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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2952

Senator SCOTT (Leader of the National Party of Australia)(6.18) -At the outset I indicate that the Opposition does not seek to delay the passage of this primary industry legislation through the Senate. However, we do propose two amendments, one to the second reading of the Pig Meat Legislation Amendment Bill and the other to the second reading of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill. Both of those amendments indicate a view which we hope, and perhaps believe, the Government will accept. It is a view that is relevant to the general view of the industries concerned. We believe the amendments can only improve the legislation that we propose to support in the Senate tonight.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senator Scott, at this stage the only amendment you can move is the one to the Pig Meat Legislation Amendment Bill. The other one will have to be moved later when we come to the second reading debate of the appropriate Bill.

Senator SCOTT —Are we debating only the pig meat and chicken meat legislation at this stage?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —The chicken meat and pig meat Bills are the only ones before the Chair. The other ones are being debated cognately and they will come before the Chair later. You may move your amendment then. It is quite simple. You can discuss and foreshadow those amendments but you cannot move them yet.

Senator SCOTT —Mr Deputy President, I take your word for it that it is quite simple. In spite of that I shall confine my amendment on this occasion to the pig meat Bill and take the opportunity to move an amendment to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill at a later time. Is that correct?

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —That is correct.

Senator SCOTT —The Pig Meat Legislation Amendment Bill 1984 seeks to amend the Pig Meat Promotion Act with a view to doing a number of things. For instance, it will change the name of the Pig Meat Promotion Committee to the Pork Promotion Committee. It seeks to bring about some significant differences in the financial circumstances of the Committee, it streamlines the Promotion Committee's financial and administrative operations and it incorporates some changes of a machinery nature. The pig meat legislation does have the general support of the industry. It is not highly controversial legislation, but it does concern itself with a very important element of primary industry across the board. That is the element that relates to the capacity of the industry to promote itself and, more particularly, its product.

This legislation concerns the Committee of four-it will now become the Pork Promotion Committee-which is financed by the pig slaughter levy that applies to pig slaughtered for human consumption in Australia. That levy produces something like $2.5m annually. The contributions are not matched or subsidised by the Government. That money is used in the promotion of the pig industry. I believe that insofar as this legislation transfers the pig promotion trust fund moneys to the Pig Promotion Committee and directs the pig slaughter levy directly to the Pork Promotion Committee, it simplifies the financial circumstances behind the promotion of this industry. It also identifies where money may be invested if it is not immediately required. According to this legislation the Committee may spend only the funds previously approved as estimates by the Minister for Primary Industry. Other machinery matters, such as reducing the quorum from a full committee of four to a committee of three, will probably make the Committee somewhat more effective in its operation.

Generally speaking, the pig industry in Australia has recently had a relatively quiet time. This affects those industries that are directly involved with it, such as the grain industry, the feed industry, the milling industry and so forth . However, the pig meat industry has a significant opportunity to expand, I believe, in the foreseeable future. Australia has a great many climatic advantages for this industry. There is also a wide range of feed available for it, which could be even wider if we had plant variety rights legislation. The control of such things as the disposal of effluents in this industry is significantly less difficult in this country than it is in many of the densely populated countries of Europe. Over and above these natural advantages we have potential and actual markets in the many millions of people to our north. Those markets need to be exploited and encouraged to become fundamental to the expansion of this industry. Countries such as Japan and Singapore to our north represent significant market possibilities for the pig industry. With those few words and with the determination to support the legislation, which is basically supported by the industry, I move:

At end of motion, add 'but in relation to the Pig Meat Legislation Amendment Bill 1984 the Senate is of the opinion that the marketing of all meat products is interconnected and calls on the Government to support aggressively the marketing of Australian meats'.

