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Thursday, 15 September 1983
Page: 878


Mr McVEIGH(11.42) —The Opposition does not oppose the Meat Inspection Bill. Its aim is to open the way for a rationalisation of meat inspection services in Australia. The establishment of a single meat inspection service has been the objective of all parties in this Parliament for some time. Successive reports have all advocated a change to the so-called dual meat inspection system. The major dissatisfaction with this system has been that often Commonwealth and State meat inspectors are working side by side in export establishments, resulting in industrial unrest and unnecessary additional costs. The main problem in bringing about rationalisation of meat inspection services has been that some States have not wanted to hand over their responsibility to the Commonwealth. From the Commonwealth's point of view, it must maintain overall control of export inspection to meet the requirements of overseas buyers .

It is worth referring to some of the history behind the Commonwealth's efforts to achieve a single inspection service. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin), now that he is a Minister, has finally accepted the fact that this matter is extremely complicated. I am very pleased that he acknowledged this on Tuesday during his summing up of the debate on the export inspection charge amendment Bills. I am especially pleased because when he was in opposition he offered nothing constructive on this issue. All he could do in those days was leap up and down like a jack-in-a-box, saying 'Nixon's a failure because he has not introduced a single inspection system', as though it could be pulled out of a hat overnight. It is good to see that the Minister has now matured a little. In the debate on Tuesday he said:

The work that is being undertaken in Canberra at present-that is work following on from that begun by Peter Nixon-is very complicated.

He further said:

We are engaged in a very complex task.

At last he has woken up to the fact that the entire question of inspection services and the establishment of a single meat inspection service is not as easy as it might seem. It takes more than his type of rhetoric. He has finally admitted that, and is on the public record as having done so.

As I said, when he was in opposition the Minister accused the previous Minister of doing nothing about establishing a single meat inspection service.


Mr O'Keefe —He did the lot.


Mr McVEIGH —That is right. The honourable member knows that what the Minister said was total and absolute rubbish. I hope that now that he has had time to go over the record he will acknowledge how wrong he was and how little he knew about it. The truth is that the question of meat inspection services, as a follow-on from the report of the Commission of Inquiry to Examine Commonwealth and State Meat Inspection Systems, the Kelly report, was discussed at every meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council from 4 August 1980, which was the first opportunity the Council had of considering the report following its tabling the previous February, up to and including the meeting on 7 February 1983.

Meat inspection services were discussed at Agricultural Council meetings in Brisbane on 4 August 1980, in Hobart on 9 February 1981, in Darwin on 3 August 1981, at a special meeting in Melbourne on 4 September 1981, at a special meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture in Melbourne on 18 September 1981, at a meeting of the Agricultural Council in Adelaide on 8 February 1982, in Rotorua on 26 July 1982 and in Sydney on 7 February 1983. That indicates the detailed efforts by the previous Minister with regard to a single inspection service and how difficult and complex the matter is. The Minister, when in opposition, could not grasp the fact. He did not understand and was not interested. Now that he is the Minister, he has finally admitted that he did not know what he was talking about.


Mr McGauran —Peter Nixon was a great Minister.


Mr McVEIGH —The honourable member quite rightly said that Peter Nixon was a great Minister.


Mr Shipton —A great replacement!


Mr McVEIGH —A good replacement, but he has big boots to fill. The honourable member is correct in saying that he is doing a good job. The only occasion on which meat inspection was not considered by the Agricultural Council was at a special meeting in Canberra on 5 July 1982 which discussed only closer economic relations with New Zealand. So there was only one meeting over that long period when the previous Minister did not discuss in detail with his State colleagues this very complicated matter of a single meat inspection service.

Despite what the Minister said when he was in opposition and in spite of the intransigence of some States, considerable progress was made towards the establishment of a single service by the previous Minister and the previous Government. This Government is now able to reap the benefits of the efforts of the previous Government. It was the previous Government that worked out the details for transferring the New South Wales inspection service to the Commonwealth. The previous Minister, the Honourable Peter Nixon, announced on 15 November last year a two-stage integration proposal. That is why this legislation is so good. It is our legislation, the legislation of the previous Minister.


Mr O'Keefe —New South Wales took a long time to come to heel on it.


Mr McVEIGH —The honourable member indicated that New South Wales took a long time. We all know that notwithstanding the great diplomatic powers of the Hon. Peter Nixon, it took even him a long time to get the New South Wales Government to realise the proper course for it to follow. In the statement on 15 November last year the Honourable Peter Nixon pointed out that the Commonwealth's willingness to take over the New South Wales service was consistent with its policy of working towards a single national meat inspection service. He also noted that the Woodward Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry had found that a single service under single control should be the ultimate aim. He went on to say:

I hope that the States concerned would agree with that conclusion and that we can now move more rapidly towards a single Commonwealth service.

