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Wednesday, 29 April 1987
Page: 2168

Mr ANDREW(12.41) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for your considera-tion in calling me. I am pleased to rise to address the Egg Industry Research (Hen Quota) Levy Bill and the Egg Industry Research (Hen Quota) Levy Collection Bill which are before the House. I want to reiterate the statements made by the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey) and the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) who discovered, in their conversations with the Australian Council of Egg Producers, that the Australian Council is anything but happy with the negotiations and consultations that it has had with the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin). It is a matter of considerable concern to egg producers across the nation that the Opposition was aware of this legislation and that the egg producers were notified of the presence of the legislation in the House only when the honourable member for Gwydir happened to ring them to ask for a response to it and he realised that they were not aware that it had reached that advanced stage. If we consider what was said in this House by the honourable member for Perth (Dr Charlesworth) on 31 March this year it is hardly surprising that we should find this scant regard for egg producers. I quote from the Hansard of that day:

When we look at what we have coming up next week we find on the Notice Paper the Egg Industry (Hen Quota) Levy Bill and the Egg Industry (Hen Quota) Levy Collection Bill. Certainly the case is that many of the functions of this House are unnecessary in respect of that sort of legislation.

I would contend, the Liberal Party of Australia would contend, and the Opposition parties would contend, that the egg producers in this nation-who, as we have already heard, produce 170 million dozen eggs per year at a value of $200m-are as entitled to legislative protection and assistance in this House as anyone else. A debate in this House on the egg industry and egg levy collection Bills, such as we are having now, is entirely appropriate and should not be seen merely as a waste of the time of the House. But that was the clear perception of the honourable member for Perth about the debate that we are engaged in and it is reflected in the way in which the egg producers of Australia had been largely ignored by the Minister until this legislation was brought to their attention by the Opposition.

I want to place on record the fact that the egg industry in Australia has experienced major rationalisation. I point out to the House that in 1980-81 240 egg producers, barely a tenth of the 2,510 egg producers, held 58.5 per cent of the national hen flock, producing eggs valued at $46.26m. One year later, in 1981-82, the number of egg producers had fallen to 2,277 and 237 of them still had 58.6 per cent of the national flock, producing eggs worth $42.1m. All of those 237 people held flocks in excess of 20,000 birds. If we look at a similar period we discover a fall of over 60 per cent in the number of farms which had flocks of under 2,000 birds. So there has been a dramatic fall-off in small egg producers in Australia over that period.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Rocher) —Order! It being 12.45 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with sessional order 101a. The honourable member for Wakefield will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed at a later hour.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.