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Thursday, 15 September 1983
Page: 882

Mr MILDREN(12.02) —I must say that a certain degree of nostalgia is associated with the speech of the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh). It reminded me of some of the answers he gave to questions in the last Parliament-tortuous, confused and rambling, however, I must admit, with a certain element of humour.

The Meat Inspection Bill 1983 should bring some needed order into what has been for some time a particularly contentious part of the meat industry. As the Minister for Aviation and Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) said in his second reading speech:

. . . the new legislation will provide a mechanism whereby a single, national meat inspection service operating under Commonwealth law can be achieved with the agreement of the governments concerned.

To bring both domestic inspection services and the Export Inspection Service into Commonwealth jurisdiction has decided advantages. I think honourable members would be very much aware of the problems that are associated with this. In fact, the explanatory memorandum associated with the Meat Inspection Bill 1983 states:

The effect of the new legislation will be to finalise the establishment of a single meat inspection service in New South Wales by transferring all meat inspection powers formerly carried out by the New South Wales Department of Agriculture to the Commonwealth.

It also states:

The development of an integrated national inspection service is regarded as the most effective and efficient method of overcoming many problems being experienced in the meat industry.

I think it is well to remind ourselves of the problems that the current situation has brought to the industry. Most of these are obvious and have been mentioned by the Minister but I will remind the House of what he had to say. He spoke about the problems associated with gaining a common standard. This is particularly difficult to attain under the present, very disjointed dual system. Secondly, duplications of services have developed in a number of cases. Thirdly, because some meat destined for export has been directed to domestic use a number of anomalies have arisen. Fourthly, we have the problem of industrial demarcation disputes.

It is to be hoped that the other States will take the lead from the very enlightened Wran Government of New South Wales and come to a similar arrangement with the Federal Government. I am not a man who is totally parsimonious, who cannot give credit where credit is due. I give some credit at this stage to the very late interest that was shown in regularising the Meat Inspection Service by the Minister for Primary Industry in the last Government. It is a pity, however, that that Government had to go on for so long and the Minister had to be cajoled into taking the interest he did. Overcoming the more irrational aspects of Commonwealth-State jurisdictional problems has always been fraught with difficulties. With some State governments the problem is almost insurmountable because of the very reactionary political attitudes of those governments. I think it is of interest that the previous speaker, the honourable member for Darling Downs, alluded to the extraordinarily reactionary government of Queensland. It is to be noted that the very progressive Cain Government of Victoria is also currently negotiating with the Commonwealth for the establishment of a single meat inspection service. Hopefully all other States will soon see fit to fall into line. It will be for the benefit of the entire industry.

The recent history of our export meat industry and meat inspection has been less than satisfactory. I am sure that all agree. Unfortunately, because of the dual system it has been possible for practices to develop which have not only jeopardised our important North American export market but have also posed a threat to the health of consumers. Of course, anything which jeopardises the North American export market jeopardises the entire future of the meat export industry. The tightening up of those practices by this Bill should go a long way towards removing this possibility. The meat industry should become more efficient, less prone to the possibilities of corruption and, as the Minister said, more cost effective.

In my own electorate of Ballarat I have three main abattoirs. In Ballarat I have a major abattoir recently acquired by Segals but which is currently not open. It is to be hoped that it will not be too long before it reopens because it will provide major employment opportunities for Ballarat. In the town of Kyneton the recent story of the meat processing industry has been chequered. On the one hand Hardwick's Meat Works Pty Ltd, a domestic producer, has been working efficiently and in an exemplary manner. Unfortunately the Kyneton abattoirs have a less happy time. Following the departure of J. C. Hutton Pty Ltd, the abattoir was taken over by Mr Eric Williams. As history records, he was unable to obtain a United States listing with the result that this highly moderned abattoir-and I give him credit for that-was forced to close. The loss of 250-odd jobs was calamitous for the people of Kyneton. Fortunately the firm has been taken over by Rosens and is back in business. It has a United States listing and hopefully the problem of standards has been solved.

What this has taught us is that we need to bring our meat inspection service into a new level of professionalism. We need to have a new awareness of it. This Bill goes a long way towards achieving that goal. The meat industry will gain confidence from the fact that the Government has pursued this action so early in its term. It is not draconian in its measures. The inspection service is there to protect and not to harass the industry. There are strict limitations on the right of entry to all places and facilities that form part of the chain of production and transport of meat.

I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) for his concern for his portfolio. It is certainly my experience-and I say this with complete honesty-that the Minister is perceived by producers as the most approachable, concerned Minister for Primary Industry in decades. Those who have showered the Minister with such accolades are not just supporters of this Government; they are members, not just supporters, of the Liberal and National Parties. All have been impressed by the Minister's diligence, his candour and his honesty. It concerns me to reflect upon the previous Administration in regard to the Meat Inspection Service. I congratulate the current Minister on his sincere concern to ensure a secure industry.

This contrasts with the lax standards of the previous Administration. As was suggested in the Woodward report of the Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry, when the inadequacy of and the corruption in the meat inspection section of the industry were present, before the Royal Commission was established the previous Government took little notice of these things. History will condemn the previous Government for its failure to act effectively because as well as tolerating a corrupt system, the then Minister who received backing all the way from his leader and the then Prime Minister, really let down those whose interests he was alleged to be representing-namely, the meat producers. The previous Minister must have known the danger to the Australian meat export trade with the United States which would result from lax standards. He would no doubt have been aware of the requirements of the United States Wholesome Meat Act which was enacted in 1967. This Act required that meat inspection and hygiene standards of exporting countries be at least equal to those existing in the United States, and that all meat for export or local markets produced at foreign-licensed export abattoirs conform to that standard. I am sure that the current Opposition will support this Bill before the House. I am pleased that the honourable member for Darling Downs has done so.

Given that this Bill is of marked interest and of major concern to a vast number of farmers in Australia, it is a matter of some shame and enormous concern that only one member of the National Party, a party which alleges to be so representative of the farmers' interests, is in the House at present. I think that is a disgrace.

Mr Ian Robinson —I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The honourable member for Ballarat has reflected unnecessarily upon the National Party.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Darling) -There is no point of order.

Mr Ian Robinson —The National Party's shadow Minister for Primary Industry has spoken. Other honourable members of the Party were present during his remarks and I have remained in the House quite deliberately. The reflection by the honourable member for Ballarat ill becomes him.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member that I have ruled that there is no point of order.

Mr MILDREN —Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. There is little doubt that the inspection system which this Bill aims to introduce will remove some of the risks associated with the dual system. While there is a long way to go before we have a single system of meat inspection, I hope that this Bill and the examples of New South Wales and Victoria will prove seminal in effect. I commend the Bill to the House.