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Thursday, 2 April 1987
Page: 1743

Senator BROWNHILL(3.37) —The Australian public really must be wondering why this Government is prepared to waste so much time and money on legislation that the Parliament has already rejected and that the Australian public has demonstrated clearly that it does not want.

Senator Haines —You were the one who said it was a waste of time.

Senator BROWNHILL —I am not going to waste too much time, Senator Haines. I am going to make only a couple of points about how the Australia Card Bill 1986 No. 2 affects the Australian farming industry, the people who live in the country. I think we are entitled to free speech in this place. That is one of the reasons why we have a parliament in which to debate these matters. I think it would be a good idea if the Government realised the fact that we have a democracy in this country. We do not have a socialist regime under which we could be dictated to by the Government that we have at the moment.

If this Bill were to be passed it would take two years before it had any effect. (Quorum formed). I thank all the honourable senators very much for coming in to hear a little about this Bill that the Government is trying to foist on the Australian people-a Bill that will have draconian influences on this country if it is allowed to pass this place. Before the state of the House was mentioned, I was asking what had so dramatically changed in this Bill to give it some chance of being passed now. Of course, no change has been made to it whatsoever, because it was brought in in a cynical exercise to try to bring about a double dissolution trigger. The hypocrisy and the cynicism of this Government have been exposed. The lack of legislation and positive action is evidenced by the latest rehash of this old and rejected Bill. The Government did, however, contemplate changes, and they were alluded to earlier this year by Dr Blewett. Those proposed changes, of course, have already been mentioned in this place, so I will not go through them all again. But changes mooted to the Bill were and none of them were put into place.

The last time I spoke in this place on this Bill I spoke of the problems that it would have for the people of rural Australia. I spoke of the problems for the isolated farmers, the invalid, the sick and the itinerant workers. I spoke about the difficulties involved in using the card. Since then, of course, the New South Wales Farmers Association has studied the Bill. It was so concerned that it did a survey of stock and station agents to ask them how they would comply with the regulations under Division 2. Under that Division primary producers are required to produce an Australia Card in order to receive payments from a marketing authority or agent of sale from primary production. The marketing authority or produce agent is then required to provide such information to the Commissioner of Taxation. The survey undertaken by the New South Wales Farmers Association found that the agents and the various marketing authorities intend to charge producers for the additional administrative costs involved in complying with the legislation-this at a time of a rural crisis when people in the rural communities are having a great deal of hardship. The problems producers will have with delays from bodies such as the Australian Wheat Board of individual wool agents are quite horrendous. I quote from a letter from the New South Wales Farmers Federation written by Michael Tooth, the President of that organisation:

Under the legislation, in particular Section 43 (2), a marketing authority or produce agent must sight the Australia Card in order to allow payment to primary producers. It may come as a surprise for the Government to realise that there are some 48,000 wheat growers in Australia and the Wheat Board has only 7 offices all of which are in State Capitals. Under the legislation 48,000 primary producers will be required to attend these offices and to show their Australia Card. In addition approximately half of these will be required to provide a statement indicating that they are eligible representatives of various family companies and/or partnerships.

What the Australian Wheat Board is going to do with records of 48,000 Australia Cards is anyone's guess, however, the administrative problem to be encountered in processing such records will be enormous.

It should also be pointed out in the case of Australia's 80,000 wool growers, the majority of growers would not usually have the personal contact with their agents and would normally initiate the selling of wool by telephone and by documentation.

This would mean that these producers would also be required as soon as this legislation is enacted to personally make contact with their broker, and this would result in considerable additional cost to producers.

In addition, the legislation requires that an eligible representative of a partnership and/or trust or company to produce his card number, company name and tax file number, again adding to the administrative burdens of both storing and recording information.

They are just a few of the areas that will cause problems for people in the rural areas of Australia. We have told the Government that there are problems with this Bill. We have told the Government of these problems numerous times and we are now repeating them all again only to show why this Bill should not now be passing this place and why the Opposition will be voting against the Bill.