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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 924 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

For the life of me, I do not understand that logic at all. I believe very strongly that, wherever possible, we should use our own internal expertise when we have that expertise at our disposal. I find it absolutely stunning that those opposite do not believe that; that they do not believe that we should use our own people when they have the expertise. It shows a very different view on the professionalism of the Public Service than I have. I believe that our people are very professional and have all of the expertise - in fact, possibly in the case of Dr Sheen, greater expertise - that we are likely to get with an external consultant and a greater background in the area, greater knowledge both academically and professionally, than we are likely to get from an external consultant. That is a fascinating approach, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker, again I make the point that the Government will not be opposing the setting up of this entity. We think that it has the potential to be of benefit to the Government. But we do believe that this time it is really important that we do get the role, the accountability arrangements and, most importantly, the resourcing issues agreed by the members of this Assembly prior to going ahead. I make the point again that, obviously, you would not have both the forum and the council operating together, Mr Speaker.

MR RUGENDYKE (5.18): Mr Speaker, I rise in favour of the initial motion, which initiates action to protect the ACT milk industry. The Government promotes heavily its intention to create more jobs. However, in this case, my feeling is that the deregulation of the milk industry could wipe out a valuable source of local jobs. There is the possibility that, if the retail outlets can purchase their milk from across the border through Davids and Woolworths, it would have a dramatic flow-on effect to people like the home delivery milk vendors. Sure, the retail outlets may be able to provide cheaper milk initially; but, if that wipes out the viability of the milk vendors, it wipes out the competition. And then it opens the way for retail outlets to increase prices, as they have done in Victoria. Interestingly, I have heard that there is about 34 million litres of milk sold in the ACT per annum. A 20c per litre increase in the cost of that milk would result in $6.8m a year going straight into the bank account of Woolworths, National Foods, Davids, or whoever these interstate people are.

There is also the big-picture view of national competition policy to consider. I would like to see evidence of the benefits of deregulation before we commit ourselves to it. I would like to see who is at risk and who the major losers are going to be. In the example of milk, it is local people with local businesses providing local jobs who appear to be the potential losers. Once again, the winners appear to be the major retail chains like Woolworths. Just little by little, we seem to be giving bodies like Woolworths more and more power in the interests of competition policy. Take the example of deregulating shopping hours. We all know the impact that has had on local shops. Has that been of benefit to the community? I am concerned about the other gains that the Woolworths of this world will reap at the expense of the community. The next in line is milk. What will be next? Will it be pharmacies in the corners of Woolworths stores? I do not think we would like that idea. I think we should pull our heads in and check our direction on this issue. For this reason, Mr Speaker, I support the motion and also Mr Hargreaves's amendment. I will have to think more about the other two.

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