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Monday, 11 November 1991
Page: 2800

Senator JONES —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. I draw the Minister's attention to claims that aerial cattle mustering practices in northern Australia which use shotguns to flush cattle are causing problems for Japan's meat packers. With beef exports to Japan vital to the cattle industry in this country, could the Minister say what measures, if any, are in place to ensure that Australian beef carcasses do not contain shotgun pellets? Is the Minister aware of any complaints from the Japanese regarding metal contamination in Australian beef?

Senator COOK —This matter falls within the portfolio of the Minister for Resources under the portfolio of Primary Industries and Energy. I have some comments to make on the subject. The meat export industry has been very concerned for some time about the use of metal shot for cattle mustering. The practice often results in metal pellets being lodged in the meat which are not easily detectable with current technology. It has the potential to seriously jeopardise Australia's export meat trade and the Minister—in this case, Mr Griffiths—has strongly opposed it.

  The matter is one which falls within State-Territory responsibilities, however, and the Standing Committee on Agriculture has recommended that States and Territories develop, where appropriate, legislation prohibiting, from January this year, the non-fatal use of shotgun pellets on stock. The SCA noted that alternatives to metal shot have been developed and should be actively promoted. This issue needs to be tackled at the producer level and, because the alternatives are more expensive, adequate penalties must exist to discourage the use of metal shot.

  Mr Griffiths has also written to his counterparts in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory expressing his strong opposition to the practice and requesting that it be eliminated. He requested information on the extent of the problem and what action they were taking to eliminate it.

  In addition, I can tell the Senate that the CSIRO has conducted research into current technology that could be used for detecting metal shot in meat and found that, while airport X-ray equipment would be the most suitable, it would need to be modified. The cost of the equipment and the modifications needed to ensure its practicality in a meatworks situation are considered, I think, prohibitive at this stage.

  The Meat Research Council recently engaged a consultant to look at this problem and the CSIRO is awaiting instructions from the Meat Research Council as to what direction to take on the matter. The Meat Research Council, CSIRO and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service will meet tomorrow to discuss future directions and action.

  Mr Griffiths is aware of complaints from the Japanese regarding metal shot contamination in Australian meat. The Japanese market in particular is very sensitive to this issue. The elimination of this problem is considered essential if Australia is not to suffer long term damage in its major meat markets.