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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1125


Senator ARCHER(11.52) —The Opposition supports the legislation now before the Senate. However, I move:

At end of motion, add ', but, in relation to the Australian Meat and Live-stock Research and Development Corporation Bill 1985, the Senate is of the opinion that factors such as heavily increased export inspection charges are adversely affecting competitiveness on vital export markets'.

In my opinion the legislation in itself makes very little change. I think what is of much more importance is what the industry at large does as a result of the legislation. I certainly urge the industry to consider carefully what it hopes to gain from the legislation because some changes in attitude will have to be made if we are to lift the livestock industry and livestock marketing from where it is now.

The new legislation provides for much wider power than the old Australian Meat Research Committee had to invest in research and development ventures, and I am totally in favour of that. I support the major thrust of the changes proposed in the legislation to establish an organisation that will be more forward looking and commercially oriented and put more emphasis on research and development. We have to bear in mind that probably we have not dealt adequately in the past with research and development in the cattle and livestock industries. We have to take into account the great differences that exist in location and, as a result of that, the differences in the type of stock, the feeding of stock, the ability to cope with various climatic conditions and so on; these vary so much. It is now more necessary than ever before that research take this into account. I think in the past there have been times when too little consideration has been given to this.

The meat industry is very large, very important and very regional. There is no one solution to the problems of the industry and no two areas are entirely the same. The northern part of Australia certainly has the numbers and produces mainly cattle meat. As a result, this area will probably retain the majority of research and development funding. It cannot be assumed that research and development undertaken in this area will be totally appropriate to other areas where different kinds of cattle and stock are run and where different types of meat are produced.

A lot more research needs to be carried out. One only has to look at the work that is being done in the intensive industries, the pig and poultry meat industries, to see what can be achieved in the development of a product that is appropriate to the market-place. The pig and poultry industries have done a tremendous job in producing a commodity that the market seeks. They have produced and marketed their product in the form in which the market wants it. This has not been the case in other areas of the meat industry. Only by having a more forward looking attitude following this legislation, will changes be made.

The questions of feed, breed, disease, handling, slaughter and transport are terribly important. While there are similarities in some of these factors from area to area, considerable differences of distance are also involved. Stock which has to travel 50 miles to slaughter will be treated in a different way from stock which may have to travel 500 miles to slaughter. The types of diseases feed, nutrition and breeding patterns that are found from place to place are so different. I think we have tried to generalise too much in these areas. As I have said, the pig and poultry industries have dealt with these problems ever so much better and the market has been satisfied because it has received exactly what it asked for. However, still nothing like enough effort is being made in the sheep meats industry to reduce genetically the amount of fat on a carcass. Some moves have been made in this direction in the beef industry.

While I believe that producers deserve to have adequate representation on the Australian Meat and Live-stock Research and Development Corporation, I am somewhat wary that they may be seeking to have such a say that a true reflection of the market forces and market signals could be clouded. Grower domination could at times tend to cloud the realities because of what the growers either do not see or may not want to see. Quite clearly in some cases grower domination has resulted in the growers of a product which is not readily accepted trying to convince the market that it is wrong. I think we need to have a proper representation to ensure that this will not happen. It is the processors who have to face the realities of the buying market. They are the people who are confronted with the export situation and the world situation. People with special qualifications in other industries and other pursuits also can make a very great contribution and often can see what the growers themselves may not see or may not want to see.

In view of the problems which exist in Australia today in terms of world trade, Australian exporters are very special people. As was said to me the other day, we ought to be taking our hats off every time we pass one in the street. Exporters are the most important group of people in the Australian community at present and they should be treated as such. We need to consider how best we can make our economy suit the needs of other peoples. The community at large is not prepared to accept the fact that we are very much part of an international community. We cannot make arrangements that just suit us, because the people in the real world outside will not necessarily fit in with what we want.

There is also a feeling in Australia that people who produce things are enemies of society. I do not think it would do any harm for more Australians to stop and consider who produces the wealth of the country. Only the people who mine things, manufacture things or breed things really generate the wealth of this country. It is they who employ; it is they who invest. They have to be kept in a healthy situation so that they can continue to invest and employ. I have heard the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Willis, talk about a wages led recovery. If there is no employment there is, of course, no wages led recovery. This is a matter of whether there is a profit or not.

All the productive industries of Australia are suffering from costs totally out of proportion to the international productivity of those industries. There are world problems of production, and overproduction, in the meat industry. There is little that we can do about those problems except to adapt to the demands that others place upon us. We have to recognise that this is a world situation. I urge the new body, when it meets and gets together, really to consider where we stand in the world market. The community of Australia-the total community starting with the Government-has to consider that we are in this international export field. If we are to survive as a nation we will have to fit in with our position as an exporter in that area. The Opposition supports the legislation. I have moved an amendment on behalf of the Opposition. We trust that the legislation will get into business without delay.