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Thursday, 1 April 1971

Senator WEBSTER - I am pleased to hear the honourable senator say that because the proposition seems to be rather silly. As I understand it, the principle proposed by the Labor Party over the last few years is that if there is legislation which attempts to ensure by some means that the parties will adhere to an agreement into which they enter, some penalty should be applied should they attempt to break the agreement. It has been amazing to see the way in which the Opposition has dealt with a variety of measures, particularly those relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Members of the Opposition have flouted the directions of the court and have thought of promoting strikes and adopting all sorts of major methods of influence in the community in an endeavour to avoid paying the penalty which applies. Senator Milliner has just said that the penalty of S200 imposed by clause 1 1 of the Bill is altogether too light. I have some concern for a number of growers who started in the industry only recently. To them S200 would be a very significant amount and it would represent a very harsh penalty should they be found not to have furnished the information which is required to make this legislation of some use.

Perhaps it is nol necessary to have a lengthy debate on these 3 Bills because they are not opposed by the Opposition. Certainly the Government and my own Party, in discussing the problems of the dried fruit industry over many years, have seen fit eventually to bring this type of research measure forward. Therefore we have these 3 Bills before us. One is a research Bill, the second sets the levy, and the third contains provisions for the collection of the levy.

I think it is fair to say that the dried fruit industry is another primary industry in Australia which has significant problems in this day and age. I have said in the Senate that I believe it is incorrect for people to conclude that all primary industries are in great trouble. That is not so. Undoubtedly there are some dried fruit growers who do not face the problems faced by others in the same industry. Basically research in any industry will assist growers. Let us consider a country which has volume production of a particular commodity and is able to satisfy the local market. With a minimum of Government assistance it may compete at world parity prices on the world market. At that stage research is of great importance. The Commonwealth Government has been assisting the dried fruit, industry with finance for research for years past. Under this legislation we are establishing a basis for the Commonwealth to work on a $1 for $1 arrangement with the industry on further research. From my reading of the Bill, the money already held by the industry for research purposes will draw a subsidy from the Commonwealth when it is placed in the trust account. This will be of great assistance to the industry and I congratulate the Government for this decision.

The problems which arise in this industry are worthy of comment. In past years, as far back as the First World War, vine growers were able to work small blocks and produce sufficient income for their needs. They were able to do the job manually on blocks of 14 acres, 17 acres or 20 acres. Now, with mechanisation and the demands of the individual for a higher standard of living, those small areas are entirely insufficient for a man to earn an adequate income over a period of years. There should be an investigation of this industry to ascertain means by which growers can improve and expand their holdings.

The cost problem, which has been mentioned in this debate, is common throughout the world but it has attracted the attention of the Senate on many occasions. The Australian Government has been criti cised for the inflation that has occurred throughout the community. I have said here previously that I believe that this Government has done a great deal to hold down the rate of inflation. I heard a comment on the radio this morning about the problems experienced in Great Britain. The British Labour Party is critical of the Budget because the British Government has done little to dampen the incidence of inflation. I believe that yesterday the South African Government introduced a Budget, the core of which deals with the rale of inflation in that country. Only within the last week or so, in a comment I made in this chamber, I set out a schedule demonstrating that the rate of inflation in Australia was more than comparable with that in other countries. I think honourable senators would acknowledge that in the 3- month period prior to Christmas there was a greater rate of inflation in Australia than we had ever before experienced. This was during the time that the Government took some action in relation to taxation and when there were demands for wage rises throughout the community.

Ltis interesting to note the prices which dried fruit producers have been receiving for their products. They have remained fairly stable. I am told authoratively that about 7 years ago the average price of sultanas was $23 1 per ton. In 1968 it had increased only by $13 to $244 per ton. I am referring to a pack in the Sunraysia area. But according to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics the cost of production during that period increased by about $43 per ton. That situation will continue in every primary industry in Australia. The rate of inflation will continue. F can see no action being taken by the Commonwealth Government or by the people of Australia which is likely to dampen the rate of inflation here. No member of Parliament is willing to rise and say that he believes there should be no inflation in Australia or that we could take some acceptable action which would keep the value of the dollar constant. As I understand it, it is impossible for this to happen on the world scene. If we can keep our rate of inflation to a maximum of 2i per cent or 3 per cent, perhaps the growers in every area of primary industry, aided by research, can cope with it.

Research is of great importance in the dried fruit industry. 1 am aware of the research work done in the past by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the fact that the various State Departments of Agriculture have contributed greatly to the production figures on various properties, but there is more to be done because the scene is changing every clay. Other countries realise the wisdom of pouring money into research and we must keep pace wilh the information obtainable overseas. This is of great importance. We do noi do enough to take advantage of the knowledge available to growers in other countries and add it to that which we gain from our own research efforts. This knowledge will enable our growers to live.

The Sunraysia area in my State of Victoria is the greatest producer of dried fruits in Australia. The industry, in common with all primary industries, suffers great problems brought about by weather.

F know of no primary industry in Australia which will know the result of its work at the end of a year. Weather plays an important part in determining primary production in Australia. Over a period a primary producer must recognise that in one or two years his returns may not be considered adequate by him. Such has been the position in recent years. I understand that in the current year growers are noi very happy at the prospective returns for their fruit production. Again this is a problem caused by weather. Research can play a significant part in this respect. Some primary industries, had research not been conducted and government assistance afforded, would not be in their present healthy state. Many people would argue that some industries referred to in the' Minister's second reading speech are not particularly healthy. Certainly they would be less healthy had they not received government assistance to conduct research.

In respect of the wheat, wool, meat, dairy, egg, chicken meat and tobacco industries the Federal Government said that if they could generate sufficient interest within those industries and establish reasons why money should be provided for research, aid would be given. This practice is of great advantage to growers throughout Australia. I note that one or two primary production areas, particularly dried apples, do not come within the ambit of this particular assistance. Reference has been made to growers in Tasmania who will not obtain assistance through this measure. 1 hope that they will unite in an approach to the Commonwealth for financial assistance. Honourable senators opposite have not denied that this legislation is good for the industry and for Australia in general. We will deal with the amendments proposed by the Opposition as they arise, f have great pleasure in supporting this group of Bills.

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