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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1128

Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(12.11) —I have noted that the legislation will not be opposed and that an amendment to the motion for the second reading has been moved. The substance of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Research and Development Corporation Bill has been referred to by other speakers. I want to make a couple of comments about the amendment to the motion for the second reading, which the Government will oppose. The amendment states:

At end of motion, add ', but, in relation to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Research and Development Corporation Bill 1985, the Senate is of the opinion that factors such as heavily increased export inspection charges are adversely affecting competitiveness on vital export markets'.

Implicit in that is an assertion that the level of export charges in various countries is putting Australian meat producers at a competitive disadvantage compared with those in other countries. As Mr Kerin pointed out in the House of Representatives on 28 March, the facts are these:

There is constant reference to other countries. We have just carried out a survey of the key 21 countries, and 17 currently impose inspection charges. Almost all European Economic Community countries, including Ireland and Denmark, have charges ranging from 50 per cent to 100 per cent cost recovery. South American competitors-including Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay-have substantial charges. New Zealand will impose charges for a one-third cost recovery from 1 October 1985, moving to a two-thirds recovery in 1986. United States of America budget proposals are for a 100 per cent cost recovery over three years. The United States currently recovers cost for overtime, travel, grading and additional inspection over and above domestic requirements for exports.

The policy of this Government is the same as was the policy of the previous Government; that is, that 50 per cent cost recovery should be sought. That is what government policy is aimed at. The assertion that export inspection charges are adversely affecting the competitiveness of Australian exporters is clearly wrong because most of our major competitors apply export charges at at least the same level as those that apply in Australia. If people want to seek reasons for a lack of competitiveness they will have to look outside export inspection charges.

Senator Archer —What is the relativity?

Senator WALSH —It is a fact, which I would have expected would be recognised by even Senator Archer, that a very substantial devaluation of the Australian dollar in the last few months has significantly enhanced the competitiveness of Australian meat exporters. I note, however, that implicit also in the amendment to the motion for the second reading is the assertion that export inspection charges should be reduced. Nobody has suggested that the Export Inspection Service should be terminated, for the very good reason, of course, that if the Export Inspection Service were terminated Australian meat would not be accepted on most of our major markets. So what the Opposition is saying in the amendment is that export charges should be reduced and taxes on other people should be increased. I put on the record that that is coming from the same Opposition which is constantly asserting that taxes should be reduced. That demonstrates, regrettably, that the National Party populace still dominates the Liberal Party, that the Liberal Party caves in to pressure from the primitives of the National Party whenever the National Party primitives decide to apply a bit of pressure.

I assume that the amendment to the motion for the second reading will be supported by the Australian Democrats. The Australian Democrats habitually support anything that is more popular with one group than it is unpopular with another group. Needing only a bit above 10 per cent of the vote to retain their seats, their standing policy is to ingratiate themselves with a sufficient number of vested interests and single issue zealots to retain something above 10 per cent of the vote, knowing full well that they will never have to accept the responsibility in government or in coalition for any of the policies that they advocate. Essentially they are a gaggle of populous dilettantes who will never have to accept responsibility for anything they advocate. Therefore, they behave in an appropriately irresponsible way. The Government rejects the Opposition amendment and notes with-I do not suppose I should say gratitude-some satisfaction that at least the Opposition has accepted the thrust of the Bills.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.