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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1811

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) - It is an odd circumstance that the adjournment of the Senate which was moved in such an impulsive fashion tonight by Senator Murphy without regard to the Leader of the House, Senator Cavanagh, should provide Senator Keeffe, in the first place, with an opportunity to make his submissions and now me to make a submission to the Senate on a serious matter. By way of preface, may I say that I would be recreant to that peace of mind that possesses me if I did not reflect in a philosophical way on just how the Senate can be pushed around and manoeuvred by the impulsive, irrational behaviour of Senator Murphy. Having been removed from the responsibility of leading and of managing the procedures of this House, and the Government in its wisdom having relegated those duties to Senator Cavanagh, Senator Murphy at 10 minutes past 10 tonight impulsively intervened- I think it was the first time since the dinner suspension of the sitting- and moved the motion for the adjournment of the Senate 50 minutes before the usual time for the conclusion of business. It was an arbitrary instrusion that people who had planned their evening in order to contribute to the Senate's work ought to resent, and I resent it on many counts.

I protest against this impulsive instrusion, which is so characteristic of Senator Murphy and so subversive of the stable conduct of the business of the Senate. It is a disgrace to the Senate, and I think is a disruption not only of the procedures on his side of the chamber but certainly of the orderly flow of business of the Senate. I note that Senator Murphy has come into the chamber. It is just as well that he should know face to face that I think he brings indignity upon the Senate by this superior, impulsive, unjustifiable intervention and curtailing of the business of the Senate without rhyme or reason and without reference to the responsible Leader of the House who was appointed by the Government.

I now have an opportunity to put forward some views that perhaps would be compressed on another occasion on a matter that has been on my mind all day. It relates to an existing industry that has been a great pride of Tasmania now for 70 or 80 years. I refer to the apple industry. I think that it is much more real that we invite interest to it than appropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars to turtle farms whose chief benefits seem to be to provide an overhead for a few Europeans and $30 a week for a meagre number of" natives labouring in them.

There is a problem in the apple industry to which I invite the attention of the Ministers present. It is well known that the difficulties of the apple industry have been bearing down on the orchardists of Tasmania, forcing a reduction in the number of growers from 1,200 to 1,400 growers some five or six years ago to about 800 growers last year and, it is feared, to about 600 growers this year. The insurmountable problems are growing by reason of increased freight costs, wharfage charges and other stray costs, including labour. They are exaggerating the cost to product ratio to such a degree that for these growers to take advantage of the market in the northern hemisphere in the 3 months when fruit is not available there and to get the fruit there at a cost economical enough to return to the grower some degree of profit is gradually growing in difficulty.

It is in that context that this Government last year saw fit, having regard to the general economy, to revalue the Australian dollar. This action deprived the Tasmanian exporter of a considerable margin of the European price to which he was entitled on his market. The Government repeated the dose in May. After the revaluation of December occurred, the Government eager to court popularity, and with the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) resident in southern Tasmania, announced that it would pay revaluation compensation for this industry. It said that it would pay revaluation compensation at the rate of 30c per bushel, which is only a fraction of the degree to which revaluation reduced the price per bushel. But then in pathetic blindness, following a shibboleth of so-called need, the Government limited the amount payable to each grower to $1,500. That is to say, the uppermost limit for compensation in respect of export losses was set at 5,000 bushels. Of course, there are the productive growers, the growers who employ the greatest number of employees, who would export 30,000 bushels to 50,000 bushels.

It is idiocy to suggest that compensation for revaluation should be limited for individual growers to 5,000 bushels. That is to say, the Government would pay 30c per bushel up to 5,000 bushels, with an uppermost limit of $1,500. The man who has grown 40,000 bushels of apples, picked them, sprayed them and transported them to the wharf" has a terrific wage bill. If he is cut off from the proper expectancy of the English markets by the percentage of revaluation that the Government decided was required in the general interest, that arbitrary limitation of $1,500 is an act of gross ineptitude. So on it has gone. These orchardists have overdrafts and are now paying interest at the new fangled rate that has been manufactured by the Labor Government of 8.5 per cent to 9.5 per cent. Many of them are still unpaid even the revaluation compensation on up to 1,500 bushels. Today I have been provided with that degree of dispensation which almost looks to be prompted by an idea that someone in an office in Canberra -

Senator Byrne -Senator Wright, is it $ 1 ,500 or 1,500 bushels?

