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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 965

Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - The Opposition will not be opposing this Bill because it is necessary for it to come into operation to alleviate some of the problems that now exist in the honey industry. The Opposition has no desire to delay the passage of this Bill. According to the second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), the provisions of the Bill are designed to take effect from 1st July after the declaration of the poll. Quite a few submissions have, been made to honourable senators on the Opposition side of the House by various organisations in the honey industry. Different points of view have been put to my colleague and I. At times one can become very confused when one hears different points of view being expressed. However, the Opposition has arrived at the decision that this Bill should not be opposed.

I am happy to be able to say that at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in Western Australia in February . of this year all of the State Ministers for Agriculture were able to come to a unanimous decision that resulted in this Bill being presented. It is a shame, really that the same Ministers could not come to the same degree of unanimity at a meeting of the Agricultural Council on how to alleviate the. problems that exist today in the poultry industry. I hope that in the near future they will be able to agree on how to help alleviate the problems of the poultry industry, as they have been able, to agree on how to alleviate some of the problems that now exist in the honey industry.

One of the provisions of this Bill that I wish to discuss is sub-clause (8.) of clause 4, which states:

.   . a member to represent honey producers holds office for a period of 3 years commencing on the first day of July after the declaration of the poll at which he is elected . . .

I am concerned, as is my Party, that this Bill be not delayed. If the poll cannot be held and the results declared before 1st

July 1972 the members of the Board, instead of holding office for 3 years from that date, will hold office for 3 years from 1st July 1973. This means that they would hold office for about 3 years and 8 months or 3 years and 10 months. This is one of the reasons why we of the Opposition do not want to delay passage of this Bill. In his second reading speech the Minister for Primary industry said:

Unfortunately the Federal Council of Australian Apiarists Associations has been largely ineffective in recent years because of its constitutional requirement that al] decisions on major matters must be unanimous. This factor, coupled with the inability of the various State associations to reach agreement on matters affecting the welfare of the industry as a whole, has resulted in a deadlock on some issues. litis Bil] has been introduced in order to overcome some of these issues, lt is now proposed that the producers themselves be given the opportunity to elect a representative to the Australian Honey Board from each State. In order to qualify as a candidate for election or for the right to vote for a candidate for election to the Honey Board an apiarist must have 200 hives. There has been some dispute about this figure. Some people say that 200 hives are too many and others have argued that the figure is too low. I am convinced, after talking to members of the honey industry who have come to see me, that the figure arrived at is fair and just. If a person has 200 hives of bees he has a big enough stake in the industry to make a living out of it. If be has less than that number he is only a part-time beekeeper. For that reason I am in full agreement with the provision that a person should have 200 hives in order to be eligible to become a candidate for election or to vote at the election. At some future date the industry may want to amend that number, lt may want to increase it or to reduce it according to the flow of honey or to the income of the people concerned.

At present some members of the Australian Honey Board are appointed. This has been outlined in the Minister's second reading speech and is the source of many of the problems that have arisen among people in the industry. There had to be a unanimous decision on representation before the Board could be constituted. We found that there were State jealousies. For example, for the sake of argument, Queensland might object to the nominee from Western Australia and because the decision was not unanimous the Board could not operate satisfactorily. As the Minister pointed out, at one stage a position on the Board remained vacant for 2 months because one State objected to the person nominated for appointment by another State. The passage of this Bill will do away with that argument because each State will have the right - and justly so- of electing its own representative to the Honey Board, and that person will be the choice of the electors in that State.

It has been said in some quarters that the producers are concerned about the fact that in the past the Board has been dominated by packers. Under the amendments proposed in this Bill this cannot happen unless, of course, the honey producers desire it. They have power in their own hands to elect a packer, a packer producer or a person who is solely a producer, lt is up to these people to make their own decision as to the type of person to represent them in an adequate manner on the Honey Board.

It is the policy of the Australian Labor Party that there be a majority of producer representatives on all marketing boards. This is good in most respects. But in other respects the Board should have available to it the expertise of marketing people. I would like to refer in this respect to the South Australian Egg Board, as it is constituted at present There are 3 producer members on that Board, together with a member of the retailers association appointed by the responsible Minister and a member of the wholesalers organisation also appointed by the Minister. During my long years of association with the South Australian Egg Board I found always that one of the best producer representatives we had on it was the member nominated or appointed by the wholesalers organisation - Mr Norman Mair, Chairman of Directors of Hall Sandford & Co. Pty Ltd. I think every egg producer in that State would agree that Norman Mair served both interests well, particularly those of the producers. He always had their interests very much at heart From discussions I have had with honey people I believe that some of the packers on the Board at present and packers who will be on it in the future, will serve the honey industry very well because they know the type of honey needed on the overseas market. They know how to pack it and how to market it. lt often happens that primary producers are expert at producing their commodity but do not know the first thing about marketing. Marketing is the most essentia] thing in primary industry today. Producers have expressed their concern that even under this legislation packers may comprise a majority on the Board but this will come about only if the honey producers elect them. Then producers will no longer be able to use the argument that packers have been appointed against their wishes.

