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Monday, 11 May 1987
Page: 2927

Mr TIM FISCHER(5.29) —I rise tonight to highlight to the Parliament and beyond the fact that the legislation before the House, the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (No. 1), needs to be studied in detail. As my colleague the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) has correctly pointed out, one needs to pick up the many minor matters dealt with by the amendments contained in the Bill and relate them to their parent Acts to find out exactly what is involved. One then finds a pandora's box of legislative enactment embraced by this omnibus Bill. It covers an enormous plethora of parent legislation encompassing many areas such as trade, the Australia-Japan Foundation, the Defence Force Reorganisation Act, social security and repatriation legislation, and so forth.

In terms of some of the amendments embraced by this Act, it is possible to highlight to the House that, as I speak, the city of Albury is being subjected to selective mail bans from Victoria to Albury and from Sydney to Albury for road delivered mail at great dislocation and cost to many electors, organisations and small and large business operators following some union action contrary to an order by the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I appeal to the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy), whom I have alerted to this fact, to take whatever action necessary to bring about a breakthrough in this dispute at the earliest possible opportunity. I totally resent and reject the provocative, very damaging and devastating action being imposed by a union seeking to make a strategic dispute stick on the Government, to register its complaint to the Government. It has chosen Albury as the location because the Albury Taxation Office is there. Therefore it might upset government revenue collection because much of the taxation business of Victoria is now processed at the Albury Taxation Office. The union has obviously planned this strike with great care. The upshot of this strike is that people and the economy are suffering. But there is huge damage to the general administration and economic activity of the nation's growth centre as a consequence of unionists once again taking the law into their own hands and proceeding without care to community concerns or the cost to the community by imposing selective mail bans. I mention this in passing because the scope of this legislation is so wide and it amends so many Acts that I feel it is in order to highlight the damage being caused and the havoc being wreaked, yet again, by industrial lawlessness on the people, businesses and organisations at Albury.

One area of the law amended by the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (No. 1) includes the export market development grant legislation. It relates, in the main, to governmental educational services for external students and, in particular, to the Commonwealth, State or Northern Territory governments as regards students outside Australia. Mr Deputy Speaker, as you would be aware because you are such a discerning person particularly on matters relating to education, that would pick up many Malaysian students and many other students from Association of South East Asian Nations who come to Australia to avail themselves, on a commercial and an assisted basis, of education, especially at the tertiary level and subsequently return to their homeland, be it an ASEAN country or beyond.

I want to point to a trend in this context. Our trade with ASEAN is not as good as it should be. I mention Malaysia as it is directly involved with this clause. In 1984-85 our exports to Malaysia were valued at some $603,822,000. In 1985-86, this declined to $516,317,000. In 1984-85, Australia's trade with Singapore was $782,002,000 and in 1985-86 it declined to $725,780,000. Finally, we have minuscule trade with Thailand, given the terrific potential of the bilateral relationship between Australia and Thailand. If this country is not careful it will miss the bus in terms of the dynamic economic activity that will descend upon Thailand over the next decade. What do we find? In 1984-85 our exports to Thailand were valued at $200m. That has declined to $162,065,000. The omnibus measure before the House gives me the opportunity to highlight, if only briefly-I would not want to transcend on your will or determination on this matter, Mr Deputy Speaker-that our trading situation with ASEAN leaves much to be desired. A great deal more has to be done. At least the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (No. 1) gives the Export Market Development Grants Act a further provision in respect of that trade.

I would like to refer to the provisions of the Dairy Produce Act 1986 which were covered very adequately by my colleague, the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran). He pointed out that very little consultation took place between the Government and the dairy industry before this clause was snuck in in the middle of this huge Bill and presented as a fait accompli to the industry which has had to negotiate time and again with the Federal Government and State governments and now finds this very shabby deal, this very shabby approach from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) and from the Government at large. This is at a time when the dairy industry is at the crossroads and in crisis. I oppose the action of Midland Milk Pty Ltd, a company in Shepparton, Victoria, which has started an interstate milk war. I point out further that in the long run an all-out interstate milk war will not benefit the consumers or milk producers on either side of the New South Wales-Victorian border or across Australia.

Again, I suspect that there has been some unholy alliance perhaps between the son-in-law of the Victorian Premier and certain other elements of the Victorian dairy industry to bring about this try-on to collapse the milk marketing approach in Australia through the action of Midland Milk in shipping milk to the Sydney liquid milk market. I have my suspicions in that regard, as have many dairy industry leaders, particularly in New South Wales. But for the time being the whole thing is back on hold as a consequence of further discussions which have taken place at the State level and also with the Federal Minister for Primary Industry. It is something which needs to be monitored very closely indeed. I repeat than an all-out interstate milk war, whilst it might mean a reduction in milk pricing for a brief period will, in the long run, lead to problems for consumers in the winter milk supply and problems with dairying on both sides of the border.

Mr Cunningham —Cheaper milk.

Mr TIM FISCHER —I challenge the honourable member for McMillan to say that he supports the actions of Midland Milk.

Mr Cunningham —That was your terminology, not mine.

Mr TIM FISCHER —The honourable member said clearly and unequivocally that he supports Midland Milk in its sabotaging of the milk marketing arrangements against the Victorian State Government's official policy. But there is an unholy alliance. We now know that the honourable member for McMillan is part of this unholy alliance which involves the son-in-law of the Premier of Victoria who is an executive of Midland Milk at Shepparton and which also involves some elements of the Victorian dairy industry agropolitical structure. We will watch with interest to see how this saga will finish. I can only say that both the very large number of dairy farmers and the milk consumers whom I represent in the electorate of Farrer have a direct interest in the successful interstate marketing arrangements and they should oppose the collapse of those arrangements.

Finally, I would just like to focus on one other area in relation to this omnibus measure before the House. I refer to the social security and repatriation provisions. It is a minor drafting adjustment and one which I and the National Party are certainly not opposing. But it does give me leave to point out, in the context of this particular amendment, that many veterans, war widows and ex-service personnel are terrified by the approach of the mini-Budget in two days' time. They wonder whether they will be subjected to unfair, unjust and excessive cuts in their entitlements when they have already undergone a deferment of a consumer price index increase at the end of last year and a range of cutbacks and changes in the last two years since the 1985 mini-Budget. Those people remember that mini-Budget well; there was no consultation with the Returned Services League and other veteran's organisations ahead of the mini-Budget of 1985. Suddenly, overnight, the Government produced the biggest cutdowns on totally and permanently incapacitated pension criteria ever adopted by any government of any political persuasion since World War II. It covered large sections of the Veterans' Entitlement Act; it was put into the mini-Budget legislation and it represented a massive tightening up of TPI criteria. The measure was rushed through Parliament as part of the 1985 May mini-Budget legislation.

I serve notice here and now that the National Party of Australia is well equipped to examine the detail of the May mini-Budget 1987. It will be my responsibility to examine in particular the changes and cut-backs flowing from the 1987 mini-Budget that might be imposed on veterans, war widows and ex-service personnel. We will go in to bat in terms of these changes and cut-backs, after they have been duly considered. I point out that the Parliament and the Government have a responsibility to ensure that the right thing is done for people who served their country in time of war. Any cheap-handed approach by the Government, along the lines of implementing unfair, unjust and excessive cut-backs in relation to entitlements of veterans, war widows and ex-service personnel, will be bitterly resented right across the nation.