Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 21 March 2023
Page: 68

Senator CADELL (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (18:51): I was going to take a lot more time to give a speech, but I think I can beat my colleague Senator Canavan's 'It's good other than its price, taste and health benefits.' I'm going to focus on something else: what Senator Roberts said earlier about the potential corporatisation of our food supply. There are many things this is called. It's called slaughter-free meat, clean meat, cultured meat and in vitro meat. There are many things it is called, and one thing we know it is not is meat. That happens with a lot of foods that are so unpopular that they piggyback on the name recognition and benefits of others, it would seem: almond milk, cashew milk, soy milk, rice milk—nut juice, basically, is what that is, and they are out there selling that as other foods. We have to get beyond that.

My fear, away from the health constraints, apart from the impact on an industry that is vibrant and good—and I note that Senator Canavan, of North Queensland, will probably hit me when I say Rockhampton is the second beef capital of Australia behind Casino, in northern New South Wales!—is what happens if these companies if these labs hold IP. Do they put in patents? Do they hold the world to ransom because their IP works for protein in the future? We heard about price complaints and the price drama with some of these things. As we allow governments to ramp up the controls on farming, on methane—we've heard these things come in—they put more constraints on how a farmer can do their work. They ramp up the price of meat to make this artificial protein more competitive.

We talk about 'big pharma'. Will we find 'big agriculture'—'big lab food'? If I come across something like fixing taste and I hold that, do I then hold the world to ransom because I hold that IP? I'm pretty sure no-one holds IP to a cow, a chicken, a lamb or any of these things. I'm pretty sure that applies to bugs too, but I don't want to eat those. So what happens if that happens? Who's looking at that? Forget about safety and all these other things; what about control of the world's protein supply if this goes wrong?

Knowledge is a good thing. Senator Roberts is not asking to stop anything. We've heard from Senator Roberts and we've heard my colleagues in the Nationals say: 'Let's just ask some questions. Let's have a look. It may be good.' We talk about all the health things and about some concerns in other spaces, but I notice that there's no longitudinal study about the health effects of protein meat—none in the world. There's a great longitudinal study on what real meat does to you. From the time of Fred Flintstone, the brontosaurus burger and the beginning of mankind, we've known what meat does to you. It makes you stronger, it feeds you and it gives you protein. That is a longitudinal study. We are the end result—me probably a bit more so than others!—of eating meat and what happens from that.

These are the things we could look at. There can never be too much knowledge when we're trying to make an informed decision. This is all we're asking for. All we're looking to do is shine a light on a somewhat murky field, to look at these things of health, of price, of taste and of the commercialisation of the world's food supply. Senator Roberts was right when he said the billionaires are behind pricing out naturally occurring foods and those sorts of things, because they can't make a buck out of big agricultural holdings. There are too many small things and too many small countries, and they can't make that money and get that around, where they're keeping their buffalo and their other meat sources.

It is with sadness that we think we know what will happen. We'll probably vote tomorrow morning, and this will not get up. It is a shame that we can't explore all of these things. Who knows what we'd uncover? The right expert at the right time with the right question may just shine a light or, even better, may have some answers. They may not. From what we learn, we may be able to move legislation that makes Australian people safer. Woe betide us trying to make the Australian people safer because we learn something! I'm probably the last speaker tonight, and we are at a sad point on something that goes to the cornerstone of Australian agriculture, to every mum and dad who are feeding their kids some sort of food and to where we will be in the future. There is great opportunity in artificial foods and in artificial proteins. It may be a future where we can feed people, but it is not meat. It is not milk, when we look at these other things. If we know more, that can be a pathway through to finding more opportunities and separating them from the dangers. It is sad that this reference will not get up.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Walsh ): The question is that the motion moved by Senator Roberts to refer a matter to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee be agreed to. I note that it's after 6.30 pm. As a division is required, the matter will be adjourned until the next day of sitting. The debate is adjourned.