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Thursday, 24 February 1977
Page: 439

Mr CARIGE (Capricornia) - I listened to the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) with some interest. In fact, I should like to congratulate him on misrepresenting nearly everybody in the House, including members of the Labor Party. The Labor Party brought about the ruinous situation that faces our beef producers today. The honourable member for Blaxland did not even have the decency to read what the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Katter) said when he outlined the assistance we have provided to the rural sector. He even stated incorrectly that we had been in government for 2 years. He went on to read probably the best speech I have ever heard him read from the Australian Financial Review.

There are some vital aspects of Australia's present beef dilemma that I am obliged to canvass in this House today as the representative for Capricornia, one of the vital beef producing regions of Australia. Among these points are the following key elements: Retention of cattle on properties; the need for unity throughout the industry; the Japanese cattle and beef enterprises operating in Australia. These establish the fact that there are 2 industries- the beef industry and the cattle industry.

I shall deal firstly with cattle retention. Most Australians are aware that our once great beef industry has been down on its knees for 3 long years, that it has been kicked to death by cunning exporters and even domestic buyers in practices bordering on collusive buying, motivated by greed. They have bled the ordinary cattlemen dry. For instance, in Queensland in one small valley I know just south of Rockhampton some 15 000 head of cattle bought by a big meat company at give away prices are on agistment. This story is repeated over and over in Queensland and New South Wales. There are herds involving tens of thousands of head of cattle. All of them owned by exporting companies. All these are being held to try to manipulate the beef market in Australia. Immediately there is the faintest sign of a market revival- for example, a major upturn in the United States market which is expected about the middle of this calendar year- the exporters and big companies will begin killing off these cattle in a determined attempt to flatten any national beef revival. It is cruel, it is tragic, but it is a fact of life.

As a member representing an important beef area, I have just one message to give to the Australian cattle producer. Beat the big companies at their own game. If it is at all possible, suffer the financial hardship a little longer. Now that rains have come- good rains over most of Australiaregulate the supply of your cattle on to the market. Do not flood the market every time there is a slight upturn. Force the hand of these big manipulators. Drive them out of their bargain basement stock and then sit back and watch the market recover. The second point I wish to force home today is the urgency for all sections of the beef producing industry to get together and to talk with unity and common sense. The industry cannot expect government and government ministers to help positively with its problems if there is disunity and squabbling amongst its producer groups. The industry should force its producer representatives to stop their petty politicking and their attempts at personal headline grabbing. It should force them to get together as a group of men representing them, the beef producers. They should tell them the decisions they wantdecisions like firm marketing policies. They should tell them they have had enough. They should adopt a stronger voice in the overall national beef scene. Greater accuracy and a lot more information on marketing intelligence and so on is required. When the industry starts to do these things it will see its industry prosper, but certainly not before. Make no mistake, the old system has failed and a new form of marketing must be implemented.

My third key point relates to Japanese beef enterprises in Australia. I think all honourable members would know that I am not against overseas companies establishing worthwhile industries in this country. Far from it, in fact. I am against overseas interests getting too much of the Australian farm. In 20 years' time we do not want to be a distant colonial outpost of a political or a powerful Japanese interest. Let me explain that a little more. When Australia sells beef to Japan, the Japanese interpose a Japanese buying agency, namely the Livestock Industry Promotion Corporation, which buys at ruling Australian market prices and marks up everything from 400 per cent to 500 per cent and in some cases even higher. Most of this money goes to subsidise inefficient Japanese beef producers. We can call them inefficient because of the area of land they hold and the small number of cattle they can run on the small areas. This is legitimate and if that is the way they want to play the game it is up to them.

It is important to consider the magnitude of the levels the Japanese imposed. In 1975-76 the LIPC levy was about $52m. This is equal to 10 per cent of our export earnings from beef and veal for 1975-76. In fact it amounts to $5.11 per head of all cattle and calves slaughtered in Australia during 1975-76. The levy was equal to 1.32 cents per pound carcase weight for the total beef and veal produced in Australia during 1975-76. Also in that year the LIPC levy plus the import tax was about $72m. This is equal to 14.5 per cent of our total export earnings from beef and veal, or $7.01 per head of all cattle slaughtered or $1.83 per pound for the total production of beef and veal in Australia. These levies are specifically directed at protecting the Japanese beef producers and are not used as a source of revenue for the Japanese Government.

We also have Japanese operators coming into this country and establishing feed lots. They buy the beast and sell it direct to the Japanese agency. So Japan gets 400 to 500 per cent profit at the agency as well as fattening profits in Australia. But now the Japanese are demanding and getting more. They are becoming even greedier. They have bought and are continuing to buy large tracts of Australian land this time to breed the beast. They hold this land now in New South Wales and Queensland and they are buying more there and elsewhere. Not happy with the profits in Japan and not happy with the Australian fattening profits, the Japanese now want to take the bread from the mouth of the Australian beef producers and breed the animal as well. None of these profits incidentally comes to Australia. Right from the ground up the Japanese now want the lot. At a time of depression and great hardship in the Australian beef industry I say that is simply not good enough.

The fourth point I make is that we have 2 industries, one beef and one cattle. At present we can forecast with a reasonable degree of accuracy that exports will be at an almost record level and beef market price will surely move up because of the decline in cattle slaughter numbers in the majority of overseas countries especially those with which we now trade. We cannot say the same about cattle prices. We have 2 commodities completely unrelated price wise. I seek permission to have incorporated in Hansard a graph showing saleyard prices of cattle from 1966 to 1977.

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