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Thursday, 13 November 2008
Page: 44

Senator McLUCAS (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing) (1:28 PM) —The Dairy Adjustment Levy Termination Bill 2008 amends the Dairy Produce Act 1986 to close the $1.92 billion dairy industry adjustment program. Specifically, the Dairy Adjustment Levy Termination Bill 2008 provides for the termination of the dairy adjustment levy, the wind-up of the Dairy Adjustment Authority, closure of the Dairy Structural Adjustment Fund, surplus levy funds to be returned to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and costs of terminating the adjustment program to be paid for by the levy. The bill also provides for consequential amendments to remove references to the adjustment program in other acts and repeal of the acts that established the dairy adjustment levy.

The Dairy Produce Act 1986 has some major shortcomings, none larger than the $50 million in surplus dairy adjustment levy funds that will be collected under the act unless it is amended. Asking Australian families, as consumers of milk, to pay significant levies over and above the needs of the adjustment program is something that this government will not do. The government has proposed amendments to the act that will terminate the levy in a way that minimises levy collection surplus to the needs of the adjustment program. This will be achieved by cutting the levy termination notice period by 28 to seven days and by allowing the government to consider levies paid by consumers but not yet receipted into the Dairy Structural Adjustment Fund when declaring a levy termination date.

The government expects to remove the dairy adjustment levy in the first quarter of 2009. Any surplus funds will be credited to the Commonwealth. The government expects the removal of the levy to be passed on to consumers. Any complaints or suggestions of anticompetitive conduct in relation to the removal of the levy will be dealt with by the ACCC. The government has also proposed to wind up the Dairy Adjustment Authority by declaration, and this is expected to happen in December 2008 or January 2009. Amendments will also allow the government to close the Dairy Structural Adjustment Fund, after which the adjustment program will be taken to be closed. I commend the bill to the chamber.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.