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Thursday, 30 September 1971
Page: 1758

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) - I find that it is appreciated by people who read Hansard and also those who listen to the broadcast of proceedings in this Parliament if an honourable member who thinks the subject has not been explained sufficiently, reads at the beginning of his speech small portions of the Minister's second reading speech so that the people generally will know what the debate is all about. There are many people living in cities who do not have much idea of what goes on in the beef industry in the country. This is to be understood. I want to read from the second reading speech of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) these few words:

The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Livestock Slaughter Levy Act 1964-1968 to provide for the extension, for a further period of 3 years, from 1st January 1972 to 31st December 1974, of the special levy on livestock slaughterings imposed initially in January 1969 to provide finance for the operations of the meat industry service and investigation section of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

The next section of his speech is important. He states:

The rates of the levy are to remain unaltered at lc per head on cattle (over 200 lb dressed weight) and one-tenth of a cent per head on sheep and lambs.

This point is very important:

The levy is payable by the owner of the livestock at the time of slaughter and in contrast to the levy used to finance the operations of the Australian Meat Board and the Australian Meat Research Committee may not be passed back to producers.

This levy which is now being extended for a further period was first introduced for a period of 3 years in January 1969. At that time there was debate about who would pay the levy. Of course, it is the owner of the stock at the time of slaughter who pays the levy. If a beef exporter goes to the saleyards at, say, Newmarket, Cannon Hill or Homebush in Sydney and buys fat stock, the amounts charged by the auctioneering firms usually are deducted from the amount paid to the man who has sold the stock and sometimes this levy is included.

In the application of this levy some things have had to be straightened out. For those who are not used to stock yards I point out that there are different sections for fat sheep, fat lambs, store sheep and store cattle. It is possible that someone seeing fat sheep in a pen may realise that they are a very good breed, and although the sheep are fat and fit for slaughter the person may buy them to take back to his farm for breeding purposes. On a lot of occasions I have seen fat stock bought which have never gone to the abattoirs but which have gone back onto a farm for breeding purposes. Therefore we have to be very careful that the amount of levy is not deducted from this man's account sales for the simple reason that the stock never get to the abattoirs.

I refer to one matter so that others may realise the facts fully. As stated in the Minister's second reading speech, the levy is to be imposed in respect of cattle of over 200 lb dressed weight. That is the point I want to emphasise. This means really that only calves are not included. Cattle under 200 lb weight are not very large; as a matter of fact, they are not as big as some sheep. It is on record that at Casterton in Victoria, a well known stock centre, a suffolk cross wether that was slaughtered by a Mr Murrell, a butcher who was in business there some few years ago, had a dressed weight of 208 lb. Therefore cattle which are not subject to this levy - they mast be over 200 lb to attract the levy - are not very big. This sheep that was butchered by Mr Murrell was really a pet. It used to lead the other sheep to slaughter, and it would walk out through a certain gate. But one day the gate was dropped before the suffolk cross wether went through and it was slaughtered. It weighed 208 lb. . I have photographs of it which I can bring here to show honourable members to substantiate what 1 say. Furthermore, the authenticity of the weight is vouched for by 6 or 7 people in Casterton, a Western District town, who saw the carcass weighed.

This Bill applies both to sheep and cattle, not just to beef cattle. Honourable members who have spoken so far have been talking about beef cattle only. As a rule the Victorian Railways cattle trucks hold 8 bullocks weighing from 750 lb to 800 lb. When talking about cattle some people express their weight as, say, 8 cwt but it should be 800 lb. If the cattle weigh, say, from 600 lb to 700 lb or a little less, 10 can be put in a truck. The point I am making is that at the present time in the markets of Victoria and other parts of Australia one bullock will bring more money than a whole truck load would have brought just before the Second World War. So cattle producers have kept well up with price rises and the cattle industry is in a particularly good state just now.

One of the great demands is for baby beef. Baby beef cattle may be 400 lb or 500 lb, depending on bow quickly they are fattened and put on the market. But generally speaking they are about 300 lb dressed weight. The cattle producer has to decide when to put his stock on the market. He must put them on the market when they are flush with condition. If he keeps them a little too long they go into the older cattle variety and he does not get the high price. If he puts them on the market too soon he does not get the advantage of the weight they would have gained if he had held them. All these are problems that face the cattle man who sells his stock in the markets of Australia. There are many more cattle about at the present time and certainly the beef industry is expanding. It is expanding for one reason, and that is that wool is not selling well and sheep and lambs are bringing prices that are hardly reasonable. Therefore cattle are the best stock to market if one can run them. As has been said on so many occasions, a person cannot breed cattle and fatten them overnight. If you are changing over from sheep or some other stock to cattle it takes a long time to get the cattle on the market after breeding them. Of course, pigs come under separate but similar legislation. They are in demand now and are increasing very much in numbers throughout Victoria in the places with which I am acquainted.

The honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) produced 2 tins of meat. He said that one was from Paraguay. He asked why we should import this tinned meat into a beef producing country. This is a fair question. He said also that American cattle men do not object to third grade beef being imported into the United States of America. But they have been against imports of Australian best beef and have been lobbying in the Parliament to stop the importation of Australian beef. But according to what the honourable member for Dawson said they do not mind third class meat coming into the country. The tin of meat from Paraguay which he showed us reveals that third class meat is certainly coming into this, country. What we want to get into America is first class meat, because having sampled first class meat from Australia the American people will want more of it. I think if one sampled some of this Paraguayan tinned meat one would not want to buy it a second time, so I do not think they are gaining anything by sending it here. We have to remember that we are trying to get most of our beef into the American market all the time. Can we close our doors completely? We can put the tariffs up as high as possible and I am in favour of this, but can we completely exclude imports? No nation can ever hope always to sell and never to buy. I believe the tariffs should be made very high on any imported beef, high enough to make it impossible for it to compete against our beef. I believe that this must be done and is being done. I have seen some of these tins of Paraguayan meat before - someone drew my attention to it - and I believe it is being brought in as an experiment. But we are trying all the time to get our meat into the United States. I know that the right honourable Sir John McEwen, when he was a Minister here, negotiated a free mar ket between Australia and New Zealand. Someone asked whether we should stop the importation of New Zealand lamb and he said: 'What sort of a case would I have when I go to America and want to sell Australian beef to the United States if I stopped our sister Australasian nation, New Zealand, sending lamb to Australia?' He proved fairly conclusively that the lamb coming in was of such a minute quantity that it did not make much difference to the market. The market for fat lambs has been extremely irregular. It is not very nice for someone to go along and sell his sucker lamb-

Mr Cope - Do not look at me when you say that.

Mr TURNBULL - I did not refer to you. When a producer sells his sucker lamb at perhaps $4.50 and then shortly afterwards sees the market price go up to $3 for sucker lamb of the same quality and condition he is greatly disappointed. So what we have to strive for is a more even market for fat lambs in this country because I believe fat lamb production has not kept up with rising costs nearly as well as beef production has. That is why more and more producers are turning to beef. Of course, we can produce some of the best fat lamb in the world but the export market is not good. Once upon a time buyers for exporters such as Sims Cooper, John Cook and Company or Borthwicks would go round and buy thousands and thousands of lambs for export. But the export market has not been good lately and therefore lamb producers have been in and out of success in the market. They have had some good sales and some devastating sales which have sapped their enthusiasm for the breeding and fattening of lambs. I have already asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) whether he realises that the difference between the price being paid in the market for fat lambs and the price being charged by butchers can possibly be explained when the price being charged by the butcher is so much more than what the producers are getting for it on the hoof. This has been illustrated in the town where I live. The butcher there has a good business and is a good man in the trade. He used to open on Saturday mornings but he stopped this practice simply because, as be put it: *I would not take as much money on Saturday morning as I would have to pay my staff: and certainly I would not make profit because of the new pay and conditions gained by the unions for the assistant butchers in my shop.' Honourable members must recall that most of the rise in price of lamb between the time it leaves the primary producer and the time it is sold over the counter to the customer can be attributed to the high wages paid to slaughtermen and those employed in butchers' shops and other rising costs.

Mr Foster - The cockies are happy to do it. They are not complaining.

Mr TURNBULL - There is the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) speaking about the cockies. Even a man from the city ought to know better than that. The honourable member comes from Sturt. lt is a metropolitan seat in Adelaide. Whenever one speaks of what the primary producer is up against the honourable member generally tries to ridicule the arguments one puts up and calls the primary producers cockies. I object to this and wish he would keep quiet and go back to the pavements where he belongs. We have just heard a speech from the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). He made one or two very good points. He supported this Bill. I am glad he did and 1 think he and other honourable members would congratulate the Government for bringing in this Act some years ago. It is now being extended. Apparently this Act was not thought of previously as being necessary. The honourable member asked a question that I can answer by referring to the second reading speech of the Minister. The honourable member asked: 'Will there be enough money to keep this research going for the period set out?' The Minister said:

Funds from the levy should, on current estimates, provide finance to allow a continuity of operations over a period in excess of 3 years.

From all the investigations we have made the answer is that there will be sufficient money. The honourable member said that efficiency is increasingly necessary. I think some people may get the wrong idea from the way he put it. The point is that efficiency is always necessary. If there is no efficiency in an industry that industry must therefore be inefficient. For the benefit of the honourable member and his constituents, what he was saying was that we must not condone inefficiency. I would not stand for inefficiency. Quite candidly, a man who is inefficient in the breeding and fattening of stock should not be in the game at all. We must not allow inefficiency in any way in an industry and we should always strive to make industries efficient. Efficiency is the main factor in any industry. Let that word stand out.

I took a few notes while other honourable members were speaking and I just want to go through them. I believe that the research done so far has been excellent. Of course, certain research was being conducted long before this Act was first introduced. Most people regard a fluke as something unusual. People say: 'So and so fluked something.' In terms of sheep raising the fluke is a parasitic worm that has killed millions of sheep and has perhaps kept many more than that number from being fattened because the fluke attacks the liver. The point I want to make is one I have made in the past in referring to the preservation of ibis rookeries. The ibis is a bird that travels all over the countryside, it knows no boundaries, and flies back to the rookery at night. It consumes a tremendous amount of these fluke worms and other parasites.

It has been said that people arc eating more meat than ever before. The honourable member for Riverina said this. I think what he meant to say was - of course, he did say this and I am not trying to make a point of it - that more beef is being consumed now than ever before. But, as he also said, this only applies to certain parts of the world, because