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Tuesday, 18 September 1973
Page: 1211

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - The Bill refers in clause 7 again to lc per lb. The purpose of the amendment which we have just discussed has been in part covered by the answer given by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby). The lc per lb referred to in clause 7, of course, is partly covered by the explanation given by the Minister. No apology has been given to this Parliament for the statement being made outside the Parliament and I think that it needs to be said that the reason for the moving of our earlier amendment and for my rising to speak on this clause is that we regard this as a matter of principle. We are not objecting to the lc per lb referred to in clause 7. I refer specifically to the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean).

The Government has decided to impose a charge on the export of meats to recoup from the meat industry the substantial expenditure incurred by the Government for the benefit of the industry on export meat inspection services.

Without labouring the point that speech is almost an exact replica of the words which were used by the Minister for Immigration when introducing the Bill. The Minister said:

The purpose of this Bill is to impose a charge on meat exported from Australia in order to recoup the cost to the Government of the export meat inspection.

He continued:

From 1 October 1973 to 30 June 1976 the charge will be lc per lb on meat exports. The charge is expected to yield $14m in 1973-74.

There is no point in the Minister's arithmetic unless he is prepared to explain to honourable members why statements are being made outside the Parliament and why the Parliament is being treated with gross discourtesy. This is not a matter of our saying that meat producers and meat exporters are not, in times of reasonable prosperity, entitled to pay reasonable charges levied with respect to services given to them. This is an opportunity when one should expect the Minister to give a reasonable explanation as to the significant changes from the undertaking given by the Treasurer. For that reason the Opposition accepts clause 7 and accepts the charge of lc per lb. It believes that that is the charge which should be applicable throughout the Bill in accordance with the Treasurer's undertaking.

An explanation of any change must be accommodated, according to an explanation which the Minister has failed to give, with the reason why this House was not treated with the courtesy which it should have enjoyed in being given an explanation of why the charge was to be increased instead of being left in accordance with the Treasurer's Budget speech. This House cannot be denied the opportunity to have explained to it the fundamental policy decisions of the Government or changes in those policy decisions. That courtesy has not been given to this House. It is fortunate that no change has occurred concerning lamb and mutton. On the matter of principle the Opposition believes that the Government at least should have given the Opposition the courtesy of an explanation and a measure of humility as to why a proper explanation was not given when the second reading speech was made.

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