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Wednesday, 16 March 1966

Mr BRIDGES-MAXWELL (Robertson) . - I rise to speak on a matter of critical importance to one of our major industries. I' refer to Newcastle disease which has broken out in the poultry industry in all States of Australia except South Australia. As the Minister for Health (Dr. Forbes) said in the House yesterday in answer to a question that I put, the form of this disease is a mild one. There are no visible symptoms and the diagnosis of it is only by a serological test which will find antibodies in the blood of the birds which have recovered from the disease. Whilst this disease is widespread in New South Wales and is spreading into the other States, there is no evidence that it has any economic effect on growth, production or mortality. I have sought opinions from leading veterinarians in New South Wales and Queensland and I have 14 telegrams confirming these views. They also said that this disease will spread and cannot be stopped for the reason, as I have said, that one cannot tell that the birds have it. These veterinarians include two senior lecturers at universities, a pathologist and men in practice.

Whilst this disease is causing no loss to individual farmers, because of the embargo that has been put on between the States, it is liable to cripple the meat industry .ti New South Wales. In the short term, it is going to have a very vital and serious effect on this important industry. In New South Wales alone there will be a loss of about 25 per cent, in production. Before the embargo, each week New Sou:h Wales sent to Victoria about 116,000 processed chickens, 25,000 processed hens and 4,000 turkeys. That trade was worth about $ 1 6 1 ,000 a week or S8.5 million on a yearly basis. In addition, there will now be a loss of some $96,000 per week to the stock feed industry of New South Wales. In regard to eggs, trade with Victoria totalling 2,000 cases a week, which is worth $32,500 a week, has been lost. So far as our exports overseas are concerned, shipments to the islands comprising 400 tons of processed chickens, which are worth some $360,000 a year, are liable to be lost while the embargo is on. This is going to cripple the New South Wales industry. It will cause a depression in the industry and unemployment.

One company that I have been in contact with has estimated that it may have to put off 65 people. This is serious. This industry in New South Wales has made tremendous progress in recent years. It has grown up without outside assistance. The poultry that it is producing are almost equivalent in value and meat production to American birds. This is a remarkable achievement by a young Australian industry. To show the value of this industry to New South Wales, its total investment is worth some $60 million. About $4 million has been invested just in genetics and breeding to produce better birds for layer and for meat. The industry employs about 5,000 people and it is facing a production cut of about 25 per cent.

The long term effect of the embargo on trade with Victoria is not going to fall on New South Wales. New South Wales is facing its crisis today. The long term effect will fall within Victoria because the Victorian industry has one major breeder and two minor breeders. Victoria consumes about 20 million chickens a year and only 1 million are bred there. About 13 million additional birds are grown in Victoria but they come from breeding stock in New South Wales and this source has now been cut. In addition, there are the imports of processed chickens, numbering about 5 or 6 million each year, which I have already mentioned.

If the embargo continues the Victorian growers may profit over a very short term of perhaps a couple of months, but in the long term they will be depressed because they will not have available to them the better class of breeding birds from New South Wales that form the basis of their industry. These veterinarians I have referred to are prepared to be named. Their names are in this telegram and are available to any honorable member who is interested. They have proved that the disease will come in, but if the embargo is kept on for 12 months, as the Victorian Government has announced, the industry in Victoria will be put back some two or three years. Then when the embargo is lifted the Victorian growers will face competition from the better birds that can be produced at a lower cost in New South Wales. This will be the long term effect. Consumers in Victoria will have to pay higher prices for their chicken meat.

I raise this matter because I question the moral right of a State Government to cripple the industry of another State by using a device such as this embargo, particularly when, as the evidence shows, the disease will spread to that State, and particularly when the disease has no economic effect on the industry. The disease cannot be diagnosed in a particular bird until after the bird has recovered from it. The presence of the disease cannot be detected by mortality in flocks. It occurs to me that perhaps we should consider some national quarantine plan so that a disease such as this that comes into this country may equally affect the whole of an industry. This is an important industry and it is facing a crisis. I sincerely hope that the Victorian Government will take a further look at this question and lift its embargo, not only for the immediate benefit of the New South Wales poultry industry, but also for the long term benefit of the Victorian industry.

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