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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 4348

Mr GILES (Angas) - First, I want to say that many members on this side of the House will not be able to speak on this stabilisation Bill tonight even though their electorates are affected. I do not blame the Government altogether but the Bill has come in too late in the session and there is too little time for a debate of this nature which warrants about two-thirds of a day. Although the seriousness of the apple situation in Tasmania warrants such a debate, this is not to be so. I must reply to one or two of the points made by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), which I do with the greatest compassion and consideration. I also once had an unfortunate Government decision- on my own side of the House - foisted on me and I sympathise with the honourable member for Wilmot, ineffectual though he may be in getting his way in these matters. I would like to think that in time to come he can do for the apple industry what several people on this side of the House were able to do regarding the wine industry and wine excise.

I would like to comment on the statement by the previous speaker that in spite of his best endeavours he was unable to get this

Government to take over what he wished to see it take over - a statutory marketing authority. Maybe this is so. Big political parties sometimes have to acknowledge the beliefs of a minority section before they will swallow what could well be a good idea. I remind the honourable member in passing that at any rate a State government of my own political colour produced for the citrus industry about 5 years ago a statutory authority in that State called the Citrus Organisation Committee - COC - which within the limitations of State boundaries has been effective to a degree. Therefore, I would advise the honourable member to try his own State government and see whether perhaps the people concerned can walk before they can run in relation to these matters.

There are differences; the citrus industry has 90 per cent of its crop sold in Australia whereas the apple industry has about 60 per cent of its crop sold in Australia. I am indebted to the member of Wilmot for telling me that 70 per cent of that production is of Tasmanian origin. I think one other thing that came out of the honourable member's speech is the point about growers' representatives whose names are to be put on the list. I would like the Minister at the table to answer this because frankly the further the honourable member went the more confused I became. From listening to the honourable member, I believe that the people whom the Minister will appoint as growers' representatives may not be growers whose names appear on the list as being having been elected by the growers' section of the industry. I am not clear on that. For instance, the honourable member said nominated' at one stage. I am frankly not clear and would like an answer to this according to the terms set down in this legislation because that was the point at issue. I would like to read from my present favourite document called 'Labor's Way' in which Labor's policy is set out on many matters including rural industries.

Mr Scholes - Are you sure?

Mr GILES - I do not need to be. It is signed, sealed and delivered and I paid good money for it in Melbourne.

Mr Scholes - It was wasted because it is out of date.

Mr GILES - It is worth every cent. Under the heading 'XV Rural' it states:

2.   Majority representation of primary producers upon all boards affecting the handling and marketing of their products.

I do not know what the honourable member may or may not have said to his growers prior to the last election but certainly many people, including the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), I believe would have made some rather strange remarks prior to the last election. The Minister may have heard about these remarks before but I do not think that matters. The point that matters, as it did with me concerning wine grape growers some years ago, is whether the Labor Party will produce the goods and whether it will stick by its policy. If it agrees that there should be a majority of grower representatives on marketing boards, we need to know why it is not so in this case. Growers in the Mount Lofty Ranges in my own State where apples of good quality are grown in quite fair numbers see the problem of membership there as being a matter of appointing one more grower representative. Growers in South Australia would like to see 5 growers appointed to this 10-member Corporation. That is their opinion. I am sorry, in a way, to see that this is not proposed. A membership comparison will be made, not between this marketing corporation and other commodity corporations or bodies of a similar nature, but between this Corporation and the previous Apple and Pear Board.

The honourable member for Wilmot would not really appreciate the problem that exists for growers in my State. On the previous Apple and Pear Board there was at least one grower representative from each State which had apple plantings, growings and production of consequence. The growers in the smaller States, such as South Australia, feel that they will not have a representative on the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation. I think, frankly, that their fears are well founded. It is no use, for instance, the Government relying on the measures before the House to produce magical effects. Let us examine the position with respect to other industries. It should not be for members on this side of the House who were in government a year ago, but it should be for members on the other side of the House to make an effort to take action to achieve that result. I have dealt with grower representation on the Corporation.

The second point with which I wish to deal is revaluation compensation. My contacts in Tasmania tell me that at present farmers are well below equitable payments in terms of revaluation compensation. I am very glad to see this matter mentioned first in the Opposi tions amendments, as proposed by my colleague the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), because it is no use to the industry or the country if the Opposition has to take the Government screaming to the growers and to force revaluation compensation out of it, as I suspect will happen in the case of fruit juices. Frankly, this is the silly position in which honourable members opposite have put themselves. They may as well stop here and now and say that there is a very good chance that before this Bill is passed some of these amendments will be accepted and will see the light of day.

Amendments proposed from this side of the House to legislation are screened very carefully. We think these are responsible amendments. The acceptance of the amendments proposed to this legislation can do nothing but good. I am sure that, in his heart, the honourable member for Wilmot and perhaps some of his colleagues agree with me completely. I will try not to look, if there are divisions on these amendments, to see on which side of the chamber the honourable member for Wilmot votes.

