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Thursday, 2 December 1971
Page: 4086


Order! Again I would ask the House to come to order and have the courtesy to give the honourable member who is speaking a chance to be heard.

Dr PATTERSON - There was an overwhelming support for the referendum by the dried vines fruits growers. The House will recall that previously a referendum was held on this same matter and, although there was a substantial majority in favour of stabilisation, the criteria laid down by the Government with respect to eligible voters were not met and in actual fact the proposals were rejected by the Government because of the criteria not being fulfilled.

I believe that the history of this legislation is just one more example of a policy which I have never hesitated to criticise in this House, particularly the part played by the Australian Country Party. I have always believed that a responsible government that believed an industry required a particular line of action should take that action and should not go to the industry itself. Frequently, an industry is divided by internal wrangling and undue bias. To illustrate my point, the first referendum was defeated and within a matter of weeks after this defeat the international market looked like collapsing. I agree with industry leaders who maintain that if that same referendum had been put to the same growers a few weeks after the first vote was taken, there would have been an overwhelming vote in favour of stabilisation.

The same problem has existed with respect to wool and the same principle that I am trying to elaborate applies. If the Government had acted in 1964, the problem would have been overcome. I believe that the great majority of members of the Country Party, if not all of them, believed in the reserve price scheme 7 years go. I have given credit to the right honourable member for Fisher (Sir Charles Adermann). I believe that it was one of the most important achievements that he was able to get through Cabinet at that time. Unfortunately, because of a divided and fragmented wool industry at that time, the industry was confused and the referendum proposal put forward was defeated. This was a great tragedy for the wool industry and similarly, the defeat of the referendum on the dried vines fruits stabilisation scheme was also a tragedy for the dried vines fruit growers at that time. It was pleasing to see that when they went back to the next referendum they made no mistake about it. I forget the actual figures, but well over 90 per cent voted in favour of the referendum proposal.

The provisions of the stabilisation scheme are along the accepted principles of orderly marketing or stabilisation of incomes when a variety of commodities or fruits is involved. Separate funds are maintained in this instance for currants, sultanas and raisins. A base price has been fixed and there is also a relationship between that base price and the actual prices received for the season. If the actual prices received are in excess of a certain figure, of course, it is up to the growers themselves within the provisions of the Act to contribute to the stabilisation fund the amount of money required. Similarly, if the amount of money received per ton is significantly lower than the base price the Government has, under the provisions of this legislation, to put a certain amount of money into the stabilisation fund. Certain limitations are imposed in this legislation with respect to the maxima and minima. The liability of the Commonwealth is protected. At the same time there is a limit to what the grower will have to contribute per ton as compared with the relationship of the base price to what he actually receives. That is in accordance with the accepted principles of stabilisation. A similar type of formula was included recently in the apple and pear industry stabilisation scheme.

A comparison of this stabilisation scheme with the previous one will show that they are quite different in several respects. In my opinion the scheme itself has been greatly improved. I refer specifically to the ceiling whereby the maximum rate of bounty of $23 per ton is applicable if a Commonwealth contribution is involved. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) said in his second reading speech, this provision did not in fact form part of the initial stabilisation scheme. Another improvement is the provision under which, where the bounty is payable in respect of a season's transactions, the Government will make an advanced payment against the industry's bounty entitlement. I think that is an excellent move. I believe that advance payments should be part and parcel of all stabilisation schemes. After all, there is a lag between when a producer actually sends his fruit to, as in this case, the packing house and when he finally receives his equalised or final return. A considerable period elapses. The making of advance payments is a step in the right direction. Tonnage limitations on currants, sultanas and raisins are another basic provision of stabilisation schemes. I do not want at this hour of the night to go into all the details of the stabilisation scheme. One can question whether the base price is a good one. One can question whether it is high enough. One can question whether the limits are sufficient. But, in all fairness, I do not think one can argue against this scheme being of great benefit to the-



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