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Labor's plan for the red meat sector.

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9 September 2004


The red meat industries in Australia are worth 15 billion dollars to the economy and support tens of thousands of jobs mostly in regional centres.

Labor believes that the future of this sector depends on an effective national disease management system.

The Howard Government has not given priority to building Australia’s animal disease management system to ensure it is able to meet growing consumer expectations about food quality and the increasing demands of the international market place.

Labor will also give priority to building international demand for red meat to both maximise the value of this sector to the Australian economy and build jobs in the processing sector.

A Federal Labor Government will:

• Strengthen national disease management arrangements

• Build a better animal health surveillance system

• Invest in the National Livestock Identification Scheme

• Build red meat exports

• Reform the livestock export sector, and

• Strengthen consumer confidence in the quality and wholesomeness of our red meat products

Strengthening National Disease Management Arrangements

Labor believes that an effective disease management regime must be built on a national approach across government and industry with uniform animal health and disease responses across all states, territories and industry sectors.

The Howard Government has failed to deliver this approach.

A Federal Labor Government will work with the states and industry organisations to implement a uniform, national approach to animal disease management as a matter of priority.

An effective Animal Health Surveillance System

An effective animal health surveillance system is a key to the future of the red meat sector.

It underpins consumer confidence in the safety and wholesomeness of meat products.

It underpins our ability to facilitate quick and effective responses to animal disease emergencies to minimise the impact on our exports.

It is also essential to ensure the ongoing integrity of our export certification processes.

But if the surveillance system is to continue to meet these challenges more must be done.

A Federal Labor government will commit $2 million to accelerate the process of upgrading the surveillance system.

Federal Labor will work with the states, territories and other stakeholders to establish an equitable funding formula to meet the ongoing costs of expanding both the cover and the effectiveness of the system.

The National Livestock Identification Scheme

The spread of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy [BSE] across a number of countries is seeing effective animal traceability becoming a global reality and Australia must not be left behind.

Labor supports the National Livestock Identification Scheme.

The NLIS will not only enhance our disease management regime but will help meet the new and demanding requirements of key markets such as Japan.

It will also be a critical marketing tool in reinforcing our reputation as a supplier of high quality product and ensuring we can compete in the international market place with other exporting countries such as Brazil.

Labor recognises that the implementation of the NLIS will impose a direct cost on producers.

Labor will therefore commit $10 million to assist the industry to meet the establishment costs of the NLIS program.

Extending AUS-MEAT grading to the Retail Sector

The Australian red meat sector produces a world class product.

Labor will work with the states, territories and other stakeholders, to improve consumer awareness of the quality of red meat and build consumer confidence in the consistency of that quality.

Most beef and a great deal of the sheep-meat processed in Australia is already graded according to AUS-MEAT specifications, but that information is currently not passed on to consumers.

Labor believes that the existing AUS-MEAT grading system can be further developed and the descriptions can be provided in a form that will help consumers choose their meat with some certainty as to its quality.

Building Red Meat Exports

In a tough international market place it is important that we maximise the return we get from our rural exports and that means value adding.

While Labor supports the live-stock export trade we believe the focus of both government and other stakeholders in the livestock sector should be on building markets for processed product.

Labor will give priority to building demand in our traditional live export markets for processed meat.

This will mean a better return to the Australian economy from the sheep and beef sectors and more jobs in regional communities.

Reforming the Live Export Trade

The failure of the Howard Government to reform Australia’s live-stock export sector, despite expert advice that it must act, allowed ongoing inappropriate animal welfare practices in the trade.

The failure of the Howard Government’s administration of the live export trade has severely damaged our hard-won reputation as a country with first class animal management practices.

Labor has driven change in this industry.

As a result of Labor’s actions the regulatory regime for the live export sector is now much tougher and the accountability of the Minister far more demanding.

But there is more to be done.

A Labor Government will move to significantly improve animal management practices in our live-stock export markets, particularly those markets in the Middle East.

Under a Labor Government stakeholders in the live export trade will be required to significantly upgrade their efforts to improve animal welfare practices in those countries through expenditure on infrastructure and training regimes in all export destinations as part of a five year program.

Labor will develop a five year plan in consultation with the governments in live export markets and Australian stakeholders. The implementation of this plan will be the subject of annual audits.

At that end of the five year period each trade will be subjected to a major review the results of which will determine the future of the total trade.

Contact Gavan O’Connor on 0418 518 528 Bernie Eades on 0419 664 016