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Tuesday, 3 December 1935

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- 1 do not think that any item in these Estimates is more important than that providing for a grant in aid of fruitgrowers. The apple and pear exporters are a most deserving section of the community. The industry itself is of vital importance to the development of Australia, because it can be conducted on land which is not suitable for any other purpose, whilst it also has all the essentials of closer settlement. The holdings usually are small, ranging in area from about 5 acres to 10 acres. Furthermore, these orchards are on land which is not suitable for the growing of any other crops. If any injury should be done to the fruit-growing industry, a serious setback would be given to closer settlement development. Capital values in the industry have decreased since the beginning of the depression by approximately 50 per cent. Consequently growers have been confronted with many difficulties. For instance, orchardists are experiencing hardship in finding that financial accommodation which in certain periods is essential to enable them to carry on their orchards, and market their products. Many of them have been forced to rely on merchants for credit, and they have had to pay in some way for this accommodation. In addition, freights have increased enormously in comparison with the charges of a few years ago, whilst the cost of materials used in the industry, such as cases and packing, has also increased considerably. Much expenditure has been incurred in the special treatment of timbers for casing, and in the combating of pests. Consequently, the orchardists as a whole have had a very bacl time. Last season prices overseas were the best realized for about three or four years, but it must not be overlooked that this was brought about by the arrangement e of an export quota, as the result of which a larger quantity of good fruit was left in Australia than the home market could absorb. Thus, although prices overseas last year were the best for some years past, that advantage was offset by the lower prices prevailing in Australia. I support the suggestion of Senator J. B. Hayes that this assistance to fruit-growers should be continued, and I regret that it has been found necessary to reduce the amount this year to £100,000, as compared with £125,000 last year. I cannot understand the reason for the reduction. However, the fruit-growers are grateful 'to the Government for providing this grant. 1 hope it will keep this matter continually before it, and do everything in its power in the future to stabilize this industry, and enable those who engage in it to carry on, confident that they can give of their best, because there is a likelihood of their receiving an adequate return for their labours.

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