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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 4344

Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) - I appreciate the concern of Opposition members who have spoken. I appreciate their constructive suggestions, which are most unusual coming from that side of the House. I appreciate, also, suggestions as to how this legislation can be improved. The establishment of the proposed Apple and Pear Corporation is a major step forward in the organisation of the apple and pear industry in Australia. I am grateful that the honourable members who have spoken have wished the Corporation well, even though they might not agree with other aspects of it or with other clauses of the Bill. However, I think that the Opposition agrees with 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the Bill. It is gratifying that approval for this measure is so overwhelming.

The establishment of the Corporation comes at a time when the apple and pear industry is in crisis - as if it has not been in crisis for many years. But the crises that are occurring are becoming worse and more serious every year. For instance, in Tasmania a few years ago there were 1,350 growers; there are now fewer than 600 - less than half. I said, by way of interjection to my colleague the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry), that 5 years ago this industry was worth approximately $20m annually to Tasmania. It is now worth less than half of that- $ 10m. This illustrates the decline in the apple and pear industry as it affects my State of Tasmania which grows 70 per cent of Australia's apple production. Therefore, if there is a decline in production in the major apple growing State the industry is really sick. This measure is an endeavour to try to pump some sense into the organisation of the industry. The new corporation will go a long way beyond the Apple and Pear Board which it replaces.

I am chairman of the Government Primary Industry Committee. Before the election when we were still in Opposition we hoped to establish a statutory marketing authority for apples and pears which would take over the entire crop and handle it from the paddock to the plate, wherever it was sold - at home or overseas. Members of that committee envisaged a very strong marketing authority with full powers. But we were only 3 people within a party. Honourable members opposite have brainy ideas at times but how far do they get in their party rooms? It is the party that decides issues. This applies to all parties. The majority decides. Our rural committee fought hard for the establishment of a statutory marketing authority even if it were to operate initially only in Tasmania and later spread to the other States. We were not able to convince enough of our colleagues that this was the ideal way to solve the problem and the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) and the majority in our Party decided on the establishment of this Corporation.

The Minister has put a tremendous amount of work into this legislation to get it to the stage tonight where it is being debated in this

Parliament. When the Minister introduced the proposal our rural committee suggested amendments to the draft legislation. He accepted two or three amendments that we suggested including one which related to grower representation on the Corporation. He thought that 3 grower representatives would be sufficient but we said that we wanted four. Four was accepted as the appropriate representation and tonight it is written into the legislation that on the Corporation there shall be 4 growers out of a total membership of nine, including the independent chairman.

Though some of us might have wanted a stronger measure with far more teeth in it we must be happy with what is provided. It is far more than what we had in the past. The people appointed to this Corporation must make it work as the legislation requires and it is up to members of Parliament to keep on the Minister's back, or anybody else's back, to ensure that the requirements are carried out in toto as they are stated in the legislation which will be passed tonight in this chamber and I hope in the Senate very soon afterwards. The election of the grower representatives was referred to by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street). He tried to make out that we said before the election that there would be a grower controlled board.

Mr Street - Grower representatives selected by the growers.

Mr DUTHIE - Yes, growers' representatives selected by the growers. I think it is a tweedledum and tweedledee type of argument to make a great point of the fact that by this measure the growers will select their 4 members and those names will be submitted to the Minister. He is not going to select them. They will be selected by ballot by the Apple and Pear Growers' Association in Tasmania, which represents the majority of growers there, and like organisations in other States. Of course they will elect their own growers. There has been no breakdown in our suggestions at all. The method may be slightly different but the end result is exactly the same.

Mr Street - Where does the legislation say that the growers are going to do the electing themselves?

Mr DUTHIE - The Bill says that all members of the Corporation shall be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry. By appointed' it means that members representing growers will be selected from nominations submitted by the Apple and Pear Growers' Association.

Mr Street - Yes, but they are nominations. There is nothing in the legislation to say that they will be elected.

Mr DUTHIE - The point is: How do they nominate their own members except by ballot?

