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Thursday, 21 May 1970

Mr GILES (Angas) - I join with the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) in supporting this Bill, lt is a Bill with very narrow confines. Clearly the Dried Fruits Export Charges Act is involved with the raising of levies. The legislation under which we could branch out into a wider debate would be the Dried Fruits Export Control Act which I gather deals with the regulations that govern the activities of the Board. The Board is financed by levies imposed by the Dr ed Fruits Export Charges Act. This amendment today aims to increase the maximum charge in order to provide finance to the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board. The maximum rate at which the producer could be charged in the past was 0.1c per lb and this Bill aims to ra se it, as the honourable member for Dawson said, to 0.3c per lb. I gather - the honourable member for Dawson did not say this - that the forecast for the current season is 0.2c per lb.

Mr Turnbull - That is not current.

Mr GILES - This, as I understand it, applies to the three-

Mr Turnbull - Is this current in time?

Mr GILES - It applies not to the type of fruit but to the point of time. In other words, the current charge will be 0.2c per lb. This is reasonable. It is the sort of action the Government has had to take quite recently over the Wine Grapes Charges Bill which came before this House a Utile while ago. The difference in these levies is one worthy of comment. We did apply an increased optimum charge in the case of the wine industry at a time when that industry was in a buoyant state, as it still is. This is not necessarily so in relation to the dried fruits industry because of the particularly tragic time the industry had to put up with during the year 1969. At that time, the electorate of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), for instance, had the most serious floods and storms. This made it an impossibility for a big volume of dried fruits to be sent to the factories. It was not only a matter of a low volume year but I have no doubt the quality of the fruit also suffered due to the ravages of the storms and climatic problems in that year.

The industry may be at some onus as compared with the wine industry because the year 1970 at this stage looks like being a big volume year. Even if the returns per unit from that big volume are not very high, no doubt this will increase the capacity, at any rate in the immediate past term, of primary producers, who will have a better chance of meeting increased charges, including the one referred to in the Bill. I will confine my remarks to the narrow issues dictated by the Bill and once again say that I have pleasure in supporting this Bill whilst regretting the fact that in some cases the industry, for the reasons I have mentioned, is not in a better state to take this type of increase.

Mr GRASSBY(Riverina) [4.5J- I join with my colleague, the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson), k supporting this measure which relates to the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board and its financing. I appreciate that the scope of this measure is limited but I think it is appropriate to refer to the Board and some of the operations which it finances. Of course this does not deal with the wider issues at the grass roots level as far as the growers are concerned and I am pleased to hear in this Parliament that at least references have been made to the difficulties that the growers have faced and continue to face. We will leave the grass roots problem in detail to another debate on another day, as is dictated by the confines of this measure. lt is true that the Bill comes before the House at a time when the dried fruits industry is facing uncertainty but I think it can be said that the industry itself is seeking the best road to progress. It is not unanimous on it at the present time or on the forms of organisation. The dried fruits industry is more susceptible than any other primary industry to the vagaries of the weather and natural disaster. I think it is extraordinary that such an important and successful industry should have been left exposed for so long to the natural disasters which are endemic in the areas in which the industry is situated.

In relation to exports the industry has done particularly well. Since 1925 production has doubled from 50,53S tons to no less than 103,581 tons in 1967. The percentage of the crop exported has barely moved in the 35 years, lt was 73.6% in the period from 1925 to 1931 - that was the 7-year average - and in 1966 it was almost the same. A year later the percentage had risen to 78.3%. The percentage of home consumption has fallen slightly in the 3 decades- from 26.4% to 22.8%. That is the last year for which I have figures and for which figures have been made available to this House by the Board, which is the subject of this measure. But we are eating, I am delighted to say, 10,000 tons more currants, sultanas and raisins. This is a healthy thing and I am delighted to see at meal times that honourable members of the House of Representatives are doing their share to eat us into prosperity. This is very good to see. The 44th annual report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board for the year 1967-68 strikes a note of stability. I thought it might be worth while in debating this measure which relates to it to put that on record.

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