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Thursday, 5 December 1974
Page: 4709

Mr SPEAKER -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-

Since the partial fell and clear fell scheme started under the 1972 bill, there has been up until 30 October 1974: 1,493 applications received for assistance 858 applications accepted for assistance, of which 45 1 were partial pull and 407 clear fell 99 pending applications 74 applications withdrawn 251 applications rejected 1,071 offers made 1 1 8 offers declined

The total number of funds approved for expenditure of the scheme since it first started is $2,675,000.

No cost- credit in Fund.

The rates of compensation are:

(i)   Fresh fruit- an average of $250 per acre with a $350 per acre maximum.

(ii)   Canning fruit- an average of $350 per acre with a maximum of $500 per acre.

When the scheme was varied last year to bring in canned apricots the averages for fresh fruit moved from $200 to $250 per acre compensation.

No discrepancy exists in compensation payments for fruit grown on irrigated and non-irrigated land.

Mr GILES - In Tasmania the implications of the tree pull scheme have been very marked. Many acres of apples were eliminated. Presumably those Tasmanian growers have gone in for alternative forms of rural production such as beef, dairying, pigs, hops and a wide variety of agricultural pursuits. I believe that it is true that nearly two-thirds of Tasmanian apple growers applied for aid under the tree pull scheme. Approximately one-third of those who applied have been accepted. The effect on the apple production in Tasmania is currently that it is down by approximately 20 per cent. Finally the Government gave way to repeated requests from the industry in that State and allowed what is termed varietal reconstruction to take place in some apple orchards. All this meant was that under the terms of the Bill apple orchards could be grown and replanted contrary to the general terms of the Bill with 2 particular varieties of apple. These varieties were Cox's Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious.

It seems that a bad decision was taken in regard to the former variety of apple. Evidently the reasoning behind the decision was that it was a popular eating variety of apple for the U.K. market. However, not only has this market now been virtually lost to Australian exporters but, indeed also has the EEC market for the very same reason, that is, the stringent entry conditions to that area. So it was a bad decision and, quite frankly, in the case of the Cox's Orange Pippin variety of apple there was always a storage problem. It was very susceptible to disease such as bitter pith. As a result, very little varietal reconstruction has occurred in that State. The apple industry in Tasmania has asked the Government on several occasions for a fuller reconstruction of old orchards and to allow replanting of better varieties, including newer varieties from the United States of America in place of worn out trees.

In South Australia there is the same obvious need, particularly in the case of vines, both dual variety such as sultana and gordo and wineproducing grapes. In that area many vineyards still in existence owe their establishment to land settlement in World War I and immediately thereafter. As will therefore be quite plain to the House, those grapes and those apples in Tasmania to which I have referred have long passed their optimum production stage, which is one reason why the Opposition ponders why the Government, in terming this Bill the States Grants (Fruit-growing Reconstruction) Bill, has not paid more attention to reconstruction as such rather than to a policy of eradication. Recon.struction as a means of refashioning planting patterns is another reason why this principle should be applied. To cope with modern technological advances, including advances made in automatic picking plants and other procedures, a different pattern of planting can be necessary. This is well demonstrated in the citrus orchards in Riverland in my electorate where closely planted trees can form a hedge with enough distance between the rows to allow automatic picking plant to operate. Likewise, in Tasmania there has been, for instance, a revival in the demand for black currant production for juice, with emphasis on its high vitamin C component. The House might do well to think back to the legislation of a little while ago relating to Meals on Wheels and the need to supply vitamins to elderly people as part of their diet requirements. In the case of the black currants the crop is planted in double rows which are harvested alternately once a year. This again points up the need to look at reconstruction in horticultural areas, quite apart from the aspect I have already dealt with, which is the need to plant better varieties.

Similarly, when I was in Tasmania recently I found that the firm of Bulmer's is currently pioneering a form of apple tree picking device which works as a shaker in the case of apple production for juicing. Whether this plant, which is fashioned on one in the United Kingdom, will be too severe for Australian apple trees, which traditionally have the main tap root severed before final planting, is a matter that obviously can be resolved in the future. But it points again in the case of juice requirements to the new demands which are occurring that positively need reconstruction finance and not eradication of orchards, with all the consequent loss of skill involved.

I would like therefore to remind the Government that it has not yet at this point of time spelled out its general philosophy towards these areas. I think it is important to think back two and a half years, to recognise the problems that applied at that time to which I have referred, and to think back to the other statement I made, that this legislation appears to be becoming semipermanent. Is it the right procedure from this point of time onwards to continue this decimation of orchards, when 20 per cent loss of production in apples has already occurred in the State of Tasmania? After 2 years I think it is time that this philosophy. was dealt with rather than continuing what in our time was an urgent reason to deal with the short term problem. Presumably the original philosophy behind the tree pull scheme was one of cutting down production to achieve a higher return to the remaining producers, and honourable members of this House will remember the voluble ex-member for Riverina trying, amongst the words, to sell the impression that the Labor Party's policy in rural matters would be to trim production down to no needs. Many of us on this side of the House tried to explain to him that this was not an easy concept to equate, but that was the stated policy of the Labor Party at that time, prior to at least 2 elections.

