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Tuesday, 11 September 1973
Page: 784

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (Minister for Immigration) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to impose a charge on meat exported from Australia in order to recoup the cost to the Government of export meat inspection. The charge will be payable by exporters. Exports of meat and meat products which have been inspected and declared fit for human consumption will be subject to the charge. The charge will be 1.6c per lb on meat and edible offals derived from cattle (including buffaloes) and calves, and lc per lb on meat and edible offals derived from sheep, lambs, goats and pigs. The charge is to be imposed on those meats and offals whether exported in fresh, chilled, frozen, canned, dried or otherwise prepared form and on mixtures of meat with other food products. For products containing mixtures of meat and other food products the charge will be payable on the net weight of the mixed product. For mixed products containing beef or veal the charge will be 1.6c per lb and for mixed products containing other meats the charge will be lc per lb. The legislation provides for the charge to operate for a period of 33 months from 1 October 1973 to 30 June 1976. The charge has been calculated on the basis of the estimated expenditure of export meat inspection over the period 1 July 1973 to 30 June 1976, and the estimated quantity of meat that will be exported over the 33 month period.

The legislation provides for regulations to be made permitting total or partial exemption from the charge. The major part of the cost of export meat inspection has been met from Consolidated Revenue since 1927 and it has become a large item of expenditure in the Budget. The measure was originally introduced to offset low export prices and has been maintained ever since. This is in contrast to the present situation in which world demand for meat is particularly strong and prices are at high levels. The cost of export meat inspection has grown rapidly in recent years, rising from $5.3m in 1968-69 to $11.4m in 1972-73. A significant part of this increase can be attributed to the need to expand the inspection staff to meet requirements of overseas countries. In this regard it is to be noted that over the period December 1969 to June 1973 the number of veterinarians and meat inspectors in export establishments has increased from 1,128 to 1,726.

It should also be noted that, in effect, overseas consumers have been subsidised from Consolidated Revenue. Furthermore, local consumers bear the cost of meat inspected for local consumption as State authorities impose inspection fees on wholesalers in respect of meat destined for the local market. It is emphasised that the export charge is not intended to be a means of diverting supplies of meat from the export to the domestic market. Currently there is a very strong export demand for Australian meat and in these circumstances it is not expected that the charge will be passed back to the livestock producer. Clearly there is every justification for charging for the export inspection service instead of perpetuating the position of the overseas consumer being subsidised from Consolidated Revenue. I commend the Bill to honourable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr Sinclair) adjourned.

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