Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator GIBSON (Victoria) .- I move -

That National Security (Supplementary) Regulation SO under the National Security Act 1939-1940 made by Statutory Rules 1942, No. 161, be disallowed.

I am not moving for the disallowance of this regulation with a desire to embarrass the Government, and I am sure that the Government realizes that. The disallowance of this regulation would have no effect whatever upon our war effort. The regulation, which overrides the Health Act 1935, of the State of Victoria, provides -

The National Security (Supplementary) Regulations are amended by adding at the end thereof the following regulation: - " 50. Nothing contained in section 19 of the Health Act 1935 of the State of Victoria (being Act No. 4333 of that State) shall -

(a)   prevent the removal of any cattle from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Farm at Werribee in the State of Victoria, whether for the purposes of human consumption or for any other purposes whatsoever; or

(b)   operate to make any authority or person guilty of an offence against, or liable to a penalty under, any law, by reason of that authority or person having permitted or suffered, or having been concerned with, any such removal.".

When the Health Act of 1935 was before the Victorian Parliament, it was debated at length, and the ban on Werribee beef was carried on the voices, so that the Labour party, as well as the Dunstan Government, favoured such a ban or, at any rate, did not vote against it. In fairness, I should say that an amendment waa moved, limiting the ban to two years, but was defeated. As I have 8 aid, this regulation overrides an act of the Parliament of Victoria, and I believe that it overrides the wishes of the people of Victoria. If all the beef produced at Werribee were put through the usual Wednesday market at Newmarket, it would not supply that day's market. Therefore, a ban on its use would have no effect upon the war effort. There are not enough bullocks at Werribee to supply the Melbourne market for a week. Pastoralists generally are not opposed to Werribee beef being sold in Melbourne, provided it is sold as Werribee beef, and if the Government will amend this regulation to provide for that restriction, I shall have no objection to it. It would then be possible for a purchaser to know whether the beef which he was purchasing came from the Werribee Sewage Farm. In effect we have a statement by the Government that it will ram down the throats of the troops of this country, beef which they would not eat in their homes.

Senator Collings - The Government has not said anything of the kind.

Senator GIBSON - I shall prove, definitely, that in effect the Government did say so. It stated that it was buying the beef for the troops. As proof that the graziers have no objection to the meat being sold on the Melbourne market as " Werribee beef ", I point out that about 40,000 sheep are run on the Werribee farm and that a large number of the3e is sold in Melbourne every week. Has any honorable senator ever heard a complaint from the graziers about that? They have not because the sheep are not hosts of the tape worm. If the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works wishes to produce more food for the community, it could graze another 10,000 sheep, the equivalent of cattle, on its farm at Werribee. There is nothing to prevent it from doing so. It has 11,000 acres of dry country, and it runs about 1,000 horses on that area in addition to cattle and sheep. Under wise management, the farm would carry sheep in place of the cattle that graze there. I have a suspicion that the embargo on Werribee beef was lifted as the result of the influence of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is also a member of the

Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. At any rate, he was congratulated by the board upon the fact that the ban has been lifted. I hope that the cause for these congratulations will be short-lived, and will end to-night. If the Government wishes to abolish thu States, it should do so constitutionally instead of endeavouring to whittle away their rights as it is doing in this case. When I read to honorable senators the correspondence on the subject of Werribee beef which passed between the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) and the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, for whom I do not hold a brief, they will see what a high-handed attitude the Government has adopted towards the Government of Victoria. The Senate is a States House. Tasmania is represented in the Commonwealth Parliament by five members of the House of Representatives and six senators; Western Australia is represented by five members of the House of Representatives and six senators. Therefore, it is the duty of the Senate to guard the rights of the States until such time as the States are abolished. If there were no other grounds, this attack on the rights of the Victorian Government would be sufficient reason for disallowing the regulation. This Government has ridden rough-shod over the Victorian Government. I do not know whether it entertains animosity towards the Premier of Victoria, but the correspondence which passed between that gentleman and the Prime Minister shows that he has been unfairly treated. A Minister stated in the House of Representatives that the ban on Werribee beef was a racket organized by the graziers. It is nothing of the kind. As I have said the graziers are prepared to allow that meat to be marketed, provided that it is marked as Werribee beef. Somebody else has said that the ban regulates the price of stock on the Melbourne market. That is not true. For seven years when Werribee beef was allowed to enter the market the average price of beef was 40s. 7d. a cwt. For five years during which the ban was in force the average price was 31s. 9d. a cwt. That proves that the ban had no restraining effect on the market price.

