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Wednesday, 4 March 1970

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Minister for Primary Industry) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The basic purpose of this Bill is- to obtain the approval of Parliament to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to regulate the production and marketing of sugar within the Commonwealth for a period of 5 years from 1st July 1969.

On 25th September of last year the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made a statement in the- Parliament that the negotiations between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments for a new Sugar Agreement had been satisfactorily concluded and the basis on which a formal agreement could be drafted had been arranged. The Bill now before honourable members contains the text of the Agreement as subsequently concurred in by the Governments, and provisions to implement the Commonwealth's responsibilities under the Agreement.

The previous Sugar Agreement, the Sugar Agreement 1962, as varied by the Supplemental Sugar Agreement 1967, had been due to expire on 31st August 1968, but the two Governments agreed, by exchanges of letters, to the extension of its term of operation until 23rd October 1969, the clay the Sugar Agreement 1969 was' made. A significant reason for extending the term of the 1962 Agreement - which originally had been due to expire on 3 1st August 1967 - was the desire to continue that Agreement until the outcome of the negotiations for a new International Sugar Agreement was known. As honourable members are well aware a new International Sugar Agreement was achieved late in 1968 but only after protracted and difficult negotiations. When the Sugar Agreement 1969 was finally executed its terms provided for its retrospective operation from 1st July 1969. Previously the traditional starting date of Sugar Agreements had been 1st September but the change in commencing date on this occasion was made for reasons of administration.

In the course of his statement to the Parliament which I have referred to above, the Prime Minister outlined the principal features of the new Agreement. In view of the importance of the Agreement I would like to touch briefly on some of those features again. The new Agreement which is the latest in a long line of Agreements which go back to the 1920s is, in substance, along similar lines to the Agreement it replaces. In this connection I quote verbatim what the Prime Minister said in the Parliament in September. He said:

Experience in operating the provisions of the existing Agreement, since the last major review in 1962, has indicated that some changes can make it more effective hi its operation and clearer in ils expression. During the drafting of the new Agreement the opportunity will be taken to effect these adjustments, which are largely of a technical or drafting nature and will have no bearing on .the principles on which the Agreement is based. This, as previously indicated,- will follow the traditional lines Of previous Agreements.

The text of the 1969 Agreement as subscribed to subsequently by the two Governments and as now contained in the Bill before honourable members is consistent with what the Prime Minister said. For example, under trie new Agreement, which will run for S years, the State of Queensland, on the one hand, will continue to control the production of raw sugar, and will make available, as a matter of priority and at stated maximum wholesale prices, refined sugar and sugar products to meet Australian needs. The Commonwealth of Australia, on the other hand, will continue its embargo on the importation of sugar and of the sugar products, golden syrup and treacle. The maximum domestic wholesale prices for sugar and sugar products as were, prescribed in the Supplemental Sugar Agreement 1967 have been continued under the new Agreement.

Features of previous Sugar Agreements have been the domestic sugar rebate scheme and the export sugar rebate arrangements. Both of these features will be continued under the new Agreement. The objectives in the case of both rebates include that of assisting, by stabilising fruit prices, growers of fruits used in manufactured products. Manufacturers who purchase fruit at prices not less than those declared annually by the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, established under the Agreement, are entitled to the domestic sugar rebate on the sugar used in conjunction with the fruit.

Under the export sugar rebate arrangements exporters of products containing sugar obtain their requirements of such sugar at prices related broadly to the Australian import parity price. In short they pay what they would have paid had there been no embargo on the importation of sugar. In the case of domestic sugar rebate the rate has been increased by S5 to $15- per ton from 1st July 1969. This will make the rebate more significant to manufacturers. The higher rate of rebate represents the only major difference between the old and the new Agreements. To provide funds to pay the rebate at the higher rate- the Stale of Queensland will increase its contribution from the level under the previous Agreement to a new level of $924,000 x year.

So far I have been speaking almost entirely about the Sugar Agreement 1969 which comprises the Schedule to the Bill. lt is now appropriate to turn to the clauses of the Bill itself. The Bill is similar to previous Acts in that it continues the Commonwealth's obligation under the Sugar Agreement to prohibit the importation of sugar, golden syrup and treacle.

In addition the Bill 'approves' the new Sugar Agreement as did previous Acts in respect of Sugar Agreements which were new at the time. In this connection I would remind honourable members that it was not possible to bring the new Sugar Agreement before the Parliament when it was made by the two governments. Accordingly, and since it was agreed by both the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland that it was in the interests of both producers and consumers that the Agreement should be brought into operation as soon as possible, it was decided that the Agreement should come into full force and effect upon ils signing in order that the benefits under it could commence to flow without delay.

Clause 6 of the Bill does not have an equivalent in earlier Sugar Agreement legislation. It is a machinery clause to place beyond doubt the position of interest or other income derived from the investment of moneys which belong to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee and which are placed to the credit of the Commonwealth Trust Fund. Clause 6 is intended to ensure that the interest or income will flow to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee Fund to which it rightly belongs.

The Sugar Agreement Bill 1970 advances further the story of co-operation between the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments in the field of sugar, which has fostered the development of the sugar industry, and at the same time has ensured full and stable supplies of sugar at reasonable prices for Australian consumers. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Mr Sherry - Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the state of the House. This Bill relates to an important issue concerning members of the Country Party but hardly any of them are present.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order!The honourable member is completely out of order.

Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.

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