in Australia is that they fear that Tasmania apples may glut the mainland market. It is a fear only of quality. If they continue, as they have done this year to infer that Tasmania has a distinct advantage because of the freight equalisation plan, I will endeavour once again to bring this particular issue completely out in the open.

The stabilisation scheme and the ability of Tasmanian apples to be exported at a fair and reasonable price, returning a fair and reasonable profit to the hardworking orchardists, should be defended and assisted by the mainland growers. If they do not, the Tasmanian orchardists will find it necessary to look for alternative markets and, in fact, may be forced to glut the market in Australia. As a consequence, nobody would win. There would be once more complete pandemonium in an industry which, given the right incentive and the right direction, will once again prove a valuable asset to the economy of Australia. The Corporation will consist of 9 parttime members. They are an independent chairman, 4 members to represent growers, one member to represent the Australian Government and 3 other members. All the members of the Corporation will be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry. The members representing growers will be selected from nominations submitted by the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association. The 3 other members referred to in the Bill, who might be termed members with special qualifications will be appointed after consultation with the Association, the Australian Apple and Pear Shippers Association and any other appropriate bodies.

At this juncture I must pay special tribute to the retiring Chairman of the Corporation, Mr Reginald Baine, a Tasmanian. I say quite sincerely that Mr Baine has contributed greatly in a difficult period, a period that I feel it would be far better to forget. It would be better to aim for the future and, hopefully, once again restore confidence and stability to an industry that I and many other honourable members feel will be important to the economy of Australia. The new Chairman, Mr Leslie Gordon Leckie, O.B.E., A.S.A., of Melbourne is a distinguished businessman and was formerly the Deputy General Manager of the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria. He will bring a wealth of knowledge to the Corporation and under his independent guidance I believe that the Corporation will be able to overcome the serious problems that now confront the industry and possibly will do so for many years to come.

The members of the Corporation have been specially qualified for appointment by reason of their experience and expertise in marketing generally and also in the marketing of apples and pears. The functions ofthe Corporation are wide and varied and they include the control of the export from Australia of fresh apples and pears. It has the power to recommend to the Minister the terms and conditions of export, the persons who may engage in export, packaging and labelling for export and quality standards and grading for export. It also has the power to determine quantities for export by State and country of destination and to negotiate shipping arrangements. Reliance and confidence in the Corporation by the grower is imperative as the Corporation will be active in many fields apart from trading and the regulation of fresh fruit exports. It will be expected to play a prominent role in the field of research, the role of the sales promotion, to initiate research in all aspects of the industry, including quality improvements, cost saving practices and techniques and in all stages of production, marketing, packaging, handling, storage, transport and the provision of technical advice in the processing field.

I and all honourable members will, of course, look closely to the Corporation to improve the whole marketing system from the producer to the consumer, particularly in Tasmania. It is a fact that 1 1 per cent of the total value of agricultural production in Tasmania is derived from apples. In New South Wales it is 0.78 per cent; in Victoria 1.14 per cent; in Queensland 0.60 per cent; in South Australia 0.S8 per cent and in Western Australia 0.83. From these figures it can be easily discerned a continuing fruit industry is most important to the economy of Tasmania. It is not my intention to say that the Corporation will be the organisation that will be able to overcome all problems. It must have complete assistance from the Government. The Government must realise that if an industry is to survive it must work systematically and conscientiously at removing the problem associated with freight about which I have already spoken. Also, if I am going to point the bone, I should point it at the shippers. When one reads about James Patrick and Co. Pty Ltd, which was able to pay $650,000 in directors' fees to 5 men last year, one really starts to realise that the freight problems are immense and we, as a government, should work determinedly to overcome the severe restraints on the industry. There is certainly gold in those wharves but not in the homes of many small orchardists throughout Australia who, because of problems other than high wages, seasonal fluctuations and inflation, have been battered to pieces.

People could talk about the fruit industry and the problems associated with it until they are black and blue in the face. The time has come to formulate plans for the future and I sincerely hope that the Corporation will look at long-term marketing and export opportunities in countries other than the UK and the Continent The protective import devices and disruptive export practices which have operated in agricultural producing countries for most of this century have seriously distorted resource allocation, employment and income distribution from that which should have resulted given a freer trade situation.

Any negotiating position put forward to reduce the existing levels of protection should take account of the economic and social impact of such reduction on resources. It would be unrealistic to expect that the developed countries will soon dismantle their agricultural support programs. Any sudden shift from existing positions would be extremely costly to governments in terms of adjustment and income support programs and could lead to a painful period of instability in world prices and production. In essence, there is a need to find ways to improve access to importing countries, achieve more rational export policies among exporters and reasonable stability of price and supply within a framework that permits a gradual adjustment of domestic policies towards the principles of liberal trade. I support the Bills and once again reiterate my strongest intention to support the apple industry, to make absolutely certain that if it is given the opportunity it can once again become a great exporter.

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