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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2682

Mr HEWSON (MCMILLAN, VICTORIA) - Did the Minister for the Capital Territory maintain the spirit of the State Ministers gentlemen's agreement of the February meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in reference to the production of margarine in the Australian Capital Territory? Can the Minister inform the House of the date of purchase or lease of the Home Pride factory at Fyshwick by Marrickville Holdings Ltd? Was it after the February meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council? Is it true that the machinery for the manufacture of table margarine was installed only some weeks prior to the announcement that the Minister had given a unilateral licence to Marrickville Holdings Ltd? Why was Marrickville Holdings given this monopoly licence? Will the Minister explain to the Parliament what right he had to make the announcement prior to the May meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council? Did the Minister for Primary Industry cover up for him at that meeting?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The words 'cover up for him' are I think unparliamentary and uncalled for.

Mr ENDERBY - There was no breach of any gentlemen's understanding reached at the February meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. On the occasion of that meeting, I, together with other Ministers, particularly the Minister from South Australia, argued strongly for a relaxation of the quota system which operates in its present form against the production of a very valuable food which is in demand by Australians who want to buy it and who want to exercise their freedom of choice. We ran into opposition from Ministers from States such as New South Wales who were determined to retain the quota in the interests of their political sectional power base, the Country Party power base. The Agricultural Council decided in February that the Australian Capital Territory could have a quota of 300 tons. I said: Thank you very much; I accept it and I want it noted that I accept it.' That is on the record. Before that some inquiries had been made by various manufacturers of margarine about what could be done in the Australian Capital Territory. There are no laws here dealing with the subject. There were none then and there are none now. No laws have been made and no changes have been made.

With that assurance from the Agricultural Council, Marrickville Holdings, which was the first to express an interest in the subject, came in and took an option on premises in Fyshwick which were suitable from the point of view of the health requirements of the Australian Capital Territory and the purpose clauses in the leasing system of the Australian Capital Territory. I saw no reason to stop that action and that is the position as it is now. The company has my approval, if I may put it that way, to manufacture 300 tons. There is no law at the moment - although I imagine I could make one at short notice - to prevent the company from exceeding that amount, but I am sure that it will honour the understanding we have. However, there is no law at the moment to stop anyone coming here and making margarine.

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