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Thursday, 10 October 1985
Page: 956

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Community Services)(10.28) —I thank honourable senators opposite for their support for this legislation. Apart from the fact that I grew up and still live in a semi-rural area, I do not claim to be the expert that my wheat growing colleague Senator Walsh is in this area. I listened with interest to what Senator Collard correctly described as his homily, which he usually gives during speeches of this type, even though he is not opposing the legislation. Perhaps I can give a little bit of a homily as a boy from the bush. I grew up in the post-war period when we heard from Senator--

Senator Haines —Is this going to be about your chooks again?

Senator GRIMES —No, not my chooks. I have given honourable senators plenty of talks about my chooks. We heard from members of what was then the Country Party, and in fact still claims to be the Country Party, that all the subsidies and all the provisions that were provided by government over the years had the aim of keeping people on the farm and the aim of maintaining decentralisation and stopping us from becoming a terrible, urban-based country. In that time the percentage of people in the rural areas has halved and I think the number of farmers is down to about a third. So those policies, quite clearly, did not succeed.

I also note with interest the debate recently amongst farmers and amongst people such as Mr Anthony and others, between the two wings of the rural movement at the moment-those who claim they believe in free enterprise and free markets, such as Mr McLachlan and company, and those who could be quite correctly described as agrarian socialists such as Senator Collard and others, who believe that all government expenditure is bad except government expenditure on farmers. I think it was Major Major's father in Catch-22 who used that definition. I think it is going to be interesting for those of us who are not directly involved to listen to the continuation of that debate.

Senator Collard raised the matter of what will be the operative rate for the wheat levy shortly. I was under the impression-I will get confirmation of this from the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin)-certainly from one reading of the second reading speech and notes that in fact the Minister had agreed that the new operative rate would be 35c per tonne. I will check on that and make sure that that has been confirmed.

Senator Haines raised, as she always does, an important issue-the issue of the problem of self-incrimination which the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills and others raised in considering the Grain Legumes Levy Collection Bill 1985. As she said, clause 12 (2) has the effect of removing self-incrimination as an excuse for refusing or failing to submit returns or to provide information required to be submitted or provided by the Bill. The research schemes which have been developed by this Bill and other Bills, in consultation with the relevant industry groups I might add, provide for the collection of a levy to finance the research into new and important crops.

The scheme relies absolutely upon the provision by receivers and the purchasers of grain legumes of returns containing true and correct particulars of deliveries made to them by growers. In addition, certain growers who process their own grain legumes are also obliged to submit returns. The amount of levy paid by receivers, purchasers and growers is checked against the information contained in the return. There is provision in the Bill for the receiver or purchaser to recover the amount paid on the grower's behalf. The alternative charging system of requiring each and every grower to submit levy payments and returns would not be administratively feasible or economically sensible. The Minister prefers that information be derived directly from the receiver or the purchaser. Virtually the entire revenue collection by the Department proceeds on this basis. If incrimination was available as an excuse in not providing the information, operations which infringed some provision of the Bill might not be recorded and returns would therefore be incomplete.

To encourage the provision of complete returns and to provide a safeguard against prosecution on the basis of information required by law to be recorded and handed over to the Government, sub-clause 12 (2) makes the information inadmissible in evidence except in specified kinds of proceedings relating to the return itself. In the Government's view, this provides a safeguard against prosecution on the basis of information contained in the return, while allowing the revenue collection functions to proceed and it does not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties. However, the Government takes Senator Haines's point. We take the warning that she and her colleagues will be observing the operation of this measure very closely. I thank honourable senators for their interest and for their support of the legislation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or requests or debate.