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Queensland: long-running industrial dispute forces the closure of Australia's second biggest abattoir.



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AM

Tuesday 30 July 2002

Queensland: long-running industrial dispute forces the closure of Australia's second biggest abattoir.

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Australia's second biggest abattoir, owned by Kerry Packer, has announced that it's closing its doors, after a long-running industrial dispute and years of un-profitability. 

 

The move has sparked immediate concerns for cattle farmers who are already struggling with falling prices, increasing competition and spreading drought. 

 

Some blame the Federal Government's recent reallocation of US beef quotas but others say rationalisation is needed. Tanya Nolan reports. 

 

TANYA NOLAN: The announcement of the closure of Consolidated Meat Group's Rockhampton operations is the latest in a string of abattoirs shutting their doors. 

 

Smaller processors have blamed the Government's distribution of limited export quotas, following the collapse of the Asian beef market. 

 

But CMG's Executive Chairman, Ray O'Dell says that's only a minor part in this company's decision. 

 

RAY O'DELL: It was uneconomic due to accommodation of market factors, cattle pricing and uncompetitive work practices.  

 

Full compliment needs to be given to the Packer family who hung in there for a very long period of time, giving it tremendous support to the business to try and bring it over the hump that nobody else has been able to bring it over. 

 

TANYA NOLAN: 700 jobs are at risk and possibly more industry wide, but the company says it may salvage many of those through an in-principle joint venture deal with another Queensland processor, Teys Brothers. 

 

But Keith Adams, President of the Cattle Council of Australia, says he's concerned about the immediate impacts of the closure. 

 

KEITH ADAMS: It will have an effect on the national cattle industry, there's no doubt about that.  

 

If you look at the cold hard facts, there appears to be an excess capacity of processing in Australia at the moment and we know that there are going to be further closures of plants over a period of time but what we don't want to see is some of the major players in the industry like CMG closing their doors. 

 

TANYA NOLAN: As Australia's second largest beef processor, CMG had been poised to be one of the biggest losers from a recent decision to reallocate US beef quotas, which will see more than 4 per cent skimmed from the allocations of big abattoirs to help sustain smaller operators. 

 

But given its industrial woes, CMG has been sheltered from much of the blow, yet to reach its new reduced quota, having been shut for long periods over recent months. 

 

However, the Federal Opposition is still keen to lay some of the blame at the feet of Agriculture Minister Warren Truss.  

 

Shadow Spokesman for Primary Industries, Kerry O'Brien says the Minister wanted to use the re-distributed quota to benefit bigger operators like CMG who were taking on the powerful Meatworkers Union, before his attempts were thwarted by a senate committee which decided to up the allocation for smaller processors suffering hardship.  

 

KERRY O'BRIEN: Indeed, these statements bear this out, that there was a desire to make sure that whatever arrangement was in place that it favoured CMG and didn't see them pay any penalty for the fact that they locked out their workforce for many months. 

 

LINDA MOTTRAM: Opposition Spokesman for Primary Industries Kerry O'Brien.