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Tuesday, 13 September 1983
Page: 676

Mr IAN CAMERON(4.59) —Mr Deputy Speaker, before commencing my speech I should like to congratulate you on being elected as one of the Deputy Speakers for the House. I have not had the privilege yet of making a speech in your presence. I should like first of all to say to the honourable member for Eden- Monaro (Mr Snow) that the fodder subsidy and interest rate schemes were actually withdrawn by his Government. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) was responsible for withdrawing those subsidies only three months after the Labor Government came to office.

Mr McVeigh —I think you should stick to the Bill.

Mr IAN CAMERON —The honourable member for Darling Downs said that I should stick to the Bill. Perhaps I should do that, but I just point out to the House that it is the Labor Government which has been responsible for taxing and withdrawing the subsidies et cetera that, primary industries have had through these difficult drought years.

I now turn to inspection. The edible oils industry knows nothing of the Export Inspection Service. It has not been consulted by the Minister. I telephoned various people involved in the edible oils industry and none of them knew anything about the Inspection Service. The Minister has not consulted the producers in the industry at all. The charges were imposed by regulation on 1 January 1983. The Australian Labor Party has seen fit to increase those charges by 300 per cent.

Mr McGauran —How many?

Mr IAN CAMERON —Charges have gone up by 300 per cent within a six-month period. They are expected to come into operation at the maximum rate of $6.60. We are constantly told in this House by the fearless Leader of the Labor Party that inflation is under control, yet we have all these inspection charges. At least another 100 per cent is allowed in the maximum rate to be charged, so obviously the Minister and his Department must concede that these charges will rise continually. It is a very weak argument that the Treasurer (Mr Keating) and the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) use. Even at Question Time today they argued that interest rates and inflation were falling, which is absolute nonsense. In their own words, they are legislating here today to take up the rise in interest rates . I move on to the other industries involved. The egg industry also did not know too much about what was going on. It had not been consulted. I rang a Mr John Mann who stated that the Government was putting the cart before the horse because no inspection service had been started.

Mr McVeigh —They are charging for something they have not got.

Mr IAN CAMERON —The Government is charging for something that has not yet even been put in place.

Mr McVeigh —The Minister is Ned Kelly the second.

Mr IAN CAMERON —I do not think Ned Kelly had anything much on the Minister.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mountford) —I am sure the honourable member for Maranoa needs no prompting by the honourable member for Darling Downs.

Mr IAN CAMERON —I think you are correct, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am quite capable of making an excellent speech in this House. The industry is to be charged 1.6c a kilogram for the net value of eggs exported. That represents 5 per cent of the cost of the egg. As I said, it is a little like putting the cart before the horse. Both the edible oils industry and the egg industry know nothing of what is happening as far as inspection is concerned.

I turn to the grain industry. As a grain grower, I know that part of the cost of producing grain involves the Inspection Service. This Service has been going on for many years. It is in place. Charges have been increased. The maximum rate is 33c a tonne bulk, 40c a tonne for bags and 1.46c a tonne for containers, so the bulk charges have gone up quite considerably. The first charge was introduced on 1 July 1979. It applied to wheat, oats, barley and sorghum. There is now a 50 per cent recovery from the industry. The Australian Wheat Board is in favour of inspection but it says that it would like the shippers to take up some of the inspection charges. It feels that the industry should not have to bear the 50 per cent that it is being asked to bear. Eighty per cent of the grain shipped has to be issued with a certificate by the Department of Primary Industry and a close check is kept on all grain that is exported. The grain industry as a whole feels that inspection helps to keep standards up but it objects to having to pay an ever increasing cost for the bureaucratic Inspection Service.

A charge has been imposed to recoup 50 per cent of the export inspection costs for sheep meat. Again, the industry says that it should not be expected to pay for the whole service. The current charge is $1.80 a tonne. An amount of $13m has been recovered. There is a charge of $5.40 a head for adult live cattle exported, as distinct from slaughtered cattle, or beef. Only half the inspection cost of $10.80 is recovered. It is estimated that $1.5m will be collected in the livestock area. That represents an increase of 71 per cent on the total collected in 1981-82.