That was the statement of the previous Minister. The Opposition entirely supports those sentiments. I hope that a single service can be achieved in the reasonably near future. Unlike the Minister when he was in opposition, I appreciate that this is still no easy matter. I realise that Queensland--


Mr Shipton —A reasonable man.


Mr McVEIGH —Well, the Premier of Queensland is a reasonable man and I feel a little upset at throwing the Minister for Primary Industry into the lion's den when he goes up there and does battle with Joh. Queensland and, to a lesser extent, Western Australia still have problems and concerns about handing over their services. They are perfectly entitled to have those reservations; that, of course, is their right. I am pleased that the Victorian Government has now indicated its preparedness to examine the possibility of a single service. A single service has the general support of all sections of the industry, mainly because it should result in a simpler and more efficient service which costs less to run. The single service concept is, as acknowledged by the Minister on Tuesday, just one part of a complicated program that is under way to improve the entire Commonwealth export inspection system. Hopefully all of these measures, when in place, will result in further cost savings to our export rural industries. While on the question of costs, I was most interested to hear the Minister on Tuesday saying:

I make no apology for being honest when I tell people that I cannot win. I could not win.

That was a direct reference to the Minister's having to concede to the President of the Sheepmeat Council of Australia that he had lost on the question of increased export inspection charges. The Minister has finally come clean and admitted it. It is a pity though that he was not as honest in his answer to my question to him in this House on 7 September. On that occasion I asked in part whether, with reference to increased export inspection charges, the Minister conceded that he had lost and the Minister answered no. It seems to me that there is a bit of double dipping going on in the Minister's mind. It is also a pity, indeed a disgrace, that the Minister continues to cloud the Government's cost recovery policy. On Tuesday he said:

We acknowledge, as the previous Minister for Primary Industry would acknowledge , that changes are still being explored which could well lead to cost savings . . . In recognition of the work still being done we have said that the industry should not have to bear the full cost of operating the service.

This is in reference to the Export Inspection Service. Again the Minister has left everyone with the impression that, once all the work has been completed, the Government will say to the industry: 'Okay, you can pay for the lot. We will have 100 per cent cost recovery'. Industry is simply not satisfied with this confusion. The Minister owes it to primary industries to state precisely whether his Government intends to try to increase the industry proportion of the costs of inspection services.

I should also mention another matter which is highly pertinent to this and all other issues concerning primary industry. The Minister on Tuesday confirmed that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has no intention of giving Primary Industry the Cabinet status that it should have and that it has always had. On Tuesday the Minister said:

I appreciate all the efforts of the National Party to get me into Cabinet.

He wants to get there, but the Prime Minister does not think he is good enough. On that point he deludes himself. We are not interested in getting him into Cabinet. We are interested only in getting the portfolio into Cabinet. Putting that aside--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! This is a second reading debate. I know that far-ranging scope is given on such occasions, but we are getting a little away from the purpose of the Bill.


Mr McVEIGH —I take your point, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was making the point that the reasons we are not being effective in primary industry areas are those the Minister gave in this House on Tuesday in a debate on this matter. I am replying to the point that he made in his speech. I have never been known to challenge the rulings of Mr Speaker or of Deputy Speakers, but, with the greatest of respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, if you look at the Standing Orders, which I know you will have done, you will realise--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I just ask the honourable member to relate his remarks to the Bill.


Mr McVEIGH —And to the points the Minister made in his speech, which I am doing. Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Minister said:

If only members of the National Party knew what little effect the nonsense with which they carry on has on the Prime Minister.

Now we know that the Prime Minister believes it is nonsense to have Primary Industry in the Cabinet. That is not what rural organisations think. Furthermore , I wonder whether the Prime Minister is aware that the Cabinet ideology was introduced into this country on 11 January 1956 and that it has been continued ever since. Even Primary Industry Ministers in the Whitlam Administration sat as Cabinet Ministers. In other words, this Prime Minister is the first in history to ditch the Primary Industry portfolio into the outer Ministry. It is an absolute disgrace. It is proof of the fact that, despite his words of encouragement and his so-called pledges of commitment to the rural sector, this Prime Minister could not care less about rural Australia, about the sector which provides nearly one-half of our total export earnings. On this point alone the Prime Minister and the Labor Government stand utterly condemned.

