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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1122

Senator COLLARD(11.31) — The Opposition supports these Bills, with which we are dealing cognately. As part of a whole program that the Government has brought in, they set up an Australian Meat and Live-stock Research and Development Corporation and allow the levies collected to go towards that organisation. I take this opportunity to say a few words about the consequences for the beef industry in Australia and what the Government is doing to rural industries generally. As was indicated at the National Agricultural Outlook Conference held at the beginning of this year, the beef industry is one of probably two industries which, compared with other primary industries, have any kind of bright future at this time, the other being the wool industry. The beef industry is currently running reasonably well. I suppose it is one of the ironies of the Government's disastrous fiscal policies, resulting in the Australian dollar being seen in such a low light by the rest of the economic community, that producers are able to sell their beef for a reasonable return. Of course, a few things further down the track could change that, and we will need all the money we can get for research and development to see that our product remains a good product on the world market.

Dare I mention the future of the dairy industry? Prior to the Victorian election we had reasonable agreement among the Ministers responsible for agriculture in the various States on a scheme which took into consideration overproduction within Australia and which would have allowed that overproduction to be brought down without blood-letting so that the industry could stabilise itself. Immediately after the Victorian election that scheme was scrapped and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) brought in another scheme which will see bloodshed in that many people will go out of the dairying industry and, in many areas, will have nothing else to do than turn their land over to grazing, with a consequent increase in beef production. Such factors cause us quite a lot of concern. The return to the beef producer is currently pretty good but, if there is a large scale exit from the dairying industry by people who have the alternative but to use their land for other pursuits, beef being one of the logical ones, and if we start to build up our cattle herds again, we will be in all sorts of trouble.

The export levy has been talked of previously in the chamber, including by my colleague Senator Boswell who raised the fact that, when the beef industry is starting to get on its feet because of prices, the export industry is being hit by this export levy. It must be acknowledged that the export industry being one of our major industries, it is of vital interest to the whole community that it be kept solvent. When extra costs by way of government charges are put on the beef producer, it is a pretty sorry day. We in the Opposition recognise the contributions of the beef industry and that these extra imposts can have a deleterious effect. So, we are saying to the Government: 'Look once again at those export levies. Let the whole community bear them because the industry is of great benefit to the community'. Currently only the beef producer is bearing that cost, so the beef industry can be hurt and its future is not necessarily good.

Once the devaluation of the dollar starts to take effect and we see rises in the consumer price index and in the costs of machinery and so on coming into the country, any advantages gained from the current high prices in the beef industry will be wiped out. While the beef industry is not as great a user of fuel as the agricultural industry, the disastrous consequences of this Government's appalling economic record, resulting in rising fuel prices, are affecting many people. Because of the high cost of manpower, people are using more and more aircraft and trucks. There is little droving in the old sense; stock are shifted by stock transport and rail. All that will have an adverse effect on the beef industry. The Opposition supports these Bills, but is drawing the Government's attention particularly to its economic policies and to the effect that the export levy is having and could have in the future on this industry. Although it is running well at this time, we are still greatly concerned about the future.