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Tuesday, 7 December 1971
Page: 4204

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - I wish to support the amendment which was moved prior to the adjournment of the debate, whereupon we heard a very good speech by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). The amendment provides that: the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to include a Schedule of the Agreement between the State of South Australia and the Commonwealth with conditions relating to the approval by the Parliament and provisions relating to the amounts payable to the State, the rate of interest, and repayment conditions by the State.

I would think from his remarks that the honourable member for Balaclava (Mr

Whittorn) would support this amendment. He stood for some considerable portion of the 20 minutes allotted to him in which to speak earlier in this debate and questioned the Government at some length on where the money was going that was being appropriated under the measure now before this House. From his interjections we on this side of the House could be sure of his vote in support of the amendment. He is the first honourable member from the Government side 1 have heard since 1 have been in this House question in any way, shape or form where money has gone. We usually hear the Liberal Party cry: 'Where is the money coming from?'

We are witnessing in this House once again the spectacle of an industry which has unfortunately been brought to financial min and requires financial assistance from the Commonwealth because it has not been guided adequately and properly and in the national interest by the Federal Government. It is some 10 years since the first whispered conversations began between people in Australia and people in the United Kingdom as to the possibility of Britain's entry into the European Economic Community. These indications have been completely ignored by those Commonwealth departments which I would consider most certainly to have had a responsibility to an industry such as this. This Government has stood idly by with an attitude best described as absolute indifference to the State governments which have made some attempt, spasmodic as it may have been, to guide the industries within their borders. This Government cannot deny that it was without knowledge of the expansion within the fruit industry in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. It cannot deny the fact that there has been an increase in acreage from the early post-war years following demobilisation after the Second World War. There has been an increase along the Murray River generally and in the irrigation areas as a result of the Snowy

Mountains hydro-electric scheme. What has the Department of Trade and Industry done to find new markets abroad? Why is it mat the Government has not questioned some of the ties it has placed around itself with regard to some form of international agreement and which have inhibited grower organisations in Australia from expanding into existing markets and exploring others? The Government has not done anything in this regard.

One of the reasons, of course, is that we are experiencing a great number of problems in the industry. One of the reasons why fruit is being allowed to fall to the ground, and one of the reasons why one member of the community who took up land in the Shepparton area went berserk last year and threatened the lives of some unfortunates on a weighbridge adjacent to one of the great establishments in the canning industry, is the lack of foresight of this Government. This man could not stand the fact that he was losing thousands of dollars each year as a result of the attitude or the non-attitude of the Government. One of the last reports I read shows that one of the principal companies in the industry is being imposed upon as far as freight rates are concerned. How often have honourable members opposite heard me on this question? The long overdue benefits to the growers and to the canneries from the containerisation concept are still being awaited. Rather than there being any benefit to the industry generally, to shippers generally and to growers generally, these people are now having greater costs imposed upon them. The only costs which Government supporters will bear in mind perhaps are those in the limited area of wage and salary increases in this field. I say 'limited' because the number of employees in this industry is somewhat limited compared, for example, with the vehicle building industry in which the number of employees is far greater. While the Australian Government can say that we have had ships built and we now have ships carrying the national flag, can the Government honestly say that those ships that carry the national flag and those ships built - I say this for the benefit of the honourable member for Balaclava - with taxpayers' money, at taxpayers' expense, operate in competition with the monopoly shipowners who have plied here for a considerable number of years?

Mr Whittorn - I raise a point of order, ls this a matter concerning the Minister for Shipping and Transport or the Minister for Primary Industry?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Cope)Thehonourable member is making only a passing reference to this matter. There is no substance in the point of order.

Mr FOSTER - That goes to show the absolute ignorance of the honourable member who has just interposed. He seems to feel that the cost of freight has no bearing on the matter before us. We are debating a measure to appropriate millions of dollars for this industry and one of the reasons it is being appropriated is that this Government has done nothing to place ships at the disposal of the industry and to place the shippers of this country in competition with the existing shipping lines. The mistake the Government has made is that it has not placed the ships that fly the Australian flag in competition with other ships. It has allowed itself to be conned into the situation whereby Australian taxpayers' money is being used for these ships which, while flying the Australian flag, will trade within the conference system that operates. They will operate within a particular consortium. They cannot go into direct competition for the purpose ot reducing freight rates. It was said by a previous Minister for Trade and Industry, in fact by the previous member for Murray prior lo his retirement from this House, that this was one of the aims and the goals set for these ships. So why should I not mention the matter of freight rates in this debate tonight?

