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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr POLLARD (.Ballarat) . - I regret that it becomes necessary for me to speak on this subject of Werribee beef. T beard the honorable member for Darwin (Sir George Bell) say just now that this beef positively stinks. I challenge the honorable member to say that Werribee beef is any worse than the beef killed in some of the filthy slaughter yards in country districts - possibly in his own electorate. This whole question savours very much of politics. It is evident that there are forces which are anxious to prevent the competition of Werribee beef with the fat stock coming forward from country districts. It is a remarkable thing that the representatives of the workers in this House and in the Victorian Parliament have been, almost withour exception, silent on this subject. They have raised no objection to the use of Werribee beef for human consumption. l t is significant that the issue was never raised until a quarrel occurred between wo groups of auctioneers as to who should have the exclusive right to put Werribee beef on the Melbourne market. The quarrel was taken up by country grazing interests, and carried into the Victorian Parliament. These pastoral interests were more concerned with making profits on the sale of beef fattened in areas other than the metropolitan farm, than they were with the health of the people. If they had really been concerned with the health of the people they would have protested against the shocking conditions under which beef is slaughtered in country districts. The honorable member for Darwin said that he had been on the Werribee Farm. So have I. As a matter of fact, I worked for three months on the main channel on the farm when I was a young man. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has also been eloquent on this subject. We all know that both he and the honorable member for Darwin represent cattle-fattening districts. I also represent a country district, but I have some sense of fairness and decency. I charge them with being concerned only with preventing the competition of Werribee beef with that from country districts. Were it otherwise they would long ago have raised their voices against the marketing of beef infected with tuberculosis, and the slaughtering for human consumption of cattle Buffering from mastitis and other filthy diseases. If they objected to that, I would admit that they had some right to make the protest they have made in this House. It is significant that all the protests have come from the representatives of country cattle-raising districts, and not from the consumers, or from the representatives of the great industrial populations in the cities. No complaints have come from the workers, the trade unions, or from other people who are just as anxious to protect the health of the people as are honorable members. It has been stated repeatedly by veterinary officers and specialists that the ill effect on human beings of eating Werribee beef is practically nil. I admit that, after the matter had been debated in the Victorian Parliament, there was a feeling in the minds of the public that there was something not quite nice about this beef; that is understandable. There was also a fear that if the beef were allowed to go into consumption, our competitors in the Argentina and elsewhere might use this as propaganda against us, and our export trade might thereby be damaged. That danger has ceased to exist under war-time conditions. Our beef is bought under contract and, as a matter of fact, we have very little beef to export. There is actually a shortage of beef in our own country. I challenge honorable members to produce any considerable number of qualified medical or veterinary experts who will say that Werribee beef is not eminently suitable for human consumption; that it is not, in fact, very good beef. The metropolitan butchers and the big exporting butchers were always willing to bid to the top of the market for Werribee beef, and will any one say that butchers anxious to maintain their goodwill, and to exhibit the best cuts, would buy beef that was positively stinking?

Sir George Bell - I say that the people would not buy it if they knew what it was.

Mr POLLARD - They were breaking their necks to buy it, and they will do so again the moment it is put on the market.

Sir George Bell - It will be given to the soldiers.

Mr POLLARD - The soldiers, my eye ! Where does the rotten beef lulled in country slaughter yards go?

Sir George Bell - That does not make the Werribee beef any better.

Mr POLLARD - No, and neither does it make the honorable member's argument any better. The Government should take its courage in its hands and say that, under present conditions, this beef shall once more go into human consumption. Investigation has shown that not one beast in a thousand of those which have been fattened at Werribee for human consumption is infected with beef measles. The country municipalities and wealthy graziers that are objecting to the policy of the Government will discover that their advocacy will ultimately act detrimentally to the interests of cattle-raisers. The Metropolitan Board of Works is a strong competitor for store stock. What is lost from the competition of the Werribee beef is made up by the competition of the Metropolitan Board of Works for store cattle in the Melbourne market. The Government should put into effect its intention to allow Werribee beef to be marketed, and every honorable member who has the interests of the Commonwealth at heart will drop this insidious propaganda which he may have espoused without a reasonable examination of the facts. I frankly admit that when Australian meat was actively competing with the Argentine product, it might have been undesirable to export Werribee beef, but that position no longer exists. The beef is wanted urgently and the meat is wholesome. Therefore, it should be made available to the public and the objections of country municipalities and selfish graziers should be brushed aside.

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