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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator FOLL (Queensland) .- Honorable senators who do not represent Victoria are at a considerable disadvantage in considering the subject-matter of this motion. This is not a new problem so far as Victoria, and particularly the City of Melbourne, are concerned. We know that for many years a tug-of-war has been going on between persons who desire that Werribee cattle should be marketed, and those who have done their utmost to prevent the marketing of Werribee beef. So far as I am concerned, the people of Melbourne can eat tapeworms, iguanas, or grubs, should they be prepared to do so; that is their business. But I am very concerned about the statements made by Senator Gibson and Senator A. J. McLachlan that the placing of the comparatively small number of Werribee cattle on the market is likely to injure the reputation built up by our export beef trade. That aspect of the matter is of direct concern to honorable senators generally, and particularly Queensland representatives in this chamber. Queensland is the largest exporter of beef of all the States. Therefore, I make the very reasonable request that Senator Gibson refrain from pressing this motion at this juncture, and that the Government immediately refer this matter to the Joint Committee on Rural Industries for investigation. I emphasize that the beef export trade has experienced many vicissitudes and difficulties. It is only because of the extreme precautions taken in the inspection of beef, particularly in regard to nodules, that we have been able to achieve a good overseas' market for our beef. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) will readily recall that not long ago the price obtained on overseas markets for Australian beef was invariably lower than that for beef from New Zealand and Argentina. This fact was due largely to prejudice on those markets generated mainly by propaganda against Australian beef. Consequently, Australian meat exporting interests, under Government supervision, have been very careful to ensure that no carcass with the slightest defect is exported. Only the be3t quality meat has been exported, with the result that all of our export beef, whether it be canned, frozen or chilled, now enjoys a very high reputation on overseas markets. I say frankly that if the speech made by Senator Gibson to-night were widely read in countries in which we have a market for our beef, considerable damage would be caused to our export trade.

Senator Gibson - The position is easily remedied.

Senator FOLL - I know that the statement made by the Leader of the Senate in respect of the possible shortage of beef in this country is correct. It is easy for the honorable senator to nod his head. We know that thousands of cattle are now on the roads from the far north, to meet the extraordinary demand for beef throughout Australia. We know also that the presence of large numbers of Allied troops in this country has caused a considerable increase of the total consumption of meat. Beef is the staple diet of our troops. As I said earlier, honorable senators who represent States other than Victoria, have not had an opportunity to weigh fully the pros and cons of this matter. Therefore, I suggest to Senator Gibson that the debate on the motion be adjourned. If this regulation be disallowed at this juncture it might mean that beef which might be urgently required for consumption by our troops and for the general public might not be obtainable. The matter need only be postponed for a week, or ten days, at the outside, in order to enable the Joint Committee on Rural Industries to investigate it. I shall be prepared to abide by the decision of that committee. Should it report, after a full investigation of the matter, that it is of opinion that our beef export trade is likely to be damaged because of the marketing of Werribee beef in Victoria, I shall be prepared to support any motion for the disallowance of this regulation.

Senator Fraser - I give the Senate the assurance that no Werribee beef is being exported; and it is not intended to export it.

Senator FOLL - I am most concerned with the possibility that injury may be done to our beef export trade. There is no urgent reason why a vote should be taken to-night.

Senator Collings - It is important that the Government should know whether it can implement the regulation.

Senator FOLL - I should be prepared to allow the regulation to be implemented in the meantime. I give to the Leader of the Senate an assurance that I am not engaged in any time-wasting device, hut am seriously concerned about the possibility of injury to one of our great export industries. "Whether the people of Melbourne like to eat tapeworms or not is their own business; I am not concerned about that, but about the export industry.

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