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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 6502


Mr FITZGIBBON —My question is also to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. I ask you, Minister, in light of the unanimous decision of the all-party Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee with respect to the importation of cooked chicken meat, will you—


Mr Downer —You are half the man your father was.


Mr Latham —Did you hear that, Mr Speaker?


Mrs Crosio —Did you hear what he said? It is a disgrace.


Mr O'Keefe —That should be withdrawn.


Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Hunter will resume his seat for a moment. There is too much chat across the benches. The honourable member for Hunter should begin his question again.


Mr FITZGIBBON —Thank you, Mr Speaker. In light of the unanimous recommendations of the all-party Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Committee with respect to the importation of cooked chicken meat, will you now reconsider your position on the issue? How do you explain the conflict between your own position and that of your coalition colleagues on the committee? Will you now make an absolute commitment to keep your pre-election promise on this issue?


Mr ANDERSON —I thank the honourable member for his question. Let me, at the outset, make the point that, interestingly enough, they want to move away from some of the intellectual rigour that they put in place on the basis of Australia pursuing enlightened self-interest in trade matters. They did it because, in net terms, the Australian economy in general and the rural sector in particular would benefit.


Mr Kerr —Scrounging around, making promises which you are now backing away from.


Mr ANDERSON —No, it was done with coalition support and it was done with the support of the farm community and farm leaders. Let me make a couple of other points. The first thing is that the general approach was, in fact, supported by that excellent work done by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee which said:

The committee recognises that ministerial or government decisions must be consistent with the provisions of the agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures.

And it goes on. But they are not the only people who agree with the broad approach. Mr Speaker, I would like to table a rather interesting letter from the shadow minister who has put down the MPI for today, Mr O'Keefe, in which he says, in part:

I noticed reported comments—


Mr Tanner —But you will not table your letter! You will not let us table your letter.


Mr ANDERSON —Just a minute. I hope that all members will listen carefully to this. This letter is from the shadow minister who is moving the matter of public importance against me. It states:

John,

I notice reported comments in the press today about chicken meat imports. Refer to my comments on Thursday in Main Committee supporting decision.

Thank you very much. I table a copy of the letter.


Mr O'Keefe —You know that is not right. You know the note was not about this. It was about—


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Burke will resume his seat.