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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr SHERRY (Franklin) - Mr Speaker,since this Parliament reassembled, debate and counter debate have taken place with regard to the crisis facing primary industry in this country. Indeed, discussion of the crisis was promoted by the Opposition as a mater of public importance. I do not intend to weary the House with a recapitulation of the issues that have been discussed already. This morning 1 wish to speak of the continued and continuing delay in the implementation of the stabilisation scheme for the apple and pear industry which is so vital to that part of my electorate in which this industry flourishes and indeed vital to the State and the nation.

The growers, the associations, the organisations and the commitees concerned - such as the Stale Fruit Board of Tasmania - have exhibited a quite remarkable patience with this Government. That patience, I suggest, is very fast running out. The first moves for a stabilisation scheme were begun in 1967. This is May 1970 and still no finality has been reached. Is it any wonder that my electors who are engaged in this industry are becoming restive and dissatisfied? I wish to quote and point out in some chronological order what has occurred in the past few months.

In December of last year, the outline scheme incorporating the basic principles was submitted to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) in anticipation, that negotiations between the Government and the industry would commence immediately. Secondly, notification was received that the Government would have to study the report of a survey by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics before there were discussions with the commitee concerned. .It was notified that the result of this survey would be available at the end of 1969 and. therefore, a meeting in January of this year was anticipated.

On 28th January of this year, a meeting of that committee was informed that the Minister had arranged a study by Treasury officers of the likely cost of the scheme. He anticipated that the results of this study would be available in February and that he would be in a position to commence negotiations in the later half of that month. On 3rd March of this year, the committee met and reached decisions on administrative details regarding which the Minister required such action. The committee also received confirmation from the Attorney-General's Department that the legal aspects of the scheme on which some doubts had been raised in fact were quite in order.

In March 1970 - and this is a most important aspect of this whole issue - the imposition of new regulations relating to import quotas by European Economic Community countries prompted inquiries in Canberra as to the progress that had been made on this matter. A stock reply was received that investigations were proceeding as expeditiously as possible. In April 1970, at the request of the State Fruit Board of Tasmania, the Tasmanian Minister for Agriculture sent a telegram to the Commonwealth Minister for Primary Industry urging him to meet the committee and to commence negotiations before his departure overseas. The reply received was to the effect that investigations were proceeding still. Indeed, while the Minister for Primary Industry was overseas, I put a question to the Acting Minister for Primary Industry, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon), on this subject, to which he did not know the answer.

This industry has played and will continue to play a very notable part in the economic stability not only of Tasmania but also, indeed, as 1 have said, of this nation as a whole. This industry has produced people of great initiative, people of great courage - and they have needed it - and people of extraordinary inventiveness because they have produced the world's finest product. They wish to continue to produce and to sell the world's finest product. But they can do so only if the Government will deal with the stabilisation scheme as a mater of the utmost urgency. I want to quote some statistics to illustrate the continuing decline of the industry in this part of my electorate. Population is one of the things we should all be vitally concerned with. In the Bruny Island area of the electorate in the year 1961 the population was 504. Now it is down to 410. These figures are taken from the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, and there can be no argument with them. This area is in the very heart of the fruit growing areas. In the Huon area, which is affectionately known as the hub of the fruit growing district, in 1961 the population was 5,460. Now it is down to just over 5,000. In Port Cygnet the population in 1961 was 2,754. Now it has dropped to 2,400-odd. This represents over that period of time a loss of nearly 1,000 people in a vital primary industry area. It is of very great significance.

The total number of orchards in southern Tasmania in the year 1964-65 was 1,080 and we had 413 small fruit holdings, a total of 1,493. For the year 1968-69 this figure has declined very dramatically. We now have only 885 orchards and 304 small fruit holdings, a total of 1,189. These are significant factors that reveal the dramatic problems facing this industry. The continuing decline cannot be allowed to continue. For the year 1964-65 the value of the total export of apples and pears from Tasmania was 513,815,000. There has been a steady decrease, but I will not bore the House by going right through the statistical table. For the year 1968-69 the figure was SI 2,23 1,000. We must remember that in the big year, 1965-66, the value of exports was S20,251,000. It can be readily seen from these figures that the decline is continuing. These figures highlight in the most dramatic way the startling crisis that has developed in this industry. It has had the most impossible burdens thrust upon it.

The problems of Tasmania are many. It has the problem of shipping and freight rates which have always been intolerable. The final indignity this season was the imposition of higher rates for cartons, which was introduced at a time which to say the least was most inopportune, because the manufacturers enjoyed a considerable profit in their previous year. These are some of the burdens that my electors are being asked to carry, quite unfairly. They have been asked to carry them for far too long. The industry has co-operated in every way with the Minister's own Department and his officers. The Committee set up has been most punctilious in the carrying out of its duties and in its application to them. My own conclusion - I think this is supported by the industry and by the figures and statistics I have quoted - is that the Federal Government shows a great lack of appreciation of the urgent need for the stabilisation plan. I now ask the Minister to state clearly, precisely and categorically when this scheme will be implemented now all the facts are known. As the elected spokesman for the industry I have a right to advocate on their behalf to see that this protracted and frustrating delay is arrested now. I ask: Are all these people to go to the wall? Is this industry to languish in despair? If this is the Government's view - a government that proclaims an interest for people and their welfare - then its policy and approach to the problems of the people that I have talked about this morning are bankrupt. In conclusion I call on the Minister to move with alacrity and make an immediate announcement that the stabilisation scheme will be put into effect now.

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