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Future of Canberra abattoir



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PRESS STATEMENT BY THE COMMOMTOALTH MINISTER FOR;HEALTH,

DR. A. J . FORBES ■

' FUTURE OF CANBERRA ABATTOIR

(P le a s e do not p u b lis h o r b ro a d c a s t b e fo re 9 p .m ., O ctober 17)

The M in is te r f o r H e a lth , Dr. F o rb es, s a id to n ig h t he could

see no re a so n to a d v ise th e Government to a l t e r i t s d e c is io n to c a l l

te n d e r s f o r th e pu rch ase op le a s e o f C anberra a b a t t o i r .

Dr. Forbes s a id t h a t in re a c h in g t h i s d e c is io n he had c a r e ­

f u l l y s tu d ie d f i r s t l y th e r e p o r t o f th e In te r- d e p a rtm e n ta l Committee,

on th e b a s is o f whose ad v ice th e Government d ecid ed t h a t th e a b a t t o i r

be o f f e r e d f o r s a le o r le a s e , th e r e p o r t o f th e A .C.T. A dvisory

C o u n cil, which had been r e f e r r e d to him by th e M in is te r f o r th e

I n t e r i o r , Mr, Anthony, and f i n a l l y a f u r t h e r r e p o r t from th e I n t e r ­

d e p a rtm e n ta l Committee, which had made a c lo s e stu d y o f th e p o in ts

r a is e d i n th e A dvisory C o u n c il's r e p o r t . Dr. Forbes s a id th e I n t e r ­

d e p a rtm e n ta l Committee, which re p re s e n te d th e D epartm ents o f H e a lth , th e I n t e r i o r , P rim ary In d u s tr y , th e T re a s u ry , and th e N a tio n a l

C a p ita l Development Commission, had ex p re ssed th e o p in io n t h a t , ■

w h ile th e C anberra meat m arket rem ained open to th e im p o rta tio n o f

meat from o u ts id e a r e a s , such as G oulburn, Cootamundra, and o th e r a b a t t o i r s , p a r t i c u l a r l y i n th e N.S.W. c o u n try a r e a s , where e x is t in g

a b a t t o i r s had been shown to have excess s la u g h te r in g c a p a c ity , f r e e

c o m p e titio n would e n su re th a t meat o f good q u a lity and c o m p e titiv e

i n p r ic e would be c o n tin u o u s ly a v a ila b le to C anberra housew ives. In

th e C om m ittee's view th e p r ic e o f meat i n C anberra was s i g n i f i c a n t l y

in flu e n c e d by th e c o m p e titio n o f im ported s u p p lie s , r a t h e r th a n

p ro d u c tio n from th e a b a t t o i r .

Dr. Forbes s a id i t was th e G overnm ent's p o lic y , adopted i n

1958, t h a t th e C anberra m ark et, u n t i l th e n c lo s e d to meat o th e r

th a n t h a t s la u g h te re d a t C anberra a b a t t o i r , sh ould rem ain open to

f r e e c o m p e titio n , s u b je c t o n ly to s ia u g h te r i n approved a b a t t o i r s which

must conform to h ig h s ta n d a rd s o f in s p e c tio n and h y g ie n e.

The Government would not c r e a te f o r i t s e l f , n o r f o r any

o th e r a u th o r ity o r firm which m ight o p e ra te th e a b a t t o i r , any monopoly

c o n tr o l o f th e meat m arket o f th e A.C.T.

T h is p o lic y o f f r e e c o m p e titio n was c r i t i c a l i n e n su rin g

r e g u la r and ad eq u ate s u p p lie s o f good q u a lity meat a t c o m p e titiv e

p r i c e s .

D r. Forbes s a id an im p o rtan t c o n s id e r a tio n which th e

A dvisory C om m ittee's r e p o r t on th e a b a t t o i r appeared to have o v e r­

looked - and i t was a c r u c ia l one - was t h a t d u rin g th e th r e e y e a rs

ended June 30, 1966, th e th ro u g h p u t o f th e C anberra a b a t t o i r had

s t e a d i l y d e c lin e d . I t had f a l l e n from 9 .7 m illio n l b , i n 1963/64 to

8 .4 m illio n l b . i n 1965/ 66. There was a f u r t h e r d e c lin e i n 1966/67

to 7 .8 m illio n l b . T his was due to a c o n tin u in g and c o n s is te n t

in c re a s e i n s u p p lie s o f im ported m eat, which in flu e n c e d th e r e t a i l

p r ic e o f meat i n C anberra f a r more s i g n i f i c a n t l y th a n d id s la u g h te r ­

in g s a t C anberra. The a b a t t o i r was n o t b e in g u t i l i s e d to even i t s

p re s e n t c a p a c ity . Less th a n 5 0 /0 o f th e meat consumed i n C anberra

was s la u g h te re d and p ro c e sse d a t th e C anberra a b a t t o i r . A lthough

a d d itio n a l c a p a c ity was a v a il a b le , th e m ajor p re s e n t o p e ra to r a t

th e a b a t t o i r , who was v i r t u a l l y th e s o le o p e r a to r , was n o t s la u g h te r ­

in g th e whole o f h is meat i n C anberra. He had been im p o rtin g m eat,

i n c a rc a se form , n o t o n ly from Cootamundra and G oulburn, which were

2

r e l a t i v e l y c o n v e n ie n t, b u t a ls o from A d e laid e , Sydney, Gunnedah, Wagga and some o f i t from Q ueensland.

To s t a t e t h i s was n o t in any way to im ply c r i t i c i s m o f

t h i s o p e r a to r , who was co n d u ctin g h i s b u s in e s s e n t i r e l y w ith in

h i s r i g h t s .

