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Wednesday, 4 March 1970

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Minister for Primary Industry) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to increase the maximum rate of charge that can be imposed under the Dried Fruits Export Charges Act 1924-1965 so that an operative rate of charge higher than the present maximum can subsequently be introduced by regulation. Under the Act a maximum charge of 0.1c per lb can be imposed on all dried fruits - currants, sultanas and raisins - exported from the Commonwealth. This charge is the major income source of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board, the statutory authority which controls the export, and the sale and distribution after export of Australian dried fruits.

The charge was first introduced under the Act in 1924 and the maximum rate has remained unaltered up to the present time. Under regulation, the Board operated on rates of charge lower than the maximum until 1964, when, on its recommendation, the operative rate was set at 0.1c per lb, which is the maximum permitted by the Act. In recent years, however, it has become apparent that the income derived from the existing charge is insufficient to allow the Board to operate effectively under present: conditions. Over the last 3 years its expenditure has exceeded income, resulting in a continual reduction in accumulated reserve funds.

The Board's financial . problems were aggravated in 1969 when adverse seasonal conditions reduced the supply of exportable fruit to the lowest level in almost 20 years.. This confronted the Board with the prospect of funds sufficient for only administrative purposes. Probably the most serious effect of the Board's money shortage is in the field of export promotion. The reduced 1969 income has meant a curtailment of the budget for this activity and uncertainty as to the amount the Board can make available for future expenditure through the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee.

This Bill raises the maximum rate of charge from 0.1c per. lb to 0.3c per lb and retains the provision for a lower operative rate of charge to be set by regulation. It is intended to set the operative rate for the 1970 season at a lower rate of 0.2c per lb. This or any subsequent rates imposed within the limits set by the new maximum charge should enable the Board to replenish reserves to meet any future losses in income arising in seasons of low production and to plan for a positive programme of export promotion.

These proposals have been recommended by the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board which is comprised of members representing both grower and marketing interests. I am confident that the dried fruit industry as a whole can regard this and any subsequent recommendations concerning the level of operative rates of charge as being designed to provide the most effective basis for export marketing of dried fruit. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.

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