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Wednesday, 13 May 1942


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - Out of this unsavoury subject of beef measles and tapeworms, there would appear to me to arise two or three momentous questions with which this Senate, in particular, should be very much concerned. I must confess that from a very casual knowledge of the subject I had come to the conclusion that I shared in a general way the opinion of the Minister for External Territories (Senator Fraser) that the ban was imposed to support the graziers' market for fat cattle in Melbourne. I wish to disabuse honorable senators' minds in that matter. The disallowance of the regulation will restore the conditions to what they were previously, and will leave the export trade of this country untainted by any suggestion that beef ls being sold in the open market. Before we come to that stage, however, there is another aspect of the matter that needs consideration. It should be noted that this Government, under the guise of its war powers under the National Security Act, has proceeded to deal with the health laws of a State - laws with which the State and its authorities should be familiar, and for which they have the entire responsibility under the Constitution. I venture to say that should the Victorian Government decide to test the validity of this regulation, it would be found to be unconstitutional. The Commonwealth Government may rely upon its powers to fix the price of bread, and to do a hundred and one other such things, but I defy it to rely upon its power to interfere with one of the most important duties of a State, namely, to preserve the health of its people. I have no doubt that this regulation, which it would be well for honorable senators to scrutinize closely, is doomed in a place which controls the destinies of this country, so far as constitutional questions are concerned. I was appalled when I considered the implications of this matter. I had no idea that the regulation actually superseded legislation passed by the Victorian Parliament. I was under the impression that

We were dealing with a prohibition imposed by the authorities controlling the sewage farm at Werribee. It may be that exporters will buy Werribee beef, but that is not the question. The duty of the Victorian Parliament is to safeguard the health of the people within its jurisdiction, and to prevent a recurrence of the dismal and horrible things to which Senator Gibson has referred. I wonder that such an action as this could be attempted by any government. It seems to me that there must be some Puck in this place who is actuating the Government in the circumstances to which I referred, and for reasons which I cannot follow at all. Yesterday, realizing the seriousness of this matter, I took the trouble to ascertain what effect the marketing of Werribee beef actually had on the Melbourne meat market. I found out from no less an authority than tho Premier of Victoria, Mr. Dunstan, that, from 1930 to 1934, before the ban was imposed, the quantity of beef obtained from Werribee represented only 1.7 per cent, of the total consumption of Victoria. We have to examine this question first of all from a constitution;!] aspect. Is it right that we, as the representatives of the various States in this States House, should stand by and see a regulation passed which overrides the wishes of the people of a State? The only reason given for the promulgation of this regulation is that it is in the interests of the war effort. It has not been stated that the American Army authorities will accept this beef or, for that matter, that our own army authorities will accept it. If the Government is to act in this way under the powers conferred upon it by the National Security Act, its actions will very soon be challenged. Having regard to what Senator Gibson has said, what will the effect of this regulation be upon the export markets of this country? Just think of it! The Victorian Parliament has banned Werribee beef for human consumption since 1935, and now the Commonwealth Government, in its wisdom or otherwise - I suggest that in this case it is otherwise - has decided to wipe out that ban, and the beef is to be available for sale to Melbourne butchers, canners, sausage-makers, and for the export market. What struck me as serious in the speech made by Senator Gibson was his quotation from that eminent authority, Dr. Shields, who drew attention to the fact that in certain scientific works it had already been pointed out that beef measles existed in Australia.


Senator Courtice - What is done with the Werribee beef now?


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I do not know and I do not care, hut I think it would have been a great deal better had the original intention of establishing a Victorian stud farm at Werribee been carried out, because there are some very fine cattle in that district. Werribee beef should not be allowed to damage the meat export industry of this country. That is a point that should be considered by honorable senators from Queensland. What will happen when it is known to the world that we have allowed cattle which were condemned for human consumption by the State of Victoria, to be used in the export trade? We should not be able to say that our meat is clean. I think that Senator Gibson mentioned that meat imported from another country had been condemned here because of certain diseases. We are careful to ensure that lamb carcasses containing cysts do not go out of this country? Yet the Government now proposes to allow meat containing beef measles cysts to go overseas, to the detriment of the beef-exporting States and, if the Victorian authorities be correct, to the detriment of the health of the people who consume the beef. 1 know of two distinguished beef-eaters in this chamber who rejoice in their juicy steaks. If I were to recount to them the history of the tapeworm, I should only be adding to the horrors which Senator Gibson outlined to honorable senators on a previous occasion. I invite Senator Cameron, with all his metaphysics, to answer these arguments. No doubt he will endeavour to do so, but I am sure that he will not succeed. The Commonwealth Government should not make a stand on this regulation. The matter is far too serious to be regarded lightly. We are dealing a blow at a great export industry of this country.


Senator Fraser - That is incorrect.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is there any way in which the export of Werribee beef can be prevented?


Senator Fraser - It is not for export.


Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That is a harmless answer. It is impossible to prevent the export of Werribee beef. What would the Minister say if I told him that some of this beef was being prepared to-day for export?


Senator Fraser - That is entirely wrong.

Senator A.J. McLACHLAN.Obviously the Minister has no defence at all. The Government cannot prevent the export of Werribee beef. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) himself said the beef was for overseas use. Whether it is the intention to feed this beef to the

American soldiers and to contribute to their fighting qualities which, I understand, are great indeed, by giving them a little tapeworm to assist them, I do not know. In support of the regulation, reference has been made to statements made eight years ago by the late Dr. Gilruth, but I point out that the Victorian Government had Dr. Gilruth's report before it in 1935 when it passed the legislation which this regulation seeks to override. In any case, I think that Dr. Shields is a greater authority than Dr. Gilruth on the human being. Dr. Gilruth was a wonderful authority on animals. I w as in charge of the department that he served for so- long, and one could not help admiring the dexterity with which he dealt with the ailments of animals; but his function ended with animals. He had no knowledge of human physiology; he had not studied that branch of science to which the authorities in Victoria directed their attention when they passed the Health Act of 1935. It would be criminal for us not to take a stand on this regulation. Its disallowance would not interfere with the war effort in any way. No doubt the constitutional question will be raised somewhere else - it is beyond our power to deal with it - but in the interests of preserving this great industry, we should not hesitate for a moment in disallowing this regulation. In so doing, we shall be discharging what I believe to be the primary duty of this chamber, namely, protecting the rights of the States. However concerned we may be with constitutional limitations, the fact remains that the safeguarding of public health is a duty imposed upon the States by the. Constitution, and we. of all people, should be the last to interfere. The reasons that have been advanced in favour of this regulation are of no consequence.







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