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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1690

Senator ARCHER(8.10) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This is one of the papers which we wished to discuss yesterday, as it covers an issue which is so urgent and important to the dairy industry around Australia. This paper concerns the special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council which was held on 27 September last year and which was called specifically to discuss the Australian Dairy Industry Conference proposal and the method that it had of solving the dairy problem. It must be recalled that at present much is being said, particularly by Government members, about the fact that the industry has been derelict in its actions in trying to change the industry's size, shape and form. Of course, that is totally incorrect. For three years the industry, to my certain knowledge, has been discussing how the appropriate legislation would be enforced to see that it was assisted in trying to return to a reasonable level of production. It has known that the production has been getting high and it has come up with various schemes at various times. It has sought the Government's assistance in trying to bring in the necessary legislation that would fairly and equitably distribute the new industry in a slightly more slender form.

This document contains the details of the plan that was put forward. If honourable senators will bear with me, I will briefly outline the half a dozen points that it proposed. Primarily, the plan would run for six years with a full review after two years; a levy would be imposed on all milk; domestic price support would be modified; an equalisation arrangement based on the levies would be phased out; and an entitlement scheme would be introduced. That was the way in which it was seen that the industry could bring itself back to a reasonable level. That case should still be looked at very carefully even now. The legislation introduced tonight in another place is an absolute sham. It is a disgrace to treat an industry of this magnitude in such a manner.

It is necessary that the size of this industry be reduced. The proposal that was dealt with on 27 September, had it been agreed to at the time, would have done so. It must be remembered that a gentleman from Victoria named Eric Kent was the reason that it was not then implemented. It was hoped at that stage that legislation would be introduced to operate as from 1 November 1984. It was as close to being agreed to as that, except for the whims of some silly old coot who, for reasons which nobody yet understands, would not go along with the eminently suitable proposal. As a result of that, we are now being subjected to all sorts of undesirable effects which will be disastrous in many parts of Australia.

The dairy industry has done a tremendous amount towards assisting the development and decentralisation of Australia. It has fitted into the rural communities very well. People involved in the industry now have very few alternatives that they can turn to. Australia enjoys the cheapest milk products of probably any developed country in the world except New Zealand. The efficiency of the industry is second to none, including New Zealand. I believe that this report is very important because it demonstrates the milestone that was reached at that time.