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Wednesday, 19 September 1973
Page: 1243

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - I think it is pretty important to put the Committee right. I understand that the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), has made a political plea again in relation to another matter totally unconnected with this Bill. I also understand that he criticised the way that the announcement was made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) instead of by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). That is an abstract matter which I cannot quite understand. But the main thing is that the honourable member for New England seems to be prepared to say: 'Look, I am not terribly interested in brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication. I am more interested in scoring a political point.' I really feel that this is not in the interests of the industry. I want to address myself to this matter without dealing with any of the Party political propaganda issues in which the honourable member has involved himself. I am sorry about this. I just want to confine myself to one part of his statement. I would ask him please to consider it.

The honourable member used a set of figures which he indicated came from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. Then he gave the impression that the Department of Primary Industry had a different set of figures. A former Minister should know better. The Department of Primary Industry and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics are inextricably mixed. The Bureau is a part of the Department of Primary Industry. It is the Department which comes up with the combined submissions in technicalities and in matters of fact. I think this is a silly exercise. It really does not help the Committee. I would just draw attention to the fact that the honourable member has based his entire case on the arithmetic of a wrong set of figures. I will now explain them. The figures used by the honour able member for New England are in carcass weight equivalent. The charges are imposed on the shipped weight. That is, less bones and so on. Consequently the calculations by the honourable member overstates the collections. That is the position. All I want to say is-

Mr Street - But you are taxing mixtures too.

Mr Sinclair - You are taxing items with bones as well as without bones.

Mr GRASSBY - I know that the honourable member for New England referred last night as an example to the export of spaghetti. I just want to put this to honourable members opposite: We have a situation in which there is an export inspection cost. I point out that when meat is sold on the home market the consumer, the Australian consumer, the Australian housewife bears that inspection cost. What I am pointing out is that what we are putting forward-

Mr Nixon - You have said that.

Mr GRASSBY - May I finish my contribution? This is the Committee stage of the Bill. We have finished the party political propaganda.

Mr Sinclair - Will you explain the facts?

Mr GRASSBY - I have just given the honourable member the correction to his arithmetic. He should acknowledge it instead of sitting there and interrupting. As I was saying before I was interrupted, we find a peculiar circumstance whereby the Australian family who buys meat on the home market is charged but the purchaser overseas - or the exporter - does not have to pay a service charge. That is all that is involved. There have been references to a tax. I refute again that we are discussing any sort of tax. We are talking about service charges.

Mr Sinclair - Will you give an assurance that no penal tax will be charged through this Bill?

Mr GRASSBY - As far as I am concerned the Bill comes in-

Mr Sinclair - That is no good.

Mr GRASSBY - Let me answer that. I listened to the interjection respectfully.

Mr Sinclair - Thank you.

Mr GRASSBY - I want to make it quite plain that this Meat Export Charge Bill and the Meat Export Charge Collection Bill come down in accordance with statements by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the Budget Speech on 21 August and also that they came down against an announcement by the Prime Minister. That is the basis of this legislation. If there are other matters that concern any honourable members I will be the first to want them to be debated on their merits, quite apart from these service charges. I sincerely ask the Committee to divorce these matters because the only matter that is before it is that of service charges in respect of an important industry. I gathered from the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) when he was speaking yesterday by way of interjection that he said - he can correct me as I say this if I am wrong - that the Opposition did not oppose the principle of service charges being imposed.

Mr Sinclair - Of course we do not. We supported the legislation yesterday.

Mr GRASSBY - I thank the honourable member. I think, Mr Chairman, that you will agree with me that yesterday the honourable member for New England indicated that there was no agreement on anything anywhere at any time. We had to wait until the vote was taken to see what was the real intention of the Opposition. I say again to the Committee that we are dealing exclusively - this is on record now - with these service charges. If there are any other matters to come before the Parliament or the Committee, they will come separately and will be dealt with on their merits. At this time, so far as the 'Government is concerned there is nothing before the Government, nothing before the Cabinet and nothing before the Parliament.

Mr Street - It would be separate legislation.

Mr GRASSBY - It would have to be a completely separate submission. I appeal to the Committee at this stage to accept the principle of service charges as it has been accepted by the honourable member for Corangamite. I give my clear assurance that at the end of the year in the papers associated with and relevant to the 'Department of Primary Industry these service charges will be set forth. If, in fact, the 'Department has over-estimated, that figure will be shown. In fact, it would be in accordance with the Government's attitude that any over-estimate should be considered the following year in relation to the charges. Again I come back to the fact that we are talking about service charges.

Mr Sinclair - You are not talking about brucellosis and tuberculosis now.

Mr GRASSBY - I am talking about service charges in relation to 2 matters, inspections and the campaign to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis.

Mr Sinclair - That is not what you said in your second reading speech.

Mr GRASSBY - I have been very patient, but for the last time - I do not intend to rise again in Committee on this matter - I refer the Opposition to the Budget Speech delivered on 21 August by the Treasurer in which he set these things out clearly. I also refer honourable members to the announcement of the Prime Minister as was promised by the Treasurer. It is clear and definite. If honourable members opposite are not interested in the service charges, in the campaign to eradicate brucellosis and tuberculosis or in a proper basis of inspection, let them vote against this proposal. I think it is about time the Committee had less humbug and more action.

Mr Nixon - What are you talking about? I object to the statement made by the Minister for Immigration.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! Does the honourable member for Gippsland claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr Nixon - No, I am not claiming to have been misrepresented. What the Minister said was unparliamentary.

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