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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator GIBSON (Victoria) (12:45 PM) . - in reply - The Minister for Air craft Production (Senator Cameron) made a most extraordinary speech. He attacked the farmers and graziers of Australia. I hope that his remarks will be broadcast through the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. If that be done, I am sure that he will not be a member of this chamber after the next general election. The graziers of this country do not care a rap whether Werribee meat is sold in Melbourne so long as it be sold as Werribee beef or only in shops controlled by the Metropolitan

Board of Works. Then, should any one be prepared to run the risk of consuming tapeworm, that would be his own concern. The graziers have not said one word against the marketing of 40,000 sheep annually from Werribee farm.

Senator Collings - We know all about the lumpy jaw cattle that are sent to market.

Senator GIBSON - I know definitely that any beast suffering from lumpy jaw which is sent to the saleyards is put into a special pen and despatched to the boilingdown works. Whereas that beast would ordinarily bring about £12, if healthy, it realizes £2 at the boilingdown works, and the Cattle Compensation Act gives the owner £7, making £9 clear. Consequently, many producers deliberately send beasts afflicted with lumpy jaw to the saleyards because it is more profitable to dispose of them in that way than to kill them on the farm. Producers know that there is no possible chance of such diseased beasts being slaughtered for human consumption. The Minister for Aircraft Production evidently knows nothing about the health regulations in Victoria in respect of the slaughtering of cattle. Every beast in every saleyard in that State is examined most carefully by health inspectors, and every precaution is taken to ensure that only meat fit for human consumption shall be slaughtered for public sale. I repeat that in one year 300 cattle from the Werribee research farm were condemned for tuberculosis, cysticercus bovis, and cancer.

Senator Collings - When was that?

Senator GIBSON - In 1938. I have no doubt that most of those beasts were bred on the Werribee research farm.

Senator Amour - What was the total number of cattle on the farm?

Senator GIBSON - The figure mentioned by the honorable senator would be approximately correct. That would give a total annual sale of 4,000 beasts from the farm. The farm was paid for the 300 beasts, which were subsequently condemned. I emphasize that the sale of Werribee beef should be permitted only in shops controlled by the Metropolitan Board of Works. If its sale be permitted generally it should be labelled as Werribee beef. Then, any citizen who wanted to purchase it could do so. He would certainly get fine beef, but whether it would be free from cysts is very doubtful. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) made some extraordinary remarks. It is unusual for him to make such wild statements as he uttered to-night. He declared that this debate was a. sheer waste of time. Surely, the health of this country is worthy of three hours' consideration by this Senate. He also referred to sewage farms in other countries. Apparently he does not realize that all of those farms have treatment works, whereas in Melbourne the sewagecontains matter from every hospital in the city, and is germ laden. It reaches the farm without any treatment whatever in 24 hours, and within fourteen days the cattle are put on to it. If the sewage were treated at Werribee as at most farms of the kind no harm at all would be done.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator knows that the stock would not eat the grass if conditions were as he describes. The sewage must be treated.

Senator GIBSON - No treatment is applied except the action of thesun. The water percolates to lower levels, leaving the solids behind. Then, fourteen days later, the stock are turned on to the paddock. Senator Collings also said that the water used in a certain brewery in England was taken from the Thames. That is not so; it is taken from the Trent, and there are no dead cats floating in the Trent. The Government is risking the future of the Australian meat export trade which, in normal times, amounts to 450,000 head of cattle a year. SenatorCollings's own State of Queensland is likely to be the most seriously affected.

Senator Collings - Beef raised under similar conditions is sent to the United Kingdom from the United States of America and Argentina.

Senator GIBSON - There are no beef measles of any consequence in the United States of America,, and none in Argentina. At one time a truck load of cattle from, the Werribee farm was sent to Geelong, but the butchers there would not buy them, and they were returned to Melbourne and sold there.

SenatorCollings. - Because the people of Melbourne knew the truth of the matter.

Senator GIBSON - No, it is the people of Geelong, who live within smell of the farm, who know the truth. Senator Fraser let the cat out of the bag, when he asked why anything was being said about the matter. Let us, he said, send the beef overseas, and let the people over there find out whether there is anything wrong with it.

Senator Collings - He said nothing of the kind. He asked why we should injure our export trade by discussing this matter, when none of the beef in question would, in any case, be exported.

Senator GIBSON - Senator Collings said that none of the beef would be sent to the forces. Will he guarantee that? Will he find out the names of the butchers who supply meat to the Puckapunyal camp, the Darley camp, and the camp where the American troops are stationed? If he looks into the matter, he may learn that one of them obtains his beef from the source complained of. Senator Fraser said that there was a shortage of meat in Australia. There is nothing of the kind. There are more cattle in Australia than ever before, and there are 5,000,000 more sheep in the country than ever before. The shortageof meat experienced in some places is due to lack of transport. In normal times, Queensland beef was killed atRockhampton and other places in the north, and shipped round the coast to Sydney and Melbourne. Now, because of the shipping shortage, that cannot be done. There is no shortage of cattle, and talk of a shortage is merely an. attempt to scare the public into accepting the lifting of the ban upon the sale of Werribee beef. It has been said that 20,000 cattle are coming from the north-west to make good the shortage of beef. That happens every year. It is a part of the normal trade in cattle, and mention of the matter now is only a form of special pleading.

SenatorCollings. - Thousands of cattle are being brought from the Northern Territory which, in ordinary circumstances, would never have been brought down.

Senator GIBSON - Senator Fraser said that none of the Werribee beef would be exported. How does he know that? Those who buy this meat can some of it, which is probably sent overseas. I am sorry that the Government has taken up this attitude, and I hope that the motion will be carried.

Question put -

That National Security (Supplementary) Regulation 50, under the National Security Act 1939-1940, made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 161, be disallowed.

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