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Wednesday, 5 October 1983
Page: 1347

Mr BRUMBY(12.35) —I shall keep my remarks fairly brief, concentrating them mainly on the first of the Bills before the House, the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill. Before making some comments on that Bill I wish to remark on some of the statements made by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), who referred to cost pressures on our dairy farmers and to the situation of dairy farmers at a time of decreasing real returns. I certainly sympathise totally with the dairy farmers in the present difficult situation in which real returns may be expected to decline, but I take some umbrage at the remarks that the honourable member made in terms of the cost increases to dairy farmers and the source of those increases. The honourable member for Murray referred to increases in government charges and input such as for electricity and gas. For my part, I can say only that the Government is well aware of those pressures on dairy farmers and that the whole of our economic strategy is designed to get this economy in better shape and to get interest rates down. We have already been successful in that and by next year we will have inflation down to 7 per cent or thereabouts.

Mr Cunningham —No risk.

Mr BRUMBY —No risk? That comment has been made time and time again by the Treasurer (Mr Keating). I have absolutely no doubt that by next year the inflation rate will be down to 7 per cent.

Mr McGauran —But the CPI--

Mr BRUMBY —The honourable member for Gippsland by way of interjection dares to refer to the consumer price index. The record of the previous Government-his own Government-in that area was quite appalling. When it took government in 1975 it promised to increase employment and reduce inflation. When it was tipped out of office in March this year the rate of inflation was no lower at all than it was some eight years before. That is the record of the previous Government. I am afraid that is true. On top of that, of course, the previous Government cost 500 ,000 Australians their jobs. It is a good thing that it was turfed out when it was.

The Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Act 1972 imposes a levy, with certain exceptions, on the production and sale of whole milk and butterfat. The proceeds of that levy are used for dairy research and to finance the Australian Dairy Corporation in its role of promoting the sale of dairy products in Australia. The rates of levy payable at any given time for the purpose of research or promotion are set by regulation, subject to maximum rates contained in the Act, and are known as the operative rates. The Australian Dairy Corporation's report for 1981-82 shows that the operative rates for domestic promotion at that time were 9c per 100 litres of whole milk and $2.25 per 100 kilograms of butterfat. It has been noted in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) that the existing operative rates are 12c per 100 litres of whole milk and $3 per 100 kilograms of butterfat. Those rates are also equal to the maximum that can be levied under the Act.

As the operative rate is equal to the maximum rate and as the Government has received representations from the Corporation and from the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation to increase the maximum rates, this legislation gives effect to those recommendations and to commitments that the Government provided to the industry in June. So clause 3 of the Dairy Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill provides for the maximum rate of levy for promotional purposes to be increased from 12c per litre to 24c per litre and clause 5 provides for the maximum rate of levy in respect of buttermilk to be increased from $3 to $6. The effect, when setting the new operative rates which the ADC has recommended-19c for whole milk and $4.75 for buttermilk-should be to lift the revenue for promotional purposes of the Australian Dairy Corporation from $6.5m in 1982-83 to in excess of $9m in 1983-84.

The honourable member for Murray made some very valuable points in terms of the use to which that money is put and which products it is used to promote. He referred specifically to cheese-the difficulties in promoting our own cheese and at the same time not promoting imported cheese-and he also referred to the very important issues of dumping and food standards. The honourable member commended the Government on the action it has taken in the area of dumping. I certainly thought that his remarks about food standards were extremely pertinent to this industry.

I recently attended a meeting of the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria in Lockington in Victoria, which borders my electorate with that of the honourable member for Murray-it might in fact be into the honourable member's electorate- and discussed a wide range of issues with those dairy farmers. One of the main issues which were raised with me was the issue of imported cheese, particularly European Economic Community jarlsburgs and goudas which contained additives and which were adulterated particularly with the antibiotic natamycin. I discussed that issue at length. It is a matter which I have raised with the State Minister of Health, Mr Roper. I entirely agree with the honourable member for Murray that if one set of standards is good enough for our own locally produced cheeses it is certainly good enough for those that are imported.

Over a period a large quantity of cheeses has been imported from the EEC. They are not up to our very stringent standards. They do not meet them. They contain antibiotics such as natamycin and other additives such as nitrates. Should any of our own producers be caught putting those types of substances in our cheeses they are subject to the most stringent sanctions, including loss of licence. I have written to the State Minister. It is a matter of concern that what I understand to be a shipment amounting to almost $2m worth of imported cheeses, which have been sitting on the dock at Melbourne, will be able to be sold through normal commercial channels even though the Minister has given, again as I understand it, an undertaking that much stricter requirements and criteria will be applied to future imports of cheese. I believe that there are grounds for the Commonwealth examining this whole matter in terms of a uniform food standard throughout Australia. As the honourable member for Murray mentioned, model food legislation has been proposed to a number of States. I reiterate that on this very important issue involving food standards and the health of consumers it is quite unacceptable that imported cheeses, which contain additives which are not permitted under our own stringent food standards, can be brought into this country and sold. It is a matter on which I will certainly be making further representations to the State Minister of Health.

I propose to make my comments about the other Bills before the House quite brief. The second of the Bills is the Dairy Industry Stabilization Levy Amendment Bill 1983. The base legislation on which the amendments contained in this Bill are made was introduced into the Parliament in 1977. That was the Dairy Industry Stabilization Bill 1977. When introducing that Bill the then Minister for Primary Industry stated:

The purpose of the levies is to protect the domestic price structure for prescribed products and through their disbursement to provide each manufacturer with a equalised return from their domestic and export sales of such products.

Honourable members will be aware that the levy does not have to be paid until the product is sold and is payable by the proprietor of the factory at which the product has been produced. The amendments proposed in this Bill are relatively straightforward. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) in his comments earlier alluded to the difficulties which might arise in terms of the export of a product such as Ovaltine, which contains only 18 per cent of leviable dairy product. The Minister has indicated that an amendment will be put before the House. I believe that amendment certainly clarifies that difficult situation and it is one which I support.

When discussing the Dairy Industry Legislation Amendment Bill, certain members of the Opposition used this forum to debate government action and activity with respect to Asia Dairy Industries, particularly PT Australia Indonesian Milk Industries Inc. That problem goes back to the previous Government. It goes back to 1981. Our Government is well aware of the difficulties and the very complex situation in relation to that. The Minister has already taken a number of positive initiatives.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mountford) —Order! It being 12.45 p.m., the debate is interrupted in accordance with sessional order 101A. The debate may be resumed at a later hour. The honourable member will have leave to continue his speech when the debate is resumed.

Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2 p.m.