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Wednesday, 6 October 1971
Page: 1936

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - I should like to reply briefly to the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) who has just resumed his seat after a very well read address to the Parliament.

Mr Kennedy - What are you doing?

Mr CORBETT - It is quite in order for the honourable member to read his speech and it would be quite in order for me to do so. Honourable members opposite become offended quickly; they are very touchy. 1 make that comment in passing. The honourable member for Bendigo said that he was surprised at the amount of opposition by Government supporters to the Opposition's amendment. My colleague, the right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann), pointed out that if the Government voted for the amendment, it would be voting against the Bill. This is true; there is no question about it. It is conceded, I am sure, by anyone who understands the situation, although anyone who does not understand it might not fully appreciate it. The honourable member for Bendigo, in reply to that argument said that if the amendment were carried, a Bill could be resubmitted immediately. On this point I shall quote from the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair).

Mr Foster - That would not be hard to do; he spoke for only 2 minutes.

Mr CORBETT - No, he did not. The Minister said:

Industry leaders, after consultation with the industry generally, have indicatedtheir very strong support for the scheme to which legislative expression is now soughtto be given through this Bill and the associated Apple and Pear Stabilisation Export Duty Bill 1971 . . .

The Minister also referred to the other 2 associated Bills. I point out to the honourable member for Bendigo and to members of the Opposition generally that the Minister also said:

That it is possible today to bring down in this House a Bill to implement a scheme for the stabilisation of returns to apple and pear growers is a tribute to the common sense and spirit of co-operation which have marked discussions and negotiations between industry leaders and representatives of the Commonwealth for well over 3 years and which have led to the present position being reached.

This scheme has been agreed to and accepted by the industry, yet the Opposition, because it feels that for some reason or another it must oppose something that the Government introduces, has moved an amendment. The Opposition will not accept something which the industry wants.

I am particularly surprised at what has been said by Opposition members from Tasmania although, in all fairness to the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) he did say:

We welcome this scheme. However it is not a full blooded stabilisation scheme like the other stabilisation plans. . . .

He said, in effect, that he welcomed the Bill. However, the amount of opposition to the scheme surprises me because the scheme is much needed. There is great difficulty in securing agreement between States in every field and this occasion is no exception to the rule. As the Minister for

Primary Industry mentioned, the scheme has been negotiated for well over 3 years. I think that the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies) said that it has been negotiated for nearly 4 years. So, it is obvious that there is great difficulty in getting agreement between the States. We have agreement now and we cannot afford to spend another 3 years in trying to get the industry to agree to the proposition which is being advanced today by the Opposition. The Government will not allow a stabilisation scheme for the apple and pear growers to be delayed any longer.

Mr Foster - You are joking.

Mr CORBETT -I am not joking. In effect the Opposition's amendment would cause delay. Members of the Opposition do not want this agreed scheme but want to bulldoze something else through. I should like to inform the House of the Government's attitude to this matter. I agree completely with the Minister when he said:

As honourable members well know, this Government never seeks to impose an orderly marketing or stabilisation scheme on an industry. The proposals for such a plan must be developed through a well tried and proven system of consultation and negotiations between' the Government and an industry so that, when they are presented to the Parliament, it can be confidently affirmed that the proposals conform to the requirements of the Australian Constitution and to our responsibilities in the field of international . trade; that they are legally and practically realistic and that their implementation is sought by the industry concerned.

If members of the Opposition do not agree with this, let them say so. If they are not in conformity with this idea and if ever it is the misfortune of this country to have them in office and they are going to bring in schemes irrespective of what the industry thinks, let them stand up and be counted now and let it be known that this is what they intend to do. This is not what the Government intends to do and that is why we oppose the amendment and support the Bill.

I said earlier that I was surprised at the opposition which has been expressed by Opposition members from Tasmania because we all realise . that Tasmania is dependent upon a stable apple and pear industry. If the honourable members for Braddon, Wilmot and . Franklin (Mr

Sherry) do not agree with this, that is OK. I am surprised that they do not accept it because it is of greater advantage to Tasmania than it is to any other State in the Commonwealth.

I commend the industry and its leaders, and the Government and its negotiators on arriving finally at agreement, because I know how difficult it is to get agreement. We have seen this in many instances. We have seen other endeavours made by the Commonwealth to get agreement by the States to schemes we have brought forward which we felt were in the interests of Australia generally, but there was opposition from one State or another because it did not agree with all aspects of the scheme that had been brought forward. It is very difficult to get agreement, and I am delighted that at last the apple and pear industry and the Government are in agreement on this stabilisation scheme, because it is vital to the industry, vital to Australia, vital to Tasmania in particular, and vital to the fruit growers in the Stanthorpe area in my own State of Queensland.

I make no apology for getting up here today to speak on this Bill, because I represent the only large apple and pear growing district in Queensland. We are sometimes twitted about not representing the people. I am standing to represent the apple and pear growers in the Stanthorpe area of Queensland as well as, I believe, people in the industry generally, because the industry has shown that it wants to have this stabilisation scheme brought down.

Another aspect surprises me. I refer to some remarks made by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). I understand that he said in his speech that he spoke on behalf of the growers in Tasmania because he had been down there at a meeting. I think this is an indictment of the other honourable members who represent Tasmania. I wonder what the Tasmanian growers will think when they find that the honourable member for Riverina has come up here and put the case for the apple growers of Tasmania when they are very well represented by other honourable members. He said he was going to explain why he was to speak on behalf of the apple growers of Tasmania. Surely the honourable member for Wilmot, who is the Secretary of the Tasmanian Labor Party Rural Committee, and the other 2 honourable members I have already mentioned, the honourable member for Braddon and the honourable member for Franklin, can speak very effectively on behalf of the apple and pear growers of Tasmania.

