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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3083

Mr LINDSAY(5.27) —The Live-Stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Act which was introduced by the Liberal-National Party Government on 28 May 1979 levied certain charges for the export inspection of livestock. That Act was introduced notwithstanding an interim report of the Industries Assistance Commission on financing promotion of rural products which was placed in December 1975. These charges were to be recovered under the provisions of the Live-Stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Collection Act 1979. Rates of charges are prescribed by regulation. Until 1982 section 4 of the Live-Stock Slaughter ( Export Inspection Charge) Act 1979 defined 'abattoir' as premises registered pursuant to the Exports (Meat) Regulations as an export establishment. Section 4 of this Act was amended with effect from 1 January 1983 to redefine an abattoir as prescribed premises for slaughtering for export. By consequence of this legislation, charges have been levied. However, premises so intended to be prescribed have apparently not been prescribed. Accordingly, it is necessary that regulations made to prescribe abattoirs should apply from 1 January 1983 when section 4 of the said Act was amended. The introduction of this Act is necessary because of the incompetence, negligence, and bungling ineptitude of the previous Liberal-National Party Government. Clearly, if the Live-Stock Slaugh- ter (Export Inspection Charge) Act had been properly examined by the Minister for Primary Industry at the time this present legislation would not be required.

The legislation resurrects the debate relating to the imposition of export charges and the recent increase of these charges. Most members would now be aware that carcasses and offals are inspected for export approval and also for domestic health reasons. Export inspection is the responsibility of the Federal Government. As a result the Commonwealth employs inspectors at each registered export establishment. This service is met by the Federal Government. The Department of Primary Industry employs approximately 1,800 persons on meat export inspections. The effects of an efficient export inspection service enhance national prestige. Obviously, benefits must flow to the meat export industry as a result of an efficient export inspection service by way of markets obtained or retained or by better prices through higher quality. The Australian meat export industry will benefit the Australian economy to the extent of approximately $1 billion in export earnings in 1983-84. The Live-Stock Slaughter (Inspection Charge) Act provides for recovery of approximately 50 per cent of the cost to the Federal Government of inspection services. Since 1979 the former Liberal-National Party Government pursued a policy aimed at 50 per cent recovery of such charges. The former Liberal-National Party Government apparently gave no consideration to the impact of such charges on Australia's meat export trade.

Mr McVeigh —Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to take two points of order. The honourable member for Calare used disparaging remarks against me. I would like the withdrawal of those remarks. They were very bad.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —I am afraid the remarks escaped the Chair. If the honourable member for Calare made remarks that breached the Standing Orders in respect of the honourable member for Darling Downs, I ask him to withdraw.

Mr Simmons —I am not sure which remarks the honourable member for Darling Downs wishes me to withdraw, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr McVeigh —You can withdraw them here or outside; please yourself.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Chair is unable to adjudicate, not having heard those remarks.

Mr McVeigh —Well--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —That is the situation.

Mr McVeigh —I hope you do not hear the remarks that I will make about him.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable gentleman has a persistent tendency to reflect on the Chair. I ask him to resume his seat.

Mr McVeigh —No, a point of order--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I asked the honourable member to resume his seat.

Mr McVeigh —But the point of order in the--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I ask him to resume his seat.

Mr McVeigh —The second point of order--

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.

Mr McVeigh —I want to make a point of order during the honourable member's speech.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Darling Downs.

Mr LINDSAY —Again, since 1979 the system of dual Federal-State meat inspection in many export works has led to inefficiencies in inspection, demarcation disputes, significant additional costs to industry and reduced product security, all of which damage marketing opportunities. Without doubt, the inspection controls to ensure product integrity are an essential feature of the meat export industry. Authorities in the United States of America have quite clearly indicated that no relaxation of these costly controls will be accepted without a move within Australia to a national co-ordinated meat inspection service.

It is claimed by certain industry leaders that the Australian meat export industry may be reduced to an uncompetitive position because of a lack of sufficient subsidy from the Australian taxpayer. One industry spokesman has suggested that over the last two years New Zealand has had its sheep meat sales subsidised by more than $500m. This statement ignores the many concessions, including taxation concessions, made by the Australian Government to ensure that the Australian meat export trade continues to be a robust, vital and aggressive industry. However, the Australian Government and the Australian meat export industry must be constantly vigilant in regard to attempts by overseas meat exporters to penetrate and secure markets in countries which have traditionally purchased large quantities of Australian meat. Of particular concern is the dairy legislation now before the United States Congress which will subsidise the slaughter of dairy stock. The impact of this will be twofold: First, additional domestic production will bear down on the total price for meat which could otherwise be obtained from the importation of Australian meat. Secondly, it will effect a counter-cyclical formula under the United States quota loss and create a supply-demand position whereby quota restraint could be placed on Australian exports.

In the Japanese market Australia's share of the beef import quota has been eroded by competition from the United States of America, New Zealand and the European Economic Community. On 22 November 1983 the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Trade (Mr Lionel Bowen) referred to a Japanese decision to announce only a part of the global beef import quota for the second half of the Japanese fiscal year, that is, October-March.

Mr McVeigh —I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I draw your attention to Standing Order 98 which states:

Any Member may at any time raise of point of order which shall, until disposed of, suspend the consideration and decision of every other question.

