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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 1932


Senator ARCHER(10.29) —I proceed from the stage I reached last night. I had just started to speak on the Live-stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Validation Bill 1983 or, as it is probably more appropriately known, the export annihilation Bill. I was contemplating the whole purpose of this Bill with some degree of disappointment because, although the Bill was introduced many months ago now, it does not seem as though the Government has yet learnt anything from the information that was available to it then or that has subsequently come to it on the subject. A lot of information has been given but it still has not got through to the Government. It must disturb every Australian to see that the Government has taken so little notice of what has happened in that time. The whole of the future of the country rests on how well the farming sector does. As I mentioned last night, not only does the farming sector produce $15,000m worth of produce a year but also it exports $9,000m worth of it, which comes back as foreign currency for our other needs.

To demonstrate the fact that information is available, I will read the headlines from a few newspaper items that I have put together over the period. I will not go to the trouble of naming the newspapers and the dates; I will just read them. They are available if anybody would like to look at them. The headlines read:

Why Japan has such a beef over our meat exports

Beef: Australia 'squeezed out' in power-play between US and Japan

Australia, US threats fly as Japan beef talks deadlock

Meat scandal men have been paid $600,000

US-Japan beef talks looking worse for Australia

Meat jobs on the line in export crisis

EC keeping door closed to beef from Australia

Bad vibes from Japan

Big drop expected in beef exports to US

US cuts into beef exports

Dairy industry shake-up may cut US meat demand

Freight rates pose Japan meat 'crisis'

Australian ships are too costly to take our wheat

Thousands of jobs in jeopardy at abattoirs

Meat exports facing the chop!

Meatworks to halt operations

Killing the meat industry

State meat industry in crisis

This is the classic of them all:

Kerin agrees: meat inspection charge isn't helping exporters

That is the sort of evidence that is available. Everyone in Australia except the Government can see that that is the case with the meat industry. The Government cannot agree that we are the only country in the world in the major exporting field of meat that puts this enormous tax slug on the producers. It cannot see that by making the product non-competitive it is doing irreparable damage to the markets that we hold and to our chances of gaining new markets. The whole question comes back to our international competitiveness. Anything that we have that can be internationally competitive has to be encouraged in any way possible . Our manufacturers are finding it more and more difficult to sell on international markets. Minerals are causing great concern at present. Can anybody on the Government side please explain why we are working so hard to try to make our last remaining areas of stability non-viable also?

I realise that the Government lacks the resources of members with any practical knowledge or experience in this area; this I accept. But with the whizz-kids that it has, with its so-called economists and so on, I think that with the aid of a pocket calculator the Government could soon work out the fact that the answers just do not add up. I will go back to figures which I still use quite regularly. They are from Mr Bowtell of the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council. The Australian meat industry starts $40m a year behind its competitors. On our cost structures we just cannot afford to handicap ourselves to that extent, particularly when we take into account that in 1976 we had 1,700 meat inspectors; we were killing 11 million cattle and 32 million sheep. By 1983 we had 2,200 inspectors; we killed 6.3 million cattle and 26.6 million sheep. The ratio shows that while inspectors went up by 30 per cent the slaughter went down by 40 per cent. I do not understand how we can run this sort of economics and expect to come out in front.

We have reached the stage now where about 40 to 45 abattoirs have closed down and, I think at the last count, about 7,500 abattoir workers have lost their jobs. This is a great time to wop on another great tax. This is a great encouragement for industry to become more efficient. We have only to look at the results of this action to see why we are racing into an early election; the Government has to get it over with quickly because the wheel is coming off and coming off rapidly. The Government is presiding over the greatest demise ever of Australian industries. I deplore the fact that we have 20 Bills before us for debate which deal with great industries all over Australia; yet not one Government member is on the list to speak to them. The rural industry is no longer the milking cow of Australia and it cannot be held up to be so.