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Wednesday, 30 November 1983
Page: 3090

Mr TUCKEY(6.05) —Mr Deputy Speaker, prior to your taking the chair, we had quite a consistent debate on procedure. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) took a part, taking several points of order, which in typical form he lost. Having heard the prepared speech by the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Lindsay)-he read every word of it-and the speech by the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Campbell) I am wondering whether, had the Minister maintained his position of objection, he would have been able to get off his feet during those speeches. Nevertheless, I commend the previous Deputy Speaker for the decision he took. Quite clearly, this is a matter concerning not half a dozen lines in a validating Bill, the Live-stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Validation Bill 1983, but the future of the Australian meat industry. The honourable member for Herbert--

Mr Lindsay —Talk about the issue.

Mr TUCKEY —Let us just talk about some of the things the honourable member for Herbert had to say. He talked about bungling ineptitude. What more bungling ineptitude could we deal with than that which we are dealing with now, when a meat inspection service has to cost three times what it costs in abattoirs not controlled by the Commonwealth?

I have made previously in this House three speeches on the Australian meat industry: One on 21 August, one on 13 September and one on 15 September. The honourable member for Herbert claimed that no constructive effort was being made . If he bothered to read those speeches he might learn something. The first thing he would learn is that in fact within my electorate-and I did this constructively--

Mr Lindsay —Tell us about the meat scandal that your Government condoned.

Mr TUCKEY —We constantly hear from this Government-we have heard it all day today-that its excuse for its failures is our probable failures. The Government sold itself to the Australian public as the brave new front. Government members sold themselves to the Australian public as the people who were going to fix everything. Now, time and time again, they come into this chamber and, because they have not fixed everything, they say: 'It's all your fault'. That is the situation as the Opposition sees it. It is time the Government stood on its own record. It has been in government for nearly 12 months now. It will have a tough time standing on the record of the Minister for Primary Industry, because he loses every fight he gets into.

The Opposition wanted some constructive stuff. When I made those three speeches I put the value of the industry and the value of Australia above petty politics. If honourable members opposite read those speeches they will see that. I drew their attention to the ridiculous relative cost between certain State and local government-inspected abattoirs and Federal government-inspected abattoirs. The figures that I gave honourable members-and these are the figures that the Government now wants to validate in this Bill-was that it costs $10.80 to inspect a bullock in a federal government-inspected abattoir and $2.80 to inspect the same bullock in the Tip Top Abattoirs in Northam, a local inspection . I conceded that there were additional costs, and I mentioned them. So I upped the figure by 50 per cent-a whole 50 per cent-and I arrived at a figure of $4.20 .

The question before us today is not who should pay the bill. It is not a question of whether there should be Commonwealth or single inspection. It is a question of whether the Government is prepared to tolerate a cost of $10.80 for the inspection of a bullock when, in fact, the job can be done equally well at a lesser cost without all the problems the Government has had, which have been so clearly referred to by Justice Woodward-the problems that have been the responsibility of the meat inspection service. Without all those problems the Northam Shire Council can deliver an equal service for $4.20. If one gave it the opportunity to do so in Western Australia tomorrow, it would do it. That is the problem the Government has to face. Validating and creating a retrospective charge on the abattoir industry, the cattle industry and the sheep industry is no way to do it. The Government has failed to address in any way all the problems that Justice Woodward called to its attention. In fact, it has ignored some of the constructive proposals I put to it in my speeches which Justice Woodward at least recognised and with which he agreed. That is the situation the Government is in.

I listened to the honourable member for Kalgoorlie. He said it was a pity that this debate was not being broadcast on the radio. It is a pity it is not being broadcast in Broome, Derby and Wyndham. The fellows in those places would be thrilled to hear the honourable member's advocacy on their behalf, as would all the cattle growers and sheep growers in the other part of his electorate. The honourable member is prepared to put politics over and above the welfare of one of the major industries in Australia. He has let it down. The Government has ignored constructive suggestions, and it has failed completely. At least I am prepared to stand up for my constituents. When I was on the Government benches I made speeches in which I took issue with the Minister of the day and protected my constituents over and above his policy. That is something that neither the honourable member for Kalgoorlie nor the honourable member for Herbert are prepared to do. I wish that this debate was being broadcast so that their constituents could hear how they deal with their welfare.