Mr Street - That is right.

Mr DUTHIE - They will have a ballot, and those names selected in the ballot will be submitted to the Minister. The 3 other members referred to in the Bill - members with special qualifications - will be appointed after consultation with the Apple and Pear Growers' Association and any other appropriate bodies. The Minister is not picking names out of the air; he will appoint the people nominated by these representative bodies.

Mr Lloyd - How many Tasmanian growers are there?

Mr DUTHIE - I would like to see at least two Tasmanian representatives out of the four. The suggestion of the honourable member for Murray is a fair one. To have two from Tasmania, one from Victoria and one from Western Australia seems to me a pretty reasonable representation. It means that the pear growers would be represented on the Corporation largely by the Victorian representative. The annual report of the Apple and Pear Board for 1972-73 indicates that 1,730,000 more cases of apples and pears were exported to Britain, Ireland, West Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Holland, Finland, Denmark, France and Norway for the last season than for the season before. Despite the critical situation in the industry and the smaller number of growers, production and exports were up considerably. So we have the apples; we have the markets: what happens in between? There is a problem with shipping.

The suggestion that shipping freights will rise by another 13 per cent or 14 per cent in the coming season has dealt the industry one of its worst blows. The growers are frightened to think that shipping freights will in future be so much higher. There is a suggestion in the Bill that the Corporation will charter ships. That is a wonderful suggestion. I think this could have been tackled long ago. I know of one instance a few years ago in regard to meat exports to North America when the shipping line intended to lift freights by about 10 per cent. The Austraiian Meat Board immediately asked the Israelis whether they could supply charter ships to take the meat from Australia to North America, and they said yes. As soon as that decision was known, the North Pacific Line or whatever it was that was taking the meat decided not to lift its freights. If we had had a little more competition like that in past years the shipping conference, which encompasses 22 shipping lines, would not have been able to be so dogmatic or arrogant with its price rises as it has been. As the honourable member for Franklin said, the conference has been saying to us: You take our price or leave it. If you do not accept our freight rises the fruit will stay on the trees and rot.' This is how we have been going on year after year. I know that the former Minister for Trade and Industry in the previous Government, Sir John McEwen, was having battles with the group but he could never win them. Neither can we. They are a power unto themselves.

If we could charter some Israeli or North European ships to help us out we might be able to contain freight rates or prevent them from being increased a great deal. I hope that the Corporation will examine thoroughly the aspect of charter shipping. Of course, they have to be special ships. The new containerisation method is not affecting apples and pears at the present time. Conventional ships have to be used, and these conventional ships are getting older and older. Some of them are going out of existence. I am afraid that we will not have the shipping space available for the next season's crop unless charter ships are brought in to help us out. I believe that shipping operators have promised to take 2i million cases from Tasmania. We normally export about 3 million-odd cases. A lot of our fruit will be left behind if we do not have charter ships to bridge the gap. These are not party problems. They are not political problems. These are economic problems, and all honourable members are concerned about them, no matter to which Party they belong.

The export of our fruit has been conducted by the Board with a great deal of sincerity and dedication. There are 30 countries taking Australian apples alone and about 20 taking pears from this country. We have to increase our markets into Asia because, with Britain having entered the European Economic Community, our exports to Great Britain are declining. The figures show that in 1972 we exported 2,968,000 cases to Great Britain but last year we exported only 2,614,000 cases, which was a drop of 354,000 cases to Britain alone. We exported 110,000 cases to Ireland in 1972 and only 53,000 cases last year. The figure for West Germany has gone up from 278,000 to 1,359,000. Sweden has gone up from 443,000 to 677,000. Belgium has gone up from 5,000 to 88,000 cases. Holland has gone up from 25,000 to 604,000 cases in that one year. Finland has gone up from 58,000 to 91,000 and Denmark has gone up from 145,000 to 171,000 cases. France and Norway imported fruit last year and they did not take any the year before. So these are very hopeful signs. Apart from Britain, Europe is still taking a tremendous quantity of Australian apples and pears.

