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Thursday, 10 March 1977

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) - Since the Government came to office one of the rural sectors that have concerned it greatly has been the beef cattle sector. There were obvious marketing difficulties. To overcome these we felt that there might be reason to look at the efficacy of the Australian Meat Board. I have received quite a number of submissions from different organisations suggesting that it was perhaps from the present powers, structure and constitution of the Board that some of the disabilities in meat marketing flowed. I therefore developed a paper, which was a discussion paper and no more, for the industry to see whether a body which I suggested might be termed an Australian meat and livestock corporation might be able to improve our overall marketing capability and ensure a greater access and price return to Australian producers across the world market scene.

Unfortunately the industry itself is incredibly divided. Not only is each of the producer organisations differing in its attitude towards this proposal but so too are the meat exporters. The individual meat exporters are not unanimous. The big exporters want one sort of body and the small exporters want another. The consumers have a different attitude again and the unions also have some variation of the proposal as put forward. In those circumstances it has been extraordinarily difficult to make recommendations to the Government. Nonetheless, I believe that there is some advantage in looking at the efficacy of the Australian Meat Board. I am in the process of submitting to the Government recommendations for a new body.

In the meantime, however, I would like to say to the cattle producers that the Australian Meat Board is a body constituted with a producer majority. Its powers are prescribed by statute so that it can operate to improve the returns to growers and to ensure that growers' voices are heard by all sectors of the industry to maximise their returns. I believe that the Meat Board has done a very good job over the last 6 months in incredibly difficult circumstances. It has been able to broaden access to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, for example. It was a Meat Board initiative that first gained access for boneless frozen boxes to the USSR. This is a different form of packaging and a different form of product from any sold previously. As a result we have had very satisfactory sales of beef to the USSR. So within the Meat Board there is a capacity to improve access. The one real deficiency at the moment that concerns us -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! There is too much audible conversation. I ask the Minister to draw his answer to a conclusion.

Mr SINCLAIR - There is too great a margin between prices being received by the producer and prices being received by the exporter. It is in that area that I believe the Australian Meat Board may well be able to take action until such stage as this Government decides on whether there will be a new body to replace it.

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