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Tuesday, 11 April 1972
Page: 970

Senator LITTLE (Victoria) - The Australian Democratic Labor Party proposes to support the Honey Industry Bill 1972. This is a growing industry. There has obviously been dissatisfaction with the previous Australian Honey Board. That is not difficult to understand when it is realised that there exists the rather unique feature of a common Australia-wide association in which a decision must be unanimous otherwise there is no decision. Of course, this would lead to a great number of road blocks in any attempt, to get. anything done in the industry. I do not know how the honey producers would vote on whether a new board is warranted at this time. Indeed, few of them have discussed thai matter specifically with me. The export tonnage of honey from this country in recent years is impressive. The new markets that are opening in Asia are very important.

I could not imagine that producers who are busy producing the product in cooperation, of course, with the bees are in a position in which they could adequately handle the marketing of this product in an international sense. For that reason, my counsel to honey producers in general would be that they certainly need a board of some son to promote the interests of their industry in the interests of each and every one of them who is part of it. 1 think that the maximum capacity of this industry to export to the more congested countries of the world is obvious. I doubt whether human beings will be able to live in the shadows of Tokyo, for instance, within the next 10 years let alone busy little bees who have to go out and energetically gather honey. They will need more than wings to plough through the atmosphere that we see today around the industrial sections of Japan. I would think that the sparse population of our country - that is normally a great handicap to development - would assist this industry and give it certain benefits which would be of tremendous advantage in world markets. A properly constituted board, working in the proper manner to assist the producers to market the potential of this industry, is needed. We are experiencing many difficulties in primary industry and we must search for the initiative to create new markets for new products that are readily acceptable to those new markets in the Asian area in particular.

The honey industry could perhaps develop more sensationally than it has. The criticisms of the Board as it has been constituted in the past could be valid. I received a communication from the South Australian Commercial Apiarists Associa tion, lt had some criticisms to offer on the emoluments paid to the Board. In presenting its case that Association suggested that the Board had met on only 17 days in the last 3 years. It seems to me that on that basis of meeting on 6 days a year the emolument of $1,300 that is prescribed for a Board member is generous. But I am well aware that you cannot assess the emolument merely on the basis of how many times a board meets. No doubt the Minister will give us some information on this question. There is a tendency, even by the Press of this country, to judge the worth and value of members of Parliament and the work they do on the number of days that the Parliament may sit. Members of Parliament know, and 1 suspect that the journalists who write the articles know, that the enormous amount of time that is involved in representing the people of the community in their Parliament has no ida.tionship whatsoever to the number of days on which the Parliament actually meets. 1 would not imagine that the circumstances would be arduous for members on a board such as the Australian Honey Board compared to the circumstances 1 have outlined for members of Parliament. But 1 think more confidence would be created in the Board if we were told precisely what was expected of the ordinary members, apart from the Chairman, other than sitting at the Board meetings. The amount of $200 a day is a lot more than is paid to most people. It is certainly a lot more than is paid to members of Senate committees who receive about one twohundredth of that amount for sitting on a committee for a day in Canberra. I notice also that provision is made in the Bill for allowances to be paid to cover expenses that are incurred by members who have to attend board meetings. Naturally, they should be paid. I imagine they would cover accommodation and transport costs and things of that nature. I believe that the responsibilities of people who are accepting the job should be sufficiently arduous r.nd important to the industry to justify the emolument that is suggested in this Bill. Perhaps that has not been so in the past and it is one of the grounds of criticism that is levelled at the Board. For that reason, the Australian Democratic Labour Party supports the Bill although we would like more explanations from the Minister than those contained in his second reading speech.

One aspect did not receive any attention in the Minister's second reading speech. If the members of the Board are doing what a board should do for this industry they could well be underpaid on the basis of the emolument that is suggested in the Bill. If they are not, and the 17 days of meeting in 3 years constitutes the main activities of the members of the Board, there is an entirety different picture. We do not know what the real picture is. It is for the Minister to explain to us at this time precisely what the activities are; how much the individual members of the Board are concerned with the marketing of products, and how much they give of their own time to personally assist in gathering the knowledge that is necessary to expand the market for this product in the interests of the people who are in the industry and in the interests of Australia in overseas trading. We believe that the general set-up of the new board and the method of election of members will be better than the method that has been adopted in the past. The limitations of the past procedures are obvious, particularly those in relation to the unanimity of decision that is required. A ridiculous situation is reached when one State can hold up the appointment of representatives to the Board from another State. It would appear to me that the organisation of apiarists has been foolish not to correct that situation, thus obviating the necessity to correct it in the Parliament by legislation. Apparently, nothing has been really done about this, whatever may have been the heartburning. We can only say that in the interests of fairness and in the interests of the industry itself it is time that this aspect of it was put right.

We do not accept the argument that the provision that people can be both producers and packers and be elected by the producers to represent them, constitutes a handing over of the Board to packers. The producer still has to have 200 hives. That is the qualification. If, at the same time, he can provide his own facilities and do his own packing that does not necessarily make him a packer to the detriment of his capacity in the industry to be a producer. He is still a producer. It appears to me that only a minority of seats can be granted to persons who are purely packers and that the other seats must be filled by people who actually produce honey. It appears to me that if they also pack the honey they would have a little broader knowledge of the industry which could be of extra value to a member of the Board and which might not act to the detriment of the industry.

Senator Gair - He is a producer in the first instance.

Senator LITTLE - He is a producer. He has to be. He is a producer before he is a packer. I do not think the producers would elect somebody who was a very small producer and a very large packer to be their representative on the Board. I would say that if they did they must have great confidence in him as a man who would genuinely represent the producers, and that is why they elect him. I think we can safely leave the election of representatives in the hands of the people who are eligible to elect representatives on the Board.

I do not share the fears which have been expressed by some that because some people are engaged in both activities this would mean handing over the industry to a packer dominated Board. A majority of representatives on the Board must still be producers of honey. I think that is the main feature of this provision. Another good feature is that the other section of the industry which can be important in the marketing of the product - packing - will be represented on the Board. It has to be if we want the industry to develop and grow in exporting. I believe that the Bill will be passed by the Senate. Most of the other points have been covered. I would like from the Minister an explanation of the points I have raised. I am not in any way critical of the emoluments prescribed in the Bill, but I would like him to give us a better idea of how they are being spent. That would increase the confidence of the people in the industry and the public at large in the constitution of the Board.

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