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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 922


Senator TAMBLING (5.53 p.m.) —We are currently debating the Grain Legumes Levy Amendment Bill 1994. I understand, Mr Acting Deputy President, that you have recently agreed that we can debate cognately the Coarse Grains Levy Amendment Bill 1994 and the Oilseeds Levy Amendment Bill 1994. I will therefore address each of those three bills in my remarks.

  I turn first to the Grain Legumes Levy Amendment Bill. The coalition supports this legislative change. The bill will ensure that grain legumes and oilseeds used by producers on-farm for commercial purposes are subject to research levy payment. The Grains Council, which is the representative organisation under the legislation for these grains, wants to ensure that the current exemption for grain legumes used on-farm for domestic purposes does not include producers who use them for intensive animal units involving, for example, pigs, cattle or chickens. The move will bring these grains into line with other grains under the Wheat Industry Fund Levy Act 1989 and the Coarse Grains Levy Act 1992.

  It is important to note that, because of the drought, levies from legumes are expected to be down this year. Official estimates indicate that levies from legumes will fall from just over $4 million last year to $3.3 million this year. Given the extent of the drought in this country—for example, 83 per cent of New South Wales is drought declared—the falloff in levies could be even greater.

  Levies are paid on the following legumes: field peas, lupins, faba beans, chick peas, mung beans, pigeon peas, peanuts, native beans, vetch, cow peas, and lentils. These crops are not only used domestically but also earn valuable export dollars for Australia. For example, the value of the lupin crop in 1993-94 was estimated at about $255 million and exports were about $100 million. The value of the field pea crop is about $128 million and exports of peas, including field peas, chick peas and cow peas, are worth more than $150 million a year. Given the obvious importance of these crops to Australia, the coalition is pleased to support the Grain Legumes Levy Amendment Bill.

  I turn to the second bill under consideration, the Oilseeds Levy Amendment Bill 1994. Again, the coalition supports this legislation. The bill will ensure that oilseeds used by a producer on-farm for commercial purposes are subject to research levy payment. The Grains Council of Australia, which is again the representative organisation under the legislation for these grains, wants to ensure that the current exemption for oilseeds used on-farm for domestic purposes does not include a producer who, firstly, uses them for an intensive animal unit on-farm—for example, pigs, cattle or chickens—or, secondly, sets up a manufacturing industry such as a margarine plant to gain an unfair advantage.   This move will bring oilseeds into line with other grains under the Wheat Industry Fund Levy Act 1989 and the Coarse Grains Levy Act 1992.

  Certainly, oilseed production in Australia is expanding as people look for alternative crops and as existing markets grow. For example, in 1991-92 only 84,000 tonnes of sunflower seed were produced. Last year that figure rose to 176,000 tonnes. It will be interesting to see

what happens in the future, particularly once the drought breaks. Levies are paid on the following oilseeds: sunflower, soybean, linseed, safflower and rapeseed. In this financial year, research and development levies are expected to amount to just over $2 million. Once again, I indicate that the coalition supports this bill.

  The third piece of legislation that is being considered, the Coarse Grains Levy Amendment Bill 1994, also attracts the support of the coalition. Essentially, it changes the basis for assessing research levies on barley and triticale from a flat rate per tonne to an ad valorem rate which brings these products into line with oats, cereal rye, sorghum, maize, millet and canary seed. It is appropriate that this be done. The Grains Council of Australia and the Triticale Grain Association of New South Wales have recommended the change as a way of ensuring that growers' contributions to research are proportional to their net returns instead of being a flat rate.

  Both organisations have recommended an initial operative levy rate of one per cent of net farm gate value. In the legislation there is a maximum rate of five per cent. It should be noted that this is five per cent of the net farm gate value. It should not be confused with the 0.5 per cent of the gross value of the product, which is the maximum amount for dollar-for-dollar funding for government research and development funding arrangements.

  Barley is a major crop in Australia. Production in 1993-94 was valued at $925 million and exports at $464 million. Triticale, a cross between wheat and rye used mainly for animal feed, only commenced production in the 1970s; but in 1992-93, the crop was worth $36 million. Last year levies from coarse grain raised just over $7 million and this money is being used to help Australian farmers stay ahead through excellent research work. The current levy on barley is $1.133 a tonne and on triticale it is $1. The new rate will be one per cent of the value of the grain and this amount can be altered by regulation up to a maximum rate of five per cent of sales value. I conclude by reiterating coalition support for this bill and in fact the package of three bills under consideration.