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Wednesday, 26 November 1986
Page: 3787

Mr SNOW(4.46) —I am happy to talk on the Fertilisers Subsidy Bill 1986. I reject the suggestion of the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) that the Government should even think about dropping the legislation. I believe that the legislation is a result of combined consultation with the industry, the farming community and the Australian Public Service. I believe that it will be of benefit to the users of fertilisers, as well as the manufacturers.

I intend to comment on some of the criticisms of the legislation made by the honourable member for Forrest a little later. At this stage I will comment on his assertion that Australia is in a difficult position because of its industrial relations climate. Our climate is far better than many of our competing countries. It is certainly a better climate than it was under the Fraser-Howard Budgets. Even the Opposition's current proposals can be of no comfort to those who work in the fertiliser manufacturing industry, nor to those working on farms. The Opposition's proposal for an 18-month pegging of wages would hurt not only those people but also shop assistants, bank officers, teachers, the Public Service and people throughout the country. At the same time, the Opposition is prepared to take no action on prices.

I believe that the Australian industrial relations climate is good and improving as a result of the present Government's policies. It has to be conceded that world fertiliser prices are low; in fact, they have been falling for some years. The Government was confronted with a situation where there were accusations of dumping, and anti-dumping duties were brought in to counter that problem. Duties were paid back to the importers and to the Australian manufacturers to give them some competitive advantage. The imports were virtually brought back to world prices. This legislation takes the subsidy off the imports and allows it to be paid on local manufacturing. We have a situation where local manufacturing receives a subsidy and local manufacturers receive the anti-dumping repayments.

I want to comment on the criticisms that have been made of the Government for this legislation. The first is that it will make it dearer for some farmers, particularly those who have less access to local manufacturers and who need to buy imports. This House had visits from people in Queensland who stated that they would be in a prejudiced position. However, overseas firms are mostly extremely large companies. There is every reason to believe that they will be competing as they competed before with Australian manufacturers. They are not small companies, they are firms which face stiff competition throughout the world. They will be facing stiff competition in Australia as they have always done. Another point that needs to be made is that the world price today is fairly low. It has been falling for some years. There is competitive pressure on overseas manufacturers to meet our prices. The honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) said that manufacturers' prices may drift upwards. This is a legitimate fear. But as the honourable member for Calare (Mr Simmons) has said-this is my experience-there have been few complaints by farmers about that likelihood. Present indications are that manufacturers are responding, have been responding and will continue to respond, and will reduce prices as competitive pressures come on them-and there will be competitive pressures. I believe that the manufacturers owe it to the Government, and appreciate that fact, to keep their prices down and to give some dividend to the farming community, to the users and to the Government, which has shown its good faith, in reducing prices. I say to the honourable member for Forrest that time will tell which of us is right.

I, with high users in areas such as the Bega Valley Shire, Cooma, the Bombala district, the Snowy River district, Yarrowlumla shire and Tallaganda Shire, along with many other members of this Parliament-including, I am sure, honourable members on the other side of the House-will be watching the trend very closely in the interests of the users, because they are in the majority in our electorates. We will be watching exactly what the manufacturers do. There is no doubt about it that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin), in particular, will be looking after the users as we see this legislation work. I am happy to support the Bill and I am confident that it will have the desired effect. It will retain competition and possibly increase it. At the same time, it will be doing one of the important jobs of this Government, which is to keep down the level of unemployment. I am happy to support the Bill.