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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2638

Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania) (Minister for Primary Industry) - This Bill, of course, is not my specific responsibility. Therefore, I have no desire to take out of the hands of the Minister responsible for it the many matters which have been referred to. In view of the time factor, it is perhaps difficult to embark upon some of the points that have been made concerning the statement that has been presented to the Senate. I take up, firstly, the last point which was made by Senator Wright, who has just resumed his seat. It is important to realise that this matter is not related to the question of assistance to the Tasmanian apple industry for the 1974 season. The situation in which that industry finds itself now is due to a continuing process that has been going on for some years. The matter before us at the present time is the decision by the Government to take away an exemption benefit which has applied to fruit juices. It is the Government's intention to replace it with assistance, to the extent of $5m, to overcome the problems that may arise. It is important, to begin with, that we do not confuse the 2 issues. As I indicated this morning, I do not intend to make any statement concerning what the Government intends to do about the Tasmanian fruit situation for the 1974 season until such time as a decision on it has been properly determined by the Government.

Senator Wright -I was putting that the withdrawal of the sales tax benefit has some thrust on the export market and that the two could be related in that respect.

Senator WRIEDT -The two will be related in the overall effect of what happens; that is quite true. The point I want to emphasise is that the matter we are talking about today concerns action that was taken by the Government in the last Budget. The other matter is a continuing one which has occurred in years gone by but which we hope will not occur in the future. They are quite distinct matters. The statement refers to revaluation payments that were made as a result of the Government's decision in December 1972 to revalue the Australian dollar. Some concern seems to have been expressed about the manner in which those payments were determined and made.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.

Senator WRIEDT - Prior to the suspension of the sitting we were looking at the effects of the revaluation payments to the apple and pear industry as a result of the Government's decision last December to revalue the dollar. I was making the point that the sales tax exemption is quite distinct from any assistance which may be afforded to the industry in the 1974 season. I do not wish to deal with this at great length because there is on the notice paper a Bill to create an Australian Apple and Pear Corporation which will afford an opportunity for full debate on this matter if the Senate so desires. But it is interesting to recall that the Government did adopt the principle of adjustment payments to industries which are considered to be in difficulties as a result of revaluation. As I mentioned in the Senate the other day in reply to a question, the Government did decide on a minimum payment of $ 15m to fruit growers and the canning industries throughout Australia. I do not think that much is to be gained by canvassing arguments now, but it is important to remember that the basic philosophy behind the Government's decision then was to help those growers who needed assistance most.

Senator Maunsellmade quite an important point, I think, that the industry does want to know where it is going. As a Government we have endeavoured in the short time that we have been in office to give the industry some direction at a federal level. Certainly the reconstructing processess commenced by the previous Government, which Senator Maunsell appeared to support, have been continued. But more specifically on the juices themselves it would be quite wrong, I feel, to suggest, as did Senator Little, that we are taking money from the drinks which children drink. It is important to bear in mind just what was happening to those juices. They were being denatured- and the trend throughout the world, not only in food stuffs but in many other products, is to get back to natural products. The Government did not in the Budget remove the exemption which applies to pure fruit juices. It certainly did remove this particular exemption because on any reasonable assessment of the $25m, which it was costing the Federal Treasury, that amount could hardly be justified in the light of the assistance, of the order of $2m or $3m, which was flowing to the fruit growers themselves. But because the Government realises the need for and wants to encourage the production and consumption of pure fruit juices nothing was done to remove that other taxation benefit. The Government will continue to give every encouragement in that area.

Senator Lauckewas not quite able to understand the significance of the 2 amounts of figures which, I think, appear on page 2 of the statement. I think the honourable senator should bear in mind- and this is where the confusion may have been caused- that the first figure, $ 1.27m, represents payments to growers in Tasmania and Western Australia. The second figure, $ 1.402m, does in fact refer to any other fruit growers in Australia and to canning processors and so on.

Senator Laucke - Is that exclusive of the Tasmanian and Western Australian growers?

Senator WRIEDT - Yes. The revaluation adjustments scheme operates for all parts of both the apple and pear industry and the canning industry including apricots, peaches and pears. The last question to which I shall refer at this stage is: What will happen to the $5m and who, in fact, will receive it? Will it go to the fruit growers or the processors? It is not possible at this stage, I think, to make a statement clearly saying what will happen. In all these cases of adjustment it is only right and proper that industries should in fact advance a properly reasoned case as to why they should have assistance. The $5m is not intended as an amount to be expended in, say the first 12 months; any balance remaining will be used to assist both the fruit growers and the processing section of the industry to adjust to the change. That is the same principle which has been adopted in the whole fruit growing reconstruction scheme. It was the same principle which was adopted for the payments adjustments after revaluation. So I can assure Senator Laucke, who, I think, raised the point, that the Government stands by its decision made in the Budget to assist the industry and also by the statement of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) that the amount of assistance will in fact be $5m- but that it will be used judiciously. Reasoned arguments and properly documented cases must be advanced to justify the expenditure of that money throughout the industry.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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