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Thursday, 15 October 1970

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) made the very sweeping statement that the Australian meat industry is in chaos from Darwin to Devonport. That is not altogether correct. I refer to an article in the Northern Territory 'News' of 13th October 1970, which was given to me by the honourable member for the Northern Terriory (Mr Calder). The article quotes the General Manager of the Katherine abattoirs as having said on 13th October:

Luckily there are only 4 to 5 weeks to .go before the end of the season, so there is no panic until next February.

We have m> reason to want our licence back before then.-- though that doesn't mean we won't be applying for it before then.

I do not deny that there are great difficulties and problems in the meat industry, but I know that the Government and the industry are using every endeavour to try to meet the standards which are being imposed upon the industry by our customers.

In typical fashion the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has come into this House and raised a matter of public importance in order to try to capitalise politically upon a delicate situation in the vital meat industry, which is one of the profitable primary industries in Australia. But I think it is even more reprehensible that he has chosen to do this in the absence of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). I think he has done this because on every occasion on which he has had an encounter with the Minister for Primary Industry he has come off second best in a field of two.

What is the purpose of raising this matter of public importance? ls it to try to sabotage one of the few profitable primary industries in Australia at the present time? The whole record of the Opposition has been to try to sabotage our national service training programme and our involvement in the war in Vietnam. Honourable members opposite are calamity howlers; they are prophets of doom. I brand the Opposition a sabotage Party, so far as the people in my electorate are concerned. The truth of the situation in the meat industry is that the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) negotiated in the United States for our meat industry in October 1958. He negotiated Australia out of the United

Kingdom meat agreement and in doing so made a great gain for the Australian meat industry, especially the beef industry. Today about 70 per cent of our beef and veal is exported to the United States. Indeed, 45 per cent of our total meat exports go to the United States.

Exports of beef, veal, lamb and mutton to the United States have increased from only 105,000 tons in 1959-60 to 264,000 tons in 1969-70 - an increase of 168 per cent. That is what this Government has done for the Australian meat industry, so far as the United States meat market is concerned. The value of these exports has increased front $66m to an estimated $248m in 1969-70- an increase of 275 per cent. These figures represent a steady increase in recent years, and we expect that there will be a further increase in meat exports to the United States next year. This important market to Australia accounts for the prosperity of our beef and meat industry; Australia having about 50 per cent of the United States import market. Positive action has been taken to secure this market and full credit must go to the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Australian Government.

Mr Daly - Tell us about the ones that they have closed.

Mr HUNT - What is the truth of the situation? Let us look at the facts. Let the calamity howler - I am sorry, the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly), that fellow who was born at Currabubula - be a calamity howler but let him not depress the beef industry and the beef industry in my electorate. I am sure that his relations and friends must be ashamed of him. The Minister for Trade and Industry negotiated Australia's way into the United States market and negotiated freedom from the earlier British agreement to sell as much as we could to the United States. There has been a dramatic increase in the volume of meat exported and an increase in the price that has been paid for beef and meat generally in Australia. In spite of the quotas which the United States has imposed as a result of the Amercian cattle lobby. Australia, as I said earlier, still has 50 per cent of the market.

Let us look at the total meat production situation in this country. The total meat production for 1969-70 reached a record, a gross value of 5985m, exceeded 2 million tons of production earning export returns of more than S3 80m. Beef and veal in 1969-70 will exceed 1 million tons. Exports of beef and veal are up by 20 per cent on the figure for last year. Beef export earnings are estimated to be $294m, 39 per cent higher than earnings in 1969. The story in respect of mutton and lamb is good also.

What is the positive action that the Opposition is wishing the Australian Government to take against the United States, the market which has given the prosperity that I mentioned, to the Australian meat industry? The Opposition wishes the Government to direct a vindictive campaign against, the Americans. If our customers require certain export standards, do we ignore them? Do we tell them where to go and to get their meat elsewhere? The farmers ought to tell the Australian Labor Party where to go. Indeed, Australian farmers told the Australian Labor Party where to go on Tuesday of this week in front of Parliament House where only 50 or 60 farmers turned up to be addressed. I am proud to say that not 1 representative of my electorate attended that meeting. The farmers told the Australian Labor Party last Tuesday where to go.

Mr Daly - I met a dozen of your electors out there.

Mr HUNT - I am sure that they would not say hello to you. I am certain that they told you where to go and that they will tell you where to go in the future. Australia has to consider its customers and endeavour to supply products to meet its customers requirements. One might argue that the hygiene standards appear to be stringent. Some people have; some countries have. Some countries are banned completely from the United States meat market because their abattoirs have not met the required standards. The thought of this Government not taking the measures that are necessary to try to reach these standards is a pretty horrible one. Does the Australian Labor Party want to see Australia lose this big market?

The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) is acting, I believe, in a most responsible manner in the interests of meat producers ensuring that our abattoirs are brought up to the required standards. In the United States of America, people are very conscious of food standards. So are the people of other countries. It will not be long before people of all countries will say that if these food standards are good enough for the United States of America then they will be good enough for them. To ignore this consumer trend would result in great damage being done to our meat industry. The Minister quite rightly has announced that the Government will do everything possible to ensure that Australian meat works comply with the requirements of the consumer in our biggest market. Any other policy of retaliation would be complete folly, absolutely crazy and irresponsible to say the least. Honourable members opposite can play politics if they like, but do not gamble with the future and the prosperity of the meat producers whom I represent.

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