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Thursday, 28 March 1985
Page: 1140


Mr DUNCAN(10.05) —I am pleased to be able to support tonight the important reforms in the area of meat and livestock research and development. For a long time, Australia's investment in research and development in many areas has been inadequate, to say the least, especially when the investment made in comparable countries is looked at thoroughly. This matter is of particular interest to me and many of my constituents, given that the Gepps Cross abattoir in South Australia is in the electorate of Makin. However, as well as having meat workers as constituents, I also represent livestock producers in the Houghton and Golden Grove areas. It is pleasing to see that the Government has acted so quickly in response to the recommendations of the working party. The problems which confront this section of the meat industry may now have a chance of being resolved. However, this is not to say that the problems confronting the meat and livestock industry are any closer to resolution at present.

I hope that the courage with which the Government has tackled the problems of research and development within the industry will now be translated into action in regard to the problems surrounding the issue of livestock exports, particularly live sheep exports. Live sheep exports have been a particular issue ever since the restrictions were removed. It is unfortunate that to build up an export industry in live sheep another industry, the carcass export trade, had to be damaged severely. I should say that there is a place for a live sheep export industry, particularly when the rural economy is buoyant, when livestock numbers are high and when the capacity of domestic and export licensed abattoirs is extended.

If such an industry is to be developed and promoted, it should be done in an orderly and co-ordinated way, as with any other large scale and lucrative industry. This was not the case in the development of the live sheep export industry. Instead, it was promoted in an ad hoc way at the expense of the carcass trade, licensed export abattoirs and thousands of meat workers. It is of little wonder that the complete disregard by sections of the rural industry for the jobs and welfare of Australian meat-workers led to industrial action and the picketing of live sheep terminals by the workers and their union, the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union. Once again, we saw the attitude of conservative sections of our society-put profits above jobs.

What particularly upsets me about the development of the live sheep export industry at the expense of the mutton and lamb carcass exports is the dishonesty with which it was done. Instead of developing a co-ordinated approach through negotiations with the exporters of Australian killed meat, these exporters were ignored. Hopefully, the Australian Meat and Live-stock Research and Development Corporation Bill will enable research and development to ensure that any future changes in the marketing of livestock will be orderly, co-ordinated and thoroughly planned, with the interests of all Australians in mind.

If we look at data available concerning the relative performances of the meat and livestock export industries we can see the lie in what has been said by those promoting live sheep exports willy-nilly. For instance, even given an upturn this year, the amount of mutton and lamb exported has fallen drastically over the last five years. On the other hand, there has been a steady growth in the number of live sheep exported in the same period. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate a statistical table in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

AUSTRALIAN SHEEP MEAT AND LIVE SHEEP EXPORTS

Commodity

Unit 1979-80 1980-81 1981-82 1982-83 1983-84 1984-85(a) Mutton KT 142.7 186.8 128.0 124.0 58.0 100.0 Lamb KT 48.0 41.0 31.0 34.0 32.0 33.0 Live sheep(b) 000 5,660 5,771 5,996 6,951 7,170 7,400

(a) Estimates by BAE

(b) Includes animals for breeding

Sources: ABS, BAE, Quarterly Review of the Rural Economy 6 (4) 1984


Mr DUNCAN —The table shows that the amount of mutton exported fell from the 1980-81 peak of 186.8 kilotonnes to a low of only 58 kilotonnes in 1982-83. Incidentally, the projection for this year is 100 kilotonnes. Lamb exports fell from 48 kilotonnes in 1979-80 to only 32 kilotonnes in 1983-84, with a projected increase to 33 kilotonnes expected this year. On the other hand, live sheep exports increased from 5,660,000 in 1979-80 to 7,170,000 in 1983-84, with a projection of 7,400,000 sheep to be exported this year.

What we have been told continually over the past few years is that mutton and lamb exports have been hampered by a lack of animals for slaughter as a result of the drought. There is, of course, no reason to suppose that the drought did anything other than damage the position of many farmers and pastoralists in this country. However, during that period the number of animals available for live export did not seem to be affected by such contingencies as the drought. Instead, as the total shows, there has been a steady and quite dramatic growth in the number of sheep available for export-an increase of almost two million sheep or, in percentage terms, a 30.7 per cent increase over the 1979-80 figures. These figures amply demonstrate why we need much greater research and development effort to plan livestock marketing. Given the paucity of figures available when the live sheep trade was being developed, it is little wonder that meat workers were and are angry at the treatment that they have received. They have been asked to stand by and do nothing while the abattoirs close and contracts and thousands of jobs are lost. They are asked to accept that there are not enough sheep to be slaughtered in Australia; yet they have seen a massive increase in the number of sheep available for live export.

I note in the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) specific mention of both research and development in the title of the proposed new Australian Meat and Livestock Research and Development Corporation. There is a great need for research into the orderly marketing of both live sheep and carcasses. There is a great need for the development of those markets. It is interesting to note that Australia's largest export markets for mutton and lamb and live sheep exports are the Middle Eastern countries. According to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, there will be increased demand for carcass lamb and live sheep markets, but there is a less encouraging outlook for carcass mutton. One of the reasons we have heard for the need for increased live sheep exports to the Middle Eastern countries has been a religious and cultural one to do with proper slaughtering. If we are to believe the BAE forecasts for lamb exports, which are expected to grow steadily, it could be asked why the same forecast does not apply equally to mutton, which instead must be restricted. Such questions need research. They need answers which hopefully the proposed Corporation will be able to provide.

It appears that one of the major reasons for the poor forecast for mutton is the increased competition that mutton exporters should expect from New Zealand. New Zealand's mutton exports are expected to increase in the future while Australia's will fall. Both are expected to increase their lamb exports. What this appears to suggest is that the mad scramble to develop the live sheep export industry was done at the expense of the licensed export abattoirs and the jobs of meat workers. The justifications have come later. While this has been going on, the maintenance of valuable export markets for mutton and lamb carcasses has been ignored to the point where the New Zealand industry has been able to fill a considerable gap.

I believe that the jobs of Australians are important and that while the need to develop new export industries may also be important, it should not be done at the expense of existing industries. I also believe that if a new industry is to be developed it should be done honestly after the costs as well as the advantages and disadvantages have been thoroughly researched. The fact that the Government has acted quickly and courageously to address the problems of research and development in the meat and live-stock industry is well taken and should be appreciated by all those in the industry.

What we need to do now is to ensure that this determination to confront the problems facing one aspect of the industry is extended to others. In particular, I believe that the issue of the relationship between live sheep exports and the mutton and lamb carcass export industries must be examined and resolved. It is an area of importance to both producers and meat workers. It is particularly important to my constituents who work in the Samcor abattoirs at Gepps Cross and who are livestock producers. I hope that the new Corporation, which, according to its charter is to approve expenditure on research and development projects and across the spectrum from production to consumption, will give early attention to research and development into orderly marketing of and as between meat and live sheep exports.