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Thursday, 19 October 1995
Page: 2484


Dr THEOPHANOUS (Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Human Services and Health) (11.29 a.m.) —I move:

  That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this package of bills is to rationalise into a single framework the 59 separate levies and charges acts currently imposing levies on primary industry products. It complements the significant rationalisation of the levies and charges collection legislation that took place in 1991 and is consistent with the Blewett report that sought to reduce the parliamentary legislative program. It is designed to overcome past problems caused by the volume of primary industries and energy portfolio legislation and the logjam the levies and charges legislation created by requiring constant amendment in the parliament.

  We have analysed the problem, consulted extensively with industry and concluded that amalgamating all the levies and charges into two framework acts will make more effective use of parliamentary time dealing with levy legislation. It will also assist industry to have changes to levies put in place more rapidly than on some occasions in the past.

  The levies and charges in question are not unilaterally imposed by the government, but rather are sought by representative industry bodies, on behalf of the industry. Their purpose is to fund activities such as marketing and research and development that would be beyond the scope of individual farmers on their own. I would expect that more levies will be requested by industry in the future, particularly in new and emerging industries and most probably for R&D.

  The levies bill and the charges bill set up a framework for imposing levies on primary industry products by regulation. They will allow new industries or new products to be included quickly on the request of the industry concerned, while at the same time protecting parliament's powers to decide on these matters.

  It is important to recognise that this streamlining process will not change the practical impact of the current legislation but only the way levies are established or amended. There will be no discernible difference from the industry point of view in the way that the levies and charges processes operate, other than that any changes they wish to make to maximum levy or charge rates will be able to be completed in a much shorter time frame.

  Previously, maximum rates for levies and charges were included in each individual levy or charge act to give parliament control over any arbitrary imposition of taxation. Because of the wide variety of bases for the calculation of the levy and charge rates it was not possible to find a suitable formula covering all industries to include in the framework legislation.

  The bills therefore require the maximum rates of each levy or charge to be set out in special regulations. Normal regulations come into effect on gazettal before they are tabled in parliament. These special regulations will not come into effect until after the parliamentary disallowance period is completed. This still gives the parliament the ultimate role in determining maximum rates.

  Impositions of levy or changes to levy matters such as maximum and operative rates can only be made on the recommendation of the designated body and after the required consultation with the relevant industry. The bills also require any increases in maximum rates to be published in a daily newspaper in the states and territories to ensure that individuals in an industry are aware of them. Initially, the maximum rates to be included in the special regulations are likely to be the same as those currently applying in each industry, unless the industry has specifically sought a different rate.

  The bills allow the minister to declare a designated body or bodies for each industry to make recommendations regarding the setting of levy or charge rates. Where there is more than one designated body for a particular industry, these bodies will be required to agree on any recommendations they make to the minister.

  Designated bodies are also required to consult with other representative bodies. For example, if the designated body for a particular industry is a peak grower body, it is required by reference to section 22 of the Primary Industries Levies Bill 1995 to consult with any other eligible industry bodies set out in the relevant statutory marketing authority act before making recommendations to the minister.

  The relevant industry or product regulations will contain the detail of the particular levies or charges; who is liable to pay them; how and when they will be collected; and what they will be used for.

  The regulations for each industry will be very similar to the regulations currently in force, but will include some provisions from the old levy or charge acts that do not appear in the new bills because they were too specific for the framework nature of the new bills. We will be circulating draft copies of the regulations to industry organisations for comment when they are drafted. This continues the consultative approach we have adopted with industry through the development of this streamlined levy package.

  A third bill is included in this package—the Primary Industries Levies and Charges (Consequential Amendments) Bill 1995. This bill includes the repeal of the old levies and charges acts and a number of amendments to other acts that make reference to the old levy and charges acts. These amendments are necessary to ensure that levies and charges can still be collected and the correct amounts can be paid to the correct organisations.

  The commencement date for this legislative package is 1 July 1996 to allow time for the regulations for all the relevant industries to be made and tabled in the parliament. However, certain sections of the legislation will commence on royal assent to allow designated bodies to be declared and maximum rates to be set in time for the commencement of operation of the levies and charges acts. Regulations relating to operative rates of levies and charges will also be able to be made and tabled for disallowance following royal assent, but these regulations will not come into force until the remainder of the act commences on 1 July 1996.

  A wide range of representative bodies in all the primary industries covered by the current levy and charge arrangements have given broad support to the approach being taken. Draft copies of these bills have been made available to these bodies for comment.

  Let me remind honourable members that this legislation was inspired by two things: industry's need for a streamlined and more responsive process; and a need to make better use of parliamentary time. There are advantages on both sides by making this process work. I commend the bills to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.