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Friday, 6 December 1935

Senator BRENNAN (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) . - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill is one of two measures which are being introduced in relation to the imposition of levies on primary produce exported from the Commonwealth. The Primary Produce Export Charges Bill and the Primary Produce Export Organization Bill are being brought down with the object of enabling certain primary industries, which are properly organized on an Australia-wide basis, to obtain funds for use in connexion with overseas trade publicity, scientific research, and for any other object which the Minister is satisfied is likely to be of material benefit to the industries concerned. Prior to September, 1927, fees were imposed by regulations made under the Customs Act 1901-1930 and the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905- 1933 on meat, dairy produce, fruit - fresh, canned and dried - and other primary products, to meet the cost of the Commonwealth inspection service. The moneys so collected (approximately £36,000 per annum) were paid into revenue. In September, 1927, it was decided by the Government then in power to abolish these inspection fees, with the object of affording some measure of relief to the primary producers concerned. In 1922 an organization known as the Australian Dairy Council was established by the then Minister for Trade and Customs. This body has continued to function, but under the proposed reorganization of the Dairy Produce Control Board, it is intended to transfer the council's functions to the newlyconstituted Dairy Produce Board. In view of this fact, it will no longer be necessary to provide funds for the Australian Dairy Council, and it is not proposed, therefore, to impose under this bill the levies which were previously collected for financing that body. The levies at. present in operation amount to id. on each box of butter and crate of cheese exported. In 1931, an inspection fee equivalent to 2d. a case of eggs submitted for export was imposed by regulations under the customs and commerce acts, at the request of the Australian egg industry. The money so derived, which amounted to £6,035 during the year ended the 30th June, 1935, has been used by the Egg Producers Council for advertising Australian eggs in Great Britain under the. Commonwealth's trade publicity scheme, and for administrative -expenses and research purposes. During 1931, the Australian Apple and Pear Export Council, which is a representative Australia-wide organization of apple and pear growers and exporters, made a similar request for the imposition of a fee of gd. a case of apples and pears delivered for export. This was agreed to and operated on and from the 1st January, 1932. The funds so provided, which amounted to £7,409 for the 1935 season, are being used for overseas trade publicity, and the general administrative expenses of the council. "With the cancellation of the contributions to the Australian Dairy Council, it is proposed to repeal all the regulations under which these various charges have been made, and to reimpose the charges on eggs, apples and pears by means of the present bill. The regulations will be repealed as from the date when the act comes into operation. Clause 3 of the bill provides for the imposition of a charge on eggs, apples and pears exported. The levies on butter and cheese are not included as, with the abolition of the Australian Dairy Council, it will not be necessary to collect funds for that body in future. The maximum rates of levy set out in clause 3 coincide with the rates at present imposed as inspection fees under the Commerce Export Regulations. The maximum rates of levy may be reduced by regulation, but cannot be increased except with the sanction of Parliament, i.e. by an amendment of the act. Power is given in clause 4 of the bill to discontinue by proclamation the collection of any levy, on report to the Minister by the prescribed organization concerned. This provision is necessary, or otherwise the levy would have to be collected until such time as the act could be amended.

In the event of any organizations, other than those which may be prescribed in accordance with the provisions of this bill, being desirous of building up a fund for similar purposes, and producing satisfactory evidence that a substantial majority of the producers concerned is in favour of the establishment of the fund, Parliament will be asked to authorize the imposition of further levies ' in respect of the commodities which come within the jurisdiction of such organizations. Honorable senators will appreciate that the moneys derived by way of these levies are being expended entirely in the interests of the primary producers. Advertising in the overseas markets, particularly in the United Kingdom, is essential in order to find an outlet for the increased surplus production of many of our primary products. Scientific research has already done much to control insect pests and other diseases to which some of our products are. subject, and organizations of primary producers in Australia are generally prepared to contribute towards the cost of further research work in this direction.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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