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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 4049

Mr STREET (Corangamite) - The Honey Export Charge Bill 1973 provides for a small export levy to be made on honey exports to help finance the operations of the Australian Honey Board. Honourable members who are interested in this subject will be aware that until now the operations of the Australian Honey Board have been financed by a levy on sales of domestic honey only. The Australian Honey Board how finds that it is unable to finance its obligations to the industry on the amount of money made available from the domestic levy. To enable it to fulfil its obligations properly the choice that the industry had was either to increase the levy on domestic sales or to introduce a small levy on exported honey.

The reason why up until now the levy has been imposed on domestic sales only has been the very depressed state of the export market. Prices for honey on world markets have been very low. It was felt - I think rightly - that it would be an unjustifiable impost to put a levy on those very low prices. But, as is the case with the products of so many primary industries, in recent months the position has changed dramatically with respect to the export prices obtained for honey. They are now running at record levels - at quite extraordinarily high levels. I do not know how long we can expect those price levels to be maintained. But Australia is certainly now reaping some of the benefits of its promoting a very high quality product on the world markets. In those circumstances it seems reasonable to help finance the operations of the Australian Honey Board by the imposition of a small export levy. I understand that this proposal received the unanimous support of the Australian Agricultural Council. My inquiries have convinced me that it has the overwhelming support of the industry itself. So the Opposition will not oppose this legislation.

I would like to draw one factor to the attention of the Minister for Northern Development and Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson). It is perhaps not directly related to the legislation itself but it is certainly of vital importance to the future of the industry. I refer to the subject of export incentives. The present Government does not have a very good track record when it comes to export incentives. The honey industry is somewhat concerned that a very small export incentive it enjoys could be in danger. I refer to the export incentive that applies at present to retail packs. It is not a large concession but it is very important to the industry. My information is that its possible cost to the Government might be about $75,000 to $100,000 a yearnot a very large sum as money goes these days. It has been important to the industry because it has enabled the industry to build up export markets in certain areas in which it would have been very difficult if not impossible to do so without this concession. Those markets are in the Middle East, Malaysia, Mauritius and various African countries. There may be some others that I have missed, but it certainly applies to those countries. In the 2 major markets for Australian honey - the United Kingdom and Japan - the product is exported in bulk and the packaging is done in the importing country. So the concession does not apply to the major markets. It applies only to those smaller countries. But they are important in that they have enabled this Australian product to get to a far wider range of consumers than otherwise would have been possible.

I draw the Minister's attention to the importance to the industry of the markets which have been developed. Perhaps they are not so immediately important because of the very buoyant prices applying in the major markets, but should there be a substantial downturn in world markets the relative importance of the smaller markets which we have been able to develop will become greater. Therefore the disadvantage which the industry would suffer should the export incentives be withdrawn would be correspondingly greater. Having voiced that concern, I hope that the Minister will be able in his summing up to give the industry some encouragement in that regard. The legislation before the House has the support of the Opposition.

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