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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (16 February) . . Page.. 99 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

the same as the rest of the country. This means that we have to reduce the size of the work force. We have to reduce the number of vendors in the marketplace even if it means eliminating them altogether. We must increase the prices, decrease sponsorships and increase the profit margins of large supermarkets. It makes a lot of sense, does it not?

Mr Speaker, this Bill will be supported in the in-principle stage only because it contains protections for vendors. We will not be supporting the rest of the Bill.

An interesting sidelight is that the Bill dismantles the Milk Authority. It allows the functions to be shared between the Chief Minister's office and the Department of Urban Services. But this Government has not waited for the successful passage of this Bill. It has already done it; the changes have been made. The Opposition agrees that the government of the day can structure its administrative framework in such a way as to deliver its programs. In this sense, what it does to the administrative and managerial framework of the Milk Authority is up to the Government. But, Mr Speaker, when this action is coupled with such blind determination to deregulate at the expense of the ordinary family and to the profit of large business, we have difficulty in going along with it.

MR KAINE (10.47): Mr Speaker, I am pleased that the Government has persisted with this Bill. I supported it last year and I still support it. Like Mr Hargreaves and others, I very much lament the passing of the Milk Authority as it has been for years because there is no question that, through that authority, the interests of this community were well served; but, regrettably, life changes and with the adoption by all States and Territories, including this Territory, of the commitment to competition policy, some of the good things that we enjoyed in the past cannot continue in that form.

The Minister assured us in his tabling speech that he is addressing, through this Bill or in other ways, all of the things that I thought were necessary to prop up a reasonable milk industry in this Territory in the future, even though the constitution of the Milk Authority has to change. He outlined those things at the end of his speech. They were, firstly, that the Government will retain the Canberra Milk trademark, that it has no intention of selling that brand, although it might consider licensing it. I think that that is useful. Secondly, the Government is continuing to support local jobs for Canberrans through the processing of milk at the ACT-based plant, and I think that that is an important commitment because without that commitment we could easily have lost the milk processing facility. I think that it is incumbent upon the Government, having made that statement, to do more than pay lip-service to it.

The third one is through retaining existing price control arrangements. Price is one of the big issues. We know that elsewhere in Australia, when the milk industry has been deregulated, milk prices and dairy product prices have gone up considerably. It was one of the great achievements of the Milk Authority that it was able to keep prices at a very reasonable level compared to other parts of Australia. It is necessary that the Government ensure that we do not lose all of those benefits simply because competition policy comes on the scene. There are steps that the Government can take, and it has indicated here that it will do that through the price control mechanisms.

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