I wish to pose to the House tonight that this is fundamentally a false assumption. Tasmanian orchards could never exist on their own home market requirements, no matter how severe the tree pull implications. Orchardists in that State must always be geared largely to export, whether it be export overseas or just to the mainland States. It is shortsighted in the extreme not to give intelligent reconstuction aid to enable those growers to become more competitive in both those 2 export markets for Tasmania. Not only must further emphasis be placed on, for instance, the availability of ships to carry efficiently delicate cargoes such as these to the market, but new methods of lowering freight rates in real terms are vital to the marketing of these crops. Every time tree pull takes a case of apples, for instance, off the world market it is replaced by a case from one of our international competitors, frequently with heavily subsidised alternative products. By that I do not mean anything different from apples, but I do mean apples from other areas which are competitive with the State of Tasmania.

The industry- in fact any industry- can never progress if investment shies away and conditions of gloom pertain, with no confidence in the future. The need to innovate, the need to change production methods under new economic circumstances can be destroyed. There is a new demand that affects horticultural industriesmight I add, particularly those in Tasmania- and I refer to demand today from the world scene for the supply of bulk apple juice. There have been several very real and big demands along these lines over the last 12 months through the Australian apple industry. There is a demand for various berry fruits, and a while ago I quoted black currants as being one case in point. Yet the scheme is never aimed at telling people what they should aim to grow if they seek assistance by way of loans and agree to take out their particular orchard within the terms of the legislation. Maybe there is even an increasing demand for cider. I think that there are 2 varieties of cider- one that is and one that is not- but I do believe that there is the possibility for potential extra marketing of the apple crop by virtue of that particular outlet.

In Tasmania where, as I said a moment ago, orchards are rapidly becoming decimated, the need for restructuring old orchards into new plantings and new spacings is paramount to the future of that State. This Bill is called a fruitgrowing reconstruction Bill, it is not termed an orchard eradication Bill. Yet when I look at the Bill itself I ponder whether the Government's thinking has gone far enough in this particular way. In my view, the Government has missed a golden opportunity to inject finance and confidence into the horticultural industries by a proper plan of replenishment. Talking of confidence, we saw today the finish, I believe, of all rural support of and confidence in this Government. We were treated this morning to the spectacle of the Labor Party voting to disallow a vote to be taken on a motion to continue the superphosphate bounty until 1977.

Mr Fisher - They showed their real form.

Mr GILES - It showed where their real sympathies did or did not lie. This morning the honourable members for Braddon (Mr Davies), Bass (Mr Barnard), Wilmot (Mr Duthie) and Franklin (Mr Sherry) voted to disallow a continuation of the subsidy on superphosphate. It is a measure of their lack of concern for rural areas. The farming community of Tasmania in particular should note this fact as it will have already noted the statement made by the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) that Newcastle is numerically more important than Tasmania. The price of superphosphate is vital to any small State that needs to export most of its rural production. More effective and efficient freight service to the mainland and overseas remains the most important single factor penalising the v ellbeing of the fruit industry and other industries in island States such as Tasmania. An industry leader from Tasmania told me last weekend that on several occasions this Government had been requested to allow replanting of orchards for varietal reconstruction as a vital ingredient in any restructuring. These requests have not been heeded.

The wholesale destruction of orchards has continued apace for short-term reasons. These farmers are now left with acres of land incapable under current economic circumstances of supporting alternative rural production. Social upheaval has, I believe, already resulted and main street traders in country towns are experiencing difficulty as accounts are not paid. Growing inflation is tearing the heart out of both economic areas. Unless prompt action is taken to reconstruct these areas, skills acquired over many years and many hours of hard work will be lost and the future of Tasmania in particular as a rural State will indeed be bleak. I seek the immediate reassessment of this Bill and its philosophy. The Opposition supports the Bill but sounds the warning that a measure of this nature is only a palliative, purely a short-term answer to a long-term problem. I do not believe that the Government, as far as we are aware of its thinking, has attempted to overcome this problem.

I am leading tonight for the Opposition as the Secretary of its Rural Committee. I do so with a great deal of pleasure. Having spent a day and a half in Tasmania recently I do not pretend for one minute to know all the answers of the difficulties of those areas. I am quite sure of one thing, that is, that the difficulties that are apparent in Tasmania are to a major degree the difficulties of small farmers in this country. However, these difficulties are greater, for instance, than the difficulties being faced in this respect in my own area. I must thank the people of Tasmania for their generosity and traditional hospitality in trying to acquaint me with those facts as rapidly as possible. Although the Opposition supports this Bill I point out that it is purely a continuation of the legislation introduced by the previous Government. Therefore, why should we not support the Bill? I have pointed out that it is 2Vi years since the introduction of the tree pull scheme. I believe that the Government should have struck some philosophic attitude and determined when the scheme, which enjoyed initial success and was responsible for cutting out so many orchards in Victoria, and more particularly in Tasmania, should cease and when emphasis should be put on proper reconstruction. I note that the Government has the nerve to give this Bill that title.

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