A p p aren tly most C anberra and Queanbeyan r e t a i l b u tc h e rs p r e f e r r e d to r e l y on c o m p e titiv e w h o le s a le rs f o r t h e i r s u p p lie s and

were n o t i n t e r e s t e d in s la u g h te rin g a t th e a b a t t o i r .

G ra z ie rs and o th e rs in te rv ie w e d by th e I n te r- d e p a rtm e n ta l

. Committee had made i t c l e a r t h a t no m a tte r to what e x te n t th e C anberra

a b a t t o i r were improved and m odernised, th e r e could be no g u a ra n tee t h a t a l l t h e i r s to c k would be s e n t to C anberra f o r s a le and sla u g h te r»

They would c o n tin u e to s e l l t h e i r s to c k in th e most advantageous

m arkets» For t h i s re a so n a la rg e p ro p o r tio n o f lo c a lly -g ro w n s to c k

was a lre a d y s e n t away f o r s a le in o th e r m a rk e ts, and i t would c o n tin u e

to be s o ld in such a r e a s , w hether r u r a l o r m e tro p o lita n » These m ark ets

by t h e i r v ery s iz e encouraged b uying com petition»

A p r iv a te e n te r p r is e s la u g h te r e r would have an in c e n tiv e ,

b ecau se o f h i s c a p i t a l in v e stm e n t, to seek sto ck from a l l s o u rc e s ,to

aim a t maximum th ro u g h p u t and com m ensurately low er u n i t c o sts» I t was n o t alw ays p r a c tic a b le f o r a governm ental o r s ta t u t o r y a u t h o r i t y , op­

e r a t i n g in a c o m p e titiv e commercial f i e l d , to conduct an u n d e rta k in g

w ith th e degree o f f l e x i b i l i t y t h a t p e rm itte d th e maximum advantage to

be ta k e n o f com m ercial o p p o rtu n ity .

I t was th e Government’ s p o lic y t h a t , as a g e n e ra l r u l e ,

and w herever p r a c t i c a b l e , tr a d in g a c t i v i t i e s and s e r v ic e s in th e A .C.T.

sh o u ld be o p e ra te d by p r iv a te e n t e r p r i s e , ex cep t i n s p e c ia l c a se s

where th e r e were c o m p ellin g re a so n s to th e co n tra ry »

The r a p id ly grow ing C anberra meat m arket was so a t t r a c t i v e , and th e a b a t t o i r s a t G oulbum and Cootamundra, in p a r t i c u l a r , were

o f such h ig h s ta n d a rd and in such an advantageous p o s i t i o n , geograph­

i c a l l y , to supply m eat f o r s a le i n C an b e rra, which c o u ld be re a ch e d

w ith m odem , r e f r i g e r a t e d tru c k s in such a s h o rt tim e , t h a t i t was

im p o s sib le to v i s u a l i s e any d im in u tio n in com petition»

On th e o th e r h and, how ever, i t m ight w e ll be t h a t th e

C anberra-Q ueanbeyan m a rk e t, a lre a d y more th an 100,000 and grow ing r a p id ly each y e a r , would p re s e n t a t t r a c t i v e p o s s i b i l i t i e s tc an ex­

p e rie n c e d s la u g h te r in g company, a b le to purchase i t s s to c k r e q u ir e ­

m ents over a wide a r e a , u s in g th e f a c i l i t i e s o f th e C anberra a b a t t o i r .

D r. F orbes s a id he could g iv e an a ssu ra n c e t h a t w h ile th e

econom ics o f th e C anberra a b a t t o i r , u n d er i t s p r e s e n t system o f

management, were u n a t t r a c t i v e , th e Government would have r e j e c t e d p ro p o s a ls f o r i t s s a le to p r iv a te e n te r p r is e had c o n v in c in g evidence

been fo rth co m in g t h a t a change in i t s ow nership would be d e trim e n ta l

to th e i n t e r e s t s o f th e p eople o f C an b erra. To th e c o n tr a r y , i t s own

i n v e s t ig a ti o n s and th o s e o f th e In te r- d e p a rtm e n ta l Committee had

in d ic a te d no way in which th e i n t e r e s t s o f th e p eo p le o f th e d i s t r i c t

would be p re ju d ic e d a s a r e s u l t o f i t s d e c is io n .

D r. F orbes s a id some d isa p p o in tm en t had been ex p ressed by members o f th e A dvisory C o u n cil, a s w e ll as o th e r p e rs o n s i n t e r e s t e d ,

t h a t he had n o t made th e I n te r- d e p a rtm e n ta l Committee’ s r e p o r t p u b l i c ,

and had n o t made i t a v a ila b le to th e A dvisory C ouncil f o r stu d y .

T his was n o t p r a c tic a b le i n th e c irc u m sta n c e s in which th e

in v e s t i g a t i o n was conducted and th e r e p o r t was com piled. The I n t e r ­

d e p a rtm e n ta l Committee had sought f a c t s , tr a d in g f i g u r e s and op- ·

in io n s from a la r g e number o f p e rs o n s , many o f them i n th e meat

in d u s tr y , w hether as s la u g h te r e r s , w h o le s a le rs , o r r e t a i l e r s , on

th e u n d e rs ta n d in g t h a t th e in fo rm a tio n su p p lie d would he c o n fid ­

e n t i a l to th e Committee and th e Government, I t was o b lig a to r y

t h a t t h i s c o n fid e n ce be re s p e c te d .

C an b erra, O ctober 1 ? th , 196?