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Wednesday, 13 May 1942

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I was a member of the Public Works Committee of the Parliament of South Australia which seventeen or eighteen years ago inspected the sewage systems of Australia and I can say without hesitation that the Werribee farm was the filthiest we saw. No man in this chamber has ever seen cattle feeding under similar conditions. That aspect of the matter is, however, transcended in importance by the fact that the Government is using its war-time powers to override State health legislation. I do not wish to repeat what was said on that subject by Senator Spicer, but surely the people of a State have some rights and it was in exercise of those rights that the Victorian Parliament in 1935 decided that beef produced on the Werribee farm was not fit for human consumption and was to be banned from the market. The contribution that will be made by the lifting of that ban is so small that it is not worth consideration. Nobody knows whether we shall he short of beef. The supply depends entirely upon seasonal conditions. Every city of Australia depends for its supplies of 'beef, not on small herds close by, but on the big herds in the outback country. The Werribee farm is a stud-farm as well as a fattening property and, in order to place 4,000 head of cattle on the market, each year, a heard of from 8,000 to 10,000 head would have to be maintained. The farm, therefore, can make no effective contribution of beef to the Australian market. No one can say whether the beef would be exported or not because once it has been sold it is the property of the buyer to do with as he likes, subject to health requirements. He can sell it as fresh meat, corn it or can it as he likes. It is, therefore, useless to say that it is not to be sent overseas. The Commonwealth is going beyond its province when it interferes with State measures concerning the health of the people, and I agree with Senator A. J. McLachlan that if this regulation be insisted upon by the Government it will probably be the subject of litigation which may reach the Privy Council. I shall support the motion.

SenatorUPPILL (South Australia) [11.29]. - Whatever may be the outcome of this debate, it is evident that there is doubt whether the beef from the Werribee farm is fit for human consumption. I must have heard cited a score of different authorities on the subject of its fitness, and none of them has cleared my mind. The Government claims that the lifting of the ban on the marketing of Werribee beef will alleviate the shortage of meat in this country. It is quite true, as was said by Senator Gibson, that sheep can be raised on the Werribee farm without fear of contamination. It would therefore appear to be desirable that instead of running counter to the legislation and wishes of the Victorian Government, the Commonwealth Government should negotiate with the State with a view to replacing with sheep, the cattle at present bred on the Werribee farm.

Senator Fraser - That would not overcome the difficulty.

SenatorUPPILL. - It would solve the problem of whether the soldiers and the people of Victoria should be fed with beef the suitability of which for human consumption is, to say the least, open to doubt. Any one who reads the Hansard report of this debate and then visits Melbourne will not relish eating a beefsteak in that city. The Minister for the Interior should look carefully into the British Import Regulations where he will find that under those regulations Werribee beef is not accepted on the other side of the world.

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