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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1866

Mr KERIN (Minister for Primary Industry)(11.46) —in reply-I close the debate on these Bills with a few general comments. Honourable members on both sides of the House have generally been supportive. Most of the comments have related to aspects of the two industries under scrutiny and, of course, have gone beyond the Bills themselves because the dried vine fruit industry particularly is in a very serious situation at present. As far as the canned fruit industry is concerned, the Government made $4.1m available to the Letona company. The amendments to the canned fruits legislation will continue the Australian Canned Fruits Corporation but put a bit more expertise on the board. Of course, what it will really do is preserve the gentleman's agreement; in other words, it will keep the gentleman canners honest. What we are saying in respect of three years rather than five years for the continuation of the Corporation is that we have to look at some of the fundamentals and we think that in another three years would be a good time to review the situation again.

I apologise to honourable members that I had to depart from the chamber briefly to attend a Cabinet meeting, so I have not picked up all the reports. However, I will look at Hansard and get back to honourable members where there are questions requiring factual information rather than value judgments. I have noticed in some of the notes that my officials have given to me that a few suggestions in a few areas look a bit new, but by and large most of the suggestions from honourable members opposite reflect propositions being put forward by the industry or views being canvassed in those areas where the crops are produced.

Flowing through many of the comments from the industry, and I guess from some honourable members opposite, is the continuing problem of imports, particularly in respect of dried fruit. Like most horticultural industries the industry is very highly protectionist and there is a fundamental philosophic problem if we are to be traders on the world market. The dried vine fruits and canned fruits industries are both industries directed towards exports and we have to try to keep a relatively open position in respect of trade. However, where imports are coming into the country, either dumped or as a result of unfair trading advantage taken by other countries, of course we have to act. We are acting particularly in respect of imports of Greek dried fruits at present. The reason we think we will have some success there does not apply so much to the United States of America and Turkey. There are immense stocks of dried vine fruits in the world. The United States is the largest producer. The industry in that country is undergoing very rapid change. I recall a saying by Earl Butz, one of the United States Secretaries of Agriculture, that the best solution for low prices of agricultural products is low prices. Given the proportion that the United States produces we would hope to see some rapid adjustment in that country in relation to dried fruits which may in turn help the industry get some degree of recovery.

We are within days of receiving the final Industries Assistance Commission report on the dried vine fruits industry. Quite apart from the matters raised tonight by honourable members, we will be looking to see what carry-on assistance we can give to that industry. My view on some of the IAC reports, although I am not critical of their findings, is that when the recommendations, which are market-based and economic-based, are put against the real world and the need for governments to react to the problems of people and regions and industries, sometimes the reports do not prove to be of particular utility.

The reference by this Government to the IAC on the dried vine fruits industry was the first one in the overall review by the IAC. My colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Button) agreed to the drafting of the reference so that it took into account alternative forms of production in those areas plus the regional impact, and also gave some attention to welfare needs, particularly in the Riverland and Sunraysia. I look forward to receiving the IAC report in the next few days and seeing what the Government will be able to do with it.

It is somewhat academic now, but the last Government did have a chance in the late 1970s to do something about the dried vine fruits industry. It proved very difficult to get agreement with the States. I am not being critical only of the Commonwealth Government. It is interesting to see that the industry itself is moving towards some sort of an agreement on the necessity for an entitlements scheme, and we will take that on board as well.

As I have said, Mr Deputy Speaker, I will be getting back to those members who have made significant contributions and who have asked for factual information. I also noticed a question relating to imports and quality standards. I must say again that if any honourable members here have any influence on State colleagues they should use it. It is becoming more and more important that we get uniform food standards in this country so that we can take some action against foods coming in which do not accord with our food standards.

Mr Lloyd —What do the States have to do so you can act in that way?

Mr KERIN —Basically, they need to have uniform food standards.

Mr Lloyd —Should we implement the model food legislation?

Mr KERIN —Yes. From my recollection, the Queensland Government is the only government that has really gone along to any large degree with this proposal. For example, some wine coming into this country-it is not a great deal, but it is enough to cause us worry, certainly now that there is a sales tax on Australian wine-has sugar in it and we have no way of stopping that. Such wine does not accord with our food standards or our labelling requirements, and we need to take some action.

Mr Lloyd —Preservatives in cheese would be another.

Mr KERIN —As the honourable member for Murray has pointed out, some months ago with respect to the issue of natamycin in cheese there was some buck passing between the Australian and the Victorian governments. I do not think we can tolerate that sort of thing. Either there are additives in cheese or there are not. If we do not accept them in this country we should have uniform standards so we can take that on board. I commend the Bills to the House.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.