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- Start of Business
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Pyne, Chris, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
(Crosio, Janice, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Marek, Paul, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Baldwin, Bob, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Draper, Trish, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Goods and Sales Tax
(Evans, Gareth, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Slipper, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Redundancy and Termination Entitlements
(Andren, Peter, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
(Evans, Richard, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Hollis, Colin, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Skase, Mr C.
(Wakelin, Barry, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
(O'Connor, Gavan, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Lloyd, Jim, MP, Wooldridge, Dr Michael, MP)
(Crean, Simon, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Gash, Joanna, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
(Hardgrave, Gary, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
- Small Business
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL RESPONSES
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- PARLIAMENTARY SERVICE BILL 1997 [No. 2]
- MATTERS REFERRED TO MAIN COMMITTEE
- AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY (PLANNING AND LAND MANAGEMENT) AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- LAW OFFICERS AMENDMENT BILL 1997
- PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND ENERGY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 3) 1997
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Social Security Payments
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Jones, Barry, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Sirway Asia Pacific Contract
(Bevis, Arch, MP, McLachlan, Ian, MP)
Department of Industry, Science and Tourism: Consultants
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Moore, John, MP)
- Japanese Economy
Tuesday, 10 March 1998
Mr ANTHONY (9:05 PM) —The Primary Industries and Energy Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1997 is not the sexiest piece of legislation. Of course, by that I mean it is not going to make headlines in our tabloids or get members due publicity. Perhaps the member for Burke (Mr O'Keefe) was trying to seek that. The only thing that should be controversial about this bill is the reason that we need it at all. Nevertheless, I do support it with a degree of passion, because it is a classic example of good solid government. It is a wide-ranging housekeeping bill which improves on a range of acts which come under the primary industry and energy portfolios. Most of these acts actually date back to the Hawke-Keating years and many of these requirements and amendments are made because of bad drafting by the former Labor government.
Therein lies a significant difference between this government and our complacent predecessor. We have a genuine desire and a matching ability to produce good legislation, regardless of the media attention it may not attract. This was particularly true of issues that affected rural and regional Australia. There might not have been many votes in the bush for Labor, and clearly that was demonstrated last election, but members opposite would do well to remember that it is the bush that literally puts the food on their plates and is a major contributor to Australia's export earnings. It was also the farming sector's record export levels that saved the previous Prime Minister, Mr Keating, from the humiliation of a visit by the International Monetary Fund, the IMF, during the recession that, of course, we all had to have.
I propose to take a brief look at the main elements of this bill in order to demonstrate that only bloody-mindedness and wounded pride can prevent the Labor Party from offering us its support, notwithstanding the two criticisms they had of the bill before, which are quite hollow. The first is the appointment of CEOs to statutory authorities.
The first set of amendments relate to the appointment of a chief executive officer to statutory authorities within the primary industries and energy portfolio. Specifically, the amendments will remove the requirement of the minister to vet the terms and conditions of employment of the CEO of organisations such as the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. These changes would bring the responsibilities of the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy in line with other federal ministers.
The proposed amendments follow the government's philosophy of democratic decentralisation of power and they are consistent with our approach to public sector workplace relations. Is this not a good thing to have decentralisation of decision making amongst statutory authorities because they themselves know best how to run their own organisations and to be finally accountable to the minister?
The second set of proposed amendments is to the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Administration) Act 1992, which will bring about a positive change to the National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals. In effect, the amendments will provide a wide scope from which applicants with relevant experience can be considered for appointment as a director of the authority. A further amendment will add an additional director to the authority with experience in the development or administration of Commonwealth government policy.
Likewise, amendments to the Australian Horticultural Corporation Act 1987 relate to the running of the Australian Horticultural Corporation, better known as the AHC. The AHC undertakes marketing and support activities for Australian horticultural industries. Those industries include the stone fruit industry and, in my electorate of Richmond, bananas, mangoes, avocadoes and, the most successful industry in recent years, macadamia nuts—all of which are employing an ever increasing number of young people and keeping people on the land.
Under the act, the AHC was given export trading powers which allow it to engage in export operations with the written approval of the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. Not surprisingly, this was not particularly popular with the export organisations, which lobbied the Industry Commission in 1992 and the Horticultural Task Force in 1993 for the removal of the corporation's export powers. The Industry Commission and the Horticultural Task Force both accepted those arguments. They recommended in their respective reports that the corporation's export powers be removed, and this amendment will do just that.
Private enterprise, particularly in the rural sector, is best placed to engage in exports to the world, particularly to Asia. I know that in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales one of the major employment generation sectors is agriculture with new sunrise industries, as I mentioned before, and the new industries of herbal medicine or pharmaceuticals. There is potential for thriving industries that may well start out of Southern Cross University and the surrounding rural districts. Another uncontroversial amendment to the AHC Act will see the Corporations Selection Committee membership reduced, which is quite logical.
The amendments to the Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980 will correct a drafting error. I will be the first to admit that it was a coalition drafting error, but Labor was too complacent to fix it in its last 13 years of government. Perhaps that demon strates how much respect they have for the rural industry, particularly for our wine industry. The act will give force to the provision of the European Community-Australia wine agreement. This will give the Australian wine industry far greater access to the lucrative European market, which has been expanding dramatically for the Australian wine industry.