Senator Spicer - Some of those years were depression years.

Senator GIBSON - I admit that that is so. One of the chief objections to the Government's action is that our troops will be compelled to eat Werribee beef.

Senator Courtice - Does the honorable senator consider that Werribee beef is fit to eat?

Senator GIBSON - No.

Senator Courtice - Then why would the honorable senator allow it to go on the market, when branded?

Senator GIBSON - There are three reasons why this regulation should be disallowed. The first is the constitutional reason. The Commonwealth should not override a State act on a matter that does not directly affect the war effort. The second is that our troops should not be forced to eat this meat against their wishes. I know scores of men in the Army who will not touch tinned or fresh meat whilst Werribee beef is a part of the Army ration. I know that bullocks from the Werribee Sewage Farm bring £19 a head on the Melbourne market. They are fine cattle and probably weigh about 800 lb. when dressed. They produce extraordinarily good meat. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) whether he would accept from a waiter at his hotel in Melbourne an appetizing piece of beef from the Werribee farm. The honorable senator declines to answer; I have never known him to be at a loss for a word before. Senator Fraser lives at one of Melbourne's leading hotels when he is in that city, and his name always appears in the social notes of the newspapers.

Senator Fraser - The honorable senator has made another mistake. I stay at a private house when I am in Melbourne.

Senator GIBSON - If the same waiter placed a Werribee steak in front of Senator Fraser, would he eat it? I suggest that he would ask to see the menu again.

Every city in Australia, with the exception of Melbourne, has dealt with sewage in a proper manner. Somebody recently asked the Bishop of Goulburn to pray for rain on the Sydney catchment area. He replied: "No, I will pray for wisdom for the Water Board". In this case, we ought to pray for wisdom for Melbourne City Councillors. The original scheme for Melbourne sewage was to reticulate it, through Werribee, to the sea at Queenscliff. That plan would have been cheaper to carry out than the Werribee farm scheme. Brisbane's sewage is carried into the Brisbane River and out to sea. In Hobart, sewage is also run into the sea. Western Australia has an eminently satisfactory scheme, and in this regard I pay a compliment to you, Mr. President. It is to your everlasting credit that, when you were Minister for Works in Western Australia, you refused to permit the establishment in Perth of a sewage farm similar to the one at Werribee. Adelaide had a sewage farm, and in 1925 beef measles broke out on that farm. The State authorities in South Australia very rightly decided that meat from that farm should not be marketed, and for eight years cattle were not grazed there. Then, as an experiment, 22 cattle were turned out on the farm and left there for six months. When they were slaughtered, 40 per cent, of them had developed beef measles, even though the farm had been lying idle for years. It is time that the sewage authorities of Melbourne decided to alter the existing method of disposing of sewage. I say to Senator Brand, who is an ex-Army officer of wide experience, that if the Army were to handle its sanitary arrangements as the city of Melbourne is doing, an epidemic of such magnitude would occur that more men would die of disease than at the hands of the enemy. There is not the slightest doubt about that. I direct the attention of the Senate to the correspondence which passed between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria. On the 20th February, Mr. Dunstan telegraphed the following message to the Prime Minister: -

From press reports, it would appear that Commonwealth Government contemplates taking action under Commonwealth Security Regulations to permit the sale for human consumption of beef from the Werribee Sewerage Farm. This matter has received very serious consideration by Victorian Government, which is opposed in the public health interest to removal of the ban. Before your Government takes any action to lift embargo, would suggest you obtain views of animal health division of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. Victorian Parliament has discussed this matter on several occasions, but has always emphasized the desirability of prohibiting the sale of this beef for human consumption.

Unfortunately, the Government did not adopt the suggestion. On the 24th February, the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), on behalf of the Prime Minister, wrote the following letter to Mr. Dunstan: -

I desire to acknowledge the receipt of your telegram of the 20th February, 1942, in regard to the question of the sale of beef from the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Farm at Werribee, and to inform you that the further representations made in connexion with the matter will be given consideration.

On the 26th March, the Prime Minister wrote to Mr. Dunstan in the following terms : -

For some time past, my Government has been considering ways and means of meeting the ever- increasing demands of the Australian and Allied services, both in Australia and overseas, for meat, both carcass and canned. In addition, the British Ministry of Food has indicated that it requires as much canned meat a- Australia iB in a position to export.