Now, I raise a point of order. I presume that, according to that standing order, the point of order will be disposed of and the honourable member speaking cannot continue until the point of order is disposed of. Is that correct?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —Order! The honourable member was reflecting on the Chair and was asked to resume his seat. Is the honourable member taking another point of order?

Mr McVeigh —Yes.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I will hear the honourable gentleman.

Mr McVeigh —The honourable member for Herbert is debating a validation Bill and talking about sales of meat and global quotas in Japan. The sale of meat or global quotas in Japan are not mentioned in the Bill and I suggest that the honourable member desist from referring to them.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I regard the point of order as being totally facetious in view of the discussion that we had on previous points of order which resulted in the honourable member for Darling Downs being favoured and given the opportunity to participate in the second reading debate, despite the protestations of the Minister. I apply the same ruling to the point of order that the honourable member for Darling Downs has made as I applied to the points taken against him.

Mr LINDSAY —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It was implied earlier that the increase in export charges may reflect on Australia's export trade. The Japanese decision creates uncertainty amongst Australian exporters, particularly having regard to the commitment which the Japanese have already given to the United States to increase imports of grain fed beef this year. The Hawke Government has secured an important place for meat exports in the Japanese market. The Hawke Government, an authentic Australian government, has made it clear to the Japanese authorities that Australia is seeking access arrangements for beef in Japan to safeguard the market Australia has secured. This market must be acceptable. Notwithstanding the whining of the Opposition with respect to export inspection charges, Japanese Ministers have given an assurance to the Acting Prime Minister of Australia that Australia's meat trade in Japan will not be discontinued in the future as a result of any arrangement which may be made with the United States. Korea has been a substantial purchaser of Australian export beef. Some 70,000 tonnes of beef per annum is exported to Korea. It is a source of concern that this valuable market is being penetrated by New Zealand and Sweden. Always lurking in the shadows is the EEC ready to poach hard-won markets secured by the Australian meat export industry. The hollow words of the Opposition relating to the export inspection charges do not address the fact that statutory export inspections are both necessary and effective. This fact has long been recognised by the Australian meat export industry.

Recovery of costs of meat inspection was considered at length by the Industries Assistance Commission inquiry into the abattoir and meat processing industry. The report made available in January 1983 during the time of the Liberal National Party Government noted:

One issue which was raised by a number of witnesses is whether all the costs of meat inspection should be totally funded by Government. For example, the Australian Meatworks' Federal Council stated that:

. . . regulations covering meat inspection and health standards should be recognised as a basic protection of the public health of the community. On this concept, the Council believes that the cost of such protection should be a normal cost borne by the community so that meat has a similar standing with other food items which are not confronted with similar costs.

The commission can see no reason why export inspection per se should be funded by the community as a whole. As a form of quality control imposed by overseas governments, it is a normal commercial cost which should be borne by exporters.

The main benefits of export inspection are shared by the export sector of the industry (including livestock producers) and the consumers of Australian meat overseas.

However, a move towards full recovery of export meat inspection costs would represent a significant decrease in the current low level of assistance to the meat industry.

In respect of inspection of meat for the domestic market, the cost of inspection to maintain minimum hygiene standards is also a normal commercial cost which should be borne by the abattoir. Many industries are required to bear the cost of government imposed standards designed to protect the interests of the public. The Commission can see no reason why meat production should be treated any differently.

Now that Australia is poised to rebuild the national cattle herd and to restructure the meat processing and meat export industry to secure a dominant role in the Pacific basin for meat exports, it is essential that the great Australian meat export industry institute urgent action to maximise industry efficiency. If Australia does not achieve efficiency with its meat export industry the hard won gains to the industry will be sacrificed at the altar of complacency and political expediency.

Finally, I think the whole debate can be summed up in words that I used in this House on 13 September 1983 when dealing with the Live-stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Amendment Bill:

It is important that Australia be regarded as a reliable supplier of products and produce of the highest standard and at an internationally competitive price. The meat industry is entitled to an efficient and reliable inspection service if it is paying part of the cost of such a service. The Hawke Government is determined to see that the Export Inspection Service is as effective and economical as possible. This Government is aware that the cost of the inspection services must be minimised and that the Government's advisers be sensible to the ever increasing financial burdens on meat producers and processors alike. This Government will continue to investigate vigorously every avenue of reducing costs for the Export Inspection Service consistent with its responsibility to ensure that the great Australian meat export industry maintains its high reputation for integrity and high quality products.

Unfortunately this debate has been turned by the Opposition into a wild and ruthless attack on the efforts by the Hawke Government to ensure that a sensible and efficient meat inspection service is available to the Australian community. The House and the Australian people would be better served by far more constructive arguments being advanced in this House than the ones we have heard from the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). This legislation is necessary because of the bungling ineptitude and incompetence of the former Liberal-National Party Government. Yet this afternoon-the people of Australian should hear this-Opposition spokesmen have been criticising the Hawke Government for its efforts to provide a better inspection service, and for its efforts through the Department of Primary Industry, which efforts are at present being ignored, to ensure that costs are minimised and to ensure that government advisers are sensible to the costs being borne by exporters and producers alike. I commend this Bill to the House.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Les Johnson) —I call the honourable member for Calare on a personal explanation.