An important element of that agreement relates to the accurate labelling of Australian wines. This amendment will clarify the requirements imposed on producers in relation to false or misleading descriptions in the presentation of wine. Considering wine is one of our fastest growing export markets, contributing around $500 million to date, it is absolutely crucial that we get this right and that further reciprocal obligations are fulfilled by importers coming into Australia, that they too have adequate labelling. I shall return to that subject later.
The Dairy Produce Act 1986 covers a range of issues relating to the dairy industry, notably the Australian Dairy Corporation. Coming from a dairy farm and spending much of my youth on a dairy farm, I know that this is a prudent decision. The government proposes to remove the ministerial approval of appointments to the board of the Dairy Corporation in the case of candidates over the age of 65. This requirement is discriminatory according to the Public Service Merit Protection Commission and certainly goes against the grain of the coalition's commitment to older Australians, certainly to engage those Australian's worthwhile contributions, whether they be to the Australian Dairy Corporation or other authorities.
After all, over half-a-dozen honourable members in this House are over the age of 65—indeed, many of the Labor members are, whether it is the member for Fowler (Mr Ted Grace), the member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), the member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), or the member for Shortland (Mr Peter Morris). Perhaps they might end up on a dairy produce board in years to come. It would be a very good education for them in understanding the plights and problems of not just dairy farmers but rural industries.
The amendments to the Farm Household Support Act 1992 arise from the government's widely praised Agriculture—Advancing Australia package, better known as the AAA package. This reverses a decade of neglect and is a step in the right direction towards rural Australia. It is part of a $500 million plan that provides real help to Australian farmers and to those in the communities that rely on agriculture for their survival.
There are four objectives within the AAA package which I would like to reiterate to the House. The first objective is to help individual farm businesses profit from these changes. This will be through the new farm management deposit scheme and a new farm program. The second objective is to ensure the farming sector has access to an adequate welfare safety net.
The third objective is to provide positive incentives for ongoing farm adjustment, for example allowing older farmers to transfer ownership of the family farm to a younger generation. This is one of the great problems we face in this country. We have an ageing population of farmers and the younger generation does not wish to take farming on for a number of reasons. But allowing for this grace period will certainly go a long way towards bringing the next generation into a vital sector of the Australian economy. The fourth objective is to encourage social and economic development in rural areas, including funding to assist communities to develop strategic regional plans for their future and the introduction of flexible grants.
In Agriculture—Advancing Australia the government announced that it would not be seeking repayment of 700 loans under the now defunct and discredited farm household support scheme. That is what this particular amendment will enact. These loans total around $5 million. A number of farmers have already paid their FHS loans and the government will reimburse these individuals. Other loan recipients will simply have their loans converted to grants. This is a prudent decision.
The changes to the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and 1997 are necessary to ensure that farmers are not taxed on moneys provid ed under the FHS scheme. This is certainly consistent with other income support payments and thus should not give rise to any controversy. It is interesting to note that a lot of those provisions were enacted in 1936. It is part of the government's agenda of tax reform to ensure that the tax system is relevant to the 1990s and not the period prior to the Second World War.
The amendments to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 are made necessary by another coalition government success—namely, the treaty between the government of Australia and the government of the Republic of Indonesia to establish the exclusive economic zone boundary and certain seabed boundaries which was signed in Perth on 4 March 1997. This act must be amended before the treaty can be ratified. The amendment would ensure that the boundaries in the act and treaty are consistent.
The ratification of the treaty would result in an increase in the effective limit of areas over which Australia is able to issue petroleum in mining titles. In other words, we will be able to undertake more petroleum and mineral exploration once we pass this amendment and ratify the treaty. This is particularly important because the North West Shelf and this special economic zone are of major commercial and strategic interest to Australia in terms of petroleum reserves and natural gas reserves. It is even more important at the moment due to the very unstable situation for our northern neighbour. This treaty needs to be locked into place now in the event that things in Indonesia change—hopefully not for the worse.
The member for Burke discussed the proposed amendments to the Primary Industry and Energy Research and Development Act 1986. This reduces the funding for the Fishery Research and Development Corporation, the FRDC, by a little over $3.6 million. This is in accordance with the measures announced in the last budget. Without doubt, the FRDC has been very well managed of late. This has left it with enough reserves to play its part in helping plug the deficit that we inherited from the previous ALP government. The $2.1 million in savings will help pull back the budget deficit of $10 billion that we inherited. The remaining $1.5 million will go to the adjustment program for the south-east fisheries.
The final amendment in this comprehensive housekeeping bill relates to the Primary Industry Councils Act 1991. The amendment formally abolishes the Australian Pig Industry Council. I spent a number of years in my youth looking after pigs so I have some affinity with this sector. APIC was established in 1993 to coordinate the pig industry's involvement in the development of government policy. The pig industry itself says that APIC has had its day and it is therefore time to abolish it formally. The terms of the appointment of the APIC board ceased on 28 February 1998 and they have been refilled.
Whilst on this subject, I think it is particularly important, as we have mentioned proper labelling laws for Australian wines going to Europe, that we seek from ANSFA proper labelling laws for pig meat imports coming into this country. A large percentage of hams come from Canada. I do not believe Australian consumers are given adequate labelling information to determine what is a foreign product and what is an imported product and for them to choose between Australian product and Canadian product. I hope that the labelling laws which were passed recently are enforced and that the states cooperate to ensure that the pig industry is given a sound foundation considering the problems that they have been having.
This is a good government bill. I certainly urge members opposite to perhaps swallow their pride in the national interest and join us in supporting the proposed amendments which represent good policy and good government and are good for rural Australia.