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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1567

Mr McVEIGH(6.11) —Overall the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry provide for total expenditure of $696.5m in 1983-84 compared with $686.6m in 1982-83. The increase is due to a large extent to additional expenditure under Division 495, the Export Inspection Service. In 1983-84 the total cost of the Export Inspection Service is estimated at just over $80m, compared with $67.6m the previous year. The main reason for this jump is the Commonwealth taking over control of the New South Wales Meat Inspection Service. Total employment in the Commonwealth Service at 30 June 1984 will be 2,400 compared with 2,017 as at 30 June this year. The estimated total cost of salaries and payments in the nature of salary, as per subdivision 1 of division 495, is estimated at $54.4m for 1983-84 compared with $44.3m in 1982-83. Therefore, the Service will cost an additional $10m and it is largely caused by the transfer of the New South Wales Service to the Commonwealth.

The Export Inspection Service is no small commodity. Indeed it is the single most costly item in the entire primary industry estimates. It is also an especially significant area because industry, recovering from the drought and facing the difficulties of decreased export prices following the appreciation of the Australian dollar, now has to pay for 50 per cent of the cost of the Commonwealth export inspection service. It is on the record that the Opposition supports the philosophy of achieving 50 per cent cost recovery from industry. We have very strongly objected to the Government's timing in forcing such massively increased charges onto rural industry at this time. In our view, and in the view of the industry, it displays an absolute ignorance on the part of the Hawke Australian Labor Party Government to the needs of rural industries.

The most savagely hit by these increases, which became effective from the first of this month, will be the meat industry. Its inspection charges have been hiked up by a massive 200 per cent. Needless to say, the industry is particularly interested to see just what it is getting for its money. The point is that if it is costing an extra $10m to take over the New South Wales Service, what will happen if and when the Commonwealth also manages to take over the Victorian, Queensland and Western Australian services? Presumably the inspection service bill will rise even further, which means the cost burden on the industry will also rise.

Industry's concern does not rest there. The Government still has not stated whether its policy is that industry should be called on to pay only 50 per cent of inspection costs or whether that percentage will, at some future time, be increased. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin), in his second reading speech on the Livestock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Amendment Bill, stated:

. . . in setting a recovery rate of 50 per cent from industry for the provision of export inspection for all primary produce commodities, the Government has been mindful of the fact that further efficiencies in the delivery of these services are possible of being achieved and therefore considers that industry should not be expected to pay the full cost of operating the current service.

In anybody's language that means that when further efficiencies are achieved industry will be expected to pay the full cost of the service. The Government does have a responsibility to tell industry precisely, accurately and honestly what its policy is in this area. There is a need to have some definite clarification. What industry is currently being faced with, it would seem, is an export inspection service which is costing more and more and which will cost industry more and more. Obviously the meat industry will face an increasingly tough time. Coupled with these massively increased inspection charges the Australian dollar has been revalued against the United States dollar to the extent to which the effect of the March devaluation has been seriously whittled away. That is going to affect adversely our meat export trade, our wheat export trade and our sugar export trade-in effect, the competitiveness of all of our rural exports on international markets.

There are other areas of these estimates which are disappointing. In particular I refer to the allocation of only $20m in 1983-84 for wool promotion and only $ 1m for the national soil conservation program. In my view these are two classic examples of the Government's trickery. So too is its decision to slap on wine an excise tax which I shall come to shortly. Mr Chairman, I know that you must be extremely disappointed, after your long years of service in the Parliament, to be part of a party which, in an election campaign, runs around the country telling deliberate fibs. During the election campaign the Government emphatically promised to provide $28m for wool promotion. It has not delivered on that promise, and the Minister stands condemned.

Mr O'Keefe —The shortfall is $8m.

Mr McVEIGH —As the honourable member for Paterson says, it is a shortfall of $8m . The Government is not interested in the wool industry; it does not understand what promotion is all about. All that it understands is promising one thing, laughing at one behind one's back and not delivering. Of course we know that the Minister's stock-in-trade reply when people confront him out in the open is: 'Do not worry; I agree with you, but I will not be able to get it through Caucus'. We do not know whether or not he agrees with a request, but we know that he cannot get it through Caucus or the Cabinet.

Mr O'Keefe —The Labor Party is not interested in primary industry.

Mr McVEIGH —As the honourable member for Paterson says, the Government is not interested in primary industry. All the Minister can say is: 'I lost that one too'. The Government also promised to spend $4m in its first year on a national soil conservation program, but instead it has provided only $1m. In the election campaign the Minister came to the Darling Downs. People there just laugh at him now. He said that the Government placed the highest priority on soil conservation. Clearly, from the allocation that it has received his colleagues do not share his concern about this issue. The Minister runs around and says: ' The total cost of soil conservation measures in Australia at present has been estimated at $1.4 billion. It does not really matter that I promised $4m but have delivered only $1m because that is infinitesimal'. That is what the Minister thinks about soil conservation.

The wine tax decision was nothing short of a fiasco. I noticed in the Australian newspaper last week that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) who would not even go to a Labor Party rural seminar in Victoria-he will not even turn up as he is not interested and he would rather play tennis-was reported as saying that the revised decision may again be revised. The Government is always revising something. It is about time it understood and acted in a proper way.

The Government has provided the sugar industry with $11m for carry-on finance for sugar cane growers. The bulk of this money-$10m-merely matches a similar loan provided by the Queensland Government. The growers had to put the Chinese burn on the Federal Government to get that similar matching amount. The Government has provided nothing more for the sugar industry, despite a host of promises it made during the election campaign. It has quite rightly rejected the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission for the industry. It seems to me that, if the Government is genuine in its concern for the sugar industry, it would now immediately implement an underwriting scheme. Again, it promised this during the election campaign. This promise has melted like snow in the midday sun. Having ditched the IAC's draft report, the Government can no longer delay implementing its election promises. It talks about its interest in the sugar industry. The research sector of the sugar industry was not impressed when the Minister cut the allocation to the Sugar Research Institute from $550, 000 last year to $485,000 this year.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.