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Tuesday, 11 December 1973
Page: 2637

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) -At some stage during the debate on this Bill I would appreciate hearing from the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) because it is the effect that this Bill will have upon an industry that is his responsibility that concerns me. A sales tax benefit was given to cordial manufacturers who used 5 per cent of fruit juice in their cordial manufacturing. They were thereby given an inducement to use apple juice in particular and citrus juices as well. I am concerned chiefly with the apple juice. I hope that the Senate fully realises that although apples for the apple juice market in Tasmania were sold at a fairly low price, those apples were not of export grade. They did not have to be packed and transported and did not incur freight. It was a case that the residual production of the industry could be marketed at comparatively little cost. The industry estimates that its loss by reason of the withdrawal of this benefit will run into something like $lm.

Furthermore, it is anticipated that the thrust of these apples which will no longer find a market with the juice factories will firstly be towards export and, if not to export, to the domestic market. In those respects the industry is likely to suffer real detriment if this fruit, not really of export grade, is thrust into the export market or into the domestic market. Damage is likely to be done to each of those trades. That is why we treated this matter with serious concern and eagerly awaited the stating by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) of the reasons for which the Senate asked when the Bill was last before it.

I am concerned about clarifying various figures given at page 2492 of the Senate Hansard. It will be seen that, in the reply to paragraph (a) of the Senate's amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, reference is made to the statement by the Minister for Primary Industry of 4 May 1973 concerning post-revaluation adjustment assistance of up to $1,500 per grower being made available following the December currency appreciation. It goes on to say that, together with the clear-fell supplementary grants, the total amount paid to Tasmania and Western Australia was $ 1.275m. The Attorney-General, in addressing himself to other matters, then spoke of the fruit growing reconstruction scheme. At page 2493 of the Senate Hansard mention is made of the possibility of an amount of $200,000 being paid to Tasmanian apple growers. Then he went on to say that money would be coming forward from the stabilisation scheme, which has averaged $2.6m a year for the past 3 seasons but which is expected to be lower this year. That section of the report concludes with a statement on the reconstruction scheme that approvals in respect of applications could be expected to amount to $lm and that approvals in respect of the 288 applications processed in Tasmania alone by 31 October 1973 amounted to $418,000. I must say, with due respect to whoever put that statement together, that I find it very unclear. I would appreciate clarification of those matters generally. I should not have thought that either devaluation payments or reconstruction payments would have really been the answer to a claim for assistance following the withdrawal of the sales tax benefit.

I come to paragraph (b) of the Senate's amendment, which relates to compensation for unsaleable fruit juice derivatives on hand and the losses due to assets becoming redundant as a result of the Government's decision to withdraw the sales tax benefits. In this respect the AttorneyGeneral said: . .opportunity is taken to inform the Senate of the Government's decision to make an amount of $5m available to the fruit growing and fruit processing sectors of the industry in the form of adjustment assistance.

I would be obliged if the Minister were to tell me what 'to the fruit growing and fruit processing sectors' means. In what proportions and in roughly what amounts? The use of the term 'in the form of adjustment assistance' in relation to orchards would seem to me to carry the implication that it is to be in the form of grubbing grants or build-up measures. I take the reference to adjustment assistance with regard to the processing sector, having regard to the previous reference to losses due to assets becoming redundant, to be related to unused plant or something of that sort. All of this leaves me quite concerned to know just what the decision to make $5m available to the industry means. As Senator Laucke asked: Is it money that the Government has undertaken to pay to the 2 sections- the processing section and the orcharding section- of the industry? For what and in what amounts? I would like some clarification of those matters. I will not willingly yield to the passing of the Bill. I certainly do not support it. But it is no longer the Opposition's function indefinitely to resist the passing of this Government money Bill, unless the statement about the $5m worth of assistance remains without clarification. I wish to know just what is the meaning of it.

I wish to make one final comment with reference to the question I asked the Minister for Primary Industry this morning about proposals for assistance to the apple industry. If we knew what the Government's proposals were in that respect, it might do something to ease the concern we feel as to the impact of the withdrawal of this sales tax benefit. I suppose it is too much to ask that further consideration of this Bill be deferred until after that announcement has been made. Obviously, we would be in a much better position to consider the assistance to the industry, combined with the statement about the $5m worth of assistance referred to in the statement of 5 December, if we knew what Senator Wriedt proposes to put forward later in the week.

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