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Thursday, 11 May 1989
Page: 2283

Senator COOK (Minister for Resources)(1.15) —As Senator Lewis has said, the Opposition supports this Bill. Therefore, unlike the wheat Bills which will come before the Senate today, and on which there is heated disagreement between some elements of the Opposition and the Government, on this Bill one can fairly say that there is heated agreement. That makes a nice change for this chamber. The second reading debate on this Bill has afforded Senator Lewis an opportunity to make a political speech about cost recovery of inspection charges. I acknowledge that it was a political speech. I do not propose to reply to it other than to make this observation: Last week a national employers body-it may have been the Confederation of Australian Industry; I am not sure-advocated to this Government that cost recovery on inspections should be 100 per cent. We have cost recovery at 60 per cent. That was lambasted by Senator Lewis in his remarks. He promised that the Opposition will reduce it to 50 per cent.

I ask the general Australian taxpayer to consider why the Opposition imagines that the taxpayers' purse should be plundered, and that the taxpayer should shoulder a greater share of inspection charges for normal trading arrangements. The inspections that are undertaken are necessary to assure the quality and brand-type of Australian produce overseas and to allow that produce past international barriers that have quarantine or other restrictions on them. If our products have been inspected by our service in Australia, we can be assured that they will have entry into other markets as quality products. That service goes with the trading process. It seems to me that it ought to be paid for by those who use it.

However, we have pegged our fees at 60 per cent cost recovery. I do not think there is a case that the Australian taxpayer should subsidise the inspection service by more than 40 per cent. The Opposition seems to think that it should. On the other hand, I take note of Senator Lewis's remarks about the flower industry. The flower industry has a vibrant lobby that makes its case clear to the Government, but I do not believe the $47 inspection charge is a major inhibition. I commend the Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.