The situation is that we have substantially overcharged people because we have totally inefficient meat inspection services. There are ways to fix the problems . Why does the Meat Inspectors Association, one of the Government's union masters, want a single inspection service? It will impose this system on the people of New South Wales. That legislation has been introduced. Some people will have to pay four times more than they did before, or twice as much and the taxpayer will have to pick up the rest. That is what the Government has done. The Government has done that because the Meat Inspectors Association has more pull with it. But the Government does not care, of course, because it does not count on receiving many votes from farmers anyway, and that is why the honourable member for Kalgoorlie and the honourable member for Herbert do not care about them either.

I hope that the Minister will listen to some of the other problems that he has which affect the welfare of the industry that this Bill is all about. I draw his attention to the fact that he is about to sign some rules that deny large parts of the export industry any access to the European Economic Community market. He will do that because it has been recommended to him that he grant a quota of 17, 500 tonnes to people who have been in the market-place over the last two years. If a processor happens to live in a drought affected area and has not been able to sell any meat to the EEC over the last two years, he receives none of the quota. He will not be entitled to recover from the drought. That is the effect of the document that the Minister has on his desk to sign. I wonder what he will tell us about that. Why is that a necessity? Quite clearly, those processors who can make the sales should get the business and it should be evened out around the State. Surely, drought-affected people should have the same opportunity to get the business. The other problem that I wonder whether the Minister is addressing-

Mr Campbell —You have no idea.

Mr TUCKEY —No, I do not have any idea! I am the only person during the last five debates on this subject who has given the House examples of how the Government can save money. I gave them to the previous Minister. The only thing I can say is that both the previous Government and the present Government ignored me.

Mr Hand —Like the time you saved the council money.

Mr TUCKEY —That is quite right, too. There is another question I want to raise with the Minister during the few minutes remaining to me; that is, what is he doing about the effect on some of our Middle East markets of the activities of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils which convinces, through religious bias-I heard the honourable member for Kalgoorlie mention that-certain countries to demand that the Council should have the monopoly in Australia over the Islamic and the halal killing of stock. I do not know what the Minister is doing about it. I draw to his attention that these people are working very hard through their religious connections to get a monopoly over other people who have been in the business for years. I assure the Minister that this is not a criticism. I am just making sure that Australia is aware of the activities of this group and the fact that its charter, its activities and where its money goes are highly questionable. I sincerely hope that the Minister is taking action to ensure that any person who has the religious qualifications to engage in the killing of meat has that right. I have heard rumours that the Minister plans, through the Department of Primary Industry, to certify people to carry out this work. Nevertheless, already we find certain countries-I believe Kuwait is one of them-which are demanding that the Council conduct the business. That is a matter for Australia and our trade practices. I make it quite clear that I support the holding over of this Bill. The industry is in grave trouble. It is easy to say that the growers should pay. It is easy to say that the processor can pass on the costs to the producer as he has done in the past. But what is happening now-

Mr Lindsay —Well, who do you think should pay?

Mr TUCKEY —I am not arguing that they should pay. But when the costs become excessive, the problem is that more and more people are taking the choice of getting out of the livestock industry and into the grain growing industry. The farming community does have solutions. People can get out of the livestock area in many cases, and when they do so, especially in the mixed farming areas, that means that more abattoirs and more constitutents are out of a job. It means, of course, that Australia will lose a massive export industry which it needs. So there are solutions for the producer. There are no solutions for the processor. The Government has driven him into the ground. The reason that the Government has driven him into the ground is that it has failed completely and utterly to come to grips with the cost of the system. Yet other people quite clearly are able to do so. A question was answered in this Parliament by the previous Minister to the effect that there is no obligation on the Government to employ meat inspectors. The obligation put by the importing countries is that we supervise the inspection. If we took that step in the first place there would be a chance of reducing the price. But while the Tip Top Abattoir and the Northam Shire Council can supply 10 meat inspectors at, let us say, $4.20, or actually $ 2.80, there is no reason in the world for this legislation to validate a charge of $10.80.