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Wednesday, 5 October 1983
Page: 1374


Mr McVEIGH(4.28) —Before I proceed to talk about the amendments I merely take the opportunity to remind the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) that he did not answer all the queries that I put to him during the second reading debate on this legislation. As the question with reference to the $1m deposit held on the sale of PT Australia Indonesia Milk Industries Inc., is the only question he did not answer, he might see fit to answer it now and then we will be able to give him a clean slate.

These amendments appear to us to have been moved as a result of pressure applied by the Opposition and the dairying industry. The Minister, in his final summing-up of this legislation, indicated that he had consulted widely with the industry. Quite obviously, he must have a very short memory. If he had done so prior to the introduction of the legislation he would not have found it necessary to move these amendments because those provisions would have been included in the legislation.

I want to develop this point. The submission, which the Minister has used as his basis for making the amendments, was made to the Industries Assistance Commission on 22 Febraury 1983. Quite obviously, it was public knowledge from 22 February to the present. I do not know whether the Minister has read the draft report. I have read it and mentioned it in my speech. I even gave the Minister the reference pages-pages 38 and 39-on which the IAC commented on this very point. I am advised that Wander (Australia) Pty Ltd wrote to the Minister on 3 October 1983 about this issue. Yet it was not until today in the debate, after I had actually mentioned the matter in my speech in the second reading debate, that the Minister indicated to me across the table that he would be accepting what I put forward.

I make the point that the Government cannot have it both ways. The Minister cannot come into this Parliament and say that he has had consultation with industry and introduce legislation. The Minister has to admit publicly-I understand that it is difficult for him to have egg on his face-that if he had had these mythical consultations which he speaks about, it would not have been necessary to introduce the amendments for all those reasons I have indicated to him. If this is the lethargic way in which the Government moves on issues in the early days of the Parliament, I am concerned about what things will be like towards the end of the session?

Having made those somewhat disparaging comments on the way the Minister has behaved, as I indicated in my speech in the second reading debate because I was aware of this problem, we obviously welcome the amendments. We disagree with the machinery by which the Minister has introduced them. I can assure the Minister that the people from Wander were delighted this morning when we rang them and told them of the Government's amendments. I think they were a little disappointed that they had to receive the word from the Opposition. They would have thought that, as the Government had bowed to pressure, maybe someone from the Minister's office would have been at least interested enough to ring them and let them know about the matter. Being a mere human being, I can understand that if the Minister was utterly and totally embarrassed about a situation he would not be too keen to ring someone and admit an error. I think this is a sensible approach which I pointed out in my speech in the second reading debate. It is just a pity that the Australian Labor Party does not consult more with rural industry and that it does not appreciate the contribution rural industry makes. If it had, it would have at least known about the problem. Having known, hopefully it would have understood the problem and it would not have been necessary to make the amendments because they would have been included in the original legislation.