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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 453 ..


MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (10.47): Mr Speaker, I present the Milk Authority (Amendment) Bill 1998, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR SMYTH: I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, today I am introducing into the Assembly a Bill which amends the Milk Authority Act 1971. There is some urgency attached to this Bill and I am not going to mince words about its importance. The purpose of the amendments is to include provisions which will address potential breaches of the Commonwealth's Trade Practices Act. Since 21 July 1996, the Part IV conduct rules in the TPA have applied to government business activities. Mr Speaker, what that means in simple terms is that conduct which is in breach of the TPA must be authorised. There are two ways of authorising such conduct. One is to seek an authorisation directly from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. The other is to amend the relevant legislation by reference to the TPA. It is the latter course that we are pursuing with these amendments. The Government is of the view that the Territory's interests are best served at this stage by enacting its own legislation rather than seeking the ACCC's up-front agreement to authorise the conduct.

Under the transitional arrangements that apply, legislation which was in force on 21 July 1996 is deemed to be authorised - but only until 21 July 1998. In other words, Mr Speaker, on 21 July this year, all conduct that is currently authorised by legislation will be fully exposed to the TPA. The Milk Authority currently engages in a number of forms of conduct which are potentially in breach of the TPA, for example, price fixing and vendor licensing and zoning arrangements. There is, therefore, some risk after 21 July that this conduct may give rise to civil actions or fines by the ACCC.

The provisions in this amendment Bill will put in place authorisations under the TPA which apply to specific areas of conduct. Mr Speaker, this is a course of action that is not without some risk. The review of the Milk Authority Act is still under way. As such, the public benefit test that would normally be undertaken to comply with the national competition principles agreement has not yet been completed. In addition, we are required to notify the ACCC that the authorisations have been enacted. Once again, such enactments require a demonstrable public benefit that outweighs any detriments.

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