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Wednesday, 1 May 1957

Mr McEWEN - At the time when that agreement was made I put little value on the advice of those who complained about its nature, and events have justified my attitude. It is true that the long-term meat agreement whichI negotiated for the Government in 1951 was negotiated only after an overwhelming proportion of the representatives of the meat industry on the Australian Meat Board had supported the concept. It is equally true that, after it was negotiated, there was a good deal of criticism of the agreement from individuals, organizations, vested interests and so on. I well remember one well-known Queensland economist as one of the critics. Subsequent facts have shown that the attitude then adopted by many critics of the agreement that there were important markets alternative to the United Kingdom was - and remains - completely fallacious. We have sold but microscopic quantities of meat over the years in the high-priced North American market; but the meat agreement that was so criticized is working to the tremendous advantage of export beef producers and, indeed, of all beef producers in Australia.

My colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, last year authorized the payment of a bounty totalling £3,250,000. The meat year ends in September, and if this year's prices run along at about the average that has obtained up to date in England our beef, in the last year and in this year, will have realized its full value from export. In addition, the United Kingdom Government, under the terms of the agreement, will have paid the Australian industry £7,000,000 in cash deficiency - an amount which has gone, by virtue of an act passed by this Parliament, and the administration of my colleague, to the producers concerned. That is a lot of money; but that is by no means the end or, indeed, the major value of the long-term meat agreement, because, under the system which the Parliament authorized, the bounty is paid in such a manner that butchers procuring beef in the export area for local consumption have to compete against the exporters, and the value of beef for local consumption achieves the same added value by virtue of this agreement.In addition, as all breeding herds and all store stock acquire their value in relationto fat stock values there has been a sympathetic increase in the value of all herds of breeding stock and store stock in Australia. To-day,an average carcass for export has an added value, under the long-term meat agreement, of from £7 to £7 10s. That has added to the value of beef killed in the exportproducing areas for local consumption. Recently I have said, and no one has sought to contradict my calculations, that the herds within the export beefproducing areas - they are Queensland, predominantly, the Northern Territory, northern Western Australia and some important areas of New South Wales - have, to-day, a capital value at least £30,000,000 higher than they would have had if it were not for the long-term beef agreement. I thank the honorable member for Maranoa for the constant support which he has always given to this policy, which has proved of immense value to Queensland beef producers.

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