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Tuesday, 13 September 1983
Page: 671

Mr LINDSAY(4.29) —I will continue my speech from last Thursday. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) in his statement on 24 August 1983 stated:

. . . measures that have been taken with the express purpose of improving the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the Export Inspection Service and at the same time to improve Australia's international competitiveness and reputation as a reliable and responsible exporter of primary produce.

The main benefits of export inspection are shared by the export industry, including beef producers and the consumers of Australian meat overseas. In 1979 the Liberal-National Party Government announced its decision to recover 50 per cent of the cost of export inspection charges for grain. A recovery charge of 50 per cent of the cost of export inspection charges was introduced by the Fraser Government in respect of edible oils and eggs as from 1 July 1982. It is pertinent to observe that export inspection charges have not been increased in respect of these products since the date of their introduction. Inflation has eroded the inspection cost recovery rate.

The previous Liberal-National Party Government acquired a squalid reputation by its failure to act on industry requests over a number of years to put in place an enlightened, workable and secure inspection system and to act on numerous reports of malpractice in this area. The Fraser Government abused the patient endurance of the meat industry when the industry was embarrassed by the meat substitution scandal. This industry humiliation was a direct result of the failure of the Fraser Government to establish necessary inspection machinery to ensure product integrity. It is essential that every avenue of cost savings be explored and, where appropriate, adopted. In the meantime the policy of recovery of 50 per cent of export inspection charges takes into account the views of the Woodward Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry and has regard to the established principle that 50 per cent is the usual level at which government and industry share costs.

The Hawke Government is striving for maximum profitability of the great Australian primary industry. This Government acknowledges the sincere commitment by primary industry to the reconstruction of the Australian economy. The proposal of increased producer responsibility for the carrying out of detailed inspection and security procedures will be sympathetically considered by the Government. The Hawke Government, an authentic Australian government, has developed rural policies designed to ensure that primary producers play an important role in our national economy. For the first time in many years primary producers now have a federal government which recognises the historic role of primary production in the welfare of the Australian economy; a government which will always be faithful to the preservation, protection and defence of Australian primary industry. Australia's important rural industries are heavily dependent on export markets. This trend is increasing, with exports now accounting for around two-thirds of the gross value of agricultural production. That production is extimated to be about $7 billion this financial year, of which $5 billion is subject to export inspection.

It is important that Australia be regarded as a reliable supplier of products and produce of the highest standard and at an internationally competitive price. The meat industry is entitled to an efficient and reliable inspection service if it is paying part of the cost of such a service. The Hawke Governemnt is determined to see that the Export Inspection Service is as effective and economical as possible. This Government is aware that the cost of the inspection services must be minimised and that the Government's advisers must be sensible to the ever increasing financial burdens on meat producers and processors alike. This Government will continue to investigate vigorously every avenue of reducing costs for the Export Inspection Service consistent with its responsibility to ensure that the great Australian meat export industry maintains its high reputation for integrity and high quality products.