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Thursday, 20 September 1973
Page: 1335


Mr SPEAKER - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


Mr HURFORD - The report Stabilisation of Meat Prices, which has just been tabled, is the first report presented to the Parliament by the Joint Committee on Prices. The recommendations of the Committee are shown in front of the report. The major recommendation is that a special flexible tax be introduced on beef exports, with the proceeds from this tax being returned for the benefit of beef livestock producers. The philosophy behind this recommendation is very simple. The average retail price of meat increased by almost 25 per cent in the first 7 months of 1973, and all the evidence suggested that in the absence of intervention the upward pressure on prices would not be reduced until the autumn of 1974 at the earliest.

Meat is the most important single sub-group in the consumer price index. The increase in meat prices has contributed enormously to inflation. In the June quarter of this year, for instance, two-fifths of the consumer price index increase of 3.3 per cent was accounted for by the increase in meat prices. In addition, the rapid price increases have placed burdens on persons on low incomes, persons on fixed incomes, larger families and pensioners. The Committee concluded that the only way to reduce meat prices was to increase supplies of meat to the domestic market by diverting supplies from export. The amount diverted need not be very large. In addition beef only would need to be diverted. Mutton and lamb are currently in such short supply that any diversion from the export market would not be significant.

The Committee was very conscious of the need for a proposal that would not be counter productive in the long term by deterring production or deterring the supply of cattle to the market. However, by returning the proceeds of the tax to all beef producers, any adverse effects would be avoided. The producer's incentive to increase production would not therefore in any way be impaired. Indeed, in the circumstances of very strong overseas demand, as at present, which would necessitate a very high export tax, the producer's incentive to increase production would be enhanced as total revenue to the Australian industry would be increased.

The second major recommendation is also brought to the attention of the Parliament, namely, that the meat industry should do something itself to stabilise domestic prices pending the introduction of an export tax. If successful the Government might consider not introducing the export tax proposal. The emphasis on export which the industry has been pursuing is not in its best long term interests. The domestic market is the largest and most important, and this is the very market that is not being looked after.

It is the view of the Committee that unless something is done to increase the amount of red meat available to the domestic market, the consumer could develop tastes for other meats to the permanent detriment of the red meat industry. In this regard, evidence presented to the Committee showed that in the last 10 years per capita consumption of poultry meat has increased rapidly, and there is similar scope for increases in pig meat consumption. It will be noted that the report contains a dissent. Four non-Government members did not agree with the major recommendations. Mr Garland, the fifth, was out of Australia when the report was considered. I thank the House for leave to make this statement. I commend the report to the House.

Motion (by Mr Daly) - by leave - proposed:

That the House take note of the paper.







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