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Thursday, 21 November 2013
Page: 1082

Dr STONE (Murray) (16:45): I rise to present a petition with 2,044 signatures collected just before parliament was prorogued this year.

This p e tition read as follows—

The petition of certain citizens of Australia draws the attention of the House to the fact that the SPC Ardmona Company can no longer compete with very low-cost imported preserved fruit and tomatoes. This is forcing growers in the industry to abandon orchards and to retrench workers. We therefore ask the House to ensure the relevant ministers impose a World Trade Organisation-consistent emergency safeguard measure, which will make imported preserved fruit and tomatoes compete on a more level playing field. We also urgently request support of an industry survival package to give the growers and related workers a future.

Petition received.

Dr STONE: On 18 September, the Productivity Commission tabled an accelerated report, the Safeguards Inquiry into the Import of Processed Tomato Products. In the report the commission confirms that the industry has suffered serious injury. In finding 2.11 the commission said:

Although the industry is suffering serious injury, there is no compelling evidence of critical circumstances that could warrant a provisional safeguard measure.

So on the one hand they have said that this industry suffered serious damage and then in the next breath they have said that they cannot see that they have satisfied the requirements. Those requirements include that the import increase was unforeseen, that the industry has suffered actual or threatened serious injury and, if so, whether the injury was caused by the imports. I think that the most simple person could understand that that was the case and, as it happens, the Anti-Dumping Commission, has reported very recently that the tomato industry had such serious injury brought upon it by imported tomato product from Italy that it has recommended that an antidumping action be applied. So on the one hand we have the Productivity Commission saying, 'Yes, SPC have been hurt badly and they have suffered serious injury; however, we are not going to do anything about it in invoking WTO measures'—which are a legitimate form of protecting an industry in such circumstances. Then we have the new Anti-Dumping Commission reporting:

The Commission is satisfied that, based on the information submitted in the application, SPCA has demonstrated that there appear to be reasonable grounds that prepared or preserved tomatoes have been exported to Australia from Italy at dumped prices.

   …   …   …

SPCA appears to have experienced injury in terms of: loss of sales volumes; loss of market share; price depression; price suppression; reduced revenues; reduced profits; reduced profitability; declining return on investment; reduced capacity utilization; declining assets employed; and reduction in capital investment.

On these bases, the Anti-Dumping Commission said that there was the information needed, according to the WTO's criteria, to apply anti-dumping measures. I commend the new Anti-Dumping Commission for coming up with what could only have been seen as the rational response to this problem.

I have to say then that we have a serious problem, when you get back to the Productivity Commission's accelerated report. They said that the available evidence at this preliminary point—remember they refused to help the industry—suggests that the injury to the domestic industry, which they never denied, was caused by a combination of factors, including ongoing competition from imports, retailer private label strategies, extreme weather events and decreased exports. Well, hello—with the exception of the extreme weather events, decreased exports were a consequence of the market being flooded with imported product, the high dollar and ongoing competition from imports. They talk about the retailer private label strategies. The reason that the supermarkets could have such successful private label strategies was because of the very low cost of imported Italian tomatoes which they threw into their no-name generic labels. If that is not an extraordinarily compelling set of evidence that should have brought an emergency safeguard action into this industry to help them, I do not know what we can do. I am very pleased that we do have sense coming from the Anti-Dumping Commission, but I am disturbed that another Australian institution—the Productivity Commission—found the opposite. They had lower barriers to climb, in terms of putting in place an emergency safeguard action, compared to the proof needed to mount an antidumping case.