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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 1950

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Social Security)(12.29) —What a remarkable speech we have just heard in the last 30 minutes. The speaker, Senator Sir John Carrick, started, like most other speakers on the other side, by complaining that the Government had 20 primary industry Bills for debate at the end of this Parliament; that we were dealing with them together; that these Bills and these topics deserved earnest and proper debate, and that we were neglectful in not dealing with them separately. Senator Sir John Carrick then managed to speak for half an hour. We were very careful not to take points of order in order to see just how long he would speak. He spoke for half an hour and the only reference he made to the 20 Bills was a passing reference to the fact that meat inspection charges were rising. He spoke about assets tests. He claimed capital gains taxes were to be introduced, without having any evidence to support that claim. He talked about countries all over the world but he said nothing about the substantive parts of this legislation. But that is typical. What can we expect?

Senator Boswell and others said that someone like me-I happen to have lived in a rural area all my life, worked in a rural area for most of my life and lived with farmers-had no right to speak on legislation like this because I am a doctor. Of course, Senator Sir John Carrick was an apparatchik in Ash Street in the New South Wales Liberal Party for many years and has been a senator ever since. When he was in government in this place he was a great one for getting up and saying: 'Everything is going to be all right. Everything is booming. Rundle shares are going to go through the roof. We will have oil from Rundle everywhere '. Now he comes into this place and plays the Jeremiah. That is why he is sitting where he is. Senator Sir John Carrick, knight of the realm, is sitting at the back of the Opposition back benches and that is where he will stay. That is all I need to say about Senator Sir John Carrick's speech because it was utterly irrelevant. It was typical of the time-wasting that has gone on in this place, which is the reason why these Bills are being debated together at this late stage.

It has been an interesting debate in other ways because we saw Senator Boswell all animated, waving his arms around and getting excited, which is a pretty good effort in this place. Of course, Senator Boswell, who lives in the suburbs of Brisbane, that great rural producer is a representative of the National Party of Australia in this place. I want to say that all my life, from the time when I was born in rural New South Wales, practically from the time when I was aware of what was going on, I heard representatives of the National Party, then the Country Party, say: 'We represent the rural producers of this country. We will see that your industries boom. We will stop the drift to the cities. We will stop decentralisation. We will introduce these subsidies. We will look after your industry'. In my lifetime the percentage of people in the rural areas has declined. There has been an enormous drift to the cities. In keeping with what the National Party's ex-Leader, Mr Anthony, said, what has happened in the rural industries has been that primary producers have had to get big or get out because none of the Liberal-National Party policies ever protected the small farmers that Opposition senators are talking here today about protecting.

Senator Watson said that there has been a dreadful decline in the number of abattoirs in this country because of the terrible Australian Labor Party policy. Of the 41 abattoirs that closed down 32 were closed down while the previous Government was in power. At least Senator MacGibbon had the decency to declare his interest, because he gets income from meat production. A couple of others did not do so.

Senator Gareth Evans —Squeaky did.

Senator GRIMES —Of course: Squeaky always declares everything. At least Senator MacGibbon had the decency to do that. He pointed out that there had been a decline in the percentage of our meat on the Japanese market in recent years. Of course there has been. There was during all the years of the previous Government also. There will continue to be, as Mr Menadue said in his evidence before Estimates Committee C when the estimates for the Department of Trade were being considered. However, I point out to Senator Sir John Carrick that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, in its latest August quarterly review, predicts that our meat exports to Japan in 1984 will be 4 per cent above those for 1983-84, primarily because of the recently negotiated increase in beef quotas which we have in Japan. However the Australian market share of the Japanese beef import market could fall from 66 per cent in 1983 to around 60 per cent in 1987 due to Japan's high quality beef quota which favours the United States of America. That is not due to policies of the Labor Government; it is not even due to those of the Liberal-National Party Government.

What bedevils debates on primary industry and other industries in this country is that we get the sort of nonsense that has been spoken here today in this long debate. I will answer at least some of the questions-I hope all of the questions -which were raised by those speakers who actually talked about the legislation. I naturally exclude Senator Sir John Carrick from that because he did not bother to speak to the legislation but gave his usual Jeremiah-like rage that he gives on any legislation in this place. He uses the same words, altering a few of the key words to try to make it appear as though his remarks are relevant to the Bills but in fact they bear no relevance to the legislation at all. He is an embittered gentleman who cannot get over the fact that he is no longer sitting where Senator Button sits. He is an embittered gentleman who cannot get over the fact that honourable senators on this side of the chamber will not put up with the garbage he pours on.

Senator Boswell —Come on, stop stalling and padding it out.

Senator Watson —Who is the virtuous person who talked yesterday about personal attacks?

Senator GRIMES —Senator Boswell and Senator Watson bleat whenever anyone makes a suggestion that they are not all ladies and gentlemen on that side of the chamber. I do not happen to share that view. I am happy to express it as often as I can. As I said, Senator Watson made great claim to the fact that meatworks are closing all over the country. He is right; they have been. They have been closing for some time. I made note of that. It has been the subject of debate in this place for a long time. I repeat that some 32 of the 40-odd abattoirs that have closed down did so during the time of the previous Liberal-National Party Government. What was done about it? I do not remember Senator Watson even making a speech about it. I may be wrong. He may have made one speech. I hope he did, because he is a good and honest man. However, Sentor Watson did not succeed in saving anything. I make the point that the legislation before the Senate will not add anything to the present cost of meat inspection. It will not add a thing . The reason for the large increase-from $1.80 to about $5.40, I think-in October 1983 is that the previous Government did not adjust the rate to accord with the previous Government's 50 per cent recovery policy. It remained at the 1979 level of $1.80 all those years. The combination of services in Victoria which Senator Watson mentioned equally will not add costs. The experience of New South Wales is in fact the opposite. Total savings for the industry are estimated at about $3m. Similar savings are expected in Victoria if the merger goes ahead.

