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Tuesday, 18 September 1973
Page: 1198

Mr KERIN (Macarthur) - The first after dinner speaker on this Bill, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), who is Deputy Leader of the Country Party, made a good thumping speech. This was in contrast to the usual sullen anti-rural mumblings of his colleagues. However, I take some exception to the reference to Dr Patterson, who is not at present overseas for 3 months but is in Geneva negotiating on international sugar agreements. He will be in attendance at that conference until mid-October. I thought that the Country Party would have regarded that conference as a serious matter and well worth the Minister's time overseas. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party made some mention also of schools for meat inspectors. Unless I misheard him he said that these schools were being stopped. I can say quite clearly that that is not so.

This Bill is straightforward, as stated by the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) in his second reading speech. I will allow the Minister to answer some of the charges made. The purpose of the Bill is to impose a charge on meat exported from Australia in order ta recoup the cost to the Government of inspection of meat for export. The charge of lc per lb will be paid by exporters and is designed to cover only the cost of inspection. There is no sense working out figures and tables and saying that more than the cost of inspection is to be recouped unless the matter is viewed over a 3-year period. The amount is to be recouped over 3 years - in fact in 33 months. Again, I believe that matter will be explained in full by the Minister for Immigration who is at present at the table. I believe that producers will be a little more proud and independent of spirit and not take much notice of the opportunistic approach of the Opposition or the political moves of some people who have a vested interest to maintain. The Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt, has spoken on this matter with meat industry leaders. As far as I can understand and as far as I am assured, the meat industry leaders have in no way criticised the imposition of this levy.

When I was a primary producer I thought it was sensible and logical that charges on the products I produced for export were a charge to the industry. When I was a producer producing livestock and wanted to clear up a disease, I thought it was fair enough that I, as a farmer, should pay for it. As far as I am concerned this is the philosophy that should be put forward. I think that there is no automatic justification for assisting industries just because they happen to export products. Is the Government expected to pay for the inspection of cars which are exported by car manufacturers? Does the Government have to help every industry regardless of the conditions the industry is experiencing? What is the sort of philosophy behind always grizzling about any change to the status quo? If blacksmiths had been subsidised at one stage, would there be any need to continue the subsidy until 1973? This charge has been in operation since 1927 and I think now is a reasonable and sensible time to impose this levy. I cannot understand why the Opposition maintains that taxpayers should subsidise exporters. I think that the rural industries are in a better position to absorb this cost than ever before.

Mr Street - I never said they will not be able to.

Mr KERIN - Well, even so, this is a justifiable charge in my opinion. As I said, I have faith in this industry and I think there is a lot of confidence and stability in the meat exporting industy and in the meat industry overall.

The total income of the rural industry has risen by $756m to a record $ 1,880m in the current year and will be a lot higher next year. The total impact of all charges and the removal of subsidies in the Budget amounts to about 2 per cent of the projected net income in the coming financial year. Australia is now the world's largest exporter of meat and the world's largest exporter of beef. There is a fair amount of evidence of the health of the rural economy at present. I think I should emphasise 'at present'. This is not simply a climatic factor with respect to beef. The supply has been rising for a long time and there has been much transfer of resources into beef. Land values are booming and the profit of major rural companies is rising. This is a damned good thing considering what the industry has gone through recently.

A table of price rises of meat, movements in the consumer price index and the indices of the components of the meat group from the December quarter 1966 to the December quarter 1972 show that the rate of increase in the price of all types of meat, with the single exception of beef, in this period had been significantly less than the rate of increase in the consumer price index. However, the change between the December quarter 1972 and the March quarter 1973 in the consumer price index and the meat price indices showed a dramatic jump. The consumer price index was up 2.1 per cent. All meat rose 8.6 per cent; beef 6.2 per cent; lamb 15.7 per cent; mutton 23 per cent; and pork rose 3.6 per cent. There was an even larger jump from the March quarter to the June quarter. The consumer price index rose 3.3 per cent and compared with the previous quarter meat was up 1 1 per cent; beef 9.3 per cent; lamb 12.9 per cent; mutton 20.8 per cent; and pork 4.4 per cent. I think this is fair evidence of the rising prices of meat and is related directly to the United States price. A recent Bureau of Agricultural Economics study showed that for every lc rise on the United States market local prices rose by 0.5c. Wholesale prices for meat in the United States have risen 215 per cent since 1971. The price of boneless beef was 50c per lb on 2 August 1973. Three weeks later it was up to 75c per lb. This is why I believe the charge is justified. I mink the industry is always better placed to approach government in future when it is not obtaining unrealistic and unnecessary subsidies. The situation does not look like changing in the immediate future and I think we all hope that it does not.

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