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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 186


Senator WATSON(3.26) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

This is a most informative report. If all reports were of the same calibre and had the same amount of statistical information, the Senate would have very little to criticise. I take this opportunity to express some concerns about the long term future of the meat export markets, particularly at a time when farmers have completed their restocking following the recent drought. Producers should not be lulled into a false sense of security by reasonably satisfactory saleyard prices for sheep and cattle which were, as the report says, the result of reduced marketing and strong competition between abattoir operators and cattle fatteners.

What is so serious is that in the period covered under the review exports fell to 28 per cent below the previous year's level. Getting those markets back will be a big job for everybody. The European Economic Community's dumping of subsidised products has forced Australia out of many world markets. Our meat export markets are now centred in the Pacific basin, which accounts for about 80 per cent of our trade. I must say that I am dubious about assurances given recently by the EEC to our Government.

The operation of the common agricultural policy in Europe has effectively excluded Australia from many of its former markets in Europe, and now its Third World markets are seriously threatened by exports of EEC surpluses at highly subsidised prices. It has also suffered from reduced world market prices. At international conferences representatives of all countries speak of the need for global action on these sorts of matters but each country or community should take into account the effect and implications of its policies on those of other countries. If it does not, trade wars and other destabilising measures will unfortunately eventuate.

I believe that the Corporation is performing creditably in very difficult circumstances. Its members are people of a high calibre and it would be difficult nowadays to pick a better team. The move towards a more aggressive advertising program should change the community's perceptions about red meat, and I congratulate the Corporation on that move. The downward slide in the meat export trade has been disastrous for the Tasmanian meat industry, as that trade is worth over $232m a year to Tasmania. One cause of this crisis is that there are now too many export plants handling a diminishing product. Another cause is that farmers are restocking after the drought. We are tending to lose sight of the severe impact that the high inspection charges have had in adding to already high processing costs, and the Australian Labor Party seems to be doing absolutely nothing about it. I believe that the Labor Party has failed to give the same support to the industry as did the Liberal-National Party coalition in the past. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Labor Party's lack of push in helping the Corporation in the export markets. I commend to the Senate the report and the tremendous amount of information provided in the statistical review.