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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 914 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

I support the motion and I support Mr Hargreaves's amendment. At the end of the day, when the Government has properly considered these issues and what action is open to it, then, and only then, should we take a decision on these matters. We should not be stampeded into taking any other action than that in the meantime.

MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (4.45): Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, initially I would like to welcome Mr Trevor Santi and other representatives of the TWU and some local small business people who have a real interest in this issue and who are sitting in the gallery. In rising to support Mr Osborne's motion and Mr Hargreaves's amendment, I simply say what I have said on several occasions in the recent debate, that is, that if people cross the border on 1 July or at any other time and do not act in accordance with the Milk Authority Act we will prosecute. It is as simple as that. The Act is there. This is why, as Mr Kaine has pointed out, we have extended the Act until 31 December this year to allow a full, frank and public discussion of the review that has been conducted by Dr Sheen. I will release that report tomorrow.

But, in rising to support Mr Hargreaves's amendment, I think it is important that we understand what it is that the Government can and cannot do to defend the local milk industry. I can understand that Mr Hargreaves and other members rising in this place have concerns about possible changes to the arrangements for the sale and distribution of milk. If deregulation means higher milk prices and fewer services, I would also be concerned and you would have to wonder what deregulation was all about. This is, however, a matter for the review of the Milk Authority Act, and I will release the report on that review tomorrow.

Mr Osborne asked me yesterday whether I would be prepared to have an independent review of the review. Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, not only am I comfortable with that; I will go one step further and throw it open to public consultation and we will call for public comment when the review is released. All governments have an obligation to uphold the law and I state categorically in this place that I will, as I am required to do, uphold those sections of the Milk Authority Act for which I am responsible to the extent that it is possible. Similarly, I would expect the ACT Milk Authority to enforce the Act and act in a manner consistent with the law.

Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, the ACT Milk Authority has a number of powers and obligations. These include making decisions about who may and who may not actually enter the ACT milk market. Members need to understand that the current arrangements under the Milk Authority Act do not preclude the entry of other players into the ACT market. Any business is entitled to seek entry to the market and the Milk Authority may approve or disapprove such entrance. The purpose of that Act was never to make the ACT milk market a monopoly market. We have all heard recently about the intentions of some companies to start operating in the ACT. In fact, there is absolutely no law against that. You cannot prosecute somebody for having an intention.

I do draw the line at the point where companies do not comply with the Territory law. At this point I would expect that the authority, through the DPP, would apply the full weight of the law. But it is sensible to ask what sets of circumstances can give rise to a prosecution. Can we prosecute, for example, a company that has sought approval to operate in the ACT and has got that approval from the ACT Milk Authority?

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