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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3088


Mr CAMPBELL(5.55) —In speaking on this Live-stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Validation Bill I am reminded that one of the greatest sophists in history, the previous honourable member for Gippsland, was very good at giving in this House the sort of rhetoric we have heard today. It is no wonder that the man who has inherited the shadow portfolio of primary industry has the same speech writer. If one can remember the inane mumblings of the previous honourable member for Gippsland one must give only credit to that speech writer because he certainly lifted his performance. I must take up a few of the points the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) has made. He said: ' You wicked people; you are hitting industry when it is down'. This legislation was mooted by the then Liberal-National Party Government in 1981 and 1982. That Government reaffirmed its legislation in its razor gang submission. That Government was going to introduce that legislation. There is no doubt at all about that.

The honourable member for Barker, with all the sophistry that he as a sometime lawyer is capable of, said that the previous Government did not introduce the legislation because it did not think it was opportune at the time. The reason it was not opportune at the time was that an election was in the wind. When is the time ever opportune to have a rationalisation of an industry which is long overdue? There is no doubt that the then Government would have done so had it not been so incompetent as to leave out a vital piece of its Bill that would have enabled it to do just that. I do not think there is any doubt at all about that. The honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), this pompous, posing , limited little man, had the audacity to tell us that the Government did not oppose the legislation in the Senate because it did not want to obstruct the Government's Budget measures. The Opposition does not mind doing that now, of course. I think the people of Australia understand the nonsense and the rhetoric we have heard.

Another thing I have been called on several times to do in this House is to try to explain to members of the Opposition how the free enterprise system works. Very few of them understand it. That is not surprising because very few of them have had to live in the real world where one has to fight to get value for money and where one is not protected by his friends, by his cronies, by inherited wealth or by rigging tenders. There is no doubt that the export charges in the meat industry are high. But the Opposition in the Senate did not even support the Australian Democrats' amendment to limit export charges to the present level of charges. The present proposal is for half recovery. The Democrats wanted to try to limit the charges. The Opposition did not even do that. What a lot of sophistry and a lot of nonsense honourable members opposite have come into this House with today. In terms of sophistry the honourable member for Barker is a champion.

The honourable member for Barker came into this House and gave us bleeding hearts stuff about droughts. I can tell this House that they do not have real droughts where the honourable member for Barker comes from. Having lived through several real droughts in my time in primary industry I know what they are about. One of the natural consequences of a drought is that in the recovery after drought stock is withheld from sale as farmers build up their stocks. For the honourable member to come into this House and talk about farmers withholding their stock from sale is a nonsense suggestion. Every State sets out to achieve full cost recovery for the domestic sector. No one argues about that. Who pays? Of course, the consumer pays. I put it to honourable members that it is not the imposition of these costs that is affecting the abattoir system at all. These costs are only one of the very many things-probably one of the most insignificant things-affecting the industry.

Let us look firstly at why the costs are high. The costs are high because this country was confronted with one of the greatest scandals that has ever beset this country-the meat industry scandal-a scandal perpetrated and encouraged by the Liberal-National Party. Honourable members opposite were in power at the time and they sheltered those people who did such outrageous and severe damage to the meat industry of this country. That is what has made meat industry export charges so high. We now have to take very special care to make sure that that vital industry of this country is not prejudiced as it was by actions under the previous Government. That is one of the reasons why the costs are so high to start with.

Under the free enterprise system who pays if we impose meat industry inspection charges? This obviously could not price the meat out of the market because we are operating in a situation in which we are competing against overseas companies. The cost will be reflected ultimately in the saleyard prices. That is where the cost will be reflected and not in the abattoirs, because they will simply pass it on. That is how the free enterprise system works. I think that is beyond doubt. I do not think that even the honourable member for O'Connor (Mr Tuckey) will be able to refute that, although I have no doubt that he will try.

We heard today members of the Opposition exhibiting their great understanding of the industry! I am one of the people in the Labor Party who fought very hard for the live sheep export trade. I am not sure that the live cattle trade is in the same category. In fact, I do not believe that it is. Members of the Opposition live in a wonderland. They seem to believe that when things are good they will never get bad and that when they are bad they will never get good. They are like the farmer who sells his land in a drought when he does not have to, because he thinks it will never rain again. The truth of the matter is that there is a great threat to Australia's live sheep trade in the not too distant future. That threat probably does not come from the European Common Market; it probably comes from countries such as Turkey, Somaliland and the Sudan. The Sudan has enormous capacity to serve the markets that we now serve. Who could deny that very poor country a little of the prosperity that is long overdue to it anyway? That is where the threats will come from. The Opposition does not even consider where the real threats come from. It goes stumbling along, yesterday's man with yesterday's ideas. It is very saddening for the rural sector that for so long it has given so many of the total dunderheads of the Opposition support which they clearly do not deserve.

Where will the threat to live cattle exports come from? Obviously it will come from East Africa and India. When India is able to come to terms with some of the religious bigotry which besets that country-bigotry that also besets us, of course, although I think we are starting to handle it a little better-it will have enormous potential to undercut us in the cattle industry. The truth of the matter is that our live cattle do not transport well. We have relatively disease -free conditions. When we lob our cattle in some of those countries where diseases are rampant, they are put out into paddocks and they very soon succumb. On the other hand, East African cattle are turning up extremely well indeed. Those are the threats that beset us. They have to be looked into.

This Government inherited a total mess in the industry. We are told today that this measure will send the meat industry broke. Everybody knows that the meat industry has been going broke for years. The reason is that there was never any attempt at any sort of management. We have had massive over-capitalisation and over-capacity in the industry. We still have it. There will be further rationalisation simply because we have more capacity than we can possibly use. That has nothing to do with the introduction of this legislation. It has nothing at all to do with these costs. It is simply the result of years of National Party mismanagement. Anyone who knows anything about the industry knows that.

Two abattoirs in my electorate will be affected by this legislation. They are affected far more by their inability to get access to the American market than they will be by this legislation. This legislation is not the thing which will drive them to the wall or close them. It will be simply that they cannot sell their meat. Those are the real problems that beset the industry. For members of the Opposition to come into this chamber and bleat along those lines shows that they must not understand the industry, although the facts are so self-evident that I do not believe even they are that stupid. It is simply that they are prepared to take every advantage to cause trouble and to misrepresent the situation. They are prepared to come into this chamber and hold out to an industry that is frightened and struggling a view that the situation would be different under them. There is no way it would be different because it is subject to all those laws of supply and demand that the Opposition holds so inviolate, laws which it holds inviolate without understanding them.

I am appalled that Opposition members have come into this House today and made the statements they have on this simple, validating legislation. It is a pity that this debate is not on air today so that farmers throughout the country could hear the posturing of the honourable member for Darling Downs and the way he opposed most strongly the initial ruling of the Chair on the extent of the Bill, an initial ruling which I thought was quite reasonable. When the position was reversed, he tried to make the same case in his own favour. The farmers of Australia are not stupid. They would have known what he was doing. They would have recognised that. The same honourable gentleman took advantage of the temporary absence of the honourable member for Calare (Mr Simmons) to mention that he was not in the House. This is the level at which this debate has been conducted by the Opposition. All I can say is that the farmers of Australia deserve far better than they are being given by the Liberal Party and National Party today.