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Wednesday, 10 October 1973
Page: 1826

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wheat Tax Act 1957-1966 to provide for a maximum rate of tax of 15c per tonne to be paid upon wheat that is delivered to the Australian Wheat Board. Under the terms of associated legislation, the Wheat Research Act 1957, the proceeds of the levy derived under the provisions of the Wheat Tax Act are appropriated to the State wheat research committees in each mainland State in the proportions in which those proceeds are collected in the States for expenditure by the committees on wheat research. The Bill also makes provision for regulations to impose any lower rate of tax, than 15c per tonne, after consideration by the Governor-General of a report to the Minister for Primary Industry by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation.

The measure implements the proposals of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation. In line with the recommendation of the Federation, it is envisaged that following the passage of the Act, regulations would be prescribed to set the operative rate of levy at 11c per tonne on deliveries to the Board commencing with the 1973-74 season. This would apply from 1 October 1973. The rate of 11c per tonne represents an increase of 20 per cent over the existing rate which has applied since 1965. On a delivery level of, say, 10.9 million tonnes or 400 million bushels, wheat tax collections would increase by around $200,000 to an overall figure of $1.2m.

The Government at present matches industry contributions towards the cost of wheat research. These moneys are made available by annual appropriation from the Budget to finance research programs recommended by the Wheat Industry Research Council, constituted under the provisions of the Wheat Research Act, and approved by the Minister for Primary Industry. The Government has decided that it will continue to provide funds to match industry contributions at the new rate of tax proposed, that is, lie per tonne. The research projects financed from the tax collections and Government contributions have provided results of considerable value to the wheat industry. This is evident by the willingness of the industry to increase its contributions to programs investigating a wide range of projects in the fields of soil fertility, plant nutrition, wheat breeding, wheat diseases, storage problems and economic studies.

Since the levy for research purposes was last increased, there have been considerable increases in costs, particularly the salaries of research scientists. To provide for a continuation of the research efforts in the face of this situation, the available funds must be supplemented to sustain the total campaign. The maintenance of the wheat research program is of importance because, with the major portion of Australian wheat production grown for the export market, there is a need for continuing research into all aspects of production and storage and to improve quality standards of wheat to compete effectively with other exporting countries and to meet the requirements of new markets. It is for these reasons that the Government has agreed to the proposed increased rate of tax and is prepared to meet the additional liability it will incur by continuing to match the funds contributed by the industry. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Street) adjourned.

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