The important word in that amendment, which I assume the Government is prepared to accept, is 'aggressively'. We live in an age when we have to promote our products aggressively-particularly the wide range of primary industries in relation to which we have to find markets for anything from between 35 per cent to 95 per cent of what we produce. We need to get into all the possible, and in some cases quite exciting, markets around the world. That is certainly a need that has to be recognised and accepted. So I believe this amendment is necessary . It has been highlighted in recent times with the rather disastrous position of the beef market in Japan, the losses in the Korean market and, of course, the loss of a relatively small market, in terms of tonnage, such as Singapore. That market is much more significant to primary industry than many people imagine, because Singapore is indeed one of the crossroads of the world. If the enormous number of people who travel to and through Singapore every year find themselves consuming an Australian product, that is one of the best forms of advertising and promotion of Australian products. Every market, large or small, is of great significance.

I now turn to the other Bills which are being debated cognately. These again relate to changes to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation. This package also includes a Bill to establish the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Policy Council and the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Selection Committee, together with three slaughter levy Bills, including collection and charge provisions. As I said earlier, it is not the purpose of the Opposition to delay the passage of this legislation through the Senate, but there are one or two things that ought to be said about these industries. The proposal to re-form the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation has the general support of industry. I believe there is significant reservation about the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Policy Council Bill and the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Selection Committee Bill. That reservation is overcome in the present circumstances by the determination of the industry, the Government and the Opposition at least to see them put into effect at the appropriate near date and to try a significant change which people hope will be successful. We do have some reservations about that, and perhaps I will refer to them when I continue my remarks.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.

Senator SCOTT —Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Pig Meat Legislation Amendment Bill 1984. Before I turn to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bills perhaps I should briefly refer in passing to the Chicken Meat Research Amendment Bill 1984 which also, of course, is supported by the Opposition. The Chicken Meat Research Amendment Bill proposes a slight change in the present situation. The Bill, which has the support of the industry, identifies the financial arrangements of the Chicken Meat Research Committee, which gives advice on the expenditure of funds in the economic and technical research areas within the industry. The Committee is financed basically by a levy on chicken meat production which is matched by the Government on a dollar for dollar basis. That provides one source of funds. The other source comes from the sale of assets and from penalties for late payment of levy and that sort of thing. In the past those two lines of finance have been kept basically separate. This Bill will enable the matched fund to be used at the same time as the unmatched fund. This arrangement will significantly increase the capacity of the industry in the field of research and consequently it deserves the support of this chamber, as it has the support of the industry itself.

I turn to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill 1984, the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Policy Council Bill 1984, the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Selection Committee Bill 1984 plus the livestock slaughter levy Bills. In a sense it is a pity that we should be confronted with these primary industry Bills so late in the session because they probably will not get the consideration in time and thought that they deserve. They deserve considerable consideration because they relate to an industry which across the board is still by far the most significant export earner in the Australian economy.

Primary industries right across the board such as the beef, sheep, meat and grain industries suffer from a considerable number of problems. They suffer from a comparatively extraordinarily high internal cost structure that is added to not only by the level of protection in this country but also significantly by the level of wages, the labour input. This puts primary industry as a whole at a disadvantage in terms of international competitiveness. We have to find a place for an enormous proportion of our production on the open world competitive market in respect of which our competitors are significantly protected. We are confronted, in almost every field, by subsidised surpluses from various trading blocs around the world and this, naturally, throws an enormous pressure on Australia's primary industry and certainly on the industry which is under discussion tonight, the beef and meat industry. It is with a view to those things that I will move this amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill 1984:

At end of motion, add 'but the Senate is of the opinion that the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill should be amended at the first possible opportunity to provide for consultation between the new Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation and various industry bodies, including specifically the Cattle and Sheep Meat Councils of Australia, on a mutually acceptable basis' .

I feel sure that the Government, when it has a look at the proposition contained in that amendment, will agree that it is a sensible and responsible amendment because, as I understand it, there is considerable concern within the industry. I certainly have the concern that there could well be a chance that the introduction of the Australian Meat and Livestock Industry Policy Council will significantly divorce the Live-stock Corporation from the basic roots of the industry in the production area, whether we are referring to the processing exporter or to the producer who, after all, must be considered, although all parts of the industry are relevant. The production of livestock must, in the final resort, be regarded as significantly basic to the whole range of industry that is involved.

