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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (16 February) . . Page.. 102 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

However, it seems that the Assembly has been put in a difficult situation because the exemption for the Milk Authority under the Trade Practices Act has now run out and the industry is under even more uncertainty than it was before. It looks like we have no alternative but to pass this Bill, even though it is not the best solution to the milk industry's concerns.

I note that the Labor Party will be putting up some amendments to the Bill basically to allow the Trade Practices Act exemption to be extended to 30 June 2000 but not to allow any other changes to the legislation governing the milk industry at this stage. That seems a sensible approach as it will allow some breathing space for further work to be done by the Government on developing a more comprehensive plan for the ACT milk industry that protects local jobs and prevents unjustified price increases for milk.

MR OSBORNE (10.58): This is one of those pieces of legislation that we are increasingly being faced with as a result of that wonderful thing, competition policy. It is another example, Mr Speaker, of us as an Assembly, as a parliament, being forced to change situations which, quite clearly, have served the people of the ACT quite well in the past. In consultations with the industry over the last couple of months in relation to this piece of legislation it became quite clear that something did need to be done to stabilise the future for people in the industry. That is why I will be supporting now legislation I voted against last year.

There are two key issues for me, Mr Speaker. One is the issue of price. Quite clearly, the role of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Commissioner in the utilities market has been a very positive one, something of which I am very proud, having been involved in process which saw the appointment of Mr Baxter. To have him involved in the setting of the price of milk in the future, formerly the role of the Government, is certainly a very positive thing. The second issue, Mr Speaker, is the future of the vendors. Quite clearly, all of us have concerns about what the future holds for them. I feel that this is a way forward, that there is some uncertainty in the current environment and, by enacting this legislation, some steps can be taken to give them a more secure future. Obviously, it is going to be a very difficult period for the industry. Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, it is one of those things where we as a parliament have been forced to act, given that wonderful competition policy issue.

The ALP's answer to keeping the vendors was to put a levy on milk sales so that we could buy them out, thereby reducing their numbers and giving the remainder a larger area and making them more viable. I do not know whether that is the answer, Mr Speaker. I certainly do not support an increase in the price of milk to do so but, quite clearly, this industry needs to be addressed somehow.

There has been some talk about the issue of the Canberra Milk brand. I want it on the record that I would like to see that brand stay locally to ensure the survival of the local industry. A number of people are employed by the Canberra Milk organisation and I hope that any way forward will ensure that the brand stays in the hands of the local industry.

I will be listening with interest to the amendments put up by Mr Hargreaves. I think both he and I have done a fair amount of tossing and turning over this piece of legislation. I am always more than happy to make life easier for other members of this Assembly.

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