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Tuesday, 18 September 1973
Page: 1202

Mr MALCOLM FRASER (Wannon) - There is some difficulty in knowing how to conduct this debate on behalf of the Opposition because we do not really know on what basis to conduct it. There are two possibilities: One is that the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), the honourable member for Riverina, misled the House when he introduced the legislation, because the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said something which contradicts what the Minister said. The other possibility is that it is not a question of misleading the House but a question of the Minister just not knowing what it is all about. It is difficult to make up one's mind. I would be grateful if the Minister could enlighten the Opposition as to whether in fact he did not know what it was all about or whether in fact he did not know that the Prime Minister at the same time as he was speaking in this House was giving a different version to the Press Gallery, or whether he hoped that the Prime Minister's Press conference would not come to the notice of honourable members in this House and that he could get away with misleading the Parliament and all honourable members in it. There is no other alternative.

Mr Duthie - What did he say?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER -The Prime Minister or the Minister?

Mr Duthie - The Prime Minister.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - What they both said is entirely different. The Prime Minister made a statement outside the House in the forum that he regards as important, the forum where he announces the Government's decisions. He was not prepared to do it in this Parliament. He is the first Prime Minister in 25 years who has not treated this Parliament with some degree of respect and he tries to bluster his way through it by saying that he gives members an opportunity to ask questions. That is not what people on this side of the House complain of. They complain of the fact that this Prime Minister makes his policy announcements outside this Parliament and the result is that in this instance within the very same hour the Minister who would like to be the Minister responsible for primary industries but who is the Minister irresponsibly representing the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) makes an entirely different statement inside this House. Who is right? One statement is made under parliamentary privilege in this place and the other is made under the privilege and auspices of the Australian Press.

Mr Duthie - What did he say?

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - I think it would be a good idea to know what the Minister said and what the Prime Minister said. I will read them both and in this way we will know quite clearly where the difference lies. The Minister for Immigration said:

The purpose of this Bil] is to impose a charge on meat exported from Australia in order to recoup the cost to the Government of export meat inspection.

That is the purpose of the Bill, nothing else. There is nothing more in the Bill about that. The Bill does not explain it. It leaves it wide open. The Government could use the money for anything it likes. One assumption, which is completely legitimate, is that the Government could use a surplus of $31m for some of its other social programs if it wanted to do so, so far as this Bill is concerned, because there is no restriction. It is a levy on meat. But then the Prime Minister said:

As already announced by the Treasurer Cabinet has decided to withdraw export incentives from meat. In addition, in order to recoup the cost of the Government's contribution to the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign Cabinet has agreed that the proposed export charge on beef and veal be increased from lc per lb to 1.6c per lb.

That is what the Prime Minister said. I think that the Prime Minister might at least have told his Minister. If he did tell his Minister his Minister might at least have told this Parliament because the Minister said only that the funds to be collected are to cover the export meat inspection services. Therefore there is confusion. What does the Government want the money for? Originally it said it wanted lc per lb for export meat inspection services but now it has brought in a Bill which seeks to impose a levy of 1.6c per lb. This will raise very considerably increased funds, funds far in excess of that amount which would be required to pay for the inspection services. No explanation is given to this Parliament - an explanation which does not He with the statements of the Minister for Immigration who is at the table and who irresponsibly represents his colleague in another place. He just has a different view and a different explanation. I think it is worth noting that not one word of what the honourable member for Riverina said before 2 December concerning rural industries has come to be true. Five hundred million dollars at 3 per cent, was it not? Where has that gone? And a 10 per cent rate of interest on farmers' overdrafts is what we are going to see before Christmas. The honourable member for Riverina promised $500m at 3 per cent.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Luchetti)Order!I think the honourable member should return to the Bill.

Mr MALCOLM FRASER - With great respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think' that this is highly relevant to the Bill because we are told by this Government in the Budget Speech and by the Minister for Immigration that one thing is going to happen and then the Prime Minister in the same hour is saying something quite different to the Press and that is completely, categorically and irrefutably proved. I would refer to the same quality of statements by the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin), whose position I undertand would be one of some difficulty, because earlier this year I was with him at a meeting of a group of agricultural technologists. He said, firstly, that there was no difference betweeen Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers and all other farmers and secondly-

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