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Wednesday, 13 June 1984
Page: 2958


Senator BUTTON (Leader of the Government in the Senate)(8.32) —I thank the honourable senators who have spoken for their general support of this legislation and for their thoughtful contributions to the debate. I especially thank those such as Senator Scott who, whether one agrees with them or not, make a thoughtful contribution and reflect a very genuine concern for and deep knowledge of these matters.

I make only a couple of comments about particular matters raised by honourable senators. The first point relates to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation's consultations with industry. I point out that the new arrangements will enable the Corporation to take up operational problems quickly with industry groups on a more flexible basis. I think it was Senator Scott who raised the question of frequency of meetings. There is no departure in relation to frequency of meetings from the existing legislation under which there is no requirement for regular meetings. I am instructed that there has been industry dissatisfaction with the work of the Meat and Live-stock Corporation's existing consultative groups. In general, the regular meetings organised by the Corporation with these groups have been less effective than they should have been. This has led to evident and extensive criticism of the organisation as being unresponsive to industry needs. Some of the measures in this legislation are designed to rectify that situation and, in a sense, I think it is recognised , even by Opposition spokesmen who have spoken on these matters this evening, that probably there needs to be a little time to see how these arrangements work out. It may well be that the possible improvements foreshadowed by Opposition spokesmen here tonight may well prove to be correct but the Government believes that the arrangements will provide a great improvement in themselves and will work satisfactorily.

On the question of the Inspection Policy Council and reports on inspection charges, I make the point that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) has this report under consideration at present. I would like to take on notice Senator Macklin's query and direct it to the Minister. I will also direct to the Minister's attention one or two other matters which he raised in his speech.

There are two amendments to this package of Bills, one of which relates to the Pig Meat Legislation Amendment Bill. That is a clarion call to the Government, which I suppose has been echoed down the centuries, or decades at least, to pursue aggressively the marketing of Australian meat. We do not mind as a Government being urged to be aggressive in marketing, whether it be in respect of meat or other products of other industries. I can perhaps best deal with the amendment by saying that we hear the call and will not seek any division on that amendment. Similarly, in relation to the amendment to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Amendment Bill, before indicating an attitude to that, I draw the Senate's attention to the consultative arrangements which have been suggested. That Bill provides for the Corporation to make arrangements for consulting persons and bodies representative of different sections of the industry for the purposes of considering any matter relating to the performance of its functions, and for the Corporation to meet costs and expenses reasonably incurred in respect of those consultations. In the second reading speech of this Bill, I indicated that the intention is to give the Corporation the greater flexibility it requires to develop a more direct and meaningful consultative process with producer and processor-trader organisations, according to its actual operational needs. In dealing with this question in the House of Representatives, the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin, pointed out:

. . . currently consultations between the AMLC and industry consultative groups are a matter for agreement between the AMLC and the groups. This situation will remain . . . I am sure that . . . consultation will take place naturally and will be realistic and constructive.

Honourable senators will recall the legislative requirement for the AMLC to produce a five-year corporate plan and an annual operating program and that such programs are subject to ministerial approval. I am informed by the Minister for Primary Industry that this arrangement will provide a further safeguard to ensure the arrangements for consultation are satisfactory.

The amendment moved by Senator Scott seeks to express the opinion that the legislation should be amended at the first possible opportunity to provide for consultation between the Corporation and various industry bodies, including specifically the Cattle Council of Australia and the Sheepmeat Council of Australia on a mutually acceptable basis. The intent of the legislation and the Minister's attitude indicate the Government's position on the amendment, namely, that we do not think it is necessary. However, it is not a matter in respect of which we intend to go to the barricades. But in terms of the reference in the legislation to the earliest opportunity for amendment to the legislation, we ask Senator Scott to bear in mind that perhaps the consultative arrangements to which the Minister has referred can be made to work satisfactorily and in that circumstance the legislative amendments would be of no help if the arrangements, as the Minister put it in the House of Representatives, work naturally, as we hope they will. As I say, we will not seek to go to the barricades on the amendment and we will not divide on it. Again, I thank honourable senators for their support of the legislation and I commend the Bills to the Senate.

Amendment agreed to.

Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.

Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.