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Thursday, 24 October 1974
Page: 1934

Senator MARRIOTT (TASMANIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. In view of the serious problems facing primary producers of the Huon Valley area of southern Tasmania resulting from the feared collapse of the apple industry and the serious downturn in the meat producing sector, will the Minister take appropriate action, as recommended by the producers in the area, to encourage the Australian Industries Assistance Commission to investigate and report upon any aspect of primary industry to which this hitherto richly productive area can turn in order to ensure the economic security of the community?

Senator WRIEDT -The question raised by the honourable senator is, of course, a very important one for the people living in that area. As he is probably aware, the Australian Industries Assistance Commission is currently inquiring into the apple and pear industry in the Huon Valley. It has been taking evidence from the public and from the industry for some three or four weeks. The industry is currently supported by the Australian Government under the stabilisation scheme and also in the current year under the guarantee arrangements with the Tasmanian Government.

There has been a very significant movement out of the industry for some years. In fact, most of that has been into the beef raising industry. It is true that because of the problems facing the beef industry at the present time the alternative does not look as attractive as it did one, or even two or three years ago. But I am quite sure that the Australian Industries Assistance Commission, as part of its inquiry, will be considering the alternative uses of land in that area. The main problem, as I am sure the honourable senator would be aware, is the size of the holdings in the Huon Valley. They are very small, averaging only about 30 or 35 acres. One of the aims of the rural reconstruction scheme has been to enable these small holdings to be built up to larger holdings in order to assist farmers to become economically viable on individual properties. We will need to await the outcome of the Commission's report, but I would think that there would be a very strong emphasis in the report on alternative uses of land which is currently being used for fruit growing.

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