Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 912 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
It is my understanding that the caretaker Premier and Leader of the Opposition in the State of Queensland have both committed their coalition or party to applications for exemption from the ACCC in respect of milk distribution in that State, so it is not correct to assume that the deregulation of the industry is a countrywide phenomenon. It is being resisted in Queensland and has been shown to be the cause of price rises in Victoria and South Australia and will imminently be shown to be so in New South Wales. We have a number of problems presented to us today. The first is the nature of the public benefit test for milk distribution. I am aware that once the Sheen report is available the Government intends to make it available for public comment. However, concerns over the future of this industry have been expressed by processing distributors, wholesale distributors, vendors, home vendors and the general public. My office has been flooded with calls from people. The general public have a right to full and open examination of the industry and the application of that public benefit test.
Another issue before us today, and a very important one in terms of timeframe and challenge to the authority of this Assembly, is the intention of Davids Holdings and National Foods to supply milk products to Woolworths outlets in contravention of the procedures governed by the Milk Authority. This is a direct challenge to the authority of this Assembly to control activities within its borders. No doubt these wholesale giants will quote section 92 of the Constitution as the authority for challenging the authority of the Assembly.
One could argue that the opportunity to tender for the supply of milk through the ACT Milk Authority negates the contention that there is not free trade between the States, as enshrined in section 92 of the Constitution. This challenge must be taken head-on. The Government must take the strongest steps possible to ensure a full and vigorous defence of the Milk Authority, through injunctions if necessary. Davids Holdings and National Foods do not care about the public benefit test exemption available from the ACCC. They do not care about the loss of 650 jobs as a result of the downsurge in demand suffered by the Milk Authority's contractor, Capitol Chilled Foods, and the trickle-down effect it will have on home vendors. It cannot wait until the test is performed and await the umpire's decision. For some reason unknown to man, these wholesale giants cannot wait six months for a full examination of the industry and any implication for deregulation it may reveal and for a management strategy to be developed.
I call on the Government to mount a vigorous defence of the ACT milk industry - - -
Ms Carnell: We are.
MR HARGREAVES: A vigorous defence and the strongest possible action, not a wussoid one. Only yesterday I asked, "Have you received any legal advice on this?" and the answer was a proliferation of absolute wussiness, following which it was revealed on 2CC that such legal advice had been received. When I asked whether it had been received, I got nothing. I suggest that unless there is a change of heart on the part of this Government the milk industry in the ACT can expect nothing less. I ask the Government - no, I plead with them - to back these people, to back the milk industry, to back the milk runners. There are 400 of them. They are young people. These people need your help, and I hope that you will not be found wanting. I ask the Assembly to support Mr Osborne's motion in the strongest possible terms.