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Thursday, 13 September 1984
Page: 1215

Mr KERIN (Minister for Primary Industry)(11.34) —I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to make certain minor amendments to the provisions of the Dried Vine Fruits Equalization Act 1978. The amendments are essentially of an administrative nature, and concern the timing of payment of the equalisation levy. Together with the associated Dried Vine Fruits Equalization Levy Act 1978, this Act provides a statutory scheme for equalising the returns received from domestic and export sales of dried sultanas, dried currants and dried raisins. The scheme is designed to prevent destructive competition within the industry on the domestic market during periods when prices in Australia are above those obtainable from export markets. Under the scheme a levy is imposed on dried fruit sold on the Australian market. The levy proceeds from each season 's crop are then redistributed to producers pro rata to their total production in that season. The levy is payable by the packer of the dried fruit.

The Act presently provides that the levy becomes due for payment three months and 14 days after the month in which the leviable fruit 'ceased to be in the custody of the packers. This time lapse was provided at the request of the industry to provide time for the packer to receive the proceeds of a sale before being required to pay levy on that sale. In particular, it was designed to cover situations where a packer sent fruit to another firm for re-packing or for storage by an agent prior to sale.

The Australian Dried Fruits Association, on behalf of the industry, has requested an amendment to the due date provisions aimed at speeding up levy collections and disbursements while still allowing reasonable time for packers to receive sales proceeds before levy is due. The Association claims that under present arrangements there are many instances where packers receive the proceeds of domestic sales well in advance of the due date for the levy payment. The Association is anxious that there should be no undue delays in disbursement of equalisation payments especially when so many producers in the industry are in desperate financial straits.

The Government has agreed to the ADFA request and accordingly proposes that the levy due date provisions be amended in two ways. The first element of the amendment is to provide that the levy is to become due for payment one month and 14 days after the month in which the fruit leaves the packer's custody. That is to replace the present provision for a delay of three months and 14 days. The second element is to provide that dried fruit shall be taken to continue to be in the custody of the packer so long as it is in the custody of or is in transit to an agent appointed by the packer to sell the dried fruit or a person to whom the dried fruit is sent by the packer for re-packing on behalf of the packer.

Provision is made in the Bill for the new arrangements to apply from 1 December 1984. In selecting that commencement date we have in mind that liability for levy is related to movement of fruit in discrete calendar months and that levy payers should desirably be given reasonable notice of their liability for levy under the new arrangements. The amendments are to apply only to fruit that was in the custody of the packer immediately before 1 December, or came into the custody of the packer on and after that date. The existing arrangements will apply to fruit that ceased to be in the custody of the packer before 1 December.

The proposed amendments will expedite payment of levies into the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the consequent redistribution of equalisation moneys to the industry. The amendments will have no other effect on Government revenue and expenditure. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr Fisher) adjourned.