Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (23 June) . . Page.. 802 ..
MR OSBORNE (continuing):
Quite clearly, Mr Speaker, you can see that we have a problem here. I have had enough of relying on the Government's word when it comes to interpreting competition policy - a policy which will affect the lives of everyone in this city, and potentially everyone in this country. It is time for this policy to be transparent, as the Federal parliamentary committee concluded. If the Government will not do that, then I think that the majority of members in this Assembly should think about it.
MR KAINE (10.45): Mr Speaker, let me say first that I support the amendment to the Act currently before us, because it is something that we must do to protect our position in the immediate future. Speakers in the debate up until now have indicated that it should not be assumed that the Assembly is going to sit idly aside while the Milk Authority is done away with, unless there is substantial reason to take that course of action. I think in the past, in other cases where questions have arisen about national competition policy, we have been all too easily persuaded by the Government that if we do not do this thing now we are going to lose lots of Commonwealth money. Mr Speaker, that has not yet been tested. I believe that on a couple of occasions in the past the Government has gone to water without any argument or debate on the matter at all. The Milk Authority is one organisation in respect of which there is no doubt that considerable public benefit can be demonstrated. Mr Osborne has indicated also that there is a process that has to be gone through, and there is some question as to whether the Government has gone through an appropriate process, up to this point, in connection with the future of the Milk Authority.
As other speakers have done, Mr Speaker, I am merely signalling to the Government that, if, on this occasion, they seek to succumb, without debate and without argument, to the destruction of a very useful and valuable public organisation in the Territory, then they may not succeed without some argument and some objection from members of this Assembly. I think that this might be a valuable occasion for the Assembly and the Government to test the Commonwealth on this question of the terms and conditions under which we will continue to receive the payments that are due to us under the uniform competition policy legislation. It might be an interesting test case that could well prove that the Commonwealth cannot arbitrarily impose requirements on a Territory or a State to do away with valuable organisations set up in that State or Territory. By valuable, I mean organisations which contribute materially to the benefit and the wellbeing of the community.
I have no difficulty whatsoever, however, with this current amendment, which merely sets our position in concrete for at least six months, during which time the question of the future of the Milk Authority can be adequately debated and all of the issues in connection with it, including the Commonwealth Government's position on the matter, can be appropriately tested.
MR RUGENDYKE (10.49): I also rise to support this Bill. As a responsible member, I see no other choice if we are to protect the Territory from breaching the Trade Practices Act. However, while discussing milk, I would like to take this opportunity to voice my concerns about reforms in this industry. I hold grave fears about the impact that deregulation of the milk supply will have on the ACT. Most importantly, I feel that we are putting local jobs on the line by giving the green light to interstate suppliers, and my concerns are growing by the day. I support this Bill, with reservations about the subsequent deregulation, if that is to occur.