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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 4087

Dr PATTERSON - If the Ministers who are at the table want to have a little meeting they should have it in the back of the chamber. It is quite difficult for me to concentrate while they are talking at the table.

Mr Chipp - We are tired of hearing you.

Dr PATTERSON - I ask the Minister to withdraw that remark, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Chipp - Does the honourable member regard it as offensive?


Mr Chipp - As he takes offence, I will withdraw it, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Dr PATTERSON - Why don't you grow up.

Mr Chipp - I ask that that remark be withdrawn, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Dr PATTERSON - I withdraw it. If the Minister was making a speech and 3 of my colleagues were carrying on a conversation close to him, I am sure that he would take objection to it. I will let it drop at that. The point I was making is that the basic elements of this stabilisation scheme are sound. The Opposition supports the principles of stabilisation and orderly marketing. I personally have very little criticism to offer of the scheme itself. The only criticism I have to offer is that it took so long to get the machinery in action to conduct the referendum. It is possible that I could put forward arguments for the creation of a statutory authority in preference to a stabilisation scheme as such. But as this question is not under discussion tonight, it does not necessarily need to be debated now.

One of the matters which we have to recognise about dried vine fruit production is that it always faces a precarious future in terms of production. There are adverse seasons with respect to harvesting. Production is vulnerable to hail. During the budding and growing periods in September and October the industry is also susceptible to frost and hail. The vines themselves are susceptible to disease, and during the months of February, March and April when the fruit is on the vines there are also the problems with the seasons. After the harvesting there is the drying of the fruit. So there is a long period of production and harvesting of the finished farm product, which is quite different from the position with most other commodities. The dried vine fruits industry itself is susceptible to a great degree of risk.

I note that the prices of dried vine fruits will be varied in accordance with movements in indices of the cash costs of production. One point which I raise for consideration by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) relates to the method of the variance of these costs. One of the great problems confronting this small farm industry is the problem of the allocation of costs between dried vine fruits production and other enterprises on the farm. There may be citrus fruits, some canning varieties of fruits and other types of grapes, particularly in the dual purpose areas. There is a problem concerning the allocation of costs, and I would like to know what is to be the Government formula regarding the allocation of cash costs of production. One recognised formula is the application of price indices based on price relatives which are formulated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I would assume that the same practice would apply in the dried vine fruits industry.

I should like to refer to another matter in passing. Quite frequently when I go into the fruit growing areas of Victoria, New South Wales and, to a lesser extent, South Australia, the question is raised about the price of sugar. This is not so relevant to the dried vine fruits industry, but it is relevant to some vine fruits producers, particularly those producers who have a sideline production of fruit for canning. The Minister for Shipping and Transport and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) know what I mean. I refer to the operation of the sugar rebate and sugar concession system as it applies to the canning of fruit or to the export of particular processed fruits. But I should like to make this point: I think that there has to be some type of educational programme about the price of sugar introduced for fruit growers in these areas, because the favourite criticism is to take the world price of sugar and to compare it with the Australian domestic price of sugar. Anybody who knows the economics of the sugar industry is fully aware that this is a most fallacious and wrong argument, because, although the domestic price of sugar in Australia is high relative to the so-called free world parity price under which the International Sugar Agreement operates, the fact of the matter is that only about 8 million to 9 million tons of sugar are sold on the residual market. All the world's major sugar producers and importers work on agreements - bilateral agreements and special agreements such as the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. Only the balance of production and imports are put on this market.

As the Minister well knows, there can be violent fluctuations in the price of sugar. Only 5 years ago the price was over £stgl00 a ton, and it came down to £stgl2 a ton. The fruit producers in southern Australia should realise that this is not a world parity price in the accepted sense of the word because only a very small proportion of the sugar crop goes on the market. I will expand on that situation later. It is important to know this, because frequently we see in the newspapers jam producers, canning fruit producers and particularly the growers putting forward arguments and criticising the sugar industry or the Government because they say they are paying too high a price for sugar. If these persons really knew the facts they would know that they are not paying a high price, because one basic fact remains - in Australia the price of sugar is one of the lowest prices in the world. In view of the lateness of the night I do not want to say anything more on that point.

I give notice that the Opposition will move 2 amendments at the Committee stage. These 2 amendments are similar to amendments which the Opposition has moved in relation to various other rural matters. One amendment relates to the averment, that is, the penalty clause. The other amendment relates to the time within which proceedings will commence if a person has to face a charge. From memory, a prosecution in relation to the apple and pear industry was to commence within 5 years, but this period was reduced to 3 years because the Senate compromised. The period provided in this Bill is 3 years. We will move an amendment to provide for a period of 12 months. The arguments in relation to the 2 amendments are well known to the Government. We believe that the present provisions are objectionable. I have nothing more to say on the Bill. One could debate all the technical points at some length. We on this side of the House have no serious argument against the Bill. We believe in the principles of orderly marketing and stabilisation. Our basic point is that we would like to have seen this stabilisation scheme introduced at least 2 years prior to this date.

Friday. 3 December 1971

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