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Thursday, 20 September 1973
Page: 1342


Mr NIXON (Gippsland) - I raise a point of procedure first. Mr Speaker, I understand I am to get 20 minutes in this debate. Is that correct?


Mr SPEAKER - Fifteen minutes.


Mr NIXON - Firstly I want to respond to the allegation made by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). He is too fond of coming into this House with a broad brush and slamming everybody in sight without having the constitutional, institutional or any other sort of fortitude.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Intestinal.


Mr NIXON - In deference to the Minister, I say that the honourable member for EdenMonaro does not have the intestinal fortitude to go on with the job. He is a plain damp squib. The sooner the people of Eden-Monaro recognise that the better. I think they will recognise it when they see his signature on the report we are debating. The simple fact is that if any confidence has been jeopardised in the beef industry it has been done by the Government and nobody else. The Government was no sooner in power when it asked Colonel McArthur to present a Meat Board report on how the Government could reduce the price of meat. Then on 3 May the Government set up the Joint Committee on Prices with the following reference:

Stabilisation of meat prices, with particular reference to the report of the Australian Meat Board on this subject.

The honourable member for Eden-Monaro accused the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) of jeopardising confidence. He did so in the face of the report of Colonel McArthur, who incidentally rejected the method proposed in the report and rejected entirely an export tax on beef as being a reasonable method of taxation. For the Government to set up a committee and for the honourable member to accuse the Leader of the Country Party of jeopardising the confi dence of the beef industry is plain humbug. There is no question about it. The responsibility, if confidence in the beef industry has been jeopardised, lies straight with the Government. For fools like the honourable member for Eden-Monaro who prattle on-


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member will withdraw that remark.


Mr NIXON - I withdraw that remark. I have been very severely provoked. The simple fact is that no authoritative evidence given to the Committee supports the majority findings. It is as simple as that. All the authoritative witnesses bar one - and I will come to that matter in a minute - gave evidence to show that an export tax was not the way to handle the problem. That is the reason for the dissenting report; there is no other reason. If the conclusion to be reached on the evidence was that this was the way to tackle the subject, I and other dissenting members on the Committee would have gone along with the recommendation. There is no authoritative evidence to support the recommendation bar that from the Western Australian Department of Agriculture, which for entirely different reasons supported a tax. In fact the Director of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Mr Honan, said that a tax would be like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. That is what the Director thought about it.

The honourable member for Eden-Monaro said that a reduction of 1 per cent in beef exports was needed to lower the price of beef to the Australian consumer. That is like using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. The proposition is ridiculous. Neither the Australian Meat Board, nor the Australian Meat Exporters Federal Council, nor the meat and allied trades, nor the Department of Agriculture in New South Wales supports the proposition. Where did the majority of the Committee get its findings? What evidence did it use to support its findings. I believe that the Committee had made up its mind, before it began its hearing, to find something conclusive of this nature.


Mr Hurford - That is not true.


Mr NIXON - That is my firm belief. The Committee certainly did not make its findings on the evidence. That is a fact. There was no authoritative evidence before the Committee in support of the proposal to impose an export tax, and Colonel McArthur's original report to the Government was correct. All the evidence that came before the Committee supports that. The majority report is sheer nonsense, projecting a potential damage to the beef industry as it has done. What would be the effect of such a tax? In the words of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, the demand for beef on the export markets is so great that the overseas consumer will be prepared to pay the level of the tax. If that is the case there will be no reduction in price for the Australian consumer. It means there will be no diversion of meat back onto the Australian market and there will be no price reduction, so the proposition is sheer, absolute nonsense.

That is only the first leg. The other leg is that if he is wrong, and I believe he is wrong - I wonder what earthly use he was when he was with the Bureau of Agricultural Economics; he is better off in the Parliament so that he can be exposed for his views - the tax would be passed back to the producer. This is a very serious question and it is dealt with in the dissenting report. That would be the effect of the tax; it would be passed straight back to the producer. In other words this Government is asking the producer to subsidise the consumer when it does not have the constitutional or intestinal fortitude to pay a consumer subsidy. The proposition is ridiculous.


Mr Duthie - The Government has made no such decision.


Mr NIXON - The honourable member for Wilmot said that the Government has made no such decision. I recognise that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) has said that the proposition is not on. However, he has the habit of saying he is in sympathy with the dairying industry and the wheat industry and that he does not like this proposition or that proposition. But this Government still adopts those propositions. All I can say is that I hope he has the numbers for once to have a victory because the rural industries and country people have been suffering very greatly as a result of all the measures the Government has taken while he has been Minister for Primary Industry. The Australian Cattle Council sent a letter, which we all received today, dealing with this matter. It showed that the proposition that the export tax should be applied is ridiculous.

Let me come now to the question of how the tax will work. Today, 20 September, the Government whacks on a 20c tax. On 30

September it decides that 20c is not enough and makes it a 40c tax. I, as a beef grower, sell my beef today. Some of it might well go to the export market but some of it may be good quality beef and be sold on the domestic market. The export beef will take months to reach the market, yet I will be paying tax across the board on the beef that is exported. Will I be paying on the basis of the 40c or 20c tax?


Mr Duthie - Whatever you sold it at, I suppose.


