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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 4340

Mr SHERRY (Frankin) - The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) was indulging in some mystical speculation during his short speech tonight. I think a number of the points that he made need to be answered. I think he said, if I remember correctly, that we in fact had promised, prior to the election, that there would be total grower representation.

Mr Street - No.

Mr SHERRY - The honourable member did not say 'total'?

Mr Street - Elected grower representation.

Mr SHERRY - I see. Speaking for myself and indeed for most of my colleagues I can never remember such an undertaking ever being given in public or in any other forum. The honourable member mentioned an amount of money which was to be paid in revaluation compensation payments. In fact the figure is about $866,000 to Tasmania alone. This Bill, to establish the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation, is of course of vital importance to apple and pear producers throughout the country but in particular it is of overwhelming importance to my own State of Tasmania and to my own electorate.

The Tasmanian industry, as honourable members would be well aware, accounts for the great bulk of the export trade. Indeed it is this very dependence by the Tasmanian industry on the export trade that has brought it to its present critical situation. There is no doubt in my mind that if we do not find a solution now to the difficulties facing this industry, and in particular the Tasmanian industry, there will not be an industry operating in1974. The apple and pear industry was at one time a vital and a vigorous industry that brought a very great number of benefits to the Tasmanian people and to the economy.

Mr Duthie - Twenty million dollars.

Mr SHERRY - Indeed, as my colleague the honourable member for Wilmot interjects, it was worth about$20m some years ago. That amount has now been halved. A number of factors have conspired to bring about the present crisis. All members of this House would know that the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community was one of those factors. The United Kingdom, with Western Europe, has been the traditional market for the apple and pear industry but British entry into the European Economic Community has altered this quite dramatically. It would be foolish, futile and naive of us to pretend that that situation does not now exist.

The honourable member for Corangamite mentioned the difficulty of shipping. He was quite correct, but this difficulty is nothing new. We have had this problem for 20 years or more. I find it quite remarkable that it is only in 1973 when the honourable member is a member of the Opposition that he suddenly discovers the difficulty about freight rates. We have had many debates in this House over the years on ever increasing freight rates. The suggestion is that this year there will be an increase of 16 per cent.

It also seems to me that where we failed in this industry is in the promotional area. To my mind, sufficient promotional expertise has never been developed in the general marketing area.

It has been apparent for years that this industry was in very great peril, but very little was done by the previous Government. I know there is no point in making recriminations. It certainly is not the time, nor indeed would it be very productive, to blame the former Government for its failure to recognise and deal with the very real problems in this industry. Obviously we have to start thinking afresh, and I think that is being done with the introduction of this Bill to establish the Apple and Pear Corporation. It is obvious, of course, that new markets and new techniques - indeed, a whole new approach - must be found if this industry is to survive. What we have to do is to make absolutely certain that this Corporation will work effectively for the good of the industry and the people who work in it. These are people who have made a very great contribution not only to the Tasmanian economy but also to the economy of this nation, and they are looking forward and the industry is looking forward to this Corporation being an effective answer to some of the current difficulties that face it.

What will the Corporation succeed in doing that the Apple and Pear Board failed to do? I believe it will have an expertise in marketing techniques that are absolutely vital in today's highly competitive world. The Corporation will have control of exports from Australia and the conditions of export and quality of standard controls, which again are of great importance. But perhaps the most significant feature of the Corporation's powers is its ability to trade. As the Minister for Northern Development (Dr Patterson) pointed out in his second reading speech, it will be empowered to charter ships, something we should have done years ago. This is of the greatest significance, again particularly to the Tasmanian industry. For far too long it has been dependent upon and, if I may be so bold to suggest, held to ransom by the conference monopolies. It is the belief of many growers, certainly in my electorate, that this monopoly should now be broken. It is an inefficient monopoly, but a very expensive one. The shipping arrangements of the past seasons have never been satisfactory, and it has always been an attitude by the shipping conferences that you can either take it on their conditions or leave it.

The nub of the problem surely is in the development of new markets. As I indicated earlier, it would be futile to think that the European market will continue as before. Therefore I was delighted to learn that my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has had talks with the Japanese Minister for Agriculture to consider the possibility of exporting apples and pears to Japan. I sincerely hope that these talks to be held here in Canberra next month will be successful, because there is a tremendous potential for the Australian product in Japan and the East generally.

This Corporation will have the power to develop these and other markets, and these markets must be developed and expanded if the industry is to survive. All the functions of the proposed Corporation, diverse and important, will, I believe, for the first time give this Corporation a substance and power that the Apple and Pear Board never had. It is essential that the Corporation act quickly and effectively. Any further delays, any further indecision, can only exacerbate an already critical situation. The great concern for this industry in its present difficulties is the dislocation of people and the hardship and misery that is caused by this dislocation. In my electorate alone it would be no exaggeration to say that people are now leaving this industry in droves. They are leaving this industry in 1973 because nothing of a substantial nature has been done for the past 2 decades. It is the cumulative effect that it has on every town and every village in the electorate that is of concern. It is not only the orchardist who loses his money and leaves a community who is affected. It has a total effect.

One of the things that surprised me is how ironic and absurd it is that when millions of people are starving and crying out for food we uproot fruit trees by the thousands. It is an absurd and stupid situation. There is no doubt that the Tasmanian product can compete with the best in the world, and there is no doubt that the Tasmanian grower has the energy and the expertise to make it a viable industry. I am delighted to learn that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Tasmanian Premier met in Canberra this week to discuss short term methods of assisting industry over its present critical time. I would hope that as a result of those talks some measure will be taken to assist these people. If this Apple and Pear Corporation can be the means of sustaining and maintaining the industry, I know the industry will play its part to the full. I would hope that all members of the House will give this Bill a speedy passage so that the task of securing the vital Tasmanian industry as well as the Australian industry as a whole can be carried out promptly and effectively and give this industry the future that it so desperately needs. I support the Bill.

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