Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is directed to Senator Abetz representing the Minister for Agriculture. The government is proposing to permanently increase the levy on mangoes. A secret ballot of levy-paying growers was conducted on this proposal. Can the minister advise how many of the 793 mango growers eligible to vote in the secret ballot agreed with the proposed levy increase on mangoes and how many opposed it?
Expert as I am on these matters, I am delighted to inform the honourable senator that the government itself does not propose any increase in levies. The industry and the industry body make the suggestion and conduct a ballot, and then the government seeks to facilitate the implementation of whatever decision is determined. So any change in the levy, as I understand it, is initiated by industry.
The ballot of which the senator speaks was undertaken by Boardroom Pty Ltd. As it happens, I have in my back pocket the numbers for this particular ballot, and I am advised that 69 voted in favour and 66 voted against. However, there is a twist. It seems as though the Greens must have had something to do with the way the vote was counted, because trees actually got a vote on this levy! The vote is weighted one vote for every 2,000 mango trees to a maximum of 20 votes. I just hope that Tony Sheldon from the Transport Workers Union did not do the count, because we know how he miscounts! In relation to the weighted vote, the 'Yes' vote was 269 and 112 were against out of a total potential vote of 793 that I understand Senator Leyonhjelm was referring to.
The issue of levies has been exercising the mind of the coalition, and we said at the last election that we would have a review of the process. I understand the honourable senator is interested in a Senate review, and that is something that we would be minded to join him in. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question—bearing in mind the response to the first question: a regulation is proposed to permanently double the levy on onions. A secret ballot of the levy-paying growers was conducted on this proposal. Can the minister advise how many of the 244 onion growers eligible to vote in the secret ballot agreed with the proposed levy increase on onions, and how many opposed it?
Senator Carol Brown interjecting—
But the sad thing is that onions do not get a vote in this one—only the actual growers. I am advised that the Australian Electoral Commission conducted the ballot in relation to this particular onion levy. In relation to introducing a marketing levy, 20 voted in favour and 15 voted against. I understand there were 45 votes cast, which means that there must have been 10 informal votes cast.
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. A regulation is also proposed to permanently double the levy on mushrooms. A secret ballot of the levy-paying growers was conducted on this proposal. Can the minister advise how many of the 68 mushroom growers eligible to vote in the secret ballot agreed with the proposed levy increase on mushrooms, and how many opposed it?
(—) (): Mr President, Senator Leyonhjelm will surprised to know that on this occasion, the Greens did not get the mushrooms to vote; usually they do—especially for themselves! In relation to this particular levy, there were 33 'yes' votes and 11 'no' votes, and there were 46 votes in total, meaning that there were two informal votes. Can I say to the senator that—the issue of levies is something that he clearly has an interest in—the coalition indicated that it believed there should be a review in the way that the levies are conducted and operated, for the benefit of the various sectors. If the Senate was so minded to have an inquiry, we as a coalition would be willing to join with Senator Leyonhjelm to co-sponsor such an inquiry, to work on the terms of reference, and to see what we can do for the benefit of these sectors in our country. (Time expired)