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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 911..


MR HARGREAVES (4.33): I have written to the Clerk and have withdrawn my motion No. 5 on the notice paper on the same subject as that posed by Mr Osborne, and I now move the following amendment circulated in my name:

After proposed paragraph (2) add the following new paragraph:

"(3) further requires the Carnell Government to mount a full and vigorous defence of the ACT Milk Industry by taking the strongest possible action to prevent the distribution of milk outside the authority of the ACT Milk Authority until such time as the possible deregulation of the industry has been considered in the light of the National Competition Policy.".

There is a connection between my amendment and Mr Osborne's motion, in the sense that Mr Osborne's motion talks about the whole of the national competition policy, the probable detrimental effects here in the ACT, and the need to have some forum independent of the Executive to look into this; and it is my view that the current issue in front of the milk industry in the ACT is the first and most vital one of the issues which will challenge that particular forum.

I move this amendment because of the extent to which public concern has been expressed about the moves of Davids Holdings and National Foods, through the outlet of Woolworths, to challenge the authority of this Government over the distribution of milk in the ACT. In an interview on 2CC today, the Chief Minister said that she believed there could easily be a lower price for the consumer as a result. She was referring to the introduction of interstate supplies. She also agreed with the presenter of the program that we could have "cheaper milk perhaps, but possibly a loss of Territory jobs". I quote her reply: "That's certainly true". We could have cheaper milk and a loss of jobs. What is true is that in all of the States deregulated so far prices have soared. Victoria is now 20c per litre dearer, but this action will definitely mean a loss of jobs. No wonder people are scared.

As the Assembly is only too well aware, the milk industry in the ACT is under review to comply with the competition policy imposed by the ACCC. The Government has commissioned the Sheen review to look into the industry and report on the state of the industry regarding compliance and, a cynic might say, to come up with reasons supporting deregulation. This review is an internal departmental review and, whilst valuable in contributing to the information available to make decisions about the industry, should not be regarded as a full, open and public examination of the test of public benefit required under competition policy guidelines. It is clear, however, that the Government is committed to an examination of the public benefit test, and I am confident that the Government, when convinced that the public benefit will not be served by deregulation, will abandon its agenda for abolishing the Milk Authority and ask the ACCC for an exemption from the application of the policy in respect of milk distribution in the ACT.


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