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Thursday, 3 May 1984
Page: 1558

Senator BOSWELL —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the fact that Australia has lost 70 per cent of its Korean market share of meat exports to New Zealand, that Australia's share of the beef market in Japan has fallen from 64 per cent in 1979 to 50 per cent in 1983 and that Australia has recently lost an $18m Singapore beef tender. Taking into consideration that New Zealand, Australia's newest and most successful meat competitor, is being subsidised by its Government to the tune of $12m for inspection and grading of beef, would the Federal Government consider assisting the Australian meat industry by waiving the Commonwealth inspection levy which will cost the processors, and ultimately the beef producers, $40m annually?

Senator WALSH —I have been told by the Minister that he is aware of the response to the Korean tender and he shares the industry's disappointment that Australia did not gain a larger share. I think we all share that concern and disappointment. But there were several factors, I am advised, which operated in New Zealand's favour in respect of that particular tender. They included the fact that recent currency fluctuations favoured New Zealand and that increases in Australian domestic livestock prices had forced up Australian quotations. It follows inevitably, of course, that that would also have pushed up the income of Australian livestock producers. Viewed in that context, it is arguable, to say the least, and indeed I suggest that-

Senator Archer —Are you serious?

Senator WALSH —Serious about what?

The PRESIDENT —Order! The Minister will answer Senator Boswell's question.

Senator WALSH —About the recent increases in domestic beef prices?

Senator Archer —About the farmers being better off?

Senator WALSH — Yes, better off than they were at some previous period and, I observe for the record, much better off than they were when the previous Government was in office; indeed, better off to the extent, in terms of net income, by about 100 per cent than they were when the previous Government was in office.

To the degree that Australia's uncompetitive tender in another country was attributable to increases in domestic prices there is an offset. I am advised that the tender was also for boneless beef only, a type which has traditionally been supplied by New Zealand. The Minister advises me that he is confident that once Korea resumes normal purchase patterns, Australia will maintain its position as a major supplier to that country. The last aspect of Senator Boswell 's question was whether the Government will forgo the meat inspection levy. I will put that to the Minister. But I expect that the response of the Government will be that the policy enunciated by the previous Government, that 50 per cent of inspection costs should be recovered from charges, will continue to be applied.