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Thursday, 18 November 1976
Page: 2886

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) (Minister for Primary Industry) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purposes of these Bills, the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bill 1976, the Apple and Pear Export Charge Bill 1976 and the Apple and Pear Export Charge Collection Bill 1976, are to provide for the imposition and collection of levies on the production and sale in Australia of apples and pears and a charge on apples and pears exported from Australia. These legislative proposals give effect to the recommendations of the

Australian Apple and Pear Growers ' Association for a new basis of financing the activities of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation.

The Corporation- prior to September 1974 the Australian Apple and Pear Board- has derived its funds from a charge on apple and pear exports. With the steep decline that has occurred in the export trade, particularly in apples, the Corporation is lacking the necessary financial resources to carry out adequately its functions, particularly those related to development and promotion in the Australian domestic market. Given that the great bulk of production is sold in the domestic market, the Apple and Pear Growers' Association has proposed, and the Government has accepted, that in the interest of equity all growers should contribute financially to assist the activities of the Corporation. Honourable members may recall that proposals were before the Parliament, at the time of the double dissolution last year, for the Corporation to be financed from the proceeds of a levy on bearing areas of apple and pear trees. The apple and pear growing industry, having reconsidered this proposal, has confirmed its original view that it would prefer the levy to be based on the quantity of fruit marketed, both in Australia and overseas.

This Bill and the Apple and Pear Levy Collection Bill 1976 respectively, provide for the imposition and collection of levies on fruit marketed in Australia. As provided for in these measures, the rates of levy will not exceed 6c per box for apples and pears sold for consumption in fresh form, 60c per tonne for juicing fruit and $1.40 per tonne for processing fruit- other than pears for the production of canned fruit. Since growers delivering pears for the manufacture of canned fruit are required to pay levies under the terms of the Canning-Fruit Charge Act 1959 for the purposes of the Australian Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee, they will be exempt from payment of the levies to be imposed, under the terms of the current proposals, in respect of canning pears. The Canned Fruit Sales Promotion Committee is responsible for the conduct of promotional arrangements within Australia on, inter alia, canned pears.

The Apple and Pear Export Charge Bill 1976 and the Apple and Pear Export Charge Collection Bill 1976 respectively provide for the imposition and collection of a charge on exports of apples and pears. The rate of this charge will also not exceed 6 cents per box. Provision is made for the operative rates of levies, in respect of all leviable classes of fruit, to be prescribed by regulations made after recommendations of the

Australian Apple and Pear Growers' Association have been considered. In this connection I mention that the Government has accepted the Association's recommendation that the rates of levies to apply from the commencing date of the legislation, that is, 1 January 1977, should be 5 cents per box for fresh apples and pears, whether marketed in Australia or exported, 50 cents per tonne for juicing fruit and $1 per tonne for processing fruit.

In general, the liability for the levies rests with the producers of the fruit. However, in order to reduce the number of collection points, and thus the costs of administering the scheme, the responsibility for remission of the levies to the Commonwealth will, for the most part, be placed with selling agents, processors, quantity purchasers and exporters who, however, are being given the authority in law to recover the payment from their supplying growers. To further economise on the costs of administration, certain exemptions will apply. These will be in respect of fruit sold direct by growers at the orchard or at roadside stalls, or used by the grower himself for juicing or processing purposes, if the relevant quantities do not exceed 500 boxes per annum, or such other level as may be prescribed by regulations.

Generally, the levy is payable 28 days after the end of the month in which the fruit was sold, processed or exported. An exception to this rule will be in the case of a grower who sells small quantities of fruit to minor fruit retailers or direct to consumers by retail at the orchard or roadside stall. In these circumstances the levy is payable by 28 February after the end of the year in which the sale was made. The application of the rates of levies proposed by the industry from 1 January 1977 is expected to provide the Corporation with an annual income of around $850,000. This compares with the Corporation's income of about $250,000 per annum from the proceeds of the existing charge on exports of apples and pears.

These Bills are designed to ensure a firm financial base for the Apple and Pear Corporation, which has a vital role to play in assisting the industry in the face of problems which have developed in recent years, resulting in a severe cutback in the volume of apples moving to export markets. The additional funds to be placed at the disposal of the Corporation from the new levy arrangements will enable it to make a more positive contribution towards market development, particularly on the domestic scene. I might add that the industry has, unfortunately, been in quite a parlous plight. The industry itself feels that part of the solution to developing future market arrangements lies in strengthening the role of the Corporation, and I am quite sure that this legislation will facilitate that objective. I am confident that there is a place in Australian horticulture for a viable apple and pear industry, and I believe that the Corporation will become more significant as a focal point for the industry's reorganisation and adjustment. It is imperative, however, that its financial support be assured if it is to fulfil its objectives. I further add in that regard that each of the producer organisations has said to me that it strongly supports this legislation and the levy that is part of it. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Morris) adjourned.

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