Senator WRIGHT -The upper limit is $ 1 ,500.

Senator Byrne - You said 'bushels'.

Senator WRIGHT - It is made up by the assumed value of compensation of 30c a bushel on a maximum of 5,000 bushels.

Senator Byrne - You said 1,500 bushels.

Senator WRIGHT - Thank you. I am obliged to the honourable senator. I was proceeding to another point. In the long delay during which this payment has been withheld, orchardists are paying overdrafts at exorbitant rates of interest. But today it has been revealed to me that somebody in Canberra in an office, not in Parliament, not so far as I can learn even with ministerial approval and not so far as I can learn with Government confirmation, has devised a scheme whereby, if a partnership is exporting a crop, the view is taken in this edict from the office that the shares of the male partners who actively participate in the orcharding activities are to be proportionate to their shareholding. I do not know what that means. If a partnership of 3 male partners has an export crop of 15,000 bushels, does it mean that each male partner is entitled to $ 1 ,500? The next provision states: a wife of a partner is to be considered as one 'grower' unit with her husband

(i)   her share of profits is to be added to her husband's share,

(ii)   however, no grower unit of husband and wife is to receive more than $ 1 ,500.

Those of my Tasmanian colleagues who are in the Senate chamber will know how some of the orchardists wives labour with equal efficacy with their menfolk. But we have this Government parading Bills of Rights which proclaim that there shall be no discrimination between sexes. But in the case of a husband and wife partnership the Government says that in no case shall the partnership recieve more than one unit maximised at $1,500. There is a further singular rule that is expressed to say that single womenfolk sharing in the partnership, or company in this case, are to qualify for assistance only if actively participating in orchard activities.

Senator Little - Do those women pay their taxes the same as men, senator?

Senator WRIGHT - Yes, I would think so. Whether they are employees or whether they are partners they work like men and they pay their taxes like men. But the idiocy of limiting this compensation to an arbitrary limit of $1,500, assuming a 5,000-bushel crop, is revealed by this attempt to spawn discrimination between people who are engaged in a joint association in producing and marketing a crop. That is the Government's ideas of partnership. I wonder what the Government would say about a company which consists of a husband and wife and 2 grown-up sons who are all equal shareholders and all derive remuneration- four working partners in a company producing for export 40,000 bushels? There is nothing to suggest that a company is entitled to anything in excess of $1,500- a maximum of 5,000 bushels.

I rise to draw attention to this matter in the hope that the people who read what criticism I have had to make will bring some light of reason to the quantification of this compensation. It bears upon us heavily to realise the responsibility we have when rules by which the payment of compensation is made to industry come before us to ensure that regulations are promulgated and that we have the right to review and disallow them so as to ensure that equity both in regard to the maximum amount of compensation and its distribution should be maintained according to the collective viewpoint of this chamber.

Senator Byrne - It is the length of the Chancellor's foot at the moment.

Senator WRIGHT -At the present time it is the length not of the Chancellor's foot but of some foot down in the office of the Department of Primary Industry promulgated over the signature of the First Assistant Secretary by way of letter which, but for the vigilance of this chamber, would never come before it for review.

I rise tonight to indicate that when the appropriation for this matter comes before us for my part, come hell or high water, the equity of it must be justified. I will take this stand so long as I have time provided by an adventitious adjournment for resistance to the avalanche of a series of new Bills. I hope that we will proceed as a Parliament and provide this compensation according to rules for which Parliament has a responsibility and that we will assume that responsibility by which we insist that the rules be formulated in such a way that we have the authority immediately to disallow them before we are confronted with an omnibus Appropriation Bill.

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