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Monday, 8 October 1984
Page: 1839


Mr TUCKEY(9.04) —It has been interesting to listen to the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Cunningham) and to realise that, of course, the prime part of the honourable member's constituency is in fact the dairy industry. He sided with a Government which has completely abrogated its responsibilities to these industries and particularly that part of the dairy industry which is still involved in the meat industry. We all know that we cannot run a dairy industry without also being involved in the meat industry. We know very well what a disastrous blow has been struck against the meat industry by this Government's recent move with these meat inspection charges.

It was interesting to hear the honourable member. He even bothered to tell us that we are in the real business world. But what else did he tell us? He told us of some fancy deal whereby he will encourage his constituents, who happen to be the most efficient milk producers in Australia, not to go into the New South Wales market where they could make a quid-where they could make money. He will talk them out of that, with the aid of this Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) who thought he could also talk the wheat industry out of what was its right, and deny the Australian economy $3,000m. He did not even understand what his Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) was on about. The Prime Minister needed that $3, 000m so he could go to the electorate and claim that his Treasurer (Mr Keating) is one of the best Treasurers. Of course, this Treasurer has gained his reputation by rain and bountiful seasons.

But let us look at some of the other things that the honourable member for McMillan bothered to tell us. He said that Victoria might survive if it could still be an exporter. It can export to other States--


Mr Cunningham —Of course it can.


Mr TUCKEY —But the Government will not let it. The Government will have a fancy deal whereby there are switches of money and slings. The poor old taxpayer will have to pay up while the honourable member's constituents, the people he represents here, are denied the opportunity of competing in the market.


Mr McVeigh —I will send you down in the election campaign against him. You will clean him up.


Mr TUCKEY —It would be a good idea to let those people know how their man represents them in this place. The first responsibility of any member of parliament is to the people who place their trust in him. No trust should be given to this person.

Let us look at some of the problems confronting the meat industry, particularly the export charges that have been put upon them. It is not long ago that the honourable member for McMillan, in his opening remarks, told us that 50 per cent of shared costs was an idea of our Government when we were in power under Malcolm Fraser.


Mr McVeigh —Not our policy.


Mr TUCKEY —I say to our shadow Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for Darling Downs, that it was basically a policy that 50 per cent of the costs be borne. But it was not 50 per cent of $77m. That is the difference. This Government has let this thing run wild. It has been unable to administer it. It has taken control of the Government. The other day this Minister went out to slap the meat inspectors on the wrists and tell them that maybe they should reduce their numbers a bit. Of course, he rushed into New South Wales and picked up an extra 300 staff when he did not need any of them. He went out there to rationalise the situation. He told the poor old consumer in New South Wales: 'We will give you a single charge'. Instead he picked up an extra 300 meat inspectors and put them on higher wages and better conditions than they had had before. Who will pay for that? The honourable member for McMillan says that we have to consider the consumers. He represents consumers and producers but does not seem interested in either of them.

But $77.7m is what this Government will spend on inspecting meat. It is disgraceful. The Government has been unable to come to grips with the main problem. As I said, it set out to slap the meat inspectors on the wrists. But what is being tolerated this week? There are lightning strikes in every State. Today it is Melbourne. A major exporter told me: 'We are behind on our market deliveries because of the seasonal conditions and now we cannot load meat today. We cannot sell it on behalf of Australia'. What did the honourable member for McMillan tell us? He told us that we are in the real business world. What a stupid statement.

The facts of life are that the Export Inspection Service is destroying the Australian meat industry because this Government has ignored the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry. It has looked at the whole situation and has failed to come to grips with any part of it. What is more, I can tell honourable members that security is not very good. The situation is that in many meat works where dual export and local meat are produced, they lock up the export meat but fail to lock up the local meat. If someone can sneak a bit of extra meat into the local freezers during the night, out it comes in the morning. If it happens to get accidentally mixed up in the export meat, that will be a profit for someone. Of course, if the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) were here at the moment he would well remember his dealings on behalf of the Richmond City Council and the Protean meat company. He would know how things work and how they are done. He is an expert. But there are problems associated with the meat industry. The huge burden--


Mr Cunningham —I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. There was an insinuation against the honourable member for Melbourne Ports. There was absolutely no ground for what the honourable member for O'Connor said.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —Order! The Chair did not perceive it as a reflection. There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for O' Connor.


