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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 611

Mr LINDSAY(6.16) —As has previously been said, this legislation has been introduced to enable the Government to recoup 50 per cent of the cost to the Commonwealth of inspections for export at certain export establishments and other things. It is helpful to trace briefly the history of export inspection charges since they were first introduced in 1979. Indeed it is instructive to consider some of the history of the Australian export meat industry and the requirements that importing countries have imposed on the development of meat inspection facilities in Australia. In the early part of this century meat inspections were carried out only by the States. Inspections were conducted by what in those days were termed as lay inspectors. However, complaints came from the United Kingdom that evidence of disease was found in briskets of Australian beef. As a result of these complaints, the Federal Government appointed veterinary officers to provide export inspection services in all States. In 1916 an historic event occurred when the Commonwealth established its own export inspection staff in all States involved in meat export. This initiative was taken following a growth in the export trade, particularly in respect of mutton and lamb, to the United Kingdom and complaints that lesions of caseous lymphadenitis were detected in some carcasses.

In the early 1960s the United States of America, through its agencies, required exporting countries to comply substantially with United States standards of inspection services, particularly in regard to product integrity. During the late 1960s the United States of America introduced legislation which required that the meat inspection and hygiene standards of exporting countries be no less than the standards observed in the United States of America. In August 1974 the Federal Government requested the Industries Assistance Commission to extend its inquiry into the financing and promotion of rural products by addressing itself to aspects of financing of export inspections of rural products.

The Commission proceeded with its considerations and, in conjunction with its report on short term assistance to the beef cattle industry, it included a recommendation on the financing of export inspections of beef. It should be noted that the Commission's consideration of this important aspect was constrained by the terms of its original inquiry. A detailed investigation by the Commission did not take place. However, in the evidence before the Commission several witnesses stated that the maintenance of minimum export standards was necessary. A view was advanced that a failure to conform to standards would erode exporters' positions in foreign markets. It was urged that export inspections facilitated entry of Australian goods to foreign markets, and in a warning to the Australian beef processing industry it was suggested that failure by any individual exporter to conform to standards could bring whole industries into disrepute and place the Australian export meat market in jeopardy.

It is significant to recall a further proposal by one industry body-the Australian National Cattlemen's Council-to the Commission at that time that the cost of financing meat inspection and maintaining export standards should be shared by the industry and the Australian Government. A further suggestion was that there should be only one meat inspection service in Australia, an inspection service administered by the Australian Government to ensure that inspections were to a uniform standard throughout the nation.

As a result of the additional requirements placed by the importing countries on the Australian beef exporters to ensure that the export product met their standards, a number of private export establishments upgraded their existing facilities to ensure that they were able to meet the higher standards. Given this background, one of the reasons the Government maintained minimum standards for exports of products from Australia was to improve the competitive position of these products in the export market, that is to say, the products concerned comply with standards required by importing countries. It is easy to perceive that benefits accrue to the industry as a result of these export inspections by way of markets obtained, or retained, or by better prices through higher quality .

The Government has foreshadowed measures to take effect from 1 October 1983 with respect to objective trade description measurement which will improve the competitiveness of Australian products on the overseas market. Furthermore, it is true to say that the effects of export inspection also enhance national prestige. All meat slaughtered in Australia and intended for export is subject to inspection by the Export Inspection Service to the extent that only wholesome , hygienic meat is exported. Because of the present requirements of our major importers these objectives can be carried out only by continuous supervision, including the individual inspection of all animals, both prior to and after slaughter.

However, current methods of inspection are under review. The Department of Primary Industry employs approximately 1,800 persons on meat export inspections. These persons are generally located at registered export meat establishments which are entirely equipped with special facilities required to allow processing of meat for export. The great Australian meat export industry will account for some $1 billion in export earnings in 1983-84. It is helpful to recall the statement by the then Treasurer in his 1978-79 Budget Speech:

Consideration has been given to levying producers to recover a greater share of the costs of providing export inspection services.

In fact, the levy is placed on processing. In a ministerial statement, on 24 May 1979, the then Treasurer said:

Steps will also be taken to recover a greater proportion of the costs incurred by the Commonwealth Government in providing cattle disease eradication and export inspection services.

He continued:

To this end the disease eradication component of the livestock slaughter levy will be increased from $1 per head to $3 per head from 1 July; and arrangements, effective from 1 July, will be made to recover, in respect of meat, wool and grains, approximately 50 per cent in total of the costs incurred by the Commonwealth in providing export inspection services for those commodities. These measurers are estimated to yield additional revenue of over $30 million in 1979-80.

The Live-stock Slaughter (Export Inspection Charge) Bill was introduced on 28 May 1979. The Bill provided for recovery of meat inspection costs through charges on livestock slaughtered at registered export establishments. The Bill provided for recovery of approximately 50 per cent of the cost to the Commonwealth of the inspection. Since 1979 the Commonwealth has had a policy aimed at 50 per cent recovery. I understand it is intended to adjourn the debate on these Bills. Therefore, I seek leave to continue my remarks when the debate is resumed.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.