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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 4001

Mr CAUSLEY(5.30 p.m.) —If ever there were a reason why this should be taken out of the hands of politicians it has been demonstrated here this afternoon by the emotive half-truths that we have heard from the opposition. We have to take a few steps backwards to have a close look at this particular position at the present time. Those steps need to go back to the negotiations that went on for a world trade agreement.

While the members of the opposition are trying to step away from the decision that might or might not have been taken on cooked chicken meat importation, they cannot get away from the fact that they negotiated the conditions and the protocols in the world trade agreement. The reasons for those negotiations were fairly clear. Australia has been locked out of many markets around the world and we needed to negotiate some reasonable access terms if we were going to achieve some of the objectives that we needed for many of our great export industries.

While I can accept some of the arguments put forward by the members of the Labor Party about the risks involved—and I am sure we are all concerned about those—we cannot lose sight of the fact that Australia needs to have access to these markets, not just in chicken meat but in other products that we produce and that make a very valuable input to our balance of trade and the income that we derive.

The fact is that under the world trade agreement an agreement has been signed to give products access to other countries, including Australia, and that the tariff and non-tariff barriers put in place by countries over the years will be reduced by some 30 per cent by the year 2000 and eliminated in industrial countries by 2010 and in developing countries by 2020. What we need to do here is not so much address the politics and the pedantics but make sure that—not just in this industry but also in other industries—the protocols put in place to protect our industries are in fact effective.

I agree with the member for Paterson (Mr Bob Baldwin) when he says, `I believe that the information given to the minister from AQIS was defective.' I happened to be in his office the night he rang England and spoke to Professor Alexander. In his statement to us Professor Alexander said that he did not disagree that the conditions that were outlined by AQIS on heat treatment and the period that was needed to kill the infectious diseases—not just Newcastle disease but infectious bursal disease—might be possible. He did say that the research had not been done. He said that he could do that research and give some definitive answers to the minister and to us because we were concerned that the disease could be brought into this country.

The thing that we need to look at very closely in the opening up of trade around the world is that there are protocols put in place to ensure that diseases are not brought into this country. It is not just the heat treatment. You have to go to the factories as well. You have to make sure by some method that if in fact the treatment does destroy these diseases it is done effectively in the factories. We have to have a slightly broader view on this because anyone who has closely watched the development of Asia in recent years knows that there are huge markets opening up in those countries. The standard of living is increasing in those countries. There is an opportunity for Australia to get into some of those markets. Asians are big eaters of chicken. If we get our protocols right and the world trade agreement works, then opportunities will be opening up for Australian industry in those particular markets. That is the most important thing we should be looking at.

Mr Fitzgibbon —But do you support the bill?

Mr CAUSLEY —I do not want to play politics like the member for Hunter. We have to look very closely at what is right for Australia and get out of the petty politics. It is more important to see what is right, to see how we can open up these markets and how we can protect our industries, and to get those protocols right. I believe that the minister listened very closely when he was informed about the advice from Professor Alexander, and he certainly said that he was going to do the extra research. I understand that Professor Alexander is going to do that research. I hope that that is effective so that we can put in place the protocols that are necessary. (Time expired)

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Vaile) —Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 104A. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.