Concern is felt about there being a capacity for the industry itself at the grass roots, as it were, on the base productive end, and the Corporation, which is the body responsible for marketing the products of this industry around the world, to be able directly to consult and to discuss the problems of marketing and the basic overall problems of policy in this industry. The need for the industry and the Corporation to have a close and easily attainable communication , regardless of the statutory body in the centre, is surely an essential part of this package if it is to become a successful package. Clearly, it has the advantage of the industry seeking to, as it were, give it a go and because it seeks to give it a go, to give the newly formed and newly structured Corporation a go. The Corporation has certain powers of very great significance. It has the power to act as a loan marketer. It has the power to issue licences and to charge for them. It has certain increased powers in the financial field. So it is with a great deal of expectation and hope that the industry looks for performance from this Corporation, a Corporation which may well comprise a much wider range of abilities and capacities which one would hope will be relevant to the marketing and development of the industries that it represents. I believe it is important that the proposition we put tonight should be seriously considered by the Government on this occasion.

As I said earlier, the matters that concern this meat industry in Australia are significant and quite numerous. They relate to its high internal costs and, of course, to the subsidised competition that we suffer. They also relate to problems in the industrial relations area because significantly on some occasions our markets have been jeopardised and sometimes lost because of a failure to deliver. That is a problem that confronts not only the producer but also in the final resort the trade unionist on the labour side of this great industry because they must rise or fall together; they must succeed as a team or fail to succeed individually.

Of course, the other matter that concerns this great primary industry is the unpredictability of our climate. Regrettably we have seen the results of that unpredictability very significantly over the past few years and particularly in 1982 when there was a drought, but as it happened, thank goodness, it was the prelude to something of an economic recovery. That particular drought had disastrous effects on numbers in the Australian livestock industry. The numbers of cattle have fallen in 10 years from 33 million to 22 million. In the same period, or a little longer, the numbers of sheep have fallen from 180 million to 133 million. The drought, together with world market circumstances, has contributed to that very significant fall in the livestock population. It has not only been a problem with regard to numbers but also it has had a significantly adverse effect on quality. That, too, besides a capacity to deliver the quality, is relevant to the sort of market that one can attract and hold.

The beef industry is the one which is chiefly concerned with this legislation. It is estimated that it will produce in Australia in 1984 something like $2.4 billion of export earning capacity and that is a very significant sum in our economy. We must find no less than 35 per cent of our market for beef overseas. Regrettably, in recent years, and particularly more recently, we have lost significant markets. One must wonder whether it will be necessary to change the emphasis of production. It may be necessary to design a program which will meet the actual type of demand that occurs around the world. Consequently, we should perhaps be looking at the reintroduction of lot feeding in the beef industry. If there is a significant market for lot fed beef, Australia must surely supply it.

I do not propose to address these questions at any further length. I merely reiterate that the industry is extraordinarily important and that the sort of basic changes in this legislation are held to be well worth a try. I believe there is significant doubt as to how successful certain changes will be. I believe that these doubts are held by the industry as well as by those on this side of the House. There is some doubt as to the effectiveness of the establishment of an industry policy committee which is divorced from the Corporation. There is some doubt as to whether that committee will act, as it should, as a total and absolute liaison, or whether it may well be something of a curtain between the producer and the ultimate marketing authority. These matters will be revealed as the legislative bodies start to operate. A determination of the industry, I understand, is to seek the operation of these bodies from 1 July and to observe the effect of the various new entities that will appear as a result of this legislation.

There is significant doubt, which I certainly share, as to whether it is necessary to make the Industry Policy Advisory Council a statutory organisation. I have significant doubts as to whether that is essential. I think that at rock- bottom the industry too has a very significant concern in that area. However, I believe as I said earlier that the propositions of this legislative package in the primary industry area are certainly worth giving a try. With the reservations and determinations of the amendment that we moved to the second reading of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill, I wish the passage of these Bills good speed and I hope that the legislation is as successful as the industry and the rest of us would hope that it would be.