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Tuesday, 18 September 1973
Page: 1187

Mr SINCLAIR (New England) - In reply to a question in this House the other day the Prime Minister (Mr Whitiam) intimated that he did not believe that at meetings and Press conferences outside this House he was in any way denying the House the opportunity to question him. Unfortunately in the second reading speech on this Bill the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby), who represents in this House the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), did not realise that the Prime Minister had had such a Press conference. The Bill itself acts in complete contradiction to the undertakings given in the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean). It is a Bill which the Opposition dislikes. It dislikes it because of the Bill's philosophical foundation and practical shortcomings. The Bill has been drafted with 3 objects in mind: Firstly, that the meat export industry should pay for export inspection and disease eradication charges when no other export industry pays for such charges. Secondly, that the imposition of a charge on meat for export will divert supplies to the domestic market. Thirdly, that because the industry is affluent at present it should be subjected to a supplementary tax - a tax on profitability. All 3 points are invalid. The philosophical foundation of the Bill is another reflection of the anti-rural bias of this Government.

Mr Grassby - Oh, garbage.

Mr SINCLAIR - In the debate on the Budget, the kicking of the rural community at the hands of the Labor Party and by the honourable member for Riverina, the present Minister for Immigration who has completely welshed on those who elected him to this place, was stressed by member after member on this side of the House.

Mr Grassby - Mr Speaker, a point of order.

Mr SINCLAIR - It was not so much a kicking - it was a bashing.

Mr Grassby - Mr Speaker, if the Deputy Leader of the Country Party does not know what order is he should learn it now. I take a point of order. I resent-

Mr SINCLAIR - You deserve the comment given to you.

Mr Grassby - I resent the charge of being a welsher. I describe him as a disorderly man. I want a withdrawal and an apology and I am entitled to that. As an honourable member he should know the forms of the House. If not, he should not serve here.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I ask for all interjections to cease. I do not think the honourable member made a personal reflection.

Mr Grassby - He said I am a welsher and he repeated it.

Mr SINCLAIR - It is unfortunate that the members on the other side of the House who represent rural electorates do not-

Mr Grassby - Mr Speaker, I persist with my point of order.

Mr SINCLAIR - It is unfortunate that they do not effectively represent the people who elected them to this House.

Mr Grassby - The honourable member is absolutely disorderly. I persist-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.

Mr Grassby - Well!

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Sit down.

Mr Grassby - Mr Speaker-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I will run this place. You run your Department.

Mr SINCLAIR - Mr Speaker, it is unfortunate that the Government supporters who represent rural electorates have no understanding of the interests of rural people. The deplorable exercise of irresponsibility demon strated in this place a few seconds ago by a man who is currently the Minister for Immigration, a man who has failed in his responsibilities to his electors demonstrably through the Bill that is before us, through the Budget and the neglect of rural interests which that Budget represented, is one of the damnations that must apply to this Government. The bashing that this Government has given to the rural community is completely vindicative in its nature and the man who introduced this Bil! should be ashamed of himself and of his failure to exercise his responsibilities on behalf of his electorate.

The anti-rural syndrome of the Leader of the Government is reflected in this Bill. The Bill has been hastily drawn up. The hastiness of its drafting can be illustrated by 2 curious incidents before the Budget was introduced. Twelve days before the Budget was introduced the Minister for Primary Industry who is in another place called an informal Press conference of journalists at his office in Sydney. The journalists came away from that briefing convinced after what he had told them that there would be no export levy charges. The journalists were unanimous in that conviction. They were so convinced that they wrote about it and there have been at least 6 articles in national media to the effect that no export charge would be levied on the meat industry. Then came the Budget and the journalists found they had been had. I wonder how the Minister for Immigration - I am told that he is a current financial member of the Australian Journalists Association, a journalist of some sort presumably in the past - regards this exercise of irresponsibility on the part of one of his ministerial colleagues and how he regards this treatment of the Press, the giving to them of a statement which has not corresponded with the truth of the assertions of the Budget. Perhaps it might explain to him in large part the Labor Government's collapsed credibility with journalists in the field for rural policy making. Perhaps it might explain why the rural stakes of the Labor Party, as appeared in the opinion polls tonight, are so low.

