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Wednesday, 5 December 1973
Page: 4353

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - It gives me a great deal of pleasure to find that the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation Bill put forward by the Government is unanimously accepted in principle by the entire Parliament. The central point made in the debate is the statement made at the outset by the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) who led for the Opposition. He said that his Party did not oppose the Government's Bill and did not oppose the establishment of the Corporation. He admitted with honesty and perception that the new Corporation has wide powers to do the things which must be done and which are long overdue to be done. It might be asked: What is all this debate about? It was mainly about revaluation. Two of the revaluations referred to in the course of the debate were, of course, undertaken by the McMahon-Anthony Administration in December 1971 and half way through 1972. There was a promise of help at that time, but we found when the Government changed that there was nothing in the Treasury. Nothing had been provided and there were no Cabinet decisions to help. Nothing was provided at all. In two of the revaluations by the present Government we said that we would help the industries affected. We have helped and we have provided the cash.

The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) indicated when announcing the September 1973 appreciation of 5 per cent in exchange values of the Australian dollar that the Government would look sympathetically at the position of any industries which were seriously affected by the appreciation and found it particularly difficult to bear the consequences of it. A total of more than $1.3m has been paid out to date in post-revaluation adjustment assistance to the two main apple exporting States, Tasmania and Western Australia. The main point I make again is that two lots of undertakings were given and we honoured ours. The most important thing is to recognise that there is no real opposition to this measure. This measure only does in relation to this industry what must be done and what should have been done a long time ago. That is, we have to cut out the exploitive middlemen, we have to take action on freights and we have to undo some of the end results of the lethargy of 23 years.

Let us examine the amendment? Why an amendment at all? It is not a real amendment. I submit that it is a parliamentary confession. As an alibi, it is really not good enough. It states in paragraph (a): immediate financial assistance by way of proper compensation for loss inflicted on exporters in the 1973 season by revaluations of the Australian currency;

I have demonstrated already how that has been taken care of. We have honoured our commitments there, and we stand ready to do more. That paragraph of the amendment is totally irrelevant and totally unnecessary. Paragraph (b) states: adjustment of the stabilisation scheme to provide for increased costs and freight rates;

I think that the honourable member for Corangamite, in leading for the Opposition, said that the Corporation will take care of just such problems. Let us be quite clear. Everyone connected with the apple and pear industry has made money out of apples and pears - except the growers. The transporters, the agents, the spray firms, the case firms, the shippers and the label makers have all done very well. Everyone except the producer has done very well. The pipeline of costs has never been tackled. It must be tackled without delay. But the difficulties with which we are confronted today are the legacy of many years of inaction.

This Bill sets up a corporation to give the unity, the power and the authority to the industry. This Bill breaks the deadlock of donothing policies that have operated for a whole generation. There will be growers on the Corporation. The growers and their elected bodies are happy with the present arrangements. They want to be there, and they will be there. I draw attention to the fact that this Bill provides that:

Members to represent Australian apple and pear growers shall be selected by the Minister from persons nominated by the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association.

The Bill in no way attempts to direct the Association on the manner in which it will choose its nominees. This is entirely a domestic matter for the Association. So, the point taken by the Opposition is rejected.

The Opposition - or some parts of it - is as out of step on this measure as it was on the Industries Assistance Commission measure, which was opposed by a section of the Opposition despite the fact that the Australian Farmers Federation did not oppose it. Since the initial debate on the measure the Federation has made useful suggestions which, it has said, make it a totally attractive and acceptable measure to the primary producers of Australia. This has been our response to the problems of the industry. The Corporation opens the way for new marketing initiatives. I accept the point that the position has to change quickly. We are setting up the machinery to enable those essential initiatives to be taken - something which is long overdue. There have been many references to Tasmania. The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) and the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie) both said: 'Pull the trees out today and we will find ourselves in need of them tomorrow'. I accept that as a very wise piece of advice. In my own area it was suggested that the apple surplus this season would be a great embarrassment. A single decision by one processor has now wiped out the surplus and in fact we will be short of apples in this season.

In conclusion, let me say that reference was made to the 'Platform, Constitution and Rules' of the Australian Labor Party. The honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) said that he had invested a sum of money in purchasing that document. I am sorry that I cannot see the honourable member in the chamber at the moment. It was a very fine document that he purchased, but 1 am afraid that it was the 1971 edition. If he would like to see me in my office afterwards, I will, with compliments and good will, provide him with the 1973 Platform, Constitution and Rules'. We are proud of the legislation. We commend it to honourable members and, what is more, we accept the real view of the Opposition, which is that this is a desirable and good measure and that the Opposition supports it. We reject the amendment as an alibi for the previous Government's list - might I say 'very long list' - of deficiencies, and we do not think it is worthy of the support of this House.

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