Mr TUCKEY —At times the sensitivity of the Government is remarkable. Of course, the honourable member for McMillan was a member of this Parliament in the days when his Party was in opposition, and it is amazing how the sensitivity of honourable members opposite can rise. I just wish that on occasions he had called for the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) to relax a little and not try to annihilate people like John Reid with unfounded accusations.


Mr Cunningham —On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: The matter involving the honourable member for Fremantle and Mr Reid has nothing to do with this debate and I think that the honourable member should clearly get back to somewhere close to what he is supposed to be debating.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member has made his point of order. I ask the honourable member for O'Connor to maintain relevance to the Bill.


Mr TUCKEY —I agree entirely with your ruling, Mr Deputy Speaker; it was only in response to the interjection and those references that I digressed in that manner. There are huge problems for the meat industry. I was advised just recently, again by exporting people, that the European Economic Community in the last few weeks has made further inroads into our Pacific and Indian Ocean markets and, to quote the exporter with whom I was discussing this matter, into areas that we considered absolutely the preserve of Australia. Those markets are being reduced. In his words, the reason is that we are no longer able to compete . We are well aware, as the Minister will tell us, of the European Economic Community's subsidy practices. The Community is prepared to subsidise and, although I do not stand here as a supporter of that action either within Australia or anywhere else, I do say that government has a responsibility, even if it chooses to levy some charge against the producers of this country for the provision of the export service, to see that it is as inexpensive as possible.

The Minister has heard me on this before, but each time I come into this place to speak on this subject I am obliged to bring up the Northam Shire Council. The Northam Shire Council, in my electorate, services the Lindley Valley abattoir and the Tip Top meatworks. They are not small works; in fact, when the Northam Shire Council was supporting only the Tip Top meatworks, it employed eight meat inspectors. So it was a reasonably large works. Under State Government legislation it is obliged to recoup not 50 per cent of the cost of meat inspection services but 100 per cent of the cost. Today, when we are debating this new and iniquitous legislation, the charge is $3.60 per bullock.


Mr Hawker —How much?


Mr TUCKEY —An amount of $3.60, all sizes in. I admit that that is being done for local inspection and other demands are placed on the export system. If that charge were doubled-it would not be; it might go up by 50 per cent to roughly $5 -for 100 per cent recovery, there would have to be some questions about the capabilities of this wonderful Federal Government operation! The Minister has assured us that there will be a charge, aimed at recovering 50 per cent, of $4. 35. What a myth that $4.35 is. That is all right for a bobby calf or something like that. The method behind this new system, which has never been used before, is that the bigger the bullock, the more one pays. The rate of charge in the legislation is 4.8c per kilogram, while only 2.4c per kilogram is applied at present. When these meat inspectors have finished their little round of lightning strikes, it will probably be encumbent on the Minister to come in here to tell us that he has granted them something that Cliff Dolan told him to. Just as he told the Government how to fix up the Budget this year, he will tell it how to do this. The Minister will then tell the producers the amount has to be that 4.8c.

In the north-west of Western Australia and areas of Queensland which are the great exporting areas-the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade (Mr Lionel Bowen) has told us that we are not big exporters in the corn-fed beef sector; our prime export area has always been large aged beef going out for the hamburger trade and the like-we are not talking about bobby calves and baby beef of 180 kilograms; we are talking about the steer of 500 kilograms as he walks into the slaughter yard. If the abattoir is efficient and takes out its 65 per cent of meat on which this 2.4c per kilogram will be paid, the abattoir will have 325 kilograms of meat and at that 2.4c per kilogram the amount works out to be $7.80. If I read the Minister's legislation properly, he still adds what I would term the fixed charge of $2.55 to that. He can correct me if I have misread his legislation but that is the way it works out to me. The producer sending that bullock into the market is not paying the Minister's so-called $4. 35 which the Minister says is the same as it used to be; he is paying $10.35.


Mr Hawker —What is the Minister going to say to that?


Mr TUCKEY —What will he say to that? If that still represents 50 per cent, it means that the cost of running this wonderful export inspection service is something like $20.70 per bullock! I am not sure that that is correct; all I know is that it will cost $77.4m this year, of which the Australian producer has to pick up the tab for $40.7m and the poor old Australian taxpayer has to pick up the rest, when the reality is that this Government does not need to carry that burden at all. The fact is that Mr Justice Woodward, in his particularly interesting report of the Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry, went to some length in paragraph 9.5 to say:

. . . managements should be encouraged to take over responsibilities for work on the chain now performed by meat inspectors. The numbers of meat inspectors should be correspondingly reduced but, on average, their work should become more responsible and call for greater experience and higher personal qualities.

