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Wednesday, 11 November 1964

Senator ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Customs and Excise) .- 1 move-

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to make provision for the Commonwealth to enter into an arrangement with a State or a State meat authority for Commonwealth inspectors " to undertake " the inspection of meat for consumption in Australia. The Commonwealth has the responsibility of inspecting meat for the export markets whereas the inspection of meat intended for home consumption is the function of the State authorities concerned. In most approved export meat establishments Commonwealth and State inspectors work together on the inspection of meat for both export and home consumption. There has been a commendable degree of cooperation between Commonwealth and State inspection services, but a certain amount of over-loading has been inevitable.

The problem associated with CommonwealthState inspection has been considered by the Australian Agricultural Council over a lengthy period but an acceptable solution to cover all States has not been found. It has been generally agreed that there would bc considerable advantages for meat inspection to be under one authority in each State but it has been recognised that a number of difficulties such as disease control, seasonal conditions affecting transfer of staff, salary differentials, etc., must be overcome in achieving this objective.

The desirability for the introduction of a single inspection service has been further emphasised recently by the import conditions applied by the authorities in some of Australia's important markets. One of these conditions is that the control of meat inspection must bc under " a service organised and administered by the national Government ". This implies that the overall control of registered export premises including those which process meat for home consumption as well as for export must be under a Commonwealth department. To comply with this requirement, it has been necessary in States which prefer to maintain their own inspection services, for agreements to be made for Commonwealth and State and/ or municipal inspectors to work together under the supervision of a Commonwealth veterinary officer. This has ensured uniform inspection procedures and standards for export and home consumption meat and meat products.

The Bill is primarily intended to enable an arrangement to be concluded with the South Australian Government and the Metropolitan Export Abattoir Board in South Australia for Commonwealth officers to inspect both export and home consumption meat in registered export establishments in that State. The Bill has, however, been expressed in a manner which would enable other States to enter into a similar arrangement if so desired. If, at the request of a State or a State meat authority, the Commonwealth undertakes the inspection of meat for home consumption, action will be taken to ensure that there is no retrenchment of State, meat authority or Commonwealth inspectors.

Under the proposed arrangement with South Australia, all State Departments of Agriculture and Metropolitan Export Abattoir Board meat inspectors will, if they so desire, be transferred to the Commonwealth Public Service as permanent officers. The Bill provides for the South Australian inspectors to preserve their eligibility for accrued recreation leave up to 30 days, also the total credit of sick leave and furlough credits. The Bill also makes special provision for those officers who are contributors to the South Australian Superannuation Fund to transfer to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund on appointment to the Commonwealth Service.

It is proposed that the Commonwealth will be reimbursed for the inspection of meat for home consumption (a) by the State Department of Agriculture on the basis of the cost to the Commonwealth of the work performed, and (b) by the Metropolitan Export Abattoir Board on the basis of a formula which will determine, the upward or downward movement of charges based on the throughput for home consumption. There have been tremendous changes in the character of the meat trade in recent years. These changes have been brought about by the development of the North American market for Australian meat and the fact that 99 per cent, of exports to that market are in the form of boneless beef and mutton, which require much more extensive inspection and supervision than did the previous carcase inspection procedure. This tendency is also developing in respect of the United Kingdom market to which approximately 90 per cent, of the export meat now being shipped is in boneless form. The traditional trade with the United Kingdom for many years has been in carcase form. Associated with this development is the tendency for a greater number of meat works to register as export establishments so that the surplus meat above home consumption requirements can be diverted to export markets. A combination of requirements of importing countries and the inspection procedures which will enable the meat to be sold for either the export or home consumption markets is bringing Commonwealth and State inspectors, standards and procedures closer together.

I commend the Bill to honorable senators.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cooke) adjourned.

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