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Thursday, 29 March 2001
Page: 25975

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (9:34 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill, together with the Dried Vine Fruits (Rate of Primary Industry (Customs) Charge) Validation Bill 2001, seeks to validate certain regulations that purported to fix retrospectively the rate of the primary industry (excise) levy and (customs) charge on dried vine fruits and for related purposes for the period between 1 January and 1 October 2000.

Up until 30 June 1999 there was an excise marketing levy of $10 per tonne imposed on dried vine fruits under the Horticultural Levy Act 1987; that is, the old act.

The old act was repealed on the commencement of the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Act 1999, the new act. The repeal of the old act would normally have had the effect that regulations identifying the rate at $10 per tonne would cease to be in force. However, the regulations were kept in force by transitional arrangements under the new act.

Consistent with industry requests, it was decided in March 2000 to reduce the rate of levy on dried vine fruits from $10 per tonne to $7 per tonne to prevent an excessive build-up in funds occurring. The reduction was to take retrospective effect from 1 January 2000.

The method chosen to facilitate this request was to repeal the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection (Dried Vine Fruits) Regulations and amend the Primary Industries Excise Levies Regulations 1999. However, since the necessary amendments and repeals were carried out some time after 1 January 2000, the amendments and repeals were necessarily retrospective.

Contrary to the original advice received from the Attorney-General's Department, the regulations imposing the new levy or charge have been deemed to possibly contravene subsection 48(2) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, which invalidates any regulation that is expressed to take effect at a time before it is gazetted and operates to the disadvantage of any person other than the Commonwealth.

The purpose of this bill is to ensure that this legislation is taken not to have applied to schedule 1 of the Primary Industries (Excise) Levies Amendment Regulations 2000 (No. 3) (Statutory Rules No. 237). The amendments to the regulations which facilitated a reduction in the excise levy for dried fruit from $10 to $7 per tonne for the period between 1 January and 1 October 2000 will be thus validated.

The actual levy collected by the Levies Revenue Service has been reduced to $7 per tonne since it was originally gazetted in September 2000 to minimise any impact on levy payers whilst the situation has remained unresolved. The monetary size of any refunds will be minimal.

The bill does not create any new administrative burden for levy payers and the only rights adversely affected are those of the Commonwealth. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Dr Martin) adjourned.