The proposed amendments, if passed, will benefit the apple growing industry in a way that is required now. Perhaps honourable members have missed the point that the apple harvest will be upon us very quickly. There is no use prevaricating on these matters. Help is needed, firstly, in the 'short term' - a phrase used by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) in referring to the meeting in Canberra last week between the Tasmanian Premier and the Federal Government. He pointed out that short term problems were discussed. Well, good luck; I hope that something comes from those discussions for the hard pressed apple growers in Tasmania. But there are matters of long term importance, some of which were mentioned tonight by the honourable member for Wilmot.

In relation to the membership of the Corporation, at present the membership will be nine. The Chairman will be appointed by the Government. There will be one other Government appointee who, I trust, will be a senior and proficient member of the Department of Primary Industry. Three special appointees are proposed for this body. I cannot complain in that respect. I think the proposal is excellent. Only four of the 9 members of the Corporation will be grower representatives, and they may not even be elected by growers. We will wait to hear the reply by the Minister on that possibility.

The current situation involves problems and anomalies. No government is perfect. We can say that with respect to the last 3 years by reflecting on the areas in which changes in circumstances have evolved. The present Government would do well to realise that fact. Circumstances have changed, even in relation to shipping, and certain conditions exist this year which were not present last year, when prices were high, or indeed the year before. Now, problems arise with respect to shipping.

The problem that worries growers and packing sheds, for example, in my State more than anything else is that of inflation. I refer to the rate of increased costs affecting production, shipping, storage - indeed every aspect of any major industry today. In this case we are talking about the entire apple industry. The main problem today is the increase in costs. It is no earthly use, as one or two desperate Ministers have been doing lately, trying to pin inflation on the previous Government. The present Government has had 12 months in which to stop rash expenditure, to put the brakes on a little and to show some understanding of fiscal and monetary policies in order to put some brake on costs. It has been singularly lacking in success. Not all inflation, in fact very little of it, can be said to be imported. This is the major problem. There are other problems with, for instance, the Common Market and the United Kingdom. But, first and foremost, there is the problem that so many of the apples in Australia are grown in the State of Tasmania which at any rate until recently depended very much on that industry.

Let us examine some of the problems which Tasmanians have told me are worrying them today. There is no differentiation - perhaps the Opposition as well as the Government should accept the blame for his - in favour of an apple farmer who under the revaluation compensation scheme can receive a payment of up to $1,500. That is the limit for a farmer and his wife. I believe it is true to say that if 4 people are in partnership growing apples they can each draw $1,500 - a total of $6,000. Frankly, where is the equity in that? The Government which has kept this form of compensation in operation in this industry - I think properly, although that is arguable - should examine this point at this stage. It is not right to give partners on one orchard $1,500 each if we are aiming to help the person who is being squeezed the most.

I am now quoting the Government's policy rather than that of my Party. So far as I am concerned, every reason certainly exists why this should no longer be allowed to occur. 1 will quote, if I may, a comment that I noticed in a speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when he opened the Australian Farmers Federation conference at the Hotel Canberra on 23 October. He was speaking in relation to fruit. Referring to the withdrawal of the exemption of sales tax on fruit juice, he said:

I assue you that whilst abolishing the exemption the Government is ready to provide funds to assist any section of the fruit growing industry that may be adversely affected..

Honourable members on this side of the House want to know where this beneficence is. We want to know where the hard cash is.

Real problems exist today, not in areas that concern the capacity of the average Australian who earns a salary or wage which averages $107 a week, but in relation to people who are trying to exist on less than half the average weekly earnings. We have heard many stories of hardship from .the Government. Very rarely - I exempt the honourable member for Wilmot from this criticism - do we hear anything about these people who really are on the breadline. The Opposition's amendments aim to cope with this situation, both in the short term and in the long term. As pointed out by the honourable member for Wilmot, politics should not be involved in this matter. I hope that I am not being too naive when I say that perhaps half of the members of the Government Party will support one or two of our amendments if they feel that the amendments are genuine and are aimed at helping this industry.

In conclusion, I note with some interest, as mentioned by the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), that the Apple and Pear Association of Australia has been resurrected somewhat and placed in a responsible position with regard to its advisory role in connection with the Bill. I think, although I do not know for certain, that the citrus industry of Australia is looking with interest at many of the principles embodied in the background thinking of this Bill. I do not know whether the Citrus Industry Federation might in time find itself in a somewhat similar position. All I can do is to back the words of the honourable member for Murray and express the hope that these kinds of bodies examine carefully all proposals and tap opinions at grower level if they are to be placed in a similar unrivalled position of power to that of the Apple and Pear Corporation. If I have an opportunity during the Committee stage I will deal with certain factual and statistical matters. In the meantime, the growers in my area and my Party see no reason for not supporting the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Grassby) adjourned.

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