Senator Little - They would have to be producers as well as packers.

Senator McLAREN - So long as they qualify by having 200 hives. If they pack their own honey, that is fair enough. There is provision in this Bill for packers to be appointed quite apart from the election of honey producers. I think that in this respect the requirements of the honey producers are covered quite well in the drawing up of this legislation. That is the impression I have gathered from talking to the Chairman of the Honey Board, the Secretary-Manager of the Honey Board and the representatives of the South Australian Apiarists Association.

When this Bill was first introduced in the other place I obtained copies of it and sent them to the people in South Australia who had approached me. I asked them for their comments on it. 1 sent them also copies of the debate in the other place. Today I rang Mr Mitchell, the Secretary of the South Australian Apiarists Association, to ask whether he had any comments or any requests about additions to or deletions from the Bill. He said that he had none. He said that he had discussed the Bill wilh members of his organisation and they were in complete agreement with it as passed in the other place. They argued about one point, however, and I refer to the probability of multiple votes by producers who have more than 200 hives. 1 have been assured that this matter can be tidied up in the regulations and 1 hope that this is done. We saw this happen in South

Australia in the case of the election some 3 years ago of a member of the Egg Board. Up to 5 people on one farm were allowed to vote for the election of a member to the Egg Board because of the wording of the relevant Act. This was quite contrary to what was intended. The same concern is expressed now by honey producers in South Australia. They fear that the same thing may occur in the case of election of members to the Honey Board.

They are concerned also about the time of registration and about the deadline at which a person qualifies to vote by having 200 hives. It has been suggested to me by the South Australian members that the relevant date ought to be the date of the last registration. As far as South Australia is concerned, we are quite happy about it. I have been informed that all States do not have the same registration date. For the purpose of records with the Department of Agriculture we in South Australia have the registration date of 30th June each year. But we find that in some other Stales the date may be in March. If these dates were to be used as the criteria for determining who was to be qualified to vote at this first election for the Honey Board it would give an unfair advantage to some people. In South Australia we could be restricted to the number of hives as al 30th June last year but people in Queensland could be allowed to vote according to the number of hives they had at, say, 3 1 st March this year.

I ask the Minister for Primary Industry to have a consultation with the State Ministers for Agriculture at some future date - I know it cannot be done before this election - to see whether something can be done to bring about a uniform registration date in all States. Each State would then have the same registration date for the purpose of future elections of the Honey Board. I believe that this matter of the registration date and the multiple voting was raised by telegram with the Minister for Primary industry, Mr Sinclair. The matter was also put forward at the meeting of Agricultural Council by the South Australian Minister for Agriculture, Mr Casey. I understand that the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Primary Industry may be able to tell us why, at this time, a uniform registration date cannot be introduced for this election. From the discussions I had with Mr Mitchell in South Australia today I understand that the Apiarists Association will be quite happy with the reply which will be given by the Minister. These problems can possibly be overcome by regulations which .vill bc introduced.

As I said at the beginning, the Australian Labor Party as the official Opposition is not opposed to the passage of the Bill. I understand that in the Committee stage one or two questions will be asked regarding the regulations. It has been expressed to me as the great hope of all the beekeepers that now that the democratic elections will come about with the passing of this Bill a greater degree of harmony and co-operation will prevail throughout Australia among the beekeepers. I think that most beekeepers as well as all other primary producers fully realise that if there is not harmony in primary industry we will not get anywhere with the marketing of the product. I am one who feels that a lot of the problems associated with primary industry today are brought about by disputes which take place in various farming communities. In toms cases different parts of a State cannot agree with the other. I do not know whether this is because of petty jealousies where a district thinks it is getting a raw deal and that another section of the farming community is getting a better deal. But I think that until such time as all primary producers can come together on a harmonious basis and come up with a uniform request to governments we will always have problems in the industry. As I said, I hope that with the passing of this legislation at least the beekeepers will come together in a degree of harmony and cooperation for the sakĀ« of the industry.

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