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Tuesday, 1 November 1983
Page: 2148

Question No. 59

Mr McVeigh asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 4 May 1983:

When does he envisage that a single national meat inspection service for Australia, as promised in the election campaign, will be in place.

Mr Kerin —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The concept of a single national meat inspection service has been the subject of debate for many years and was endorsed by the Royal Commission into the Australian Meat Industry last year. It is the stated policy of this Government that such a service should be established.

Following discussions between officials of the Department of Primary Industry and the States and the Northern Territory, the Department of Primary Industry distributed in April this year a discussion paper to all States and the Northern Territory, as well as relevant industry and employee organisations. Since then further discussions have been held with most States and the Northern Territory. Also the Victorian Government has recently indicated it is prepared to enter into negotiations with the Commonwealth on the subject of a single meat inspection service. I hope that this recent development along with arrangements in place in South Australia and the establishment of a single service arrangement in New South Wales from 1 July this year, will accelerate the establishment of a single national service.

In examining the full implications of the single service concept, it should be noted that of the 2,450 full time meat inspectors in Australia at 1 July 1983, 80 per cent were employed by the Commonwealth's Export Inspection Service. Should Victoria agree to transfer its service the figure would rise to 92 per cent.

As the establishment of a single national inspection service is dependent upon the agreement of the States and Northern Territory I am unable to put a specific date on when such a service will be fully in place on a national basis. However I believe that the decisive initiatives taken to date and action that is in train will enhance the possibility of quickly arriving at a solution with a majority of the States and the Northern Territory.

However I note that the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries is reported to have recently said that the Queensland Government still does not support the single national inspection service concept. I understand that approximately one quarter of Queensland's State meat inspectors are located at export registered works and in general are taking their place on the meat chain beside Commonwealth inspectors and doing the same level of inspection. This work could be undertaken solely by Commonwealth inspectors, and industry consequently saved the double fee. The Queensland Government must therefore shoulder the full responsibility for the extra cost being incurred by industry.