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Thursday, 22 November 1973
Page: 2093

Senator LITTLE (Victoria) -The Australian Democratic Labor Party proposes to support the amendment. We have read the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill. We all knew it was coming. It was a budgetary measure and, as was explained in the second reading speech of the Special Minister of State and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) who in this chamber represents the Treasurer (Mr Crean), it came into effect on 22 August. It was an overnight surprise for an industry which already was suffering quite considerable hardship because of natural circumstances such as an over-wet season and because of an accumulation of other problems which were left over from the revaluation of the Australian dollar and the cheapening of competitive goods from countries such as South Africa on the European market. This was an enormous blow.

The Minister in his second reading speech, suggests that there will be alleviation. All the time he mentions only the fruit growing industry. One can only take that to mean that it is only the fruit grower who will be given any consideration at all because of the damage that has been done. Most of these fruit growers have co-operatives for the purpose of marketing and processing their fruits. Most of the extraction of the juice and so on is carried out by fruit growers cooperatives. So it is actually the grower, but not as a participant in the fruit growing section of the industry, who has been particularly affected by this legislation. Ardmona Fruit Products Cooperative Co. Ltd in Victoria has just installed plant worth $lm. Overnight that plant has become redundant because of the removal of this sales tax exemption. On the Minister's second reading speech, the co-operative will be entitled to nothing at all. The amendment makes provision for losses due to assets becoming redundant to be taken into consideration by the Government. I take objection to the manner in which the Minister presented the case. He stated:

The ostensible purpose of the exemption was to enlarge the market for Austraiian fruit but although it has provided further outlets for some varieties of fruit, the additional returns to growers represent only a fraction of the cost of the exemption which has been running at about $2Sm a year.

Here we see the peculiar philosophy of the Government: Because sales tax exemption has been granted for a specific purpose the Government assesses the loss of that exemption as though sales tax had been imposed and generously gives it back to the growers. Is there in those figures any allowance for the taxation paid by growers on the extra income that they derived from the fruit that was produced or the profits made by the processing plants which extracted the juices and supplied them to the soft drink makers? A completely false picture is presented to this Parliament to justify a hasty and, in my view, a stupid action to recover $25m in a Budget of such a magnitude, from which so much was handed out and from which we can spend $ 1.5m, by the time all the brokerage is paid, on a silly fool of a painting with which one would not sell any fruit juices if one put it on a railway hoarding as an advertisement for the sale of fruit juices. We can alford to do that. But $2 5 m is an enormous amount to the wives and children of the growers of this country, faced already as they are with the hardships imposed upon them by revaluation of the dollar and with the extra competition from the countries whose fruit can now be admitted more cheaply to the Euopean market. The Commonwealth Government has reduced so much the price of their fruit by comparison with the Australian product as a result of revaluation of the Australian dollar- another accomplishment of the Government which has imposed this upon them.

There is little we can talk about on the Bill. It is a Budget Bill and we recognise that. It became operative immediately and has been operative for some time. But we support the amendment which suggests that this Bill should be adjourned to give the Government the opportunity to discuss the common sense of the compensation which it owes to those people. The Government has been prepared to take their taxes. It has encouraged them to expand production to meet this market and then swept it away overnight. No responsible government can take action of that character along with the irresponsibility of some of the other things which this Government has been doing to spend millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money.

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