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Tuesday, 13 September 1983
Page: 680


Mr ANDREW(5.21) —I support the amendment moved by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) and I support the primary producers in the electorate of Wakefield in their concern about the implications of the Live- stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Amendment Bill. The Opposition is not opposed to this Bill; it is opposed to the principle that underlies it. It is opposed to the attitude that is pervading from the Government benches-the attitude that if the Government does something it must be right. The Opposition is opposed to the assumption that only the Government can exercise the responsibility necessary for effective export inspection control, and it is opposed simply because historically this has not been so.

What is the task of export inspection? It is the task of maintaining acceptable standards and of fulfilling customer expectations. In its support for this amendment neither the Liberal Party nor the National Party make any suggestions that the inspection of export produce is unnecessary. Far from it. All speakers have said that not only is inspection necessary but also it is entirely proper for the Government to oversight it. All that we on this side of the House, on behalf of the industries we represent, have sought is recognition of the industries' role in the production and preparation of goods for export, recognition of the industries' capacity to be self-disciplining, and recognition of the need for there to be an industry input in export inspection services. As a result of the Bills before the House, the livestock industry, the grain industry, the oil seed industry and the egg industry are going to be asked to sign a blank cheque. They are not going to be offered any input into or control over the long term expenditure in which they will be involved.

The honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Snow), in his contribution to the debate, accused the coalition of doing nothing and then had the audacity to present to the House much of what was the coalition's framework for the Bill. Even the honourable member for Grey (Mr O'Neil) was gracious enough to concede that the Bill before the House is that of the present Government-perhaps he ought to talk to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. The industries represented in this Bill, and the Opposition for whom I speak, are seeking, through this amendment, to assist the Government in implementing a more efficient and more effective livestock inspection service. The irony is that without the amendment proposed by the honourable member for Darling Downs the Government will have a less effective inspection service and will, perhaps unwittingly, be placing on the industries an unfair burden that cannot easily be controlled.

The fundamental point that we on this side of the House make is that the industries named in this legislation recognise the importance of adequate export inspection; they recognise the essential role of the Government in oversighting that inspection. They simply want to say to the Government that no one else is as committed to effective export inspection as they are. This committed group of industries-the group that is going to be affected by the legislation-does not know what service it is paying for; it cannot dictate what level of service it will be asked to pay for; and it cannot even offer, unless the amendment is passed, to minimise the impact the export inspection charge will have on its industry.

The other point that has been stressed by every speaker from this side of the House is that the timing of these Bills could not be worse. It is true that primary industry is going through an optimistic phase. This is understandable after the rain that has fallen but that optimism has not, as yet, generated any cash flow. In spite of a continual cash flow shortage in rural Australia these Bills are being introduced without an opportunity for rural Australians to put any check on the money their industries will be committed to meet. Today the Government has been very eloquent about tax loads on innocent taxpayers. All we are asking is that the taxpayers we represent be given an opportunity to say what their input and tax load will be as a result of these Bills.

Many comments have been made in this debate about the effect of these Bills on the livestock and grain industries. I want to comment about the effect of these Bills on the egg industry. I do not claim to be a representative of the egg industry but I think a voice or two ought to be raised in order to keep some balance in the debate. The egg industry has no objection to the principle of the legislation before the House. It is prepared to carry a realistic share of the burden but it is as offended as every other industry by the fact that it will have no say in the way in which export egg inspection is carried out. If honourable members will pardon the pun, the egg industry may be referred to as being in an 'eggstraordinary' situation. The egg industry, as apart from the other industries listed in this legislation, has an export component only as a buffer against Australian surpluses. The House will realise, and I hope appreciate, that the egg industry does not have, because of quarantine, any imports. It maintains an export industry in order to have a buffer against surplus Australian production. That is point No. 1. Secondly, all eggs for export, whether whole shell or powder, come from State statutory authorities. Thirdly, inspection fees, levied as a result of these Bills, will be a higher proportion of the total value of eggs than is the case in respect of any of the other products considered. Fourthly, few export markets are available to the Australian egg industry so it, more than any other industry, is likely to be most careful of the way in which it deals with these export markets.

I again make the point that the egg industry, which is in a rather different situation from the others outlined, is not opposed to inspection. It wants to protect the markets it has. All it seeks, as do the other industries and the amendment of the honourable member for Darling Downs, is an opportunity to have an input into the way in which the export inspection service is set up and, hopefully, an opportunity to assist the Government with that service.

My grain growers, the primary producers in Wakefield, are reluctant simply to sign a blank cheque. That does not mean that they are opposed to export inspection; it means that they want, with rightful prudence, to have something to say about where that money is spent. The honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Ian Cameron) has rightly said that there is too little restraint-and in some cases no restraint-being shown.

I take up the point made earlier by the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey). He pointed out what happens in Western Australia. As has already been said in this House, the livestock industry makes up 83 per cent of the total cost of export industry inspection in Australia. Considering that, one should look at the alarming fact that when the New South Wales Wran Labor Government collects its share of State charges from the Commonwealth Government, it collects 16 per cent of the total inspection service cost, even though its export of livestock is almost insignificant-very few cattle and no sheep. Compare that with the 1981-82 figures for Western Australia during the time of the Court Government. A quarter of the number of cattle and half the number of sheep in Australia were exported from that State and its reimbursement was less than that paid to New South Wales. All this does is underscore the need to sort out the inequities in our livestock inspection service before we burden the producers with more than their share of the cost. All that the producers ask the Government for is an opportunity to have some say in the way in which this export inspection is carried out, because it is their money which is being used to foot the bill.