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Thursday, 17 December 1992
Page: 5481

Senator TAMBLING (Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia) (2.45 a.m.) —The National Residue Survey Administration Bill 1992 and cognate Bills are to allow the Government to recover 100 per cent of the Government's cost of undertaking the national residue survey from July next year, instead of the current 60 per cent. This survey is conducted by the Government to determine the chemical status of Australian food. Until a few years ago, the Government paid the $6m annual cost as a public health measure. This changed to 50 : 50, and then to 40 : 60. Now complete cost recovery is required, all of it from primary industry.

  My colleague the honourable member for Murray, and shadow Minister for primary industry, Mr Bruce Lloyd, pointed out in his speech during the second reading debate in the House of Representatives that he was unaware of any other country in the world where producers are required to pay in full, as this Bill requires, for a public health facility. In the industry there are 25 separate items on the schedule encompassing 17 levy Bills. This shows the spread of levy throughout agriculture. The survey analyses samples of Australian produced animal and plant food products, particularly meat, for residues of a wide range of contaminants.

  Those in the agricultural industry are generally fed up with this Labor Government because of the number of charges that have been imposed on the industry. The industry is being pushed to promote the pure food status of Australian food products, which is worth promoting, but when it comes to any form of government assistance to the industry, another tax is slapped on them. The Government could not even assist the industry to the tune of half of the $6m per annum required for the public health facility—a mere $3m a year.

  These Bills are to allow the Government to recover 100 per cent of the Government's cost of undertaking the national residue survey from July next year, instead of the current 60 per cent. The Cattle Council, which represents the major levy payers, has objected to this increase because it believes that, while it does benefit from survey in the marketplace, the major reason for the survey is public health. Other levy payers have also objected. To the rural industry this Bill is seen as being symbolic of the Labor Government's attitude of unfairly transferring public costs to farmers, imposing user pays with no accountability as to the efficiency of the program.

  The National Residue Survey Administration Bill 1992 provides for a trust account to be established which will allow funds and obligations to be carried over beyond the end of the financial year. Provision is also made for other contributions to be received from industries. This will give industry more flexibility in the way its costs are paid if it does not want a levy. Industries will have the power to pull out of the survey, or alternatively, have more products included. The Minister cannot include products unless satisfied that the industry wants them included. By increasing its cost recovery from 60 to 100 per cent, the Commonwealth expects to save about $2.7m.

  As these are Budget Bills, the coalition parties will not be opposing them. However, as Mr Lloyd has already said in his speech during the second reading debate, on being elected to government, the coalition will amend this legislation and return to 50 per cent cost recovery. The coalition believes that is a reasonable apportionment of the public health situation versus the industry. We would, of course, make the appropriate Budget adjustments that would be necessary to implement any such amendment and change in the future. There are 18 of these primary industry Bills in total and I would hope that it is possible to consolidate some of them in the future.

  This will be an issue during the election campaign. The Opposition will be saying to industry that it recognises that government, as well as industry, has a responsibility; that when it comes to encouragement for promotion overseas, and reassurance at home, of the pure food status of our products, a coalition government is prepared to give some practical and pragmatic recognition and assistance. That will certainly be on the agenda for the forthcoming election.