I argue that the Labor Government is using these charges to raise revenue rather than to pay for the services. Inflation has not gone up to that extent. The industry has asked that there be no alteration to the operative rates until the Department of Primary Industry has accurate costing. It has asked also that the administration service be instructed to prevent unnecessary expansion of costs. The meat inspection service continues to expand and to become more expensive. Queensland is a quite large exporter of live cattle with 45,000 head exported in 1981-82 at a total of $109,000. Western Australia is the biggest exporter of sheep. It exported nearly three million live sheep in 1981-82 at a total of nearly $6m. It is interesting to note that no rabbits are exported, although rabbits are listed on the sheet of inspection charges in the event that they are exported. It would probably be a good idea for us to start doing that. I and many beef producers in the electorate of Maranoa and throughout Australia feel that the meat inspection service is a grossly inefficient service. It is overpaid. The sum of $8m is spent in travelling and paying for meals alone. Overall, the Department's estimate in the current Budget is $70m. This is more than half the total estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. An enormous bureaucratic service has been established. Unfortunately, we have to have inspection because purchasing countries want the product inspected and guaranteed for quality. We continue to do this.

Queensland is the biggest exporter of beef. Queenslanders are not that keen on the Commonwealth's service. I do not know how the honourable member for Eden- Monaro arrived at the figure to indicate that the meat inspection service will cost less under the Commonwealth. I would argue with him that the present State inspection service is the most efficient in Australia. It was not involved in any way whatsoever in the meat scandal. It is a far cheaper service than the Commonwealth service in other States. The National Party will continue to govern in Queensland for many years. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries will continue to operate the Inspection Service in that State. I put it to the Minister that I see no reason why all States could not operate their own service as agents for the Commonwealth. I think this would be a far better way to operate the service. It would not become bureaucratic and monolithic. Each State would be in a much better position to control costs, whereas if we have a totally Commonwealth service we will have total socialisation of the system, full of public servants doing the work. The Commonwealth does not have the facilities to keep track of what is going on within the Inspection Service.

All charges for cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and horses have increased three times. The industry is shocked at these disproportionate rises. Many representations have been made to us on this side of the House and no doubt the Minister has also received representations from the industry about the savage increases in these charges. We have been hearing the normal Hawke rhetoric. The Prime Minister said in speeches that he was looking forward to a primary industry exports-led recovery. Every time we turn around we see that the Government and the Treasury are putting up taxes on primary producers, yet they wonder why we cannot get into the so-called recovery they are talking about. Even Mr Justice Woodward, in his report, said that the Meat Inspection Service:

. . . has proved to be inefficient, costly, poorly managed, overstaffed and in some respects corrupt.

How true that proved to be when his inquiry was set up to oversee the meat industry. Some of those people who were found to be corrupt have been convicted. A certain gentleman in Victoria has been convicted. I point out to the House that nobody in Queensland was involved in that scandal. No inspector in Queensland was mentioned in that report.

Over many years the industry has requested that rationalisation of meat inspection arrangements take place. The current meat inspection service is still inefficient. These charges will add $25m in increased costs to the beef industry which has not recovered from the effects of the drought. The industry is still suffering from the effects of depressed prices. In five years the costs have jumped 80 per cent. Total levy charges have gone from $1.56 to $10.98, a rise of 600 per cent. Nearly $11 a head is now the overall charge because the Commonwealth contributes half of what it costs to inspect cattle. I inform the House that in the depths of the beef depression an awful lot of cattle did not even bring that much money per head, so the producers were hardly in a position to pay the inspection charges. An awful lot of boner and cracker cows brought only $10 and $12 a head. Total costs are up 19.5 per cent to $11.4m. In other words, costs have gone from $58.7m to $70m. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment proposed by the Opposition's Shadow Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Darling Downs.

Mr Braithwaite —A good Minister too.

Mr IAN CAMERON —He is a good shadow minister. The rural industries have not recovered. The Treasurer stated in the Budget Papers that earnings from primary industries were down 53 per cent. I hope the honourable member for Grey (Mr O' Neil) is listening intently because he has many very good farmers in the good State of South Australia. The net earnings from primary industries were down 53 per cent-the worst ever. Yet the honourable member's Government continues to increase inspection charges. I say, shame on him! But the honourable member looks after me well when I go to South Australia, so I will have some respect for him.

Some of the areas in north-west Queensland are still drought declared. I do not think the Minister for Primary Industry realises that huge areas of Australia in which the real people live are still very dry. Those people have to suffer tremendous hardships in battling drought. The industry should not have to contribute 50 per cent of the cost until the new service is in place. The Minister has not got this new service in place. The other day he announced that he has set up a committee. The proposal is at the committee stage. God knows how long it will stay there. Knowing how some of the committees around this place operate, it will be there for quite a long while. Although producers indirectly will have to pay 50 per cent of the cost of the inspection service they have no way of being represented on the inspection service panels et cetera. I point out to the Minister that this is a big problem. We in the industry feel that if we are to contribute 50 per cent of the cost we ought to have some sort of representation and some say in the sorts of charges that the inspection service will make. The industry has not been consulted in any way whatsoever about these new proposals.