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Thursday, 1 December 1960

Mr POLLARD (Lalor) .- This is a small measure. Its intention is to alter the membership of the Australian Apple and Pear Board about which very few people know very much. However, since 1938 it has done a lot of important work for the exporting branch of the apple and pear industry and, indeed, for the industry as a whole. Any organization that works for the exporting side of the apple and pear industry must have a marked impact on the marketing of fruit within Australia also.

When the board was created in 1938, it had sixteen members. During the Second World War, it had what I might describe as a most horrible job. Under war-time regulations, it had the awful responsibility of maintaining the apple and pear industry in Australia. Before the war, the apple crop totalled 13,000,000 bushels. When hostilities began, apples and pears as such were not of great interest to people overseas when shipping was scarce and was urgently required for the transport of wool and wheat and other essential commodities. Overnight, we lost an export market for approximately 6,000,000 bushels of fruit, and Australian apple and pear growers were left with a horrible problem. How was Australia going to dispose of 13,000,000 bushels of fruit within its own boundaries? The Government of the day, led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), introduced measures for the acquisition of all apples and pears grown in Australia. We were faced with the terrible problem that it was humanly impossible to double the consumption of apples and pears overnight within Australia, and if it were attempted, the local market would collapse. On the other hand, if the Government did not market the 6,000,000 bushels of surplus fruit which usually went overseas and allowed it to rot, it would be charged with a crime against humanity. This unfortunate organization, the Australian Apple and Pear Board, had to deal with the problem. Because of a great deal of misunderstanding, the board incurred a lot of abuse; and so also did the government of the day and its successor. However, looking back on history, I think it is accepted that the board did valuable work in the acquisition of apples and pears and saved the industry. Those who look back over that period should realize that the board did good work and still exercises a profound influence on the welfare of the industry.

Tasmania has always been the largest exporter of apples among the Australian States, and is also an important exporter of pears, although I believe that Victoria is actually the largest exporter of pears, both raw and canned. It was hoped that, after the war, Victoria would maintain its prewar proportion of the export trade in apples. When the war ended, the Government of the day considered that the Australian Apple and Pear Board should be remoulded and given additional functions, and that a wise course would be to cut down the membership from sixteen to twelve. The Government then laid down a fairly hard and fast rule in relation to marketing authorities and export control boards that there should be sufficient wisdom in the minds of twelve knowledgeable men to deal with marketing problems. Consequently, when the Labour Government amended the Apple and Pear Organization Act in 1947, it reduced the membership of the board from sixteen to twelve. In accordance with its belief that employees should be represented on these organizations, the Labour Government also provided for a representative of the employees on this board and that is still the situation to-day.

This Government has now decided that since Tasmania has not only maintained its dominant position as an exporter of apples, but has also strengthened its position, it should have more representation on the Australian Apple and Pear Board. The

Tasmanians are never lagging in speaking for themselves, and there has been a clamour in Tasmania, particularly among apple-growers, for larger representation on the board. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) concurs with that viewpoint. The Opposition accepts the situation that Tasmania undoubtedly has a claim to increased representation since it has increased its proportion of Australian exports of apples. Therefore, the Opposition will not oppose the provision in the bill that Tasmanian growers should have three representatives on the board instead of two. There is also provision in the constitution of the board for representation of the export side of the industry. The business interests and exporters who purchase from the growers now have representation on the board and no doubt will continue to be represented. The merchant representation comes from Tasmania, and that state of affairs probably will continue also. Therefore, Tasmania will have four representatives on a board of thirteen members.

Perhaps that is a bit tough on other States. It diminishes the influence of Victoria and Western Australia, two States which still export very good quality apples and pears to overseas markets. But, after all, I am not a parish-pump politician. I accept the fact that the overall interests of apple and pear growers in Victoria, Western Australia or Tasmania are much the same. After all, geographical lines which define the State boundaries are not the test of representation. Since there is still to be adequate representation of the Australian industry as a whole on the board, we are not going to protest and be so parochial as to deprive Tasmania of its representation.

Mr Falkinder - Are you saying that with your tongue in your cheek?

Mr POLLARD - No, I am not. The honorable member represents an important apple and pear producing district, but I remind him that like the present Minister, when T was faced with requests for representation on various producers' organizations, I was not over-impressed by imaginary State boundary lines. After all, the interests of producers on export markets are largely identical. So we will not quarrel with this representation of Tasmania.

I think it is regrettable that the Government sees fit to find it necessary to increase the membership of the board to thirteen. Of course, that is the natural outcome of acceding to the request of Tasmania. The request could be met only by increasing the total membership of the board, or depriving some other interest of its representation. I can understand the difficult position, but I do not think that the principle should be generally accepted.

The other little matter that I want to mention is that there is no provision in the bill for the extra grower representative of Tasmania to be elected by the rank and file of the export growers - a principle which, I think, we should incorporate in legislation of this character. It so happens that there is provision in the bill for the State Fruit Board of Tasmania to nominate a representative whom it thinks fit and proper to become a member of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. I might be inclined to quarrel with that, but for the fact that the State Fruit Board of Tasmania is a democratically elected board.

So I think everybody can say that we are pleased that this great export industry which contributes substantially to our sterling balances has done a good job. I might disagree with some of the activities of the board from time to time but, over all, it does a good job for an industry that helps to maintain our export earnings.

The bill contains provision for changes in the sections of the act relating to banking by the board. One change is due, of course, to the recent constitution of the Reserve Bank of Australia. Nobody can object to that. I have some doubts, however, as to the wisdom of providing, also, that the board may transact its banking business with banks other than the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. I suppose that the Minister will correct me if I am wrong when I say that, at the present time, the board does bank with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Mr Adermann - It banks with the Commonwealth Trading Bank.

Mr POLLARD - That is desirable. I hope that the right, under some circumstances, to use other banks will not be used as a lever to take the board's general business away from the Commonwealth Trading Bank.

Mr Adermann - The bill provides that the board may bank with the Commonwealth Trading Bank or with other banks.

Mr POLLARD - Yes, but because of the phraseology in the bill, any private bank could be used and in unforeseen circumstances, it might be necessary, temporarily, to use the services of a private banking organization. The Labour Party wishes the industry well. It has always done what it could to help the industry, and will continue to do so in future. I leave it at that. I am quite sure that some Tasmanian members from both sides of the House will desire to say something about the measure.

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