Yet another illustration of the hastiness of this Bill's drafting is the incredible failure of the Minister in his second reading speech to catch up with the announcement of the Prime Minister at his Press conference of the day before that the Treasurer's Budget announced charge of lc per lb on meat exports was to be changed. Will the Prime Minister change the levy again today or tomorrow at another Press conference? This House of Parliament has not been given the courtesy of the reason for the increase from lc per lb to 1:6c per lb on beef exports. The Opposition therefore intends to reject those increases in excess of the Treasurer's Budget statement. If the Prime Minister thinks that this House will accept complacently his announcing, outside the Parliament altogether, decisions contrary to those made by his Treasurer in the Budget, he has another think coming.

In the Committee stages I propose to move that the charges should be no more than the lc per lb which the Treasurer, in his Budget speech, said they would be. There is no word in the second reading speech to indicate to any member of this chamber any reason why the charge should be higher. It is no use the Minister coming back at this stage of the debate and saying: 'We forgot about it'. If the Government's left hand - particularly the Minister for Immigration, representing the Minister for Primary Industry in this House, belatedly it is true; and I really wonder whether he is not ashamed to do so, but then again perhaps he does not represent his electorate - catches up with what the right hand, the Prime Minister, is doing or saying, perhaps then the Parliament can be told.

In opposing this provision in the Bill I say that the Bill obviously not only has been hastily drawn up but presumably also the department which advises the Minister had no idea that the change had been made. It is absolutely deplorable that a Minister can come into the Parliament, make a second reading speech and fail to advise the Parliament of changes which his Prime Minister intimated to a Press Conference the day before were to be made in the Bill.

Recently the Bureau of Agricultural Economics gave to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices some estimates of what it saw as export meat production up to 1975-76. I want to talk for a few moments about the cost of the levy - about how much this levy will cost primary producers who are engaged in meat production. If we accept the submission of the BAE it means that in the 9 months remaining in 1973-74 about 961,400 tons of meat for export are expected to be produced. This meat will be subject to meat inspection charges of $16. 15m. I repeat, this is for the 9 months to 30 June 1974. In the 12 months from 1 July 1974 to 30 June 1975 a total of 1,105,000 tons of export meat will be subject to meat inspection charges of $24.76m. In the 12 months to the conclusion of this Bill- that is, for 1975-76-1,271,400 tons of export meat will be subject to meat inspection charges of $28.48m. Thus in the next 33 months, assuming the levy charge is a flat lc per lb, the cost of the levy to the export meat industry will be $69. 39m. I stress that these inspection charges are based on the assessment of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics given about 2 weeks ago to the Joint Committee on Prices. This is the basis of my assessment of meat quantities to be exported. With a levy of lc per lb the charge will amount to $69.39m.

I am excluding altogether those charges which the Prime Minister has told the people, but which the Minister has not told this Parliament, will amount to 0.6c per lb and which apparently relate to tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. For the purposes of this debate, the Parliament knows nothing about those charges. The Parliament has been completely ignored. The Prime Minister is treating the Parliament as a farce and he correctly deserves to be treated in the same light. As a result the overall cost to the meat industry, if we add the 0.6c per lb to beef exports, which according to the Prime Minister's Press interview relates to brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication, during the next 33 months will be approximately $80m to $85m.

The lc per lb levy relates specifically to the inspection of carcasses and other ancillary facilities - that is, the ancillary expenses for which the Government is responsible with respect to meat exports - and will result in a total cost of $69.39m. In 1972-73 the cost of meat inspection services was $ 11.4m. If we assume a growth factor of 25 per cent annually in inspection charges - a fair figure taking into account the growth of exports, the widening recruitment of inspectors, rising wage rates and the inflationary spiral about which this Government seems to care little in that it is spending money in the public sector and not caring 2 hoots about where it is going; of course it is making the private sector pull its horns in and has no concern for the individual men and women in this community and is concerned only that the public sector should keep on spending - we find that in the remaining 9 months of 1973-74 the cost of inspection services would be $14.3m. In 1974-75 the cost of inspection services would be $17.9m and in 1975-76 it would be $22.4m. In other words, the total for the next 33 months would be $54.6m. The Bill, however, provides for a levy that will bring from the beef producers, mutton producers and lamb producers the sum of $69. 39m. This Government, through a Labor Minister, will spend only $54.6m in providing the services which this levy is supposed to compensate. I assert again that I am excluding completely the additional surcharge which the Prime Minister, outside the Parliament, said will be imposed to cover tuberculosis and brucellosis eradication. The difference in what will be raised and what should be paid is $14.8m - nearly $15m - or 30 per cent too much. Of course, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) has advocated that there should be high and penal export taxes. Perhaps his policy already has been accepted.

Mr Whan - I have not. You have made a mistake.

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