Senator Boswell talked as though the difficulty in the meat industry, that the decline in the meat industry, was due wholly to inspection charges. He implied that inspection charges would bring about the demise of this meat export area. There is no economic basis for Senator Boswell's statement. We are talking about a $14m reduction per annum for total exports of about $1,500m. The main reason for closures of abattoirs, as I think Senaor Watson tried to say by way of interjection, has been a lack of stock for slaughter. We happen to be facing a loss of markets all over the world. Certainly there has been a decline in markets all over the world and certainly there has been a decline in the prices available all over the world for primary industry products, as Senator Sir John Carrick pointed out. However, to go on as honourable senators opposite go on is to go on as though the reduction in commodity prices and markets and the terrible activities of the European Economic Community are due to the actions of the Labor Government of this country for the last 19 months. Quite frankly, the Opposition attributes to us power at the national and international level which I only wish we had. I am afraid we do not have it. In fact, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and others point out that the long term prospects are good. The Japanese beef market is continuing to expand with what appears to be good prospects. Our exports to the United States of America, which is our main market, are expected to continue at present levels with an expected 8 per cent increase in prices.

Senator Boswell made great play of the fact that there is a surplus of meat inspectors-expected to average 110 inspectors this financial year. I point out to Senator Boswell that, as he advocated, the total cost of these inspectors is borne by the Government; it is not included in the calculations of the charges that we are debating here today. The meat inspectors suspended received hardship allowances in accordance with the requirements of the Public Service Act. The Government determined that the cost of suspended inspectors be borne by the Government and not included in the calculation of these costs in the Bills.

Senator MacGibbon informed us that the splitting of the fee between the domestic market and the export market is opposed by all and will add to the costs. In fact, the split fee was proposed by the interim inspection policy council, which was comprised of representatives from industry, unions and government. The recommendation was made on the basis that diversion was occurring from export to domestic works causing export works to go out of business. The Government accepted this recommendation. If we accept the recommendation we get condemned; if we do not accept the recommendation we get condemned. That is typical of the debating tactics of the Opposition.

The moratorium on export charges was a proposal that we did not accept. That was discussed by the Cabinet but was not brought to the Cabinet as a firm recommendation by Mr Kerin because of the budgerary situation and other reasons. The reduction of $14m we believe would provide no medium long-term benefit but it is also inappropriate in view of the need for national economic restraint, which we hear an awful lot about from honourable senators on the other side of this chamber.

Overall, there will be no increase in revenue gained from the red meat industry . In fact, sheep, pig and some beef and buffalo processors will pay less than the equivalent of $4.35. Producers of heavy cattle will pay more. The proposed system is more equitable than the present system in that the slaughter levy which discriminates against many producers and processors in the domestic market will now not have that discriminatory effect. For some time in this country we have had a policy-not only a policy of the Labor Government, but policies of successive governments-that we have cost recovery in this way. In fact, this export charge is not, as Senator Archer said, a tax just to raise revenue. In fact, it is a charge per kilo based on a detailed breakdown of the actual costs of inspection beyond the slaughter floor which were then directly related to the weight of a product actually exported to derive the per kilogram rate.

Senator Archer —It is still a tax.

Senator GRIMES —Any charge is a tax. What Senator Archer is suggesting is that we do not charge the meat industry; we charge the whole community. Therefore we should put a tax on the whole community. That is what Senator Archer is advocating.

Senator Archer —At last you have started to pick it up.

Senator GRIMES —I know what Senator Archer is advocating. He is advocating that the charges be put on the lowest income earning people in this country. Senator Archer is asking that the industry bear none of the costs in this way. If only Senator Archer and Senator Boswell would get excited in this place about people who have inadequate income, who have not got enough to eat and who have inadequate shelter, as they have today about this issue, this country may be a good bit better.

Senator Archer —Get out the hankies.

Senator GRIMES —It is typical of Senator Archer that he should say: 'Get out the hankies'. Senator Archer wants us to weep for some of his wealthier constituents but wants us to laugh at some of the poor people in this country who would have to bear some of the costs he is talking about here. Senator Archer asked for an explanation as to why the Victorian Government placed an advertisement for meat inspectors in a weekend newspaper when the Commonwealth has so many surplus meat inspectors. The situation was in fact explained to Senator Archer before the debate. To be precise, it was explained to his office on 17 October 1984 when it was stated that the negotiations on the transfer of the Victorian Meat Inspection Service to the Commonwealth were proceeding well but that the Victorian Government still remained responsible for its own service and the Commonwealth could not dictate how or when it advertises for staff. It was explained that in this particular case it was understood that the reason for the advertisement was to provide an opportunity for a small number of Victorian meat inspectors who had been in the employ of the State Service for many years to compete on merit to become permanent. The Commonwealth, State and unions are co- operating to allow staff from both services to work together to enable any of the vacancies that occur to be filled from within existing resources. Senator Archer has had that answer for some time. If he does not have the answer, I suggest that he go back to his desk and look at some of the notes on it. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.