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Wednesday, 19 May 1965

Senator MCKELLAR (New South Wales) (Minister for Repatriation) . - in reply - Mr. Deputy President, I would like, first of all, to thank the Opposition for its support of this measure. I wish also to say to Senator O'Byrne, who led for the Opposition in this debate, that I appreciated his grasp of this legislation. I turn now to some of the queries that have been raised by honorable senators on this side of the chamber. I turn, firstly, to Senator Cormack who queried the legality of this legislation. I would like to point out that this measure has been under study for quite a long while - for the last few months, at any rate - and I have no doubt that its legality would have been considered fully and completely. In this respect also I think we can draw some comfort from the length of time taken by the debate on this measure in another place. I point out too, that if there is some doubt about the legality of the legislation - I have not any doubt at all about it - that question will be settled very speedily by some of the parties who are not in agreement with it.

In the marketing of primary produce this is not a lone measure. We have also the dairy industry equalisation scheme, the Wheat Industry Stabilation Fund, the wool levy and meat levy legislation and also the Barley Board, which I understand is a statutory body.

I appreciate the interest of Senator Cormack in this Bill because I know that he has a great regard for the functions of the Senate. I am in accord with him there and with his desire to see that the legislation enacted by the Senate is in accordance with the duty we all owe to the Parliament as legislators and to Australia generally. The honorable senator had some qualms about the fact that collections levied by the States as agents for the Commonwealth were not subject to Commonwealth audit. I remind him that in this case we are following the usual procedure. Moneys collected within a State by the State authorities are subject to audit by the State Auditor-General. When these moneys are collected by the States from the egg producers they will be forwarded to the Commonwealth and will then come under the jurisdiction, in an accounting sense, of the Commonwealth AuditorGeneral.

Much emphasis has been placed, wrongly I think, on the levy that is to be imposed. In this first year of the operation of the scheme, the levy will not be higher than 7s. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has given an undertaking that it will be 7s. in the first year and after that it will not be higher than 10s. This levy is not really new although it is to be given a new name. It replaces the amount col lected by the State egg marketing boards from growers to cover losses experienced on exports. Figuratively, it is a rose by another name.

I come now to the so-called gentleman's agreement. As has been pointed out by an honorable senator, this was not the description given to it by the Minister; it is a description that was applied to the scheme by a member of the Opposition when speaking to the Bill. So I think we can forget about it. Senator Cormack was concerned about the disbursement of this levy. The disbursement will be made only after consultation with the Council of Egg Marketing Authorities which represents all the egg marketing organisations in Australia. The Minister will not come into the picture except that recommendations will be made to him by the boards. As I understand the arrangement, the six State boards will have an equal say and they will make a decision on the disbursement.

This is where Tasmania comes into the picture. Tasmania has certain disabilities in this connection which are not common to the other States. This is where the gentleman's agreement comes in too because these disabilities are recognised by C.E.M.A. and no doubt all the other State boards, as well as the Tasmanian board, will see that Tasmania gets a fair share of the disbursement. As Senator Lillico has pointed out, if Tasmania is not satisfied with the arrangement and pulls out that will upset the apple cart.

Senator Wrightmentioned that this proposal was in accord with the policy of the Government. When primary producer organisations request a marketing scheme, it is the policy of the Government to assist if the request comes from a recognised organisation representing the majority of those in the industry concerned. If there is any doubt about the request for orderly marketing, a poll is held. In this case, an approach was made to the Government by all the State egg marketing boards and the Government formed the opinion that they represented the majority of the producers. We must remember that this has not been a flourishing industry. Apparently it was approaching stagnation and unless something fairly radical and new was done, the industry was faced with chaos. Indeed, from what one can gather it was approaching ruin. The

State egg marketing boards were in a position to know the condition of their industry and after having a good look at it they made a request to the Government for a stabilisation scheme.

Reference has been made to the fact that Tasmanian producers will pay altogether Ils. a year for each hen because of a local levy that will be added to the levy of 7s. What is this levy? When all is said and done, it is a payment by the producers to stabilise their own industry. It is not money that will be paid out and not yield a return. By assisting their own industry, obviously the producers will be assisting themselves. One disadvantage of the existing set up has been the fact that about 50 per cent, of the growers have been selling outside the egg boards. This has caused chaos in the industry.

One honorable senator suggested that the minimum limit of 20 hens on which a producer will pay the levy came from Canberra. It did not come from Canberra. The limit was set at 20 hens because the industry asked for it. A comparison was made with the wool reserve price plan. I point out that that was a new scheme and therefore it is in a different category. The egg marketing plan is not new. I have mentioned the funds that have been raised in the past. I remind honorable senators that the fund has been in operation in all States since 1946 and in Queensland and New South Wales from 1926 or 1927.

Senator O'Byrne - You can withdraw wool from sale but you cannot hold eggs because they go bad.

Senator MCKELLAR - That is correct. Senator Morris referred to the way in which the boards have been set up. There is no need to comment on that point. Senator Lillico correctly said that one vote in six could upset the scheme. Senator Prowse also made a contribution. It was mentioned correctly by Senator O'Byrne that the industry is worth about £67 million a year including £2.5 million in export income. This is quite a tidy sum particularly at a time when our export income is declining. Over the past few weeks there has been some discussion about law by regulation. This process gives the Parliament the right to disallow regulations if it sees fit.

Reverting again to Tasmania, I remind the Senate that each year 40 to 50 tons of egg pulp from Tasmania is marketed in Victoria. I want to emphasise that in future Tasmania will be paid the equalised price and I repeat that Tasmania's special circumstances will be taken into consideration by C.E.M.A.

I do not recall any mention of the amount that will be raised by the levy but it is expected to be about £3.5 million. If the yield is greater than that, I imagine that in the following year the levy will not need to be 7s. but a lesser amount so there is nothing to be feared there. This amount has been raised in the past by the egg marketing boards. Reference has been made to the fact that all States except one have the right to petition for a poll of the producers. New South Wales has the right to petition for a poll of producers within three months of the setting up of the new egg board every three years.

Reference will probably be made in Committee to the broiler section of the industry. This has been examined. Normally broilers are slaughtered before the birds reach the age of six months and so that section of the trade is protected so far as this scheme is concerned.

At this stage I should like to emphasise that the levy will not be passed on to the consumers. The money will be raised from the industry as it has been in the past. This is not an extra tax on the industry. A smaller amount of money is being collected but it will be spread over a greater number of producers because as I have said 50 per cent, of the producers have not been contributing to the funds in the past. I think that is all I need say at this time. I thank the Senate for giving the Bill a speedy passage through the second reading stage.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee.

The Bill.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without requests.

Adoption of Report.

Motion (by Senator McKellar) proposed -

That the report be adopted.

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