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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2041

Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania) - I take the opportunity provided by the Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) to raise 2 short matters. The first concerns the referendum on the export of merino rams and merino semen. The ballot papers which have been circulated for that referendum are most confusing. The first question asked is:

Should the Australian Government permit unrestricted exports of merino rams and merino semen to countries in addition to New Zealand.

Suppose that there are 3,000 voters and suppose that 1,000 of those 3,000 vote 'yes'. The second question is introduced in this way:

If that question is answered in the negative-

That would be the position on the supposed figures which I have put; that is, of the 3,000 voters only 1,000 vote 'yes' and 2,000 vote 'no'-

Should the Government permit the export of no more than 300 merino rams in each 12 month period to countries other than New Zealand, in addition to unrestricted exports of merino rams to New Zealand.

So, that question is restricted to those who vote no' to the first question. On my figures, that would be 2,000. Suppose that on this question relating to restricted export 700 vote 'yes' and 1,300 vote 'no'. If the 2 questions are to be treated as they are printed - that is, individually- that means that both questions will be answered 'no' although, taking the 3,000 voters together, at least 1,700 of them will have voted 'yes' for restricted export.

Senator Cant - That is not a proper analysis.

Senator WRIGHT -I will say it again.

Senator Cant - There are 3,000 voters all the time. The number is not reduced to 2,000.

Senator WRIGHT -But that is the point I want to ram home. Some clerk has had the subtlety to introduce the second question by the instruction that only those who are voting 'no' on the first question are to answer the second question. So, on my figures, only 2,000 are permitted to answer the second question and there is a minority vote on each question. Yet, if the questions were put, as they should be put, to the whole suffrage of 3,000 and if 1,000 vote in favour of unrestricted export and 700 vote in favour of restricted export, then, on a proper assessment of the vote, 1,700 out of 3,000 have voted 'yes' for restricted export. I am sorry that I had to repeat that proposition because to me it is amazing that a department can send out printed ballot papers with such confusion and ambiguity. I ask the Minister- I have asked twice already for a ministerial interpretation of this matter- whether the yes votes on the first question are to be taken into account as yes on the second question, even though the ballot paper says that only no voters on the first are to vote on the second. I think that in a matter of such importance the Government ought to remove its confused ambiguity and let the industry know at the earliest opportunity.

The second matter that I want to raise is one that Senator Cavanagh will have heard me raise before. I am glad that this morning I have had acknowledgment that he is beginning to understand that a crisis is confronting the apple industry in Tasmania. He smiles, but I know he is not smiling in indifference to the industry; that would not be his nature if he understood it. I am putting to him in the utmost seriousness the urgency of understanding the injustice that has been inflicted on this industry by Government decision. The exports of this industry from Tasmania last year were limited to about 4 million cases; that is very much down on exports in previous years. The industry has been dwindling in the face of economic adversity and because of the change in European economic markets and it has been assisted to dwindle by the absolutely purblind, archaic policy that was introduced by the Government of which I was a member, and which has been carried on with avidity by this Government, of paying people to grub out fruit trees- an abysmal policy in any circumstances, I think.

Senator Byrne - That was a depression policy in America.

Senator WRIGHT -Well, the people who proposed it and propagate it ought to be buried where the apple trees have been grubbed from. Last year the Premier of Tasmania realised that growers must expend a great amount of money cultivating, pruning and spraying their crops and have to decide whether to expend that money so as to have a crop to export in the middle of February. There is such a want of confidence in the industry at present that it is urgently necessary to give some indication of government support or assistance to ensure that that crop is brought to harvest. The Premier, Mr Reece, guaranteed $2.60 a case last year to give growers confidence. He said it was a one-year operationand this year he has not been able to renew that guarantee. It was highly publicised through the newspapers last week that he was to have a conference with the Prime Minister when the Prime Minister visited Hobart on Sunday last with a view to getting this Government's assurance that it would underwrite some supporting proposal. There has been a significant silence on that subject since Sunday and I raise it briefly in the hope that the members of the Government will understand the urgency of giving some indication that the expenditure to be incurred in the crop can be recouped with government guarantees. That is the first aspect of my proposition.

