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Tuesday, 7 December 1971
Page: 4208

Mr HURFORD (Adelaide) - 1 congratulate the honourable member for Hume (Mr Pettitt), even though he comes from the other side of the House, for being able to get his message across in 5 minutes. I promise those who are in charge of the business of the House that tonight I will be equally brief, having suffered for 65 minutes while a statement, admittedly important, on industrial relations was read. At least the first 20 minutes said nothing. To be fair, I must confess that the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) took a lead from the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) in taking equally long over his statement. I am entering into this debate because I have a particular interest in the Jon Preserving Co-operative Ltd. Honourable members will remember that we are dealing with 2 Bills cognately - the South Australia Grant (Fruit Canneries) Bill 1971 and the New South Wales Grant (Leeton Co-operative Cannery Ltd) Bill 1971. The first of those 2, which relates to my own State of Sou'.h Australia, has special advantages for not only Jon Preserving Co-operative Ltd but also Riverland Fruit Products Co-operative Ltd which was mentioned by the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles).

I mention my own special interest in this matter. At one stage of my career I conducted the audit of Jon Preserving Cooperative in the days before it was a cooperative. Also, the factory is situated only just outside my electorate and there are many residents of the electorate of Adelaide who find employment at the Jon factory between the months of January and April in the canning season. I am motivated to get to my feet because of the speech by the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr Whittorn). I cannot altogether blame him for being so misinformed on this Bill because I believe that the Minister's second reading speech did not give the full picture it should have given on a measure such as this. The honourable member for Balaclava has assumed that the money made available in these measures is a grant. It is not. I said that I would confine my remarks to the effect the Bill has on the Jon Preserving Co-operative Ltd. I would sum up the position with that co-operative by saying that it is no more than a moratorium on S78O.O0O worth of debts held by that particular co-operative.

These debts were incurred in earlier years, for very good reasons, most of them beyond the control of the 400 fruit growers who are shareholders in this cooperative. I am referring to the devaluation of sterling, to adverse crop yields and to equipment costs. Indeed, I now go further and say that without this help, half of which is coming to the Commonwealth under this Bill, those 400 fruit growers would be without a market, without anywhere to sell their fruit, and would be a burden on the city. Admittedly I have owned up to my own links with this particular company, but it is right and proper for a city member to state that there are good decentralisation reasons why a measure like this should go through this Parliament, particularly a measure which provides not a grant but a loan.

I strongly support the Opposition's amendment to this Bill because the Bill does not set out the terms of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. I know, because of my particular relationships with the company, what that company's agreement is with the State Government of South Australia. It is strictly bound to put aside 4 per cent of the $780,000 each year by way of a provision before striking a profit. Four per cent is not a high interest rate or a large provision but it does show that this is definitely a loan and not a grant being made by the Government. I believe that this sort of detail, if not set out in the terms of the Bill itself, could at least have been disclosed to the House in the second reading speech of the Minister. It is because 1 have only just ascertained this information and have not had an opportunity to pass it on to my colleagues that we have such an amendment as this. But even with this information an amendment would still be necessary if we are to do our proper task of keeping the Government on its toes and ensure that it informs this Parliament of all the details of a measure such as this.

I repeat that this is a loan, not a grant, and that the Co-operative is bound to put aside 4 per cent each year as a provision on the full amount of this loan. I say further that this Co-operative would have had to go into liquidation without a measure such as this. Before this measure was arranged by the South Australian Government the liability of the company was as much as $100,000 a year - $50,000 in capital and $50,000 in interest - a crippling amount to be found and one that the Cooperative could not have withstood. I might add that under the agreement with the State Government there is strict con. trol over this Co-operative and I am very pleased to tell the House that with this help from the South Australian Government, now reinforced with help to the State Government by the Commonwealth Government under this Bill, the Cooperative in the last 2 years has made a profit. In the year ended 30th September 1971 the profit was $33,000 and in the year ended 30th September 1970 it was $25,000. This shows that there have been prudent operations which have not only kept about 600 of my electors in a job in the canning season but also have kept 400 fruit growers on their properties in the electorate of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles).

I do not want to give the impression in the short time that I will spend on this Bill that the canning industry is over its problems. I do not want to give the impression that the particular co-operative in which I am interested - the Jon Preserving Cooperative Ltd - is over its problems. These problems are directly related to. the export trade of canned fruits. The co-operative in which I am interested has a turnover of $3m each year. It pays $lm to its fruit growers for peaches, pears and apricots. I have mentioned the employment of 600 people in the canning works. All these people who are involved in the industry are extremely dependent upon world trade conditions and those conditions are related to Britain going into the European Economic Community. The industry needs time. There are hopes that in a couple of years time demand will have grown in Japan. In the meantime, if tariff barriers go up against our canning industry overnight we are going to be in great trouble not only from countries which can provide canned fruits from within the Community such as Spain and even more so, Italy, but also from competition from the United States of America. We have some hard decisions to make.

My great complaint about the Government is not only exemplified in this amendment which we are moving tonight, about not giving us sufficient details on financial provisions such as this, but also about the Government not at the same time talking about the problems of the canned fruits industry over the next few years and the sort of advice that will be given to this industry in its reconstruction. Does the Government feel, from its marketing knowledge, that when Great Britain goes into the European Economic Community Japan will take its place as a country with which we can trade in this industry? Should we now be giving a lead to this industry in its reconstruction even to the extent of pulling trees rather than planting new trees? 1 promised that I would not take long in my remarks. I hope that I have raised one or two questions to which the Minister will apply his mind and in. relation to which he will give some details when he is replying to this debate. In his contribution to the debate the honourable member for Hume did not give us a great deal of detail about the financial situation of the particular co-operative in his district. However, I must confess that once such help as this is given to one co-operative the onus is on the Government to give it to all cooperatives. In saying that, however, I want to congratulate the South Australian Minister of Agriculture who really has been the person responsible for Riverland and Jon products receiving this help from the Commonwealth Government. I can only point the bone at the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture and any of those who are responsible for the district in which this co-operative to which the honourable member for Hume referred lies for not seeing that the Commonwealth Government helped that co-operative equally.

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