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Friday, 10 May 1985
Page: 1748

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(12.35) —Thank you, Mr Deputy President--

Senator Boswell —The rural expert. Tell us how to milk a cow.

Senator GRIMES —I told the honourable senator all about that. There is a character in Joseph Heller's memorable book Catch-22 named Major Major. Major Major's father was described, if I remember it rightly, as a rural representative from the mid-west of America who believed very firmly that all public expenditure was bad, socialistic and destructive except that which went to the rural industry, which was always good, very effective and which was the opposite of socialism. I suppose he was the original agrarian socialist. Having listened to Senator Archer this afternoon, and Senator MacGibbon to a lesser extent, one cannot help being reminded of that.

The second thing I would like to say-as I have told Senator Boswell many times-is that I grew up in the bush. My colleague Senator Walsh, so frequently attacked by honourable senators on the other side, was an extremely efficient wheat producer, unlike the real estate agent and the dentist we have just heard lecturing us on rural affairs. I think we had better get some facts straight.

Firstly I remind honourable senators opposite that it was the policy of the previous Government and it is the policy of this Government to recover from industry some 50 per cent of the costs of export inspection. I confirm what Senator Macklin pointed out to the Senate early in this debate. He is correct. In this context, what the Government has done, as have previous governments, is to recognise the broad community benefit to Australia-that benefit that Senator Archer talks about-of the maintenance of our export trade. For that reason 50 per cent of the cost of export inspection is charged to the community as a whole. However, we have been told this afternoon that that policy is the cause of the destruction of our export industry in this community.

I remind Senator Archer that since 1949, when I was a boy in the bush, there have been Labor governments for only three years-between 1973 and 1975 and from 1983 to 1985. For the remainder of the time we have had conservative governments. Those conservative governments told their voters in the country: 'We will save you; we will stop the move to the cities; we will introduce all these subsidies for the bush'. In that time the relative number of people in rural industry in this country plummetted. At the same time Sir John McEwen, beloved of Senator Collard, introduced the protection to the manufacturing industry in this country which Senator Archer tells us also is causing great difficulty.

With regard to the claim that there have been excessive increases in export inspection charges in the past two years, it should be noted that the actual costs of inspection have risen from $98m in 1983-84 to $105m in 1984-85. When the Government took office the charges actually recovered represented a far lower percentage of cost than the 50 per cent expressed in the previous Government's policy. We have increased that cost component. It has been suggested by Senator Archer and Senator MacGibbon that other countries do not charge for export inspection and that, accordingly, our exporters are being placed at a competitive disadvantage on world markets.

Senator Archer —I did not say that.

Senator GRIMES —I am sorry, Senator Archer did not say that; Senator MacGibbon said it. That suggestion does not reflect the real situation. Perhaps Senator Archer would like to hear the facts. The latest survey of Australia's major export competitors reveals that, except for New Zealand, all such countries currently recover a significant proportion of the cost of export inspection by one means or another. In Europe it varies between 50 per cent and 100 per cent. In the United States Senator MacGibbon's hero-sometimes I think he is his representative in this place-has a Budget proposal which will obviously be expected to recover 100 per cent of export inspection charges over the next three years. The policy announced by the New Zealand Government is that sixty-six and two-thirds of the full inspection charges will be recovered from industry. That policy will be phased in over the next two years.

Senator Archer —Tell us what their costs are.

Senator GRIMES —For heaven's sake! In New Zealand the figures will be about the same as ours because it has the same thing. With regard to competitiveness on our world markets--

Senator Boswell —Where is Senator Walsh? He knows what he is talking about.

Senator GRIMES —I would hate to compete with Senator Boswell. The more recent movements in the value of the Australian dollar mean that even Senator Archer will benefit from the competitive position of our industries. Senator Boswell made a number of points regarding the competitive position of Australian exports on world markets. His suggestion was that we need to deregulate the industry, particularly--

Senator Boswell —As long as you deregulate all industry.

Senator GRIMES —Senator Boswell said particularly that we needed to deregulate in respect of export inspection. I ask him to read his speech when it appears in Hansard.

Senator Boswell —I did not say that.

Senator GRIMES —That is what you said.

Senator Boswell —No, it was not. You were not here.

Senator GRIMES —Our export inspection is being imposed--

Senator Boswell —Mr Deputy President, I claim to have been misrepresented.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Boswell, you will have to wait until Senator Grimes has finished speaking.

Senator GRIMES —Our export inspection is being imposed because our overseas importers, the people who import our goods, demand it. We are not doing it, as Senator Boswell suggests, to bedevil industry, or something like that. The second point about which it is worth reminding people is that overseas countries, to take up Senator MacGibbon's point, do not accept export inspection undertaken by private organisations. The USA, the European Economic Community, Japan and all our major customers will not accept anything less than certification by government authorities based on inspection undertaken by government authorities.

Senator Archer —Done under contract, just the same.

Senator GRIMES —Based on inspection undertaken by government authorities. That is what they demand, and Senator Archer knows that that is what they demand. It is no good for him to babble on about something which he does not know anything about.

Senator Archer —I do not know. I know more about it than you do, mate.

Senator GRIMES —Senator Archer is the man who got into this place having flogged off all those houses on the north-west coast. If honourable senators want to hear about it, I will tell them again about how he gained pre-selection.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Grimes, you should stick to the point.

Senator Macklin —I haven't heard that one.

Senator GRIMES —Has Senator Macklin not heard that? He bought it. He donated a house to the Liberal Party in Burnie. He replaced a very good senator in this place named Senator Bessell, who was a farmer.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Grimes, you are diverging from the purpose of the Bill.

Senator GRIMES —The honourable senator whom he replaced was a real farmer and a really decent bloke, which is something that I cannot say about this gentleman. Senator MacGibbon and Senator Archer gave us a long and sad story about the canned fruit industry in this country. It is a long story, it is a sad story, and I happen to know something about it.

Senator Archer —So what did they get?

Senator GRIMES —But the problems of the canned fruit industry go way beyond export inspection charges, and Senator Archer knows it. The rate proposed to be charged is 0.5c per kilogram, less than 0.25c a can. The recent advantages gained from the depreciation of the Australian dollar are far greater than this amount. We will also introduce a risk listing system so that the good performers pay less and the bad performers pay more. I thought that that would have been right up Senator Archer's alley, because he is such a great fellow for competition in the community.

The simple fact is that we have all sorts of problems with our exports in this country, and we know it. But to suggest, as has been suggested here today by people like Senator MacGibbon and Senator Boswell-but not Senator Archer; he blamed everybody else in the world-that export inspection charges are the cause of this problem is nonsense. I have decided that Senator Haines is right and that I really should wind up before the suspension of the sitting for lunch, although I could continue for another half an hour. But I am talking to only two people who would understand what I am talking about.

Senator Haines —Three.

Senator GRIMES —I am sorry, three people. The rest of them are like Major Major's father and have closed minds. We reject the amendment. We urge the Senate to support the Bill because it is important to follow the policy of this Government and the previous Government.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be added (Senator Collard's amendment) be added.