Mr Grassby - They do.

Mr CORBETT - The honourable member for Riverina took over and said he was going to speak on their behalf. I suggest that it would be a good idea if he gave full credit, as I do, to the representation made - by these other honourable members.

Mr Grassby - I did.

Mr CORBETT - There is no need to say you are speaking for the apple and pear growers of Tasmania. I am speaking specifically for the apple and pear growers of Queensland, and I am proud to say that. I believe that these people are a very .. deserving section of the community, and I - would like to make a few points with regard to them. The Queensland apple and pear industry is very anxious to see this stabilisation scheme brought into being, but of course Queensland as a State is not as dependent upon the apple and pear industry as are other States, particularly Tasmania. Nevertheless every apple and pear grower in the Stanthorpe district is as important as any other apple and pear grower in any other part of Australia. I emphasise that the Country Party represents the people, and 1 refute the suggestion that is sometimes thrown at us that we do not.

The apple and pear industry in Queensland has increased its production very considerably. Apple production in Queensland has increased from 1,375,000 bushels in 1966 to 2,500,000 bushels in 1971. I know , that is a small production compared with what is produced in other States, but I . mention that growth. Whilst that growth has taken place, exports of both apples and pears in 1971 are slightly less than they were in 1966, although there have been fluctuations in the intervening period. Growers in the Stanthorpe area realise the importance of export markets and they export quite a quantity of apples and pears. Last year 190,000 bushels of apples and 8,000 bushels of pears from the Stanthorpe area were exported. Exports have an effect on the industry generally, and the growers have endeavoured, as I have pointed out, to establish local markets for their fruit. This would benefit the whole industry because, in view of the exports that come from other States, the smaller the amount is that is exported from Queensland the better. The Queensland growers have endeavoured and have succeeded in establishing local markets.

As some idea of the value of the industry, the granite belt fruit industry does not cover a very large area, yet it is estimated to support directly or indirectly some 7,000 to 8,000 people. So the industry is of very great benefit to that area. I commend those in the industry not only on the effort they make to market their apples locally, for which of course there is an incentive because of the financial benefit attached to it, but also on their endeavours to establish a cannery in the Stanthorpe area. We all know of the problems that are associated with canneries. But at the same time the growers face a problem with regard to hail; so it is very essential that a cannery should be established in that area or, failing that, perhaps as second best a fruit juice industry. Endeavours are being made to establish a cannery, and J am sure that they will succeed.

The apple and pear growers welcome this stabilisation scheme. Although the present position of the industry makes the degree of stabilisation proposed in this Bill a very welcome measure, and although this scheme will stabilise the return to growers in a very difficult and disturbing period for the industry, the measure certainly does not do everything that the industry wants. We realise that. Of course the Opposition can say that it will do everything everybody wants because it does not have to find the finance with which to do it. The Opposition does not have to do anything except say: 'Whatever you do we will do better' irrespective of any other aspect of the scheme. But the cost of the scheme to the industry could be in the vicinity of $I0m over 5 years. The important point is to get the stabilisation scheme into effect. If we can then improve on the scheme, so much the better.

There is another angle to it. While the scheme falls short in terms of the returns it will provide to growers, it is necessary. We would all like to see the growers receive the profit that it is reasonable to expect for their capital outlay and for their energy. There is no reason to believe that the whole scheme cannot be looked at in the future. In fact, if there is a need for it, the scheme will be reviewed. This has been mentioned. The scheme can be looked at again if it becomes out of balance or for any other reason. I am sure that the Government would be very happy to look at the scheme if it were approached by the industry or if a view was expressed by the industry that this scheme was not bringing about all the benefits to the fruit growers that was expected of it.

I am not suggesting for a moment that this scheme is doing everything that the fruit growers would want but it is certainly doing something. It is a step in the right direction, and I am amazed that' anyone associated with the fruit industry would not be very willing to take this opportunity to get this scheme into operation and then, if necessary, do something further about it. I was interested too in the remarks made by the honourable member for Franklin, who I am pleased to see is in the House at the moment. He referred to the absence of industrial trouble in Tasmania. He said:

T would like honourable gentlemen on the other side of the House to listen to this, because so. often in this House we hear about the outrageous behaviour of the trade unions with regard to primary industry.

He went on to say that Mr Clark expressed his appreciation to the Waterside Workers Federation. I am very honest and I am very fair in my approach, and I recognise that this is so. What I want to point out is that, as only too often is the case, this is the exception which proves the rule. I would like to quote from the Courier Mail' of yesterday an article headed 'Wool Men Stay Out'. It states:

Storemen and packers employed by Brisbane wool broking and wool dumping firms have decided to continue their strike until at least next Friday. Between 400 and 500 Storemen and Packers' Union members walked off the job about 8.30 a.m. last Friday, in support of a union claim for a general wage increase of $10 a week for all classifications.'

The wool industry in my own State is suffering' very greatly.

I would only hope--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Order!I remind the honourable member for Maranoa that this Bill relates to apples and pears.

Mr CORBETT - Mr. Deputy Speaker,I accept your very wise ruling. Coming back to the legislation, I hope that the example which has been given by the honourable member for Franklin will be accepted by people in every industry and particularly in industries which are suffering very greatly as a result of industrial trouble. It is pleasing to me to hear this comment that was made by the honourable member for Franklin. I am sure that the industry will appreciate the efforts that are being made by the Government. I regret that it has taken as long as this to introduce legislation to put this scheme into operation. I sincerely hope that noone will be foolish enough to upset this proposal now and that the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition will be rejected in the interests of growers. I hope also that this Bill will be enacted as quickly as possible in the interests of apple and pear growers in Australia.

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