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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 4006


Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) (Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time

The purpose of this Bill is to implement the Australian Government's decision to amend the statutory marketing arrangements for the apple and pear industry by establishing an Australian Apple and Pear Corporation which will replace the present Australian Apple and Pear Board. As many honourable members are aware, the apple and pear industry has for some seasons now been facing problems of increasing seriousness and complexity, mainly in the export field. These problems derive principally from the large volume of exports which the industry has traditionally sent to markets in the United Kingdom and Europe. Because of developments in these markets the export operation is characterised by increasing uncertainty. These developments include the effects of British entry into the European Economic Community, the increasing competition in this region from European fruit, and the increasing competition from other exporting countries supplying the British and European markets.

The general uncertainty created by these developments is aggravated by difficulties in the field of shipping chiefly the high and increasing level of freight rates to the 'United Kingdom and Europe and the difficulty of finding adequate shipping for the purpose. The latter is most acute in regard to conventional refrigerated shipping. Although all States have some interest in export, the position is most serious for Tasmania, because of its heavy dependence on the export trade and on the

United Kingdom and Europe to take the bulk of its apple exports, and because of its dependence on conventional shipping. The position also presents significant problems for Western Australia, the second largest apple exporting State, and for Victoria because of its large pear exports. These export problems have had their impact at the grower level in a feeling of general insecurity and low farm incomes in important producing regions, particularly in Tasmania.

It is against this general background of critical industry problems that this Bill is introduced. It must be recognised that proper solutions to these problems will only be achieved with the acceptance by the industry at large of the need to restructure on a broad front. Such restructuring of the industry must be directed towards tailoring production, in respect of both quantity and quality, to the needs of remunerative outlets; to adaptability in introducing the most economic techniques and practices designed to reduce costs; and, most importantly, to the consolidation of viable farm units. Allied with the need for the restructuring of the industry on a broad front is also the need for the industry to have a highly skilled, effective and nationallyorganised body that can come to grips with the marketing problems that beset the industry. I believe that the Corporation will supply this latter need and that its operations, hand in hand with the industry's own restructuring efforts, will place the industry once more on a sound economic foundation.

I now turn to the details of the Bill. The Corporation will consist of 9 part-time members, namely, an independent Chairman, 4 members to represent growers, one member to represent the Australian Government, and 3 other members. All the members of the Corporation will be appointed by the Minister for Primary Industry. The members representing growers will be selected from nominations submitted by the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association and the 'three other members' referred to in the Bill, which I might term 'members with special qualifications', will be appointed after consultation with that Association, the Australian Apple and Pear Shippers Association, and any other appropriate bodies.

It will be important for the most effective functioning of the Corporation that its members generally be soundly qualified and, in particular, that the 3 members with special qualifications bring to the Corporation the widest possible backgrounds consistent with the range of functions that the Corporation has to perform. For this reason these members will be people specially qualified for appointment by reason of their experience and expertise in marketing generally, or in the marketing of apples and pears, the processing and marketing of apple and pear products or by reason of other experience in commerce, finance, economics, science and industrial matters.

I should mention that I have used the term marketing' in the context of these qualifications as covering all aspects involved from the time the fruit leaves the property until it reaches the final consumer. The position of Chairman will also be of major importance. The qualities demanded will be a capacity for leadership and broad commercial experience, not necessarily confined to the apple and pear industry. All members will be appointed for a period of 3 years, and will be eligible for re-appointment.

The functions of the Corporation are set out in clause 6 of the Bill. These functions include the control of the export from Australia of fresh apples and pears and the Corporation has been given, in clauses 7 to 9, powers appropriate to the performance of these functions. These include, the power to recommend to the Minister the terms and conditions of export; the persons who may engage in export; packaging and labelling for export and quality standards and grading for export. It also has power to determine quantities for export by State and country of destination, and to negotiate shipping arrangements.

For the performance of its other stated functions, the Corporation has been empowered to promote or engage in research; to promote by financial assistance and otherwise new apple or pear products; to act as agent for producers or exporters; to appoint agents or arrange for the performance of work on its behalf; with the approval of the Minister to enter into agreements with a State and to trade in fresh apples and pears and in apple and pear products.

For its trading operations, the Corporation is empowered to charter ships and, under clause 30 of the Bill, to borrow moneys subject to the approval of the Minister and the Treasurer. The Corporation's borrowings may be guaranteed by the Australian Government. The power to trade will be a significant power available to the Corporation in a major task confronting it, namely, the development of new markets. The element of risk connected with the development of new markets is often too great to present attractions to private exporters. The Corporation's trading power is qualified by a requirement that it must seek the approval of the Minister to engage in trade in competition with Australian concerns and must conduct any such trade in a manner that accords with commercial practice.

There is also expressed in clause 7 (3) of the Bill a general requirement that the Corporation must comply with any directions given it by the Minister with respect to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers. This power of direction over the Corporation is a power which would only be drawn on in unusual circumstances. It might need to be used, for example, to restrain activity by the Corporation if such activity is having serious and undesirable repercussions in important areas outside the cognizance of the Corporation.

There are certain fields of activity, apart from trading and the regulation of fresh fruit exports, in which the Corporation is expected to play a prominent role. A major role is seen for it in the field of research and an expanded role in the field of sales promotion of apples and pears or products derived from these fruits, not only overseas but also in Australia. The Corporation's research role will be to encourage and if necessary to initiate research into all aspects of the industry including quality improvement; cost saving practices and techniques at all stages of the productionmarketing chain; packaging; handling; storage; transport; the control and eradication of pests and diseases; the development and marketing of new processed products for apples and pears and the provision of technical advice in the processing field. The research role envisaged for the Corporation in the development of new processed products is of particular significance. The Corporation is specifically empowered to assist financially and in other ways in this important activity. I believe that there is considerable potential in this field.

The promotion role contemplated for the Corporation is of equal importance. To encourage the increased consumption of apples and pears and apple and pear products throughout Australia requires an imaginative and well co-ordinated promotion program.

The Corporation will be ideally placed to achieve this. At the same time the Corporation will be giving constant attention to overseas promotion. This is particularly significant in the light of the pressing need to which I have referred earlier, to find alternative export outlets to the traditional markets.

It is also envisaged that the Corporation, for the effective carrying out of its functions, will maintain an efficient marketing research and intelligence unit. The Bill proposes that there should be available for the immediate financing of the Corporation the moneys collected under the Apple and Pear Export Charges Act 1938-1973, which is presently the source of the income of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. This is intended as an interim measure only to meet the immediate establishment needs of the Corporation.

A levy on all apples and pears produced and sold is considered to be the appropriate permanent form of Corporation financing, since the Corporation can be expected to produce benefits for all sectors of the industry.

The Government currently has under study, in consultation with the industry, the most practicable method of imposing and collecting such a levy and will he submitting measures to the Parliament for adoption in the near future. The Government fully appreciates the need to establish the Corporation on a firm financial footing as quickly as possible.

The Corporation proposals have been developed in discussions with the Australian Apple and Pear Growers' Association and are supported by the Association. As I stated earlier, I believe the proposals constitute an important step towards alleviating many of the difficulties that currently beset the industry, particularly its export sector. The Corporation will provide the industry with a marketing instrument directed by persons with the necessary skills and expertise in the broad field of marketing. It will be armed with appropriate and adequate powers and, accordingly, should be capable of tackling effectively the industry's problems on a co-ordinated national basis. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Bonnett) adjourned.







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