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Tuesday, 28 August 1973
Page: 426

Mr FITZPATRICK (Darling) - It was my intention to concentrate my remarks on the Wine Overseas Marketing Bill and the Wine Grapes Charges Bill which are before the House but, in light of some of the statements made by the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe) and having regard to what has been happening to our rural industries during the last 23 years under LiberalCountry Party governments, I feel that I should at least refer to some of the statements which have been made. It must be remembered that effective planning by any sincere government may make adjustments necessary for the benefit of the national econ omy. Decisions that have been made by this Government have long term benefits but in the short term, in some areas, could be unpopular. Some decisions made by this Government have been unpopular in my electorate but I think that the average Australian realises that a national government has a responsibility to assist expanding industries and this often requires a reallocation of resources. In discussing these Bills I shall endeavour to point out areas where assistance to the wine industry and the dried vine fruit industry, which of course is closely allied, will have a far greater long term benefit both to these industries and to the nation as a whole.

The Wine Grapes Charges Bill has as its purpose the conversion to metric measure of the definitions of a 'winery' and a 'distillery' and, in particular, for conversion into metric measure of the maximum rates of charges applicable to the grape intakes of these places under the Wine Grapes Charges Act 1929- 1969. The Bill proposes changing the imperial system of quantity of 10 tons to the nearest rational metric quantity of 10 tonnes. It provides also for an increase of about l.Sc in the maximum rate of charges. As the funds raised under the Wine Grapes Charges Act account for the whole of the income of the Australian Wine Board no one should object to this small increase, providing that other sections of the industry are viable and are run economically. To ascertain this I believe k is necessary for us to examine what has been happening in the wine industry over the last few years.

Since 1965 there has been a boom in the wine industry. As has been stated in this House, wine consumption has been increasing at the rate of from 10 to 11 per cent per annum. Of course, this has resulted in large scale investment by large companies in wineries. It has also resulted in increases in the plantings of dual purpose grapes as well as the wine varieties. However, a complicating factor was the introduction of the 50c excise duty. Consumption fell as a result of its introduction from 24 million gallons in 1969-70 to 22 million gallons in 1970-71 - a drop of almost 9 per cent. Following the reduction of the excise duty last year we heard reports of improved sales figures. However, the sections handling bulk wines and fortified wines did not improve. As a matter of fact, the consumption of fortified wines declined. Those responsible for growing wine grapes had problems marketing them.

The dried fruits industry would have felt the effects had good seasons prevailed because the dual purpose grapes would have reverted to the dried fruits industry. It should be also kept in mind that the stabilisation scheme introduced in 1971 would have been of little assistance to these people because of the limit of $23 a ton on the bounty to be paid. That bounty had a limit of 75,000 tons. The Australian Dried Fruits Association estimated that the production of dried sultanas would be in the vicinity of 90,000 tons. In 1967 fresh weight diversion of dual purpose sultanas to wineries amounted to 17,134 tons. By 1969 the fresh weight diversion had risen to 56,087 tons. The dried fruit industry would have been in great danger if all of those dual purpose sultanas had been diverted to the dried fruit industry.

It must be remembered that markets are not the only thing that affect the wine and dried fruit growers. The flow and the quality of the water in their streams affects production. I have already mentioned in this House the Victorian Government's action in pumping saline water from Barr Creek and Lake Hawthorn into evaporation pans. The Federal Government made provision for finance for this purpose. Some of this finance was used to cut a channel back from these storage points into the Murray River. During high rivers this high content saline water was allowed to run back into the Murray River. I believe that this practice is still being carried on. It was very heartening to hear the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) state here today that a report on this matter will be brought down shortly. When it is examining this problem I ask the Government to consider also making provision for long term low interest loans to the older established blocks for the provision of overhead sprinkling systems. I believe that a new committee has just been set up in the area to examine this problem. It revealed the startling figures that in the irrigation watering system the standard runoff amounts to between 8 gallons and 10 gallons a minute whereas under the sprinkler system it amounts to only 1 gallon to 2 gallons a minute.

Another problem facing the growers is the size of their fruit blocks. After the First World War soldier settlement blocks were from 14 acres to 17 acres. However, it had been found that with modern methods of irrigation this acreage is not large enough. It is hoped that the Government will divert to this area some of the finance that has been allocated for rural reconstruction. One of the greatest problems facing the wine- and. the dried fruit industry at present is the marketing system. I refer to the report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board for the year 1971-1972 which states:

Under Section 13 of the Act, the following number of licences by States, to export Dried Fruits, have been issued under the authority of the Minister for Primary Industry on the recommendation of the Board for the year ending 28 February 1973; Victoria 21; New South Wales- 15; South Australia - 11; Western Australia - 10; and Queensland - 3.

A total of 60 export licences have been issued.

Wherever one goes in dried fruit areas one hears charges and counter-charges of what occurs in the export marketing of dried fruits. I believe that the Government has a responsibility to establish the facts concerning the present marketing system. I am not saying that the present marketing system should be changed, but certainly we should have the facts. It is impossible to obtain the facts at present. We should set up a commission to investigate the marketing of dried fruits. Such a body could not only inquire into the present marketing structure but also study proposals for improvement. One such is the single statutory marketing concept. This concept is widely discussed in dried fruit areas. The Government should give some consideration to it. I believe that such a commission should hand down a recommendation showing the most effective system of marketing these products.

I wish also to support the Wine Overseas Marketing Bill which provides for the conversion to metric measure of the definition of what constitutes a winery and a distillery for the purposes of the requisition of a poll and voting under the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-1966. The Australian dietary pattern is ensuring a greater domestic consumption of wine. Australia grows some of the best wines. Providing that the consumer recognises the high quality of our wines and are able to establish a sound marketing system, I believe that the wine industry will continue to prosper in spite of some of the new prophets of doom whom we now have in our midst.

At the same time I wish to point out that the welfare of the nation cannot be maintained or extended without decentralisation. The Government should be conscious that the growth of population and employment must not all be created in city areas. More agencies of the Government must be enlisted to ensure that greater growth occurs in country areas. I believe that, if the Government adopts some of the recommendations which I have been requested to put forward by the growers in my electorate, we will move in this direction.

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