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Wednesday, 23 August 1972
Page: 622

Mr GILES (Angas) - I apologise to the House for a certain loss of volume tonight and hope that it will bear with me. I am particularly anxious to take up the remarks of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) and for once to inform him that I also am very perturbed about the plight of the canned fruit industry and the growers of the raw material behind this industry. I have been so perturbed that I have had several telephone discussions with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in relation to the matter. I have also written several letters and I have with me a copy of one of them dated 8th August 1972. This letter deals with the possibility of section 96 grants; it deals with suggestions relating to subsidies on various forms of freight; it deals with the possibility of some increased payment for sugar rebate; it deals with reduction of various interest rates on borrowed moneys that could affect these canneries; it deals with compensation against losses due to revaluation being pegged on statistics for 1967; it deals with voluntary quota restrictions; and, in more depth, it deals with the possibility of extending the terms of the tree-pull scheme. I am of the opinion that, if we could enlarge the scope and conditions behind that scheme, it might eventually prove to be the cheapest way out of the industry's problems. So I have developed that, as I have developed the problem of orderly marketing, on the hypothesis of a 2-price scheme which will remind honourable members of other industries. Also I have gone fairly fully into the matter of the possibility of lowering other cost inputs in relation to this industry.

That deals with those initial approaches. As well as that quite recently the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), every Government senator from my State and I waited on the Minister and made certain other suggestions in discussing the headlines, if I might put it that way, that I just mentioned from that letter that I wrote on 8th August. So my concern over this matter has been very great indeed. Of course, if one has been, as I have been, in consultation with some of the industry leaders over a long period of time, one finds that the case they produce bears very markedly on the problem that they had to put up with due not only to one of their competitors - South Africa, which devalued by 12.8, from memory, as against sterling, but a greater valuation of that as against the American dollar - but also a subsequent floating of the £1 sterling and altogether a price disadvantage on export markets of something well over 20 per cent in a short period of time. This is only one of the problems of the industry.

I will not bore the House, if honourable members can hear me, by going through all the problems, but the main problem is that of exports due to currency re-arrangements and the fact that 60 per cent of volume is sold on: the United Kingdom market - a volume that might well turn out to be 30 per cent or less if and when the new conditions applying to Britain joining the Common Market come into effect. So fundamentally, I think, it is a short term problem of an over supply of the raw material on the one hand and possibly a short term problem of too many canneries to get an economy of scale into the industry on the other hand. My own State, for instance, is not so concerned with pears, either fresh or canned, as, for instance, is the State of Victoria. I have looked at the forecast statistics which make it quite plain that within 4 or 5 years there could well be a shortage of peaches, which is the main primary produce in my area of Riverland. So one cannot altogether say with a sweep of the hand that it is a matter of industry over-planting or over-supplying, because this is not the whole story.

The main reason I am on my feet tonight is because there were some elements of the speech by the honourable member for Riverina with which I agree. But I also wish to point out that the worst thing that could happen to the canned fruit industry and to pretty nearly all export industries would be if a move were to be made in this Parliament tomorrow to appreciate the Australian dollar as against other currencies. I was astounded and shocked this afternoon to hear the reported comments by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) which I can only feel is indicative of the policy his Party would adopt if it took over the reins of government.

Dr Patterson - Misrepresentation.

Mr GILES - If the honourable member says it is misrepresentation, all I can do, as 1 heard the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) do after question time this morning, is read out from the document that has been tabled already. Would the honourable member think that that is misrepresentation?

Dr Patterson - Misrepresentation.

Mr GILES - By whom - your Leader? I have here the script of what Mr Whitlam said. Now where is the misrepresentation? Mr Speaker, I think all I can do is read the question and repeat the total answer so that there is no chance of doing a 'Hawke' and quoting only half of the answer. The question was:

On inflation, and in reference to the Reserve Bank statement of the other day, would you endorse what they have had to say about Inflation, that it could be reduced either by revaluing the dollar . . .

There the Leader of the Opposition cut across the question which had not been quite completed and said:

Yes. 1 agree with that entirely. I think the Australian dollar is under valued, that as long as that remains it will promote Inflation in Australia. lt will promote this useless inflow of money from overseas. It is not something that politicians like to talk about because with an election coming on people will immediately assume that if we are elected, that's what we will do. But you ask me, I am quite convinced that the Australian d oiler ought to be appreciated in value.

There is no other way I can interpret that remark and I do not believe there is any other way that my electorate can interpret it. I do not believe that there is any other way the electorate of the honourable member for Riverina can interpret that remark. I do not believe there is any possibility of that statement not being a true statement of the thoughts of the alternative Prime Minister of this country. If the honourable member for Riverina wishes to get up and shed crocodile tears on behalf of an industry which concerns him not nearly as much as it concerns me in my electorate, I think be should start to go to work on his own Leader and try to make sure that small industries representing decentralised towns in this country are not put to the sword on the capricious whim of an unthought-out statement by a leader of a political party. I have no doubt that he meant what he said. I will conclude my remarks with that comment. I regard this as a genuine document. I must presume that the Leader of the Opposition knows what he is talking about. I think it is a crying shame if small industries in country towns are to be subjected to the sort of pressures that this statement put on them.

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