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Friday, 15 May 1970

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) - What the honourable gentleman says about the inspection staff at meat works is quite true. There is a severe shortage of inspectors. They are required to work overtime. In many instances I have not been able to give them their annual leave to which they are entitled because giving it to them would have meant meat works having to close down because they would not be able to operate to the standards that are necessary to meet export requirements. So we have a major problem. We have been desperately trying to recruit more inspectors. We have recruited more, but we seem to be losing them as fast as we recruit them. All I want to tell the honourable gentleman is that this is a matter that gives me great concern and we are doing all we can to try to cope with it.

In the second part of the question the honourable member asks whether this is the reason for the rejection of certain Australian meat going into the American market, namely, mutton. It is only mutton on which there is a total embargo. In answer lo that part of the question I would say no. This situation has been aggravated by the fact that a large quantity of Australian mutton going onto the United States market has beer rejected. Almost 1 million lb was rejected up until the middle of April. This rejection has been on the ground that the mutton is not meeting the standards laid down under the United States Wholesome Meat Act. lt has been rejected because it has been unclean. Particles of foreign matter have been found in the meat and there have been certain organisms which are objectionable to the United States authorities.

But I would like to make it clear to the House that our inspection standards are high. They were laid down originally to meet the British requirements. Any talk that the meat is not wholesome or that it contains organisms which arc harmful to human beings is not correct. There has been quite a lot of talk about caseaus lymph adenitis and cysticercus ovis which have been detected. These are not harmful to human beings. However, the United States Administration will not allow any meat with evidence of them to enter the country. The main problem we have with our mutton chains is trying to correlate the viscera with the carcass. Many of our abattoirs are not geared to do this. Yesterday there was a meeting in Canberra of the Meat Industry Advisory Committee in an endeavour to overcome this problem. Frankly, it said that some of the requirements that have been asked of us are almost impossible to meet. But we propose to try to find some sort of compromise between the standards that the United States Department of Agriculture wants and what we are able to prescribe. 1 conclude by saying that I am very conscious of the inspection problem and will do whatever I can to solve it.

Mr Gorton - I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper - in limited numbers.

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