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Thursday, 18 October 1984
Page: 2013

Senator MACKLIN(8.35) —I have circulated an amendment to the Meat Export Charge Bill 1984 and I therefore move:

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment in the Meat Export Charge Bill 1984:

'Page 1, clause 2, line 6, leave out all words after ''operation'', insert ''2 years after the day on which it receives the Royal Assent'' '.

This amendment would effectively impose the two year moratorium which was part of the package brought forward by the Interim Inspection Policy Council. During the second reading speech debate I raised a number of issues in regard to this. In response to the amendment to the second reading moved by Senator Boswell, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) said it would disrupt the situation with regard to domestic charges in the abattoirs. This amendment that I have circulated would not do anything of the sort because it is an amendment only to the export part of the legislation and not to the Act which has a collection of charges under the Meat Export Charge Act. So the Government can put the charges on the abattoirs and still have the moratorium for two years on the export. The major reason that anyone would want to bring forward this amendment is that which is spelt out very clearly in the Interim Inspection Policy Council document in relation to this matter. The Council presented a package deal to the Government, which I think received unamimous support amongst all meat producers in Australia, and that is a difficult task considering that in the past, particularly under the Fraser Government, it had not been able to come up with a proposition to satisfy both meat and pork producers at the same time. This package does it, and I think does it well. The Government accepted only part of the deal, and herein lies the problem.

Essentially we are talking about fractions of a cent with regard to the profit margin per kilogram, yet in terms of the export inspection charge, we are talking about 1.89c a kilogram. So in the ordinary course of dealings we are looking at something which would overwhelm the profit margin available to an exporter of meat. The Government is now saying that in terms of the manufacturing industry we will have export incentives, and in terms of the meat industry we will have an export disincentive. That is absurd.

I do not wish to go into the various other reasons that we rehearsed in terms of the Interim Inspection Policy Council document because I think it is sufficient to rely on the ability of Australia's meat export producers and to say this: They must have the ability to compete in the export market. In so doing they are in a very tight and very competitive market in which fractions of a cent make a difference. The Interim Inspection Policy Council's idea was that by putting the two year moratorium on, our markets would be able to move into a number of areas in fair competition-I wish to emphasise that-with our major competitors because our major competitors do not pay export charges. So by imposing this we are seeking to raise revenue. That is fair enough. But in raising that revenue we are putting our own producers at more than one cent per kilogram disadvantage. That does not make any sense at all because we have to look at the downstream effects, which are basically these: If we cannot find export markets, obviously we lose that part of economic activity in Australia. That affects not only the producer but also many other areas. In my State, for example, many of the people who offer services in the country towns depend on producers. So we have the downstream effect. People who travelled out west during the drought years would know what an enormous contraction of activity took place in those country towns. It affected every person.

What we are saying is this: The total effect of this operation is not just that the Government will lose $14m, the figure which the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin, gave at the Cattle Council of Australia meeting; by imposing this levy the Government could very well lose in excess of that amount through the loss of economic activity downstream effects and disruption to services in country towns. This move does not make much sense considering the period we are entering. We have had a good growing season. Producers are now on their feet. We have good prices and we have the ability, if we can move in a very strong and vigorous way, to make penetrations into export markets that we have not made before. We should at least give the industry a chance. That is all it is asking for. It is not asking for the export charge to be cut out. It realises the realities of the situation; it realises the realities of budgeting. The industry could not get anywhere with the Fraser Government on this matter so it realises that it is not on that it will end up not paying this export charge. It is saying: 'Let's have the moratorium. Let's have a breathing space. Let's have a chance to really get going so that we can see what we can do. At the end of the two years the Government can come back and look at the situation'.