The Asian market is gradually improving too. As the honourable member for Franklin said, the Minister for Primary Industry has just returned from Japan after an interview with the Agricutural Minister there in an endeavour to solve the codlin moth problem. There is no codlin moth in Tasmania and we have told the Japanese this. Our fruit could go straight to Japan without any trouble and could fulfil all their health and quarantine requirements. I am hoping that the Minister convinced them. I hope that he took a case or two up with him anyway to hand around, to show just what quality fruit we produce. Japan is one great market that we could acquire. I believe that the conference to be held here next month will be successful. I believe that the first breakthrough into the Japanese market will occur in the next few months - perhaps with the next season's apples. Japan is our salvation. We are exporting to Japan twice as much in value as we are importing from Japan. The figures show that we are selling to Japan about $900m worth of goods and we are buying back about $450m worth of goods. So it is a marvellous market. We have a great credit balance there, and it would be a big help to us if they will take some of our fruit. The actual problems of the industry have been tackled by two or three methods, including the stabilisation scheme which was brought in a couple of years ago and which is a sort of half and half stabilisation scheme. I would like to see far more teeth in it and I would like to see an economic price guaranteed by the Commonwealth.

The Tasmanian Premier came up to see the Prime Minister .(Mr Whitlam) this week regarding this short-term problem. I do not know in which way the Premier has asked for help, but I imagine the purpose was to guarantee next season's crop. The Tasmanian Government - this is where the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd) was a bit off the beam - only promised to guarantee the crop last season for $2.60 a case. Tasmania is not an economic giant, and even this was a very big promise to make. The Tasmanian Government guaranteed to help growers for only one year. It now falls back on to the Commonwealth to help out in guaranteeing this year's price. I hope that the Prime Minister will have been convinced by the Premier's case, because it would have been a very strong and sound case that he put to the Prime Minister. I know there are these immediate problems and that this Corporation represents a long-term solution. We have the stabilisation scheme and we have the tree-pull scheme, 1300 acres of trees having now been pulled out in Tasmania. That involves a tremendous area.

Mr Lloyd - What percentage is that?

Mr DUTHIE - I do not know exactly what the percentage would be. I do not have the figures on that.

Mr Lloyd - When did it start?

Mr DUTHIE - It started about two or three years ago and it was one of the former Government's last solutions. I think it is a shame that we have to destroy fruit trees to try to" save an industry. It seems a very Irish way of doing things, if I may be forgiven for using that expression. Where is the sound common sense in pulling out trees to save an industry? I cannot see it, but there it is, and we have been doing this. The revaluation payments have been made. I understand that the growers with up to 5,000 bushels of exports have been receiving revaluation payments. This is an important point too and it is a short-term solution. But these things have not yet convinced the growers that the industry is on the up and up and I am hoping that the interview with the Prime Minister will be successful.

I trust that this Government will come to the assistance of the industry in the short term so that we can save what is left of it and make what is left a viable industry. We do not want to see any more growers leaving their properties. We do not want to see any more fruit trees hauled out. What can these growers do with an orchard area that has lost its trees? As it is only about 10 acres they cannot plant anything other than small fruits and they are not a very strong substitute either. They cannot put cattle or sheep on the land. A grower who has to have his orchard pulled out is finished.

Mr Corbett - They want adequate compensation.

Mr DUTHIE - Yes, adequate compensation is required if a grower is going to be forced out. I think the reconstruction scheme is catering for the problem where a man has to go right out of the industry. But the area where the honourable member for Franklin comes from has about 70 per cent of the apple growers in Tasmania. The situation is really serious because the towns themselves are now feeling the pinch through growers having to leave the industry altogether. The main parts of this Bill which I do not have time to reiterate - but we may mention them in Committee - are very valuable. They are an experiment in giving this industry a proper organisational, marketing and promotional status and I feel that those sections of it will be of great assistance. I am most grateful to Mr Speaker for what he did yesterday about cider and apple juice.

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