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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 602

Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(6.13) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows-

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Honey Levy Act (No. 1) 1962, the Honey Levy Act (No. 2) 1962 and the Honey Levy Collection Act 1962 to allow honey producers to pay honey levies annually rather than monthly as now required by the legislation. The Honey Levy Act (No. 1) 1962 imposes a levy on honey produced and sold in Australia. The Honey Levy Act (No. 2) 1962 imposes a levy on honey produced in Australia and used in the production of other goods. The Honey Levy Collection Act 1962 provides the mechanism by which these levies are collected. Levy collections for 1984-85 are expected to exceed $300,000. The money is used to finance the operations of the Australian Honey Board and to provide funds for research, administered by the Honey Research Committee.

Levy returns are presently lodged by more than 300 levy payers each month. Of this number, over 90 per cent are producers, the remaining 26 are honey dealers. Most of the honey sold in Australia is sold through dealers. In the current year, for example, it is estimated that the levy paid on returns lodged by honey dealers will be about $285,000. The balance of around $22,000 will be paid by producers. This means that the average monthly payment by each producer is about $6. Such payments are administratively expensive and inconvenient for both Industry and Government.

The proposed changes are intended to alleviate the situation by reducing the costs and volume of paper work associated with collection of the levy under the legislation as it now stands. This Bill seeks to achieve those aims by removing the need for producers to lodge monthly returns, requiring instead the submission of a single annual return. In keeping with this change, the present monthly exemption limits of 50 kilograms contained in the Honey Levy Acts Nos. 1 and 2, are to be expressed in annual terms for producers, that is, 600 kilograms per year. Payment of levy will be due on 28 February of the following year. The requirements for the payment of levy by dealers will remain unaltered. They will continue to lodge monthly returns as at present.

Under these arrangements more than 90 per cent of the levy will continue to be collected monthly. The uncollected balance, however, represents a deferral of payment rather than a loss of revenue and most of the $22,000 involved will be collected during February of the following year. It is expected that this deferral of the receipt of a small proportion of levy will not create a significant problem for the Australian Honey Board or the Honey Research Committee.

The impact of these changes on receipts therefore will be minimal. In the long term, the level of annual collections will vary little, if at all-probably by less than $1,000, or about a quarter of one per cent of the total. There could be a fall in the amount of revenue collected arising from producers who occasionally sold or used over 50 kilograms of honey in a month, not now having to pay levy if they do not sell or use over 600 kilograms in a year. The changes are seen as a being of advantage to both Government and Industry. The Department will benefit considerably by a reduction in the administrative effort now required to process a large number of returns for a small amount of levy. Producers will be relieved of the task of completing return forms monthly and the costs associated with making numbers of small payments.

The changes in the Honey Levy Collection process outlined above have the support of both the Federal Council of Australian Apiarists' Associations and the Australian Honey Board. The proposed date of effect is 1 January 1986.

I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Peter Baume) adjourned.