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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 659


Mr KERIN (Minister for Primary Industry)(12.09) —I would like to make a few remarks following the debate on the Honey Levy Legislation Amendment Bill. The Bill is not about apples, cows or halal slaughter; it is about honey. Some members have even spoken about honey during the debate. The Government rejects the Opposition's amendment to the motion for the second reading because it was simply a device to be able to speak widely on some of the topics I have just enumerated. Also, a bit of a motherhood issue is involved because this question of inspection charges was a policy of the previous Government. In regard to inspection charges in the honey industry, we have met the industry's concerns. We are now undertaking a monitoring role. We are taking into account customer needs, not any bureaucratic interpretation of inspection procedures. I think we have moved a long way. We have certainly moved a lot further than the previous Government had on this question.

I will not enter into a debate on halal slaughter. I listened to the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey) on this question. Halal slaughter is about God, money and politics. That is not a very good combination to try to sort out. Australia is not an Islamic country. We do not set down religious standards. We do accept the views of Islamic countries which import our goods. In terms of that part of this question relating to dollars, we are making progress. I have no comment on the alleged breaching of the Trade Practices Act. But, if the honourable member sent me a copy of that view, I would respond to it, as I would to some of his charges on the broader question of halal slaughter. A very basic problem is: How do we sort out who shall be the Islamic certifier? Many people in Australia want to be certifiers. Various mosques in Australia feel that they have particular attributes and are particularly qualified to conduct the religious ceremony so that the meat in question can be given halal certification. That problem has been with us for a long time, and it was a problem of the previous Government. As I said, we are making progress on the question.

The Bill basically concerns minor amendments to the levy collection procedure. It is the levy that provides the money to finance the operations of the Australian Honey Board and to provide funds for research administered by the Honey Research Committee. The only substantive point raised about the honey industry concerned the reasons why there is to be a review of the operations of the Australian Honey Board. I think it goes back a long way because the review was recommended by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations in May 1982. It may come as a great surprise to the Opposition that the Committee reported on the Fraser Government's attempt to introduce export inspection charges for honey. The Opposition has the strange idea that the policy sprung from the present Government. That Committee recommended that the size, functions and role of the Honey Board should be reviewed. This Government accepted the Senate Committee's recommendations and the only reason why the review was delayed was the Industries Assistance Commission's inquiry into the honey industry. That was set up to meet the industry's request for a stabilisation scheme to be inserted into the honey industry. The IAC has finalised its report and we are now proceeding with the review.

The purpose of the review is to ensure that the size, role and functions of the Australian Honey Board are appropriate to deal with the current market conditions. The present size and most aspects of the Honey Board go back to its formation in 1962. The Government will be actively seeking the views of the industry in this review. The Department of Primary Industry is currently finalising a discussion paper on the review. This will be circulated to the various State beekeeper bodies prior to their annual meetings in May and July of this year. If State bodies so wish, an officer from my Department will attend the meetings to assist in consideration of the issues. Industry input is important and will be taken into account.

Finally, it is particularly pleasing again to have an active apiarist in the Parliament. Bill Yates certainly made something of it. We look forward to the honourable member for Cowan (Ms Jakobsen) carrying on that tradition. Perhaps we could receive some sort of benefits from time to time if she chose to establish a few hives in the Senate or House of Representatives gardens.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.