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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr RYAN (Flinders) .- I heard with regret the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) say that in view of the decision of the Government it is unlikely that the lifting of the ban on Werribee cattle will be reconsidered. I emphasize one aspect of the question, slightly touched on by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), which, I hope, may soften the heart of the Minister, and thereby ensure some reconsideration of the decision. The facts of this matter are not seriously in dispute. The first fact is that the pastures on which the cattle at Werribee are fed are, to say the least, most unpleasant in nature, being manured by untreated sewage from Melbourne. Any one who has been there realizes that fact without hesitation. The second fact is that the cattle depastured there contract beef measles in a much higher percentage than do cattle depastured in other parts of the Commonwealth. The third fact, not in dispute, is that the beef of the Werribee cattle can be sterilized by cooking to a temperature of 114° F. In view of those facts, the Government has decided to make this beef available to the country. The quantity of beef which can come on to the market, I think, plays a very important part in the consideration of the decision to be made. Among the reasons given by the Minister for the lifting of the ban is that there is an apparent shortage of cattle in the country. Whether that is so, I am unable to say, although I think that for the time being there is sufficient available. But, in order to get a larger supply of beef cattle, the Government proposes to draw on this farm. Has the Government any knowledge of the quantity of cattle that this farm can produce annually? I under.stant that at present it fattens about 47.000 head of sheep a year and only a few thousand cattle.

Mr Holloway - The cattle had to be destroyed.

Mr Scully - The sheep are used for human consumption.

Mr RYAN - But they do not contract or pass on the disease.

Mr Scully - They are fattened on the same pastures.

Mr RYAN - But they are not the host of the beef measles germ.

Mr Calwell - Since the ban was imposed about 5,000 head of cattle have been destroyed.

Mr RYAN - That is a small number. Every week about 2,000 head of steers and cows are sold on the Melbourne market. The marketing of a mere additional 5,000 head a year would not affect the situation in Victoria. But, with the hope of getting a few more cattle on the market, the Government is proposing to run the risk of causing great loss to the beef industry as a whole. The risk is out of all proportion to the quantity of beef likely to be gained. This matter has a psychological side more important than the material side, and I think that that warrants reconsideration. Ten years ago the mere knowledge of the fact that beef with measles was sold caused the loss of large sums of money to the Victorian grazing industry.

Mr Calwell - The graziers were hoist with their own petard. They started the scare and nobody would buy the beef.

Mr RYAN - That has nothing to do with it. The risk is not justified by the prospective gain. There is no hope of increasing the few cattle there. Increased herds would have to be brought from other country districts where they can be as well depastured as at Werribee. For that reason, I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision.

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