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Thursday, 25 May 1972
Page: 3143

Mr FOSTER (Sturt) - I have much pleasure in seconding the motion.

Mr SPEAKER - Could we have a copy of the motion from the originator of the motion?

Mr FOSTER - I understand that a copy is already with the Clerk. Approximately 9 hours ago this House was dealing with a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders for the purpose of initiating a debate on the imposition of the wine tax by this Government upon the wine industry. Since the wine tax was imposed inquir ies have been made by this Government. This Government is prone to setting up some form of inquiry or with monotonous regularity establishing a committee whenever feeling is against some form of taxation or legislation introduced by this Government. The Government did not need a committee of inquiry to tell it that it should impose this tax on a rural industry which seems to be successful and which was showing some form of annual growth rate before the imposition of this tax. The Government has stooped to all sorts of subterfuges, one of which was to make inquiries. This was the pattern under the previous Prime Minister, the present Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), the previous Minister for Primary Industry and the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in regard to this type of tax. How much was involved in terms of the cost of the inquiries? Perhaps it may be said that the Government is spending $7m to save itself or to attempt to save itself.

It is of no use the Government saying tonight that it is prepared to introduce into this House measures to reduce the tax by about 50 per cent. As the Federal member for the electorate of Sturt, an area in which a large percentage of Australia's wine is produced, I have been associated with the wine industry and I have attended meetings relating to the imposition of this tax by this Government. I have attended meetings at which the Minister for Primary Industry has been in attendance. He is now sitting at the table chatting with the honourable member for Angus (Mr Giles). At these meetings in areas where grape juice is produced attacks have been made on the Labor Party and the honourable member for Angas has in fact said that if the Opposition were prepared to stand up in this House and move a motion for the abolition of the wine tax he would support the motion. The Minister for Primary Industry is engaged in a conversation at the table.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is far too much conversation on my right.

Mr FOSTER - I appreciate the fact that you have now broken up this wine gathering of such insincere people. While this tax is imposed on the industry the growers will be forced to meet an overhead which is not fair and not desirable. While any percentage of this tax is imposed on the industry this Government is forcing the growers to bear an overhead - just to satisfy the whims of a Department. Just how fair dinkum are Government supporters in this place? How insincere are they when the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) can introduce tariff proposals as he did tonight? He said:

This decrease in wine excise will mean a reduction in revenue of approximately $500,000 this year and some 97m in a full year.

This indicates what I said earlier, that there was no necessity in a rich and prosperous country like ours to impose this tax to gather such a paltry sum of money. It is paltry when looked at against the background of other sources of revenue which are available to the Government. How is it that before these proposals were introduced into this House a certain member of the House was able to issue a Press statement in regard to it? This makes a complete and utter mockery of the remarks by the Minister for Customs and Excise who said introducing these proposals: 1 understand that my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, will be releasing a Press statement which will elaborate upon the Government's consideration of Professor Grant's report.

What utter hypocrisy. Mr Speaker, you know as well as I do that this report was released before the House met after dinner tonight. Not only has the Minister been unfair to the House, not only has he been unscrupulous in his dealings with the House - perhaps 1 could use a stronger word but I will not do so-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! 1 suggest that the honourable member should watch his verbiage.

Mr FOSTER - The fact is that before the House resumed after dinner, before the Minister rose to speak on this matter the countryside was being flooded with a Press report in regard to it. What can we say about the honourable member for Angas who has done a similar thing? This Press release by the honourable member stated:

Mr Gilessaid it was never easy to convince a Government that it should change direction.

The honourable member has never tried hard enough. He has 'twiced' on this matter. If he tries to be all things to all people and he has not the courage to stand up to the Cabinet and the Government in the Party room, of course it is not easy to force it to change direction.

Mr Giles - What is your policy? Have you got a policy?

Mr FOSTER - This is your Press statement. It is in your name.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the honourable member for Sturt address his remarks to the Chair.

Mr Giles - The honourable member is as hollow as-

Mr SPEAKER -I suggest that the honourable member for Angas cease his continuous interjections; otherwise I will deal with him.

Mr FOSTER - Thank you, Mr Speaker. If I may quote further from a Press statement issued in the 't, '"-> the honourable member for Angas, it reads:

Mr Gilessaid the Labor any had consistently played politics on the issue, without any regard to the position of the industry and of growers, e.g., the infamous growers meeting at Berri - and had steadfastly refused to have a policy helpful to growers.

I remind the honourable member for Angas of the absolute guarantee which he gave at that meeting when he said that he would support the removal of the wine tax. 1 challenge him at this very moment to support it. He said in front of the Minister at the meeting at Berri that he would support the Government provided the Government-

Mr Giles - The Opposition.

Mr FOSTER - The Opposition. Thank you for the correction. The honourable member said he would support the Opposition if, apart from the abolition of the tax, it would not impose any form of sales tax. Is that right? That is what he said. I thank him for nodding his head. What is his position tonight as an individual representing his constituents? It is for him to make a choice.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I suggest that the honourable member get back to the proposal before the Chair.

Mr FOSTER - The proposal says something about Press statements being issued. In addition the proposal is one that deals with-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The proposal before the Chair has nothing to do with Press statements, nor has the amendment. I have allowed the honourable member to refer to them. I suggest that he should not make them the subject of his speech. I suggest further that he come back to the Tariff proposals.

Mr FOSTER - Thank you. By retaining a tax on the wine industry the Government gets more out of a bottle of wine than the grower, and that is the very point that we on this side have been bitterly opposed to since the inception of this tax. It may be argued that this may not be so with all wines at all times. There could be one statistical quarterly period in which this may perhaps not be so, but overall, as a chief spokesman for the industry has said, this is what it means. As far as we on this side are concerned, the whole structure of the rural industry has been bled white by the middle man, and in this case beyond the middle man must come the Government. It is wrong in principle for Government supporters to stand up in this place purporting to represent the rural interests of this country when this Government inflicts a form of tax that removes from growers an adequate and proper return or takehome pay in return for the efforts and risks that they have undetaken in any form of rural industry, let alone in the wine industry. This is an industry that is reliant on buoyancy and growth. The Government has stopped that growth. It was suggested that the industry has been marking time and will now pick up. Its growth has stopped and has been stopped now for nigh on 2 years. The various co-operatives, particularly the smaller co-operatives, can testify as to what has been inflicted upon them by the imposition of the wine excise. To use the words of the honouable member for Angas, it is not too late. I suggest to him tonight that, whilst it might be difficult for him to get the Government to change direction, he himself as an individual has an opportunity at this time to change direction and support and really represent the people in his electorate by the very simple method available to him in this House tonight. I suggest that in his own interest he take that opportunity.

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