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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 874

Mr PETER FISHER(10.21) —During the last few months we have heard the only way to overcome our disastrous trading deficit is to develop new export products, and, of course, new markets for those products. We have seen massive government advertising campaigns, particularly the Buy Australian campaign, but we know that, despite those campaigns, manufacturing industry in this country is declining, driving many of our manufacturing industries and innovators overseas. It is sad to realise that Australia today pays at least $4 billion a year to import some of our very basic items. Very simple products such as office stationery-clips and staples-cost this country $300m a year in imports. Even an item such as dust-free chalk costs this country $10m, ball bearings cost $105m, chainsaws $40m, and a basic product such as vinyl floor sheeting costs $200m.

Of course, we are anxious-and the Government has good intentions-to show manufacturers new business opportunities in Australia. We know we are very good at innovation. However, large numbers of our best inventions are still going overseas because of lack of faith by local manufacturers. The Government must recognise that advertising campaigns and marginal incentive programs through our taxation system simply will not be effective unless we correct our domestic economic environment. I do not wish to dwell on this point, but interest rates, restrictive work practices, the burden of regulations and, of course, associated government policies, are all factors that influence this tremendous drain of innovation and manufacturing industry that is leaving our shores.

I would like very briefly to mention a few examples that are so important to my electorate, which has the capacity to grow anything of high quality that is needed almost anywhere in the world. I refer particularly, of course, to the citrus industry. The Australian citrus industry is now very much dependent, of course, on the world orange juice market. In view of the doubts that are being expressed concerning the continuation of adequate tariff protection for that industry and the knowledge that by 1990 orange production will exceed domestic requirements in terms of fresh fruit and juice, the Australian citrus industry has embarked on a plan to maximise our potential for fresh fruit exports.

The market of greatest interest at present is the United States market because of our potential to sell navel oranges during the Northern Hemisphere off-season for navels. This is what the Californian citrus industry is doing in this country in our fresh fruit market. We all know that Californian navels have been marketed over the last two seasons in Melbourne and Sydney for up to $32 a case, in stark contrast to the price of Australian oranges, which is $6 to $9 a case. The industry has every reason to believe that reciprocal trade with the United States, given adequate and consistent quarantine measures on both sides, will be profitable for the grower and, importantly, will be a major factor in placing extra production which is expected in the next few years. This opportunity for reciprocal trade for Australian growers is denied because of unfair quarantine restrictions which are applied by the United States authorities. Our authorities must act with greater haste to settle this issue or this country must ban Californian navels entering our shores.

We all know that the world is increasingly becoming a single global market, rendering obsolete the idea of companies sitting back here in Australia and simply expecting to export. In future Australian companies must become part of the international market. They must seek to tap, or at least must forge links with, companies and organisations that are already part of these markets. One of our industries which is doing this is the wine industry, which has a real prospect of increasing sales. Three per cent of Australian wine is exported. The world needs our quality wines. But, unfortunately, Government policies are forcing Australian wine manufacturers into producing and selling low quality wines. This Government has taken $100m out of the industry in the last two years through sales taxes and the removal of the stock valuation tax. This industry has an enormous potential to contribute to our export returns. The Government must realise that it cannot expect these industries, and particularly our horticultural industries, to meet this challenge if it does not remove from them some of the burdens that its policies are producing for them.