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Thursday, 10 March 1977
Page: 79

Mr WALLIS (GREY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I direct my question to the Minister for Overseas Trade. Does the Minister's advice to beef cattle producers that they withhold stock from the market to force up beef prices mean that he now admits that the beef exporting companies can pay higher prices for slaughter cattle? Does he also agree that the beneficiaries of the removal of the beef export levy were the exporting companies and not the beef cattle producers? Further, in view of the fact that the Minister for Overseas Trade, supported by the now Prime Minister, publicly urged cattle producers to increase cattle numbers, will he now accept responsibility for the over supply situation that exists and is this the reason for his now -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's question is far too long. He has posed the point he wants to make. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Wallis - One more sentence.

Mr Young - I rise to order. The Minister for Primary Industry just gave us a 6-minute speech in respect of the beef industry. It does not seem to me that the honourable member for Grey has been speaking for very long. Obviously there are many questions to be asked about this industry. The Minister rambled on -

Mr SPEAKER -There is no point of order. I call the Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Wallis - I have one sentence to complete my question.

Mr SPEAKER -I have ruled on this matter. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Deputy Prime Minister) - I think the honourable member's questions give me ample scope to give him a reply. First, the honourable member referred to a statement I released on Sunday night recommending to beef producers throughout the nation that they reduce the number of cattle they are sending to the sale yards for slaughter. This statement was based on information that I have been able to accumulate showing quite clearly that the exporters can pay a higher price than they are paying at the moment for cattle. With devaluation and increased prices for meat sales as well as the prospect of increased markets over the next 12 months, they will clearly be enabled to pay at least $10 to $20 a head more than they are paying at the moment. Some people have remarked that my statement was improper. In fact some even went so far to say that it was immoral because an increase would put up the price of meat for the consumers. If anything is immoral it is people who do not want to see cattle producers getting a higher price than they are getting now. Today housewives pay for meat a price which is basically the cost of transport, slaughtering, chilling and retailing. The cattleman gets virtually nothing. The only way he can get a higher price is for the price in the store to go up. An increase of $20 per head would mean to the consumers about a lc to 2c per lb increase in the price. Yet there are people who are so selfish that they do not want to see this industry, which is in a near bankrupt situation, get any improvement. I have even seen articles in some of the newspapers saying that the increase I have suggested would have a considerable effect on the consumer price index. A lc to 2c per lb increase in the price of meat would cause an increase of one-fifth of one per cent. People ought to consider what would be the impact of some of the other increases.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is too much noise in the chamber. I call upon the right honourable gentleman to draw his answer to a conclusion.

Mr ANTHONY -The consumers and the public at large should realise that between 1972 and 1976 the costs of killing, dressing and delivery to the chillers increased by 102 per cent. During the same period the price received for cattle dropped by SO per cent. If there is any complaint to be made it is about the huge increase in slaughtering and other costs in the industry. Wages are certainly a major consideration. I hope people, especially the consumers, do not think they will not have to pay for increased wages by paying more for their meat, because they will have to pay. That is one of the reasons why we have been so concerned about the rapid increase in wages over the last few years. The honourable member for Grey referred to -

Mr Bryant - Mr Speaker,I take a point of order. A few moments ago you requested the right honourable gentleman to finalise his answer. He has not done so. When you requested the honourable member for Grey to finalise his question and he did not do so you forced him to sit down. I think the same rule ought to apply to the right honourable gentleman.

Mr SPEAKER -The Standing Orders permit me to bring a question to an end when it is too long. The Standing Orders do not permit me to bring an answer to an end when it is too long.

Mr Scholes -Mr Speaker,I rise to order. On an earlier occasion when ruling against the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith in relation to a question you took the view that the literal meaning of standing order 144 and the literal meaning of standing order 145 should be read together. You ruled certain sections of a question out of order on the basis of something in standing order 144. 1 ask: Does your ruling now mean that you do not uphold that earlier ruling?

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman has no substance in his point of order. Furthermore, he has misunderstood the ruling I earlier gave.

Mr ANTHONY - I believe there is some significance to be registered in the Opposition's taking continuing points of order on a matter which is of grave concern to one of the largest industries in Australia- the cattle producing industry. It is in such a serious state that I would have thought that Opposition members would have been reasonable enough to listen to the points that I have been making.

Mr Scholes - I raise a point of order. The honourable member is now referring to members of the Opposition taking points of order. If the Minister is prepared to make a statement on the cattle industry the Opposition is prepared to give leave and to debate it forthwith.

Mr SPEAKER -There is no substance in the point of order.

Mr ANTHONY - If the honourable member would like me to say more about the industry I would be quite happy to take up more of question time. The honourable member for Grey who, I believe, does have a genuine concern for the industry- no doubt that is the reason why he has asked the question- is not being given much support by his own colleagues. I think it is true to say that the Labor Party has never shown any concern for the cattlemen or the rural producers.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The House will come to order. I call upon the Deputy Prime Minister to bring his answer to a conclusion.

Mr ANTHONY -The point I wish to make is that if the very poor circumstances of the beef industry continue and cattle producers are forced to sell their breeding stock as evidenced by the large numbers of cows and heifers that are coming into the yards at present the Australian herd will be significantly reduced and the ultimate consequence will be that the consumers will have to pay considerably more. What we want in this country is a stable industry. If there is to be fairness then producers should at least get a reasonable share of the sales being made overseas. We are concerned that the exporters are not paying producers enough. If producers could marginally reduce the number of stock going into the yards there would be the improvement that I have suggested.

Mr Martin - I raise a point of order. Mr Speaker, if you are going to ask honourable members to shorten their questions I would ask you to apply the same rule to Ministers in their replies.

Mr SPEAKER -I have already made it clear to the House that while I possess power to prevent questions from contravening the Standing Orders I do not have the power to call an answer to an end. The only thing I can do in relation to an answer is to require it to be relevant to the question. If it is relevant, it will proceed.

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