Mr NIXON - Whatever I sold it at? It is only levied on export meats. So there are very severe administrative difficulties and problems in achieving equity. It is to be a special flexible tax. We will have a tax that jumps up and down like a yo-yo, as the honourable member for Eden-Monaro does in his seat at question time. The principal recommendation about this export tax is that it should provide a means of stabilising meat prices. The fact that that word is used is a shock in itself. What stabilisation' means normally in both the wheat and dairying industries which have stabilisation schemes is that it takes the peaks and troughs out and the Government provides support to maintain the level of prices. All that this proposal is supposed to do is to reduce the price. There is nothing to say that there will be support for the industry if the proposal acts as a disastrous mechanism and the price crashes. There is no word at all. As the right honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton) said, the report says in its major recommendation that we should use the money to promote the industry. What stuff and nonsense is that? The Government is complaining about high prices and yet wants to promote the industry. If it wants to promote the industry that is fine.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I rise to order. I was not brought up in a terribly refined school, but is the comment 'what stuffing nonsense is this' parliamentary? I used to hear it in the shearing sheds but I have never heard it in the Parliament.


Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is no point of order.


Mr NIXON - We all know the little ways of the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) who is at the table. Recommendation 2, which the honourable member for Eden-Monaro dismissed so slightly, carries with it enormous implications and difficulties for certain sections of the industry. To say that Dick Condon at Northern Meat Exporters Pty Ltd at Katherine has voluntarily to sell some of his meat on the Australian domestic market is absolute nonsense. Do not say that the voluntary system used in marketing meat on the American market is comparable. It is a different proposition entirely and the outflow is entirely different. Northern Meat Works once tried to find a market for manufacturing meat with the type of meat grown in the north and it nearly broke that organisation. When I hear of waterside workers standing on the wharves refusing to load export meat 1 would like to give them a feed occasionally of some of the manufacturing meat which is exported. They would think they were eating the boots they were wearing. This is a ridiculous proposition. What it means is that the southern meat works will have to carry the load. That is an inequity in itself. The Government is now saying to the southern meat works which have meat that may be sold in Japan, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, that meat produced by them would be suitable for the Australian palate. We are a very fussy people and like only good meat. The honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) agrees with that, but he has never had a piece of tough steak in his life. He always buys the best. He has always had the capacity to pay, a term used by the unions when they argue the national wage case.

In relation to the capacity to pay, average weekly earnings are now $107 a week. The graph in the dissenting report shows that the prices of meat are not out of kilter with average weekly earnings, as they were in 1967. It is certainly true that after 1967 the income from meat dropped while average weekly earnings still soared. They were disaster prices. What this Government wants in reducing prices is for the meat producer to go back to the disaster days of 3 or 4 years ago. This is exactly what the proposition means. The fact is that on average weekly earnings and his capacity to pay, the Australian meat consumer is still getting the cheapest and best quality meat in the world. I am as concerned for the, low income earner as anybody else. If there is concern for the low income earner, why does the Government not do what New Zealand tried to do? I do not put it forward as a positive proposition, but if the Government is so concerned why does it not do what New Zealand tried to do and subsidise the consumer? The Government would rather let the producer pay. It would rather introduce a mechanism about which we can make no judgment and which all the authoritative evidence says is wrong. Yet it is not prepared to back its judgment and provide meat to be sold at a reasonable price to the low income earner.

The minority report contains several graphs which show quite clearly that some of the evidence in the major report is wrong. I want to draw the attention of the Parliament to this because it is very important. The claim is made in the majority report that the lower grades of meat have risen at a steeper rate. The Parliamentary Library has produced a graph which is attached to the report and this shows that it is the highest quality meat that has risen at the sharpest rate and that the lower quality meats have risen at a lower rate and should be well within the reach of the Australian consumer.


Mr Hunt - Would you incorporate that in Hansard?


Mr NIXON - It is in the report. The Australian Cattle Council has written a letter to all honourable members today which shows some of the actions of this Government. I have not shown it to the Minister for Labour but as he has a copy of the letter perhaps he will let me incorporate it in Hansard.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I had better look at it. I am a bit suspicious.


Mr NIXON - I know the Minister is a bit suspicious and wary because he used to play these tricks himself. While he is looking at the letter I will read what Mr Condon said on behalf of Northern Meat Works which has sent a telegram to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and to Senator Wriedt. I do not know what good it will do sending a telegram to Senator Wriedt. He always makes noises of great sympathy and then does the opposite thing. According to Mr Condon, the Prime Minister, apparently on an Australian Broadcasting Commission program last Thursday, said that the north should receive special consideration in these matters. I would like to know, in view of the fact that it is in the export market and that 98 per cent of its meat goes to the export market, how it will receive special consideration in the levying of the export tax. I will be fascinated to see what the Government does about meat prices. I wonder whether it will turn away from an export tax and go straight to a quota, a more dangerous mechanism still. I wonder what H will do. I will be interested to see the reactions of the honourable member for Eden-Monaro as reported in some of the local newspapers in the Eden-Monaro electorate. I will be watching them with interest to make sure that he tells the truth. How am I going with the Minister?


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The letter is a pack of lies from what I have seen so far so I cannot let the honourable member incorporate it in Hansard.


Mr NIXON - Very well, do not let me, thank you.


Mr Clyde Cameron (HINDMARSH, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - The honourable member can read it out and then I will ask him to withdraw it.


Mr NIXON - The Minister for Labour has just called the Australian Cattle Council a liar.


Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.







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