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Wednesday, 14 March 1973
Page: 587

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina Minister for Immigration) - This measure has come before the House of Representatives to implement a promise that was given by this Government. I remind the House, particularly members of the Opposition, that we are removing a tax or an impost on an industry which the industry resisted in every way possible which impost was actually put on by the members of the present Opposition when they were in government. They had the power and they imposed it. What we have heard tonight has been an incredible alibi by 2 ex- ministers of the previous Government which imposed this measure.

Let us note what these honourable members said about this measure tonight in trying to cover up their sins of omission and commission. If there were a prize for red herrings dipped in sour wine from sour grapes, the honourable members opposite who spoke tonight deserve that prize. The honourable members for New England (Mr Sinclair) and Barker (Dr Forbes) said that the removal of the wine tax was a shabby political trick. These were the people who represented the industry which they themselves hurt by the actions of their government. They defied every section of the industry. They ignored the advice that was tendered to them by their own advisers. They ignored every plea that was made in this Parliament by members of the then Opposition who now are in Government. We were ignored and ridiculed and, of course, the honourable member for Barker then sat monumentally silent. But tonight he comes in like a roaring lion to criticise an action of this Government to fulfil the wishes of an industry that he represents. He ignored every appeal that was made by this industry and yet he came in to the chamber tonight, having ignored the Australian Wine Board, the Federal Grape Growers Council and the members of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which gave him and his government expert advice.

The former Government, of course, recognising that it had created difficulties in the industry and succumbing to the pressure of the then Opposition, decided to halve the excise. It could not quite find it in its heart to set the entire excise to one side because that would have been an admission that the Government of the day had been wrong in the first place. Honourable members opposite know very well tonight that they were wrong and all of this humbug - that is what it is; absolute humbug - that they have been trotting out for the last hour is to disguise the fact that they made a mistake and that they were guilty. Honourable members opposite have come into this chamber not to oppose this Bill; they are not going to follow through their criticism of what they have been pleased to call a shabby political trick. They will sit quietly and accept the benefits conferred by the Government on the industries they claim to represent. That is what they will do. 1 think it is worth while analysing some of the comments that were made by the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair). He said that this tax was not a very important one. When he said that, of course, he went back on every piece of advice that had been tendered by the industry and by the former Government's own experts at that time. He said that it did not yield very much in revenue. He sounded like members of the

Opposition of last year who were telling him that in a Budget of $ 10,000m the miserable amount of money that was represented by this tax did not make very much difference to the revenues of the Commonwealth but made a great deal of difference to the viability of an industry which, up to that time, was not in trouble. But the then Government imposed the tax and the industry was in trouble.

The Government is being criticised tonight for listening to the voices of the industry. Of course it listened to them and it did what it was requested to do and as it agreed to do. That was the honourable course the Government took. It took it quickly and is implementing it in the Parliament tonight.

It has been suggested, of course, that there are other problems to be tackled in the industry but it has also been suggested that we should ignore the fact that the last Government, by its action, opened the doors to price racketeers. There has been no mention of them tonight by Opposition members. Presumably they approve of price racketeering and yet one of the most distinguished wine makers in our country went to one of these places, sat down and ordered a bottle of his own product and was charged 3} times its cost. He was indignant and protested. He said that the then Government should look at the situation. I might say that the present Government will do so. It has organs to have a look at these price racketeers. It will have a prices justification tribunal. It will have a select committee on prices and will be looking carefully at price racketeers in the future. Perhaps we will hurt the friends of Opposition members who have not made any criticisms at all of advantage being taken of an industry and a product.

I remind honourable members opposite that it was members of the present Government in the House of Representatives who constantly raised this matter in the Parliament and as long ago as 1970, when the impost was first introduced. We opposed it and we voted against it on every single occasion that we had the opportunity to do so and we presented evidence in detail. It is with great pride that members of the Government who are assembled here can come forward and say: 'This is our measure - a measure that is wanted by the industry'. It is also common sense in relation to the industry's needs. We have no need to apologise for our action as does the honourable member for Barker (DrForbes) who retreats in disorder, perhaps to pick up his prize as the herring stewed in sour grapes.

Mr King - You would drive anybody out.

Mr GRASSBY - The honourable member for Wimmera interjects the voice of the countryside; the man who voted 3 times for an impost on his own fellow primary producers. He is an historical hangover of a defeated and discredited government. I might say that when one heard the intemperance of the language used by the former ministers one could appreciate that what they were trying to do was to find an alibi for their own actions. I seem to recall a reference to the fact that the industry has other problems. Of course the industry has other problems, but they were stimulated by the actions of the previous Government, now the Opposition. I sum up by saying that honourable members on this side of the House have a clear conscience in this matter. We have heeded the voice of an industry that was in trouble. We have heeded the common sense of the people who had advised the previous Government and who now advise us. They said to the previous Government: 'Do not do it', but it did it and the only alibi given by the honourable member for New England was that the brewers were suffering the poor suffering brewers. That is a very interesting new axis that we are hearing about from the present Opposition and I look forward to hearing more of it in the future.

It is with pride that I say on behalf of all supporters of the Government who fought this impost that one of the first measures we, as a Government, were pledged to bring in was to do away with the tax. I am delighted to have the opportunity on behalf of the people I represent in Riverina the largest wine district in New South Wales of supporting the Bill with great enthusiasm.

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