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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 646

Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (11.55 a.m.) —I thank Senator Panizza for his question. I did not deliberately omit reference to that in my speech; it was just that there were so many areas to be covered in this debate.

  Firstly, I would make the point that the two industries concerned, the nashi and strawberry industries, came to the government with this suggestion; we are not suggesting it. They believe that the current levy mechanisms are impractical. They have suggested to the government that, should it decide to go ahead with the levy—we do not have that agreed to yet—they want this considered as a mechanism for collection of levy, should they decide to go ahead with it.

  It is up to both the strawberry and the nashi industries to identify to the government the detail of the collection in this area. I can say very clearly on the record: the government will not be employing inspectors. I think Senator Panizza last night expressed grave or significant concern that this would require inspectors to be employed, going around the paddocks and investigating people's yields. We certainly believe that that would be impractical. It is up to the industry to indicate to us how this can be done—how a levy can be collected through a simple measure that does not require additional bureaucracy.

  I visited the nashi areas in northern Victoria where I met with some nashi growers who discussed this issue with me. For example, nashi growers believe that the statistics and knowledge that are available on the output within the nashi industry—which has confined production areas and a relatively small number of growers which is not likely to increase, at least not significantly—allow them to collect a levy in this area effectively without the need for any increase in the bureaucratic mechanisms, such as inspectors, et cetera. They feel that, with their knowledge of the industries and with the industries being of sufficient size, they are able to make that assessment.

  As I say, the industry itself believes that this is an appropriate optional mechanism. It is certainly not an option that I think we could use, for example, in the citrus industry. The citrus industry is much bigger. It is a huge industry, worth $280 million a year, widely dispersed and with thousands of growers. It would be impractical to apply levies in this way. The government is certainly not considering it nor does it have any requests from industries like the citrus industry, the apple industry or whichever industry to do so.