The second aspect is one to which I referred in a question this morning- and I am sure that on this Senator Cavanagh does not fully understand what is being done. When the Government announced its revaluation decision it accompanied the first announcement- Senator Wriedt being a representative of Tasmania and knowing the difficulty of the apple export cropwith an announcement that some revaluation compensation would be given. But in the confused outlook of this Government, Senator Wriedt had the piety to say that the compensation would be given only in cases of need. He therefore limited the compensation to 30c a bushel and to no more than $1,500 an orchard. The actual deprivation of price which growers have experienced by reason of revaluation is of the order of 60c a bushel- double the original compensation that the Government had agreed to pay.

But the effect of limiting the compensation to $1,500 an orchard-that is to say, 30c on 5,000 bushels- is not to ensure that only those in need get the compensation. If you grow 500 bushels and export them you get the $1,500, if that is your only income. But of course you may be in the beef industry and selling vealers at present at $250 each and there is no evidence of need at all. You may in addition to growing 5,000 bushels, be carrying on a profitable diary, as are some of these orchardists. That shows that even the $1,500 is not directed to need. Furthermore, the grower who exports 40,000 cases gets his compensation on the first 5,000 cases. So this criterion of need is simply a figment of a befuddled imagination somewhere. But the height of the absurdity comes from the latest edict which this Parliament in its peculiar way permits to go out. That is to say, a department issues the rules upon which government money by way of revaluation compensation is to be paid. We do not see regulations, we do not have the rules submitted to us. But here is a department that adds to the rules and varies them from time to time. In a week when we have scheduled into us yesterday a Bill of Rights protesting against discrimination on the grounds of sex, I ask honourable senators to listen to this:

The shares of male partners who actively participate in the orcharding activity are to be proportionate to their shareholding.

So if a partnership is exporting 20,000 cases and 4 male partners are actively participating in it, each partner gets $1,500. If there are 8 partners who export 40,000 cases, each partner gets $ 1 ,500- if they are male. But the next paragraph states:

A wife of a partner is to be considered as one 'grower' unit with her husband.

Whether, generally speaking, biologically or reverting to the ancient axiom of the law that husband and wife were once considered as one at law -

Senator Prowse - Do you think that because Adam and Eve had some problems with apples-

Senator WRIGHT - They still persist and will continue to do so. Paragraph (d) 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

So a wife can roll up her sleeves in the packing factory or she can pick apples as many of them do, or when the apple season is off, milk the cows and so forth, but then because she is the wife of a grower there is this stupid limitation. Of course, if the grower has a mistress no such limitation applies. The ingenuity proceeds; it is not fully developed yet. The letter continues: single womenfolk sharing in the partnership or company are to qualify for assistance only if actively participating in the orcharding activity.

So single womenfolk apparently can get their full $1,500 so long as they are actively participating in the orcharding activities. But if a woman is the wife of a grower, just because she has the stigma of being married to the grower, the grower is limited to one ladle out of $1,500. That is the provision that the Government makes in its befuddled, stupid way in relation to partnerships. In fact, it applies the word 'partnership' to a company. Then it goes through the shareholding and directorate in order to make an arbitrary decision as to whether, if a person has an interest in the company, that interest is sufficient to give him an extra $1,500.

But let us take the case of the single grower who grows 40,000 cases. He would probably have 15 or 20 permanent employees and he would probably employ 40 casual staff during the harvesting season. Those employees may or may not be on fixed wages. They may be paid on the basis of bonus profit sharing according to the returns. But no, in its outlook the Government seizes on need. If a person is a big grower who grows 40,000 cases apparently he has no need of compensation. I plead with the Government to review the situation not on a social service basis which is completely inapplicable to it but on the basis that the compensation is actually for loss inflicted by a government decision which has reduced the price that overseas exporters can expect to be paid. On that basis I ask the Government to quantify the actual amount per case and see to it that the growers are paid a just amount according to the actual quantity exported. It would not have escaped the befuddled understanding that promoted this formula, I am sure, that by its use the Government was cunning enough to exclude three-quarters of the crop from compensation. By this restricted formula only one-quarter of the actual crop is being reimbursed for the 60c a case of which the Government has deprived the growers involved in export. On a market of 4 million cases it means that no compensation will be paid in relation to 3 million cases. That means that on at least 50c a case a loss of $ 1.5m has been inflicted on the industry which the Government is mean enough not to recoup.

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