That is a direct result of the evidence I gave to the Commissioner. The fact is that I said, and the Commissioner agreed, that the Commonwealth should employ very limited numbers of meat inspectors, and those meat inspectors should be highly paid supervisors. They should be there to ensure fair play on behalf of the importing countries. The supervisor could see that the job was done properly . The Government could well and truly afford that small cost and in fact make the service freely available to the industry. The industry would then definitely be stuck with employing some meat inspectors but of course it would employ them as seasonal and cyclical workers. The Government could do that, and that could reduce almost totally the burden on the taxpayer and the efficiency of the balance of the inspection could be left to the works. They could do it properly.


Mr Cunningham —What about milk and eggs for five minutes?


Mr TUCKEY —The honourable member has so deserted the dairy farmers of his area that I am astounded that he even wants to raise the word 'dairy' in this place. He has sold them out. It is time the electors of McMillan had that drawn to their attention. I know how the Department of Primary Industry has worked on this issue for years. I argued with a Minister of the Fraser Government that the importing countries did not demand that we employ the actual chain-type meat inspection service and that the responsibility of our Government, under our agreements, is supervision. I had to ask a question in the Parliament to get even our Minister to agree to that. Ministers get brainwashed; that is the problem. I eventually asked the Minister on 25 March 1981:

Is there any evidence that the countries importing meat from Australia demand that the Federal Government must pay the wages of meat inspectors?

The Minister was absent from the Parliament that day so the question was fielded by the Prime Minister. The Minister eventually replied on 3 April, and the answer to the question was no. I put it to the House that this Minister could not answer honestly in any other fashion. It is not the best when we have to agree that our Minister did not do it, but this is the Government of the brave new world. We heard the Prime Minister carry on this afternoon. The most interesting thing he said today was that the Government would be against tax avoidance and organised crime. I guess that means no more Dawkins and no more Wran. These are the things that this Government could address if it chose to.


Mr Cunningham —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member referred to a Minister as Dawkins and to the Premier of New South Wales as Wran. I think he should refer to them by their correct titles.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) —The honourable member has a point. I ask the honourable member for O'Connor to be more cautious in his address.


Mr TUCKEY —I will certainly be more specific. I will say no more Minister for Finance and no more Premier of New South Wales. I thank the honourable member for McMillan for the opportunity to repeat it.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for O'Connor again offends. There is an implicit reflection in his amended remarks. I ask him to proceed with the Bill and reframe his remarks.


Mr TUCKEY —Mr Deputy Speaker, if you request me to withdraw, I certainly do so. The Australian industry and the Australian people are confronted with no Government determination to address the cause of the problem. The cause of the problem is that the inspection services are too costly. They are costly for many reasons. Quite clearly, the Government will not do anything about that. It tolerates strikes which are a further blow to the industry and which quite fly in the face of the efforts of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis). He has recently come back from Japan, where he told the Japanese that if they bought meat or any other product from Australia his union mates would guarantee delivery. They are not delivering meat today. In fact, they are imposing an intolerable burden on the industry in so many ways.

On previous occasions I have drawn to the attention of the House the huge costs of travel for meat inspectors. I made this comparison: Eight meat inspectors working for the Northam Shire could commute from the metropolitan area to provincial areas at a cost of $7,000 a year; when the Feds moved in the price jumped to $45,000 a year. This absolute waste is one reason why it is so wrong to have a government department employing meat inspectors. I have said before that the industry is seasonal and cyclical. While that situation exists, it is incumbent on the Government to go to the core of the problem and not just shelve its burdens on to the producers, who are presently suffering from the market situation and suffering even more because these burdens are pushing them out of the competitive area.

I condemn the Government for introducing the legislation at this time. It says that there is never a good time to impose additional taxes, but this happens to be one of the worst times. The Minister is not even keeping up his reputation of Mr Nice Guy. After all, we know it is he who goes out to do the public relations . It is the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), Senator Walsh and a few of the others who put in the hatchet. Country people and the producing industry are very much opposed to these moves.