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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1566


Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (10:18): I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

In introducing the Imported Food Warning Labels Bill 2015, I doubt whether there is anyone in the House that is not aware of the break-out of illness and disease that has followed from eating imported food product. When you get sick you do not know how or where you got sick or how you contracted the illness that you have. It is very rare that you can trace it back to the food you have eaten. You might have had up to 40 different types of food in the last day or so and tracing each one of them back becomes very difficult. In this case, we know definitely and definitively that a couple of dozen people in Australia have contracted a very serious disease, hepatitis A, which, I might add, is also a communicable disease, from eating imported berries. The state of my much esteemed colleague from Tasmania is a big producer of berries, as is the state of Victoria and as is the Atherton Tablelands, in the heart of my electorate in North Queensland. At a hotel there where I stay, they have at any one point in time probably close to 100 workers who work in the berry plantations of North Queensland.

Australia has been through four issues that have pervaded and dominated the politics of this country. The first issue that broke out with the conscription battle in the First World War was nationalism, and behind it was whether we were British or Australian, or whether we were English or Australian. The second great battle came out of the Great Depression, and that was capitalism. Capitalism had an awful lot to answer for as a result of the Great Depression. The forces that opposed capitalism metastasised into communism. That had very great sympathy in Australia, particularly in the Labor Party, through the International Socialist Movement, which was financed and pushed by Russia and to a lesser extent China. Almost exactly every year the communists took over a new country—they took control with the gun. The great leader of the communist movement in those days was Mao Tse-Tung, and in fact one of his great quotes was that power grows out of the barrel of the gun. This is the period of 'marketism'.

We decided that free markets should be all-pervading. This period is a bit different from the other periods because both sides of the political divide hooked onto this notion of marketism. They were very committed to abolishing all tariffs and subsidies. When all the tariffs and subsidies were abolished, they had to look for other fields to conquer, and what they did was change the approach to quarantine. So you had apples that were treated in New Zealand, America and China with streptomycin to fight fireblight, which is endemic in those countries. Those apples came into Australia with fireblight content. With oranges—I fail to be able to pronounce the poison that they use in Brazil on citrus—every single citrus analysis has indicated that that poison is part of the citrus fruit coming into Australia, albeit a very small part.

Whether or not you agree with the abolition of tariffs or subsidies, this marketism has now reached a fanatical level—and it is an almost obsessive fanaticism. It joins all of those other 'isms' that preceded it. Let me give you some examples of this fanaticism—and I use that word with a forethought. I represent a fairly big flower growing area and I recently had some flower growers come in to see me. They have a 100 per cent inspection level. Every single box of flowers that leaves Australia has to be inspected by a quarantine officer, and the cost is $300 an hour. I will not go into a breakdown of that cost. The growers just could not compete against the imported product. You say, 'We want to inspect those flowers because we want to protect the buyers overseas.' Well, what about protecting the Australian people? We have a 100 per cent inspection level in an abattoir. Every single piece of meat that goes out of that abattoir is inspected by a human being, with his own eyes. The food coming into the country is supposed to have a five per cent inspection level—that is the regulation—but there is not enough money to do the five per cent, so in actual fact they do less than one per cent. The situation for exports is a 100 per cent inspection level, which is at a huge cost, and, in some cases, it is as much as $300 an hour, whereas for imports it is less than one per cent.

My worthy colleague from Tasmania represents a state that is very big in prawn and fish farming, as I do. In fact, I had almost all of the Australian prawn farming industry in the Kennedy electorate. We did not get the figures from the library but we will get them later this week. If memory serves me correctly, in prawn and fish farming in Australia we went up to about $650 million, and now it has declined to about $65 million. I would ask no-one to take those figures as accurate because I have not had time to get them on account of the weekend intervening.

But there was a huge growth and then a huge decline. The decline came because the food producers in the countries north of us have no hygiene requirements. There is no testing of bacteria levels in the water going into the farms and there is no testing of the bacteria levels of the water going out. There is also no sedimentary assessment, so how much solid matter is in the water is not taken into account either. There are no rules concerning that in the countries north of us, where we buy most of the fish and prawns that we consume in Australia. Most of them are now imported and almost all of them are imported from East Asia.

So there are no hygiene requirements of the water going in and there are no environmental requirements of the water going in. There is no assessment of the physical properties of the water going in, such as turbidity, which is the amount of solids in the water. Not only do we have to have all of those things perfect, but we also have to have them perfect going out of the ponds. In our ponds, the water goes in every day and goes out every day, so by definition there cannot be anything wrong with it. I will let the member for Denison, my worthy colleague Andrew Wilkie, go into some detail about Tasmania. I am not going to do that today.

The net result of this has been that our cost structures more than doubled. We have to clean the water going out and it has to be pure water coming in. It goes out the next day, and it can hardly get impurities in it in one day. But if you force that cost imposition upon us, which of course the government of Australia did, then you double our cost structures. That makes it impossible for us to compete against the product from Asia. So where I had about 1,000 or maybe 1,500 people employed in this industry at a time, I have watched it slowly decline to where there are now probably no more than about 200 or 300, if that.

This shows the ridiculous nature of the extremism. Nationalism was wonderful. There was no doubt that this country needed to grow up and become a separate nation. We are not England; we are Australia. That great battle was won by the people of Australia. The battle against the excesses of capitalism in the Great Depression was also won. The battle against communism and international socialism was won. The battle against marketism has been lost dramatically. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?

Mr Wilkie: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

Debate adjourned.