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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2048


Senator CAVANAGH (South AustraliaMinister for Works and Acting Minister for Primary Industry) - I rise to speak in the first reading debate of this Bill, anticipating that there may be a long discussion on the questions that have been raised by Senator McManus and Senator Greenwood. Having an appointment to keep, I hope that I can perform my duties as the Acting Minister for Primary Industry in replying to the questions raised by Senator Wright. I have not moved a motion and thus my speaking would not close the debate. It is only a question of discharging those obligations which I have. I think that it is rather unfortunate, especially on the question of Tasmanian apples, that the honourable senator did not wait until next week to raise this matter because then the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) would have been able to answer his questions. I apologise for any inability to give the clear answers that Senator Wriedt could have given to satisfy Senator Wright.

I will deal first with the question of merino rams. I do not think that there is any problem about that. The questions to be put to the growers are as stated. Firstly, it will be asked should the Australian Government permit the unrestricted export of merino rams and merino semen from Australia to other countries in addition to New Zealand. Of course, the growers simply vote yes or no on that question. Those who vote no will have the opportunity to say whether they agree with unrestricted export. If those voting yes on the first question are in the minority the next question arises: Would you permit the export of no more than 300 merino rams in each of the 12 month periods to countries in addition to New Zealand? A decision would be obtained on whether we could start with the unrestricted export. If the decision is made against permitting the unrestricted export of merino rams and semen, the growers have an opportunity to say whether they favour permitting the export of 300 merino rams. Of course, added to those growers who vote to permit the export of 300 rams must be those growers who voted for unrestricted export in the first part of the question.


Senator Rae - Why is that?


Senator CAVANAGH - Because they believe in the export of merino rams. That is the question to be decided.


Senator Wright - This is the first ministerial expression of it.


Senator CAVANAGH -Yes. If it is not possible to have unrestricted export, we ask whether the industry believes that 300 rams should be exported each year. I think that it is reasonable that those growers who believe in unrestricted export but who cannot get the majority to support them should be added to the number of growers favouring permission being granted to export 300 rams a year.

I now turn to the question of the cost of apples. The crisis in the apple industry is known to me. It has been well debated before the Cabinet and the Caucus of my Party. The crisis that exists in the apple industry has given rise to our determination to do something. The system of giving compensation to growers only on the basis of hardship was adopted in 1971 by the McMahon Government at the time of devaluation of the United States dollar. There was then not an open go. This Government has continued that precedent established by the McMahon Government of giving assistance to those in need. In considering budget reports it was found that subsidies on production paid from taxpayers' money go unnecessarily to wealth growers. Therefore, the needs of growers were examined to see that the money went to those who actually needed it.

But we have the position in the industry in which it is doubtful whether all those engaged in it will have anything but crisis in the continued market situations of today. Solving the problems of the Tasmanian industry involves either the growing of other crops or making the industry viable. Not only is a subsidy of 30c per bushel granted up to a limit of 1,500 bushels, but also the Government has decided that in addition to the emergency adjustment assistance payment, supplementary grants of $1,000 would be available to farmers growing predominantly export apples and pears and $500 to farmers growing predominantly canning fruits. Such grants would be available to growers in extreme financial difficulties who were eligible for clear-fell assistance under the fruitgrowing reconstruction scheme. Growers who qualified for this assistance would receive the full amounts of supplementary grants. We have this continuing annual crisis of the apple industry. The market is over-supplied and the product is not the most attractive for shipping companies to export. Should we try to get the apple growers into industries where they can make a proper living with more viable production than they have been achieving?


Senator Wright - Growing turtles, I suppose.


Senator CAVANAGH - Well, if the growing of turtles was viable I do not see why they should not grow them. It is no use making humour out of this situation. The Government has tried to do something about the very crisis that Senator Wright raises every day in the Senate. If we are to gain something out of the industry the main thing is to increase our markets. We have considerable competition on British markets. For the first time we have made approaches to Japan with some success. The whole field of marketing of primary products has been more successful under this Government than under any previous government.

At the last meeting with Senator Wriedt in Tokyo on 3 1 October the Japanese Minister for Agriculture agreed to consider the possibility of importation into Japan of Australian apples from regions free of disease. To date all Australian apples have been excluded because of the existence of disease in some fruit growing areas. I believe that this does not apply in Tasmania. This is the first real attempt to do something for the Tasmanian apple growers. This Government is well aware of the position. I will give all the facts to the Minister for Primary Industry when he returns at the end of this week. If he can add to the reply he will do so but I assure the honourable senator that this Government has everything well in hand. It will see that compensation is paid where the need for it arises. It will do its best to see that orchardists are established in some production whereby they can attain a viable living without the periodical crises which they are experiencing today.







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