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Wednesday, 24 July 1946

Mr BREEN (CALARE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member learned about the meat industry through actual experience instead of by reading the Melbourne newspapers he would know that big drafts of cattle come from the Northern Territory for fattening and slaughter in the south, and that the journey lasts perhaps a number of . years.

Mr McEwen - That is a dream.

Mr BREEN - A few years ago when I was in northern Queensland and in the Northern Territory, Vesteys Limited operated meatworks at Darwin, but, for some reason or other, it decided that it was not economic to continue operations. At the same time the opportunity developed of exporting live-stock from Darwin to the Netherlands East Indies.. It seems that it is more profitable to export livestock to the Netherlands East Indies for .slaughter there, than to process the stock in Australia for export as frozen or chilled meat. It may be that, with more development of the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth will be able to develop a trade with the Eastern countries in processed meat or livestock. Malaya, Indo-China and other countries to our north may be a profitable market for the meat-producers. I think it would be. much better to slaughter stock raised i.n the Northern Territory in that area than to send" it on the long trek through, western Queensland down to New South Wales. It appears that, despite the desire of the meat-export industry in the south for the continuance of the 'shifting of cattle from the Northern Territory and northern Queensland to southern Australia for slaughter and export, the Government of Queensland will not " play ball " with the Commonwealth transport department in the matter of picking up the cattle at the western terminals of the railways that link the Queensland coast with western Queensland.

Mr McEwen - The honorable member should bring that up in caucus.

Mr BREEN - Perhaps, I have already done so. At all events,- I shall continue to advocate that .proposal. The railways in Queensland have been routed to tap the sheep and cattle-raising country in the far western portions of that State. Although some companies have established meat works in proximity to those districts, most of the works are established on the coast principally at Townsville, Gladstone, Rockhampton and Brisbane. Considerable sums have been expended on the establishment of those works, but if it is clear that we cannot continue to run them economically, having regard to their great distance from the sources of supplies, we should not hesitate, particularly in. view of the intensive .drive being made for trade by all countries, to link the western terminals of those railway lines. Consideration should be given to that problem immediately. I understand that the Government of Queensland has agreed in principle to the routing of stock in a direct line south through Cunnamulla and Barringun to Bourke and other meatworks centres in the west of New South Wales. . In anticipation of this development three big companies have established meat works at points in western New South Wales in order to tap the flow of cattle through to Victoria. Swift Australian Company (Proprietary) Limited has established works at Blayney, Angliss- Vestey's at Forbes and Rogers at Orange. It is proposed to process the meat at these centres and to rail it to Sydney for export. However, as it will be many years before the western railway terminals in Queensland are linked up, the Government should take immediate action to develop the great stock? raising areas in the Northern Territory) with a view to processing the meat at Darwin and building up an export trade with the Far East. Under the measure, the producers as well as the meat processors will be represented on the proposed advisory committees. An examination of the various interests which will be represented on the committees shows that the Government is well aware of the need to safeguard the interests of the producers by making adequate provision in respect of all phases of the industry from the production to the export stage. It is the duty of the Parliament to concern itself with production. The food producer must be secured in his farming pursuits not only from the point of view of remuneration, but also by making con- .ditions for him and his family more attractive, particularly in sparsely settled areas, so that the younger generation of farmers will not be inclined to drift to the cities in order to find more congenial employment. In order to achieve this objective the. Government, no doubt, will find it necessary from time to time to assist the meat industry financially and to place at the disposal of producers scientific advisers thus giving them access to the very latest information regarding developments in the meat industry particularly in other countries which supply large quantities of meat to 'the United Kingdom market. I refer to the United States of America and South American countries which, in the past, have enjoyed a considerable advantage over meat producers in Australia, because they have been able to finance the importation of high priced stud stock from England which is the home of the stud stock industry. Our primary producers have not been able to compete for such stud stock. Consequently, they have laboured under a great handicap. The Government of New South Wales has, within the limitations of its powers, been very helpful in this respect. Recently, it sent delegations overseas to purchase stud sheep and cattle in England, particularly beef cattle. -The Commonwealth could profitably co-ordinate theefforts of the various States in that direction with a view to obtaining for Australia'high priced; stock from- England for the purpose of improving our strains.

It would thus lay the foundation . of a sound export trade in beef cattle. We have done very well in an ancillary branch of the meat industry as the result of adopting that policy. I refer to the mutton industry as a phase of the woolgrowing industry. Up to date, however, we. have not made any progress in the direction of the encouragement of the beef cattle industry, mainly because we lacked stud stock comparable with that obtained by producers in the United States of America and South American countries. English press reports reveal that frequently prices of from £10,000 to £20,000 are paid- for stud bulls. Very few Australian producers could afford to pay those prices, although some patrioticallyminded men engaged in the livestock industry and several commercial interests have spent large sums of money on' imported stud stock. However, for want of encouragement, and having regard to the limited results which would accrue to the industry generally from individual efforts, even ' these interests appear to have become discouraged; Recently some stud stock was imported into New South Wales from the United States of America, and the interests responsible are doing excellent work. I suggest that the proposed committee should direct their attention to this phase of the industry, because, I repeat, that that is the only way to lay a solid foundation for a prosperous live-stock industry capable of building up a sound export trade.

Sitting suspended from 12.40 to 2.15 p.m.

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