Last year the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills expressed some concern about the Australian Meat Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill 1982 and the Export Control Bill 1982 so far as certain powers for the authorised officers were concerned. Those concerned were I believe satisfactorily overcome by a further explanation by the Minister of the relevant clauses of the Bills. The Senate Committee this morning made observations about two clauses of this Bill, namely, clauses 25 and 29 dealing with powers of authorised officers and indictable offences. I seek leave to have this document, which was tabled in the Senate this morning, incorporated in Hansard.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I do not invite the Minister for Aviation to give leave. The proposal seems to be a variance with the ruling given by Mr Speaker in respect of incorporation of material.


Mr McVEIGH —I checked with the Minister and with the Clerk.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Has the Minister examined the document?


Mr Beazley —I have examined the document.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Has he considered it in light of Mr Speaker's previous ruling ?


Mr Beazley —I have. It is not a document, as I see it, that contains arguments. It is a document that relates to decisions arrived at in the other chamber.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —In the circumstances I ask the Minister: Is leave granted?


Mr Beazley —Leave is granted.

The document read as follows-

MEAT INSPECTION BILL 1983

Date Introduced: 8 September 1983.

House: HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

MINISTER FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRY

Purpose: To provide for the Commonwealth to undertake domestic meat inspection in NSW, and any other State which subsequently refers the power of inspection of meat to the Commonwealth.

The Committee draws the attention of Senators to the following clauses of the Bill:

Clause 25-Powers of authorized officers

This clause provides in sub-sections (c) to (k) extensive powers to authorized officers to enter premises; to stop or detain vehicles; to break open, inspect, search or secure premises, vehicles, etc; to seize samples of any matter and to copy any document. These powers may be exercised without a warrant.

The breadth of these powers is further extended by clause 25 (2) which defines ''an offence against this Act'' as including offences against sections 7 and 7A of the Crimes Act. Offences under these sections include ''attempting inciting aiding or encouraging the commission of an offence''.

In order to exercise his powers under clause 25 (3), an authorized officer need merely believe, in good faith, that a person was encouraging the commission of a breach of this Bill.

Whilst these powers are consonant with the policy of the Bill, the Committee nonetheless draws this clause to the attention of Senators in that it may be considered to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties.

Clause 29-Indictable offences

This clause creates a number of offences in sub-section (i) which impose strict liability, not requiring any proof of a particular state of mind, such as knowledge/intent on the part of the offender, and not to require any guilty intent. Whilst it may be clear that the offences have been so framed in order to achieve the policy objective of the Bill, and indeed it may be uncommon for such acts to be committed without such an accompanying mental state, nonetheless given the broad range of offences which the clause creates the Committee draws the attention of Senators to this clause in that it may be held to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties.


Mr McVEIGH —I thank the Minister. I thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your tolerance. It is always good to debate such rulings and, if we are proved right, that you change your views. I think that is great for democracy and a continuation of the Westminster system. In both cases the Committee has pointed out that the provisions of these clauses may be considered to trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties. I draw these points to the attention of the Minister for Aviation (Mr Beazley). I would appreciate it very much if he would bring this point to the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry. I express a little disappointment that the Minister is not here, but I do not take umbrage at that because I know that we are all very busy and have previous commitments. I know that the Minister for Aviation will take this matter on board because it is terribly important. I seek an assurance from the Minister that he, like his predecessor, will acknowledge the concerns of the Committee and provide it with the necessary information to put those concerns to rest. When a similar concern was expressed to the previous Minister he gave an assurance to this House that he would look at it to ensure that people were not trespassing on private property by breaking in and inspecting things. It is necessary to have tolerance on this matter and--


Mr Mildren —Madam Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I think the shadow Minister has strayed considerably from the point of this debate. I ask you to rule accordingly.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Darling) -I thank the honourable member. I ask the honourable member for Darling Downs to take note of the relevance and to please come back to the point.


Mr McVEIGH —I note your slight reprimand, Madam Deputy Speaker. I realise the difficulty you have, as you have just come into the chair. But actually I am talking about a meat inspection Bill. That Bill has been referred to a Senate standing committee which brought in its report this morning. With the greatest respect to your ruling, I think that as was the case with your predecessor, who admitted he was wrong, I am talking about a Bill on which a Senate committee has put in a report, which is highly relevant to the Bill, and you are wrong to say it is irrelevant.


Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I have ruled. I ask the honourable member to adhere to relevant fact surrounding this Bill.


Mr McVEIGH —Far be it from me to draw your wrath upon me, Madam Deputy Speaker. I simply conclude-which I was going to do anyway-after having received the assurance I desired from the Minister.