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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 2008

Senator ARCHER(6.15) —I find myself in the position of having to query the comments made by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) concerning his assertions on the stabilisation scheme and how it operates. There is a request that the scheme be retained in its existing form. It is interesting to note that the industry itself has not asked for any change to the arrangements. Those who pay for the stabilisation scheme have not requested any change. Obviously to change the scheme would have an effect on the industries that rely on it and also on investment and employment. At present there are plans afoot in Tasmania for new industries based on the assumptions that there will be a stablised and regular price for grain, as has existed since the 1930s.

One of the big misapprehensions and misconceptions is that the levy has nothing to do with the producers in any way, shape or form. The producers do not pay the levy, they do not have anything to do with it, it does not affect what they get, and it never will. It is the consumer who pays the levy. The levy is an addition to the price of grain. If the system is changed the people who have complained- the growers-will of course be called on to share the cost which now they do not pay. They will pay through Consolidated Revenue. Up till now the arrangements have worked very satisfactorily. There is nothing at all to be gained from seeing it changed in this way except that it will destabilise the current position. Of course, we need to bear in mind that a stabilised price-that is to ensure that the cost of wheat in the capital cities is maintained on a level-has been a desirable aim for many years. It still exists in relation to many products such as sugar and a wide range of groceries. It is not that a stabilised price is unique in any way, shape or form.

One area I believe needs looking at is the Australian National Line monopoly on freight. I am always suspicious of a body such as the ANL having a monopoly when it is working for an instrumentality such as the Australian Wheat Board. I believe that the Wheat Board should seek a better price. I believe the freight arrangements should be thrown open to see whether we can do a lot better than we are currently doing now as far as the freight rate is concerned. I am of the opinion that the Minister has been less than adequately informed on this. However, in the meantime I draw his attention of course to the fact that Mr Morris, the Minister for Transport, has said that the present wheat freight arrangements will remain pending the outcome of the review by the Inter-State Commission. At this stage I say that if the matter is proceeded with-I trust it is not-I hope that that relevant part of the Bill is not promulgated until after that inquiry is concluded.