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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3493 ..


Debate resumed from 8 December 1998, on motion by Mr Smyth:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

MR HARGREAVES (4.18): Mr Speaker, I rise to indicate to the Assembly that the Opposition, predictably, will be opposing the Bill. This process has been going on for quite some time and it has a history of being rushed through and a history of stumbling along the way. We have seen demonstrations outside this Assembly. We have had people make representation to us and we have seen articles in the newspaper. All of them are bagging the process. Essentially, the process that the Government has undertaken in this particular Bill is very seriously flawed.

If we are talking about major structural change to what we are doing, it is imperative that the people of our community and particularly those affected, the milk vendors themselves - in fact, all of those people who make a living out of the industry - be taken with the Government when it changes their lives so fundamentally. This Government has clearly failed in that regard, if the plethora of information that has come to me is any indication and if the amount of television and newspaper critique is any indication.

Essentially, what the Labor Party is about is protecting as many jobs as we possibly can in the process of change from the current system into the deregulated and competition-infected new regime. It has been of concern to us for many years that the big number of people who will suffer include the vendors' runners, the young people who depend upon the system for a job; the vendors themselves (there is no guarantee under this legislation that the vendors' jobs and their businesses will be protected); and the distributors. There is nothing in this legislation which prevents distributors from going out of business. This Bill does not protect anything.

A positive part of the Bill which, quite frankly, we do not have a problem with is the extension of the sunset provision to protect us against the actions of the ACCC under the Trade Practices Act. We do not find that part of the Bill unacceptable. However, the rest of the Bill is such that we do not believe that we can support the Bill in its current form. Our preference would have been two Bills, one extending the provision we can support and the other with the changes in it, which we could have debated. The extension of the sunset provision would have been very speedily dealt with. However, the Government has chosen to lump it all together and now must suffer its fate because of that.

Even though this has been a fairly protracted exercise, we still think that the Government is rushing through this Bill. First we had the Sheen report, which was criticised severely and scathingly by the Competition Policy Forum. I do not know of any area of the industry which has agreed with the conclusions of that review. The Opposition, a number of other people and I have called for it to be scrapped and for us to start again, largely because the report has not been accepted by the industry. We do not cast any aspersions on the officers who prepared the report. They did their best. I suspect,

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