What has been done about new markets for our canned fruit? We see neighbouring South Africa growing the same type of product about which we are talking in the debate on this Bill and shipping it twice as far to Singaporean markets at half the freight costs - and the honourable member for Balaclava wonders why I mention this matter. The Minister for Primary Industry had better check what I say. He will find that it is near enough to true as damn it is to something else. South Africa ships canned fruits twice as far as we do. mind you, to a market on our doorstep.

Mr Sinclair - At what subsidy?

Mr FOSTER - Never mind about the subsidy. If the Minister wants to talk about subsidy, of course the whole of rural industry today is still crying out for subsidy, and the Government is falling over backwards in some areas to provide it. I am saying that the same product that is produced in Australia is taken from South African ports to Asian markets which are twice as far from South Africa as they are from this country. Why is that so? Why is it that Australia should be denied markets because of that restriction? That is something which the Minister for Primary Industry, when he was Minister for Shipping and Transport, should have looked at instead of waiting for the parliamentary recesses to say the things he said - a very cunning move. The Minister need not look at me dumbfounded.. In the drawer underneath my desk here where I sit I. have a whole pile of speeches he made from Darwin to Cairns to Carnarvon during parliamentary recesses about what he would not do with the shipowners when he got back into the House come the Budget session. And what did he do? Absolutely nothing. He can have these speeches any time he wants them. I think I have said that before, lt is action we want in this place and not words from the likes of Ministers I consider to be damned well incompetent in the national interest. I make no apology for saying that.

Mr Sinclair - Do you claim to be an expert?

Mr FOSTER - No, 1 do not claim to be an expert. If you fellows claim to be experts there is a very good old saying for it.


Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.

Mr FOSTER - I want to quote from a document which honourable members opposite are sure to know about. It is the annual report of the Australian Canning Fruitgrowers Association. It states:

Proposals for the long term reconstruction of the industry are under consideration and it is essential that these be given urgent attention so that a suitable reconstruction programme wll be available to the industry at the earliest opportunity.

The proposals include the introduction of a tree removal compensation scheme aimed at achieving a reduction in the production level of canning deciduous frails to known market outlets, with some margin for growth. The reconstruction of fruitgrowers" debts, where such action can be shown to be desirable, in order to maintain the growers' viability; the redevelopment of orchards to enable growers to adjust their varietal plantings to those for which a satisfactory market exists;

What assistance is this Government prepared to give in regard to that? We on this side of the Houe have not heard Government supporters say any more than what is referred to in the narrow confines of the Bill. We have not heard anybody as yet from the Government side - 1 hope and sincerely trust that the Minister for Primary Industry will do so in concluding the debate - spell out something that ought to be done in the long term future of the industry. Let us not end this debate with the belief that this matter will become a hardy annual with a growing amount of assistance that is rendered each year from taxpayers' money to the industry so that it can crawl or fall into the next year. What I am suggesting is that the Minister take advantage of the advice of the experts he mentioned a few moments ago by way of interjection. He has the experts at his disposal. He has the whole of his Department, almost an empire of advisers. Let us find out what they have in mind. Let the Minister tell this House what he has in mind, having drawn on this reservoir of knowledge and expertise that he has available to him. These men are knowledgable and expert and I only hope that the Government will act on the very good advice that they give from time to time instead of considering that such advice should be used only in the narrowest of political terms, as we have seen in the measure that was the subject of a ministerial statement a while ago in this place.

Mr Whittorn - A very good statement too.

Mr FOSTER - Why does the honourable member, as a Government supporter, not get on the backs of the Ministers and pry open this oystershell cabinet which he has supported over the years, to force it to do something, to get it away from the concrete vaults that it thinks in - and its thinking is probably as thick as concrete.

Mr Deputy Speaker,because other honourable members want to enter this debate and because the Government probably will want to bring it to an end during the course of the night and restrict the last 2 speakers, I will conclude on the note that the amendment is worthy of the support of members on the Government side. We on this side of the House would be failing in our duty if this amount of money was just appropriated without any question and without any rhyme or reason from the government. The people have a right to know the facts, and we have a right to know. If we are questioned on this matter we should be able to answer such questions with knowledge and proper understanding.

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