Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3495 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
There would be no cost to the taxpayer in this particular scheme, as there was no cost to the taxpayer in Queensland. It merely requires the Government to underwrite the system and continue the levy system until such time as that underwriting has been paid back. If such a scheme was developed, I believe that it would take probably a year or so to get it up, probably a year or so to settle it down and all up no more than three to four years before it was all finished. I think we should be looking at such a scheme before we go through massive structural changes. If people see change coming around the corner, they will be able to see ways being provided for them to exit the industry with their dignity intact, and with a reasonable return of the goodwill they had expected from their business. This is the sort of thing that we talk about when we say, "Let us take the people with us". I am sure that they would go with it. But it is putting the cart before the horse to kill the industry off and then say, "You are on your own. See you later". Ultimately, we will all pay the price. I think that price is too high.
I believe that this Bill fulfils the Government's desire to do away with the Milk Authority, this time by administrative action. I do not see any public benefit test results being put down and I do not see the need for the big rush. The Labor Party will not be supporting the Bill.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (4.31), in reply: Mr Hargreaves raised several points on which he is quite wrong. He said that we can move for an exemption and not make any other changes and things will be okay. That is incorrect. The objective of the Government's Bill is to provide a permanent solution to the Trade Practices Act compliance problems that are embedded in the current Milk Authority Act. By transferring the regulatory functions for price control of home vendor licences and zones to ministerial administration, the Government deals with the TPA issues. It is the TPA issues that are of gravest concern to the vendors, because it is the TPA issues that put them at greatest risk. We provide protection to the various market participants - to Goldenholm Dairy, to the processor, to Capitol Chilled Foods, to the distributors, to home vendors and indeed to consumers - by making sure that we fix this problem. It is very simple. We have a problem with the Trade Practices Act. The Trade Practices Act can, I guess, be avoided by a section 51 exemption, but the Trade Practices Commission must approve that exemption. Unless we show that we are moving towards fixing the problem, there is the severe likelihood that they will not.
The head-in-the-sand, King Canute approach from the kings of Canuteland over there in Labor is to keep adding exemptions. But the day will come when the Trade Practices Commission does not accept that. At that point Labor, by their refusal to deal with these issues, will have put at risk those jobs that Mr Hargreaves says he seeks to protect. The Government does not want to do that. The whole point is that the world has changed. There are many factors outside the control of the ACT Government and outside the control of this Assembly that need to be addressed, and you cannot address them by putting your head in the sand.
I was quite astounded to hear Mr Hargreaves say that we should put a small levy on the price of milk. Labor's whole stand to this point has been to say, "We do not want the price of milk to go up". But Labor's answer to Trade Practices Act problems is to levy the consumers of the ACT and give them more expensive milk. How long will this