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Wednesday, 18 March 1936


Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for External Affairs) [9. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

At the outset I wish to say that Senator Payne and other Tasmanian senators have made strong representations that the amount of money to be provided under this bill should be distributed on a case basis. The Government has given full consideration to their requests and I propose to set out the reasons why we are asking the Senate to pass the measure in its present form.

The bill provides for the distribution to growers of apples and pears of £80,000 - a portion of the amount of £100,000 which was placed an the Estimates for the assistance of necessitous fruit-growers in respect of the 1935 export season - at the rate of 4d. a bushel on all fruit exported during the year ended the 31st December, 1935. In 1933, following urgent representations on behalf of growers for assistance to compensate them for losses incurred in the export trade during that year, the Government caused an investigation to be made of the position of growers in Tasmania, which State suffered more acutely than other States, with a view to determining the best means of rendering assistance to the industry. Many proposals were examined, but most of them were found to be impracticable, and the Government finally made available £125,000, in the form of grants to the States, for assistance to growers of apples and pears. This sum was apportioned between the various States in proportion to their share in the export trade. In 1934, although export prices for apples were much better than in 1933, the industry was still in a difficult position, and again Parliament was asked to set aside £125,000 for the purpose of assisting the industry. For the financial year 1935-36 an amount of £100,000 was provided for the same purpose, and as I have said, the Government has given considerable thought to the best method of distributing this money.

The Department of Commerce has been at some pains to examine the financial results of the 1935 export season, and it has ascertained that the net realizations f.o.b. Australian ports were much better than any price obtained since 1929. In 1935 the average f.o.b. price for all overseas shipments of apples in Tasmania was 6s. 5d. a bushel, compared with ls. Sd. a bushel in 1933, and 3s. a bushel in 1934. Tasmania is responsible for the export of over 50 per cent, of the total Australian export of apples. Growers in all the other States also reported much better prices in 1934 than in previous years.


Senator J B Hayes - Is that 6s. 5d. a case the figure for Tasmania ?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.Yes. Having regard to the improved returns obtained for fruit exported in 1935, it was thought that" some means of assistance could be devised which would be of more lasting benefit to the industry than the payment of a bounty on export.


Senator Hardy - In those earlier years, there was no provision for scientific research into the problems connected with the industry.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.No. As many growers are still suffering financial strain as the result of poor prices obtained in those years, the Government decided that a portion of the amount provided for assistance this year should be distributed to growers by way of an. export bounty, and a portion used for investigation and research into problems affecting the industry, and for the introduction of improved orchard practices in co-operation with the State Department of Agriculture. There are undoubtedly many directions in which the

Commonwealth and the States can combine for the permanent good of the industry. These include the encouragement of central packing sheds, improvement of wrapping and packing methods, advanced cultural methods, and improvement of construction of the export case, including standardization of the size of the case. In addition, there is need for scientific research into transport and marketing problems if a permanent improvement is to be effected in the marketing of our fruit overseas. Exports of apples and pears during the years 1933,1934 and 1935 have been as follows : -

 

The bulk of the export trade is to the United Kingdom.

In this bill, provision is made for the distribution of approximately £80,000 by way of a bounty on apples and pears at the rate of 4d. a bushel case on the quantity exported during 1935. The grant in 1933 was equivalent to approximately 6d. a case, and in 1934 to approximately 7d. a case. The figures which I have quoted show, of course, that in each of those years, there was a larger export trade.


Senator Sampson - This year the grant is equivalent to 4d. a case.


Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - Yes; but if a comparison is made with prices realized in earlier years, it will be found that there is still a margin. The balance of £20,000 provided on the Estimates will be used through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in co-operation with the State Departments of Agriculture for further investigation into the problems which I have indicated. It is considered that any permanent improvement which can be effected as a result of such investigations will be of greater benefit to the industry than would the provision of an annual subsidy.

Honorable senators representing all States have, no doubt, seen from time to time letters and reports which have appeared in the daily press concerning the appearance of Australian apples and pears in the London market. I have some personal knowledge on this subject, and I know there is room for improvement in our marketing methods. The Government is anxious to bring about an improvement of the conditions affecting the industry, particularly as regards the export of apples and pears. If we are to hold and expand our markets for Australian products, it is essential that we aim at achieving the highest quality in the goods that we produce. Action has already been taken under the commerce regulations to eliminate many unsuitable varieties from our export pack, and to raise, the standards of quality in respect of apples and pears exported overseas. I am sure that Tasmanian senators will admit that some years ago there was room for improvementin this connexion in Tasmania. Many of the varieties of apples then grown were unsuitable for the export trade, butnumbersof growers were not in a financial position to work their trees over to the standard export varieties. Growers of apples in South Australia and Western Australia, who came into this business later, profited by the experience of Tasmania and the older exporting States. I know that in Western Australia the great bulk of the planting was of the approved export varieties. In Tasmania there has been, during recent years, a grafting over from the older varieties to the export varieties. The Government desires to expedite that work in order that the fruit sent overseas from all the States will he of approved export varieties. As further work is necessary on this important problem, the Government has recently appointed a fruit supervising officer in London to examine shipments of fruit arriving in the United Kingdom, and to arrange for investigation and research into any faulty consignments which may arrive there. This officer will be in a position to advise the producers in Australia of the requirements of the British market, and of the difficulties which they have to overcome. It is essential that we in Australia should be prepared to give effect to any recommendations that may be made in this direction, and continuous investigation and research are necessary here if we are to derive the full benefit from the reports madeby this officer.


Senator Sampson - Will the ?20,000 be controlled by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research?

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE.Yes, in co operation with the State departments of agriculture. The reports will be sent to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and, after consultation with the departments of agriculture, the growers in the various States will be advised. It is also desirable that funds should be available to enable the growers to give effect to the results of research. Many growers who would be willing to give effect to the recommendations of experts lack either the technical knowledge or the cash to enable them to do so. From this fund assistance will be given to enable them to carry out the recommendations made as a result of these investigations. The ?20,000 is for that purpose, and I feel sure that its expenditure will have a beneficial long-term effect. After ali. our aim should be to obtain lasting markets. It is not a healthy sign that our exports depend on bounties. It would bo far better that the quality of the fruit should be such as to command a payable price in the world market than that the industry should be assisted by a bounty. I believe that scientific research will bc of more lasting benefit to the industry than is the bounty now paid. I confidently commend the bill to the Senate.







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