It has become necessary, therefore, to utilize every source of supply and it is proposed, by notice issued under the National Security Act, to lift the ban on the sale for human consumption of cattle from the Melbourne >-nd Metropolitan Board of Works Farm at Werribee.

That indicates that the meat was to be consumed by our soldiers and the soldiers of our allies. I say that they will not eat it.

Senator Large - That letter does not stipulate that the meat from the Werribee farm is to be consumed by soldiers.

Senator GIBSON - Undoubtedly it indicates that Werribee beef is intended for consumption by our soldiers at home and abroad.

Senator Fraser - It does not state that Werribee beef is to be so used.

Senator GIBSON - I say that it does. For what other reason was the ban lifted? On the 27th March, Mr. Dunstan sent the following telegram to the Prime Minister : -

Your letter 26th March to hand re proposed removal of ban on sale of cattle for human consumption from Sewerage Farm, Werribee- 1 previously suggested you should obtain reports from veterinary officers of Commerce Department and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Your .government has evidently overlooked this master. As Victorian Government is definitely opposed in interests nf health of community to removal of embargo would appreciate your compliance with above request. The number of cattle which can be supplied from Werribee Fa'-m will be less than 2 per cent, of consumption in Victoria alone.

The Prime Minister did not reply to that telegram, and Mr. Dunstan sent another telegram to him on the 31st March, in these terms -

Victorian Government has given further consideration to your proposal to remove the ban on the sale of beef from Werribee Sewerage Farm. Would again urge that your government obtain report from the chief veterinary officers of the Commerce Department and the Chief of the Division of Animal Health of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Victorian Government would be glad of an opportunity of perusing these reports when obtained.

I draw special attention to the fact that Mr. Dunstan asked that Commonwealth officials, not State officials, should make the investigation. That is a very important point.

Senator Spicer - They did make a report, did they not?

Senator GIBSON - They did nothing of the kind. The Prime Minister replied to Mr. Dunstan's telegram of the 31st March in a letter dated the 6th April, as follows : -

It is not considered that any good purpose would be served by obtaining additional reports on the matter.

On the 7th April, the Prime Minister sent this telegram to Mr. Dunstan -

Werribee beef. National Security Supplementary Regulations. Gazetted to-day remove the ban on sale for human consumption of cattle from Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Farm Werribee. Would appreciate co-operation and assistance your government in connexion with inspections this beef.

Mr. Dunstantelegraphed on the same date in the following terms: -

Referring your letter 6th April would regard as most serious any lifting of ban on Werribee Sewerage Farm beef without first obtaining report from veterinary officers of Commerce Department and Council for Scientific and Industrial Research as these are acknowledged to be the outstanding authorities on the subject.

The Prime Minister did not reply to that message, and on the 23rd April, Mr. Dunstan sent the following telegram to him : -

Melbourne newspapers indicate that your government may by regulation remove the embargo on sale of beef from Werribee Sewerage Farm. Before any action in this regard is taken would very much appreciate if you would furnish me with copies of reports which I understand you have obtained from Council for Scientific, and Industrial Research and Commonwealth veterinary officers. Victorian Government strongly opposed to removal of ban.

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Was there not a reply to that?

Senator GIBSON - No. Following that the Prime Minister received a report from the Commonwealth DirectorGeneral of Health, dated the 11th March. Dr. Cumpston forwarded with his report a copy of a minute by Mr. R. N. Wardle, director of the Division of Veterinary Hygiene, Canberra, on the subject of beef measles, with which he said that he entirely concurred. He added these words -

As mentioned in this minute, light cooking destroys the cysts in beef in the event of any escaping detection on inspection, therefore any canning process is effective also.

Senator Cameron - What did Dr. Dale say on the subject?

Senator GIBSON - He had nothing to do with it. He is an official of the Victorian Department of Health.

Senator Cameron - But he gave an opinion on the subject.

Senator GIBSON - I shall cite some more opinions later, and I hope that they will not upset the honorable senator's stomach. Mr. R. N. Wardle is, I understand, a veterinary officer connected with the Victorian Department of Agriculture. I do not know whether he ever examined a beast at the Werribee farm, but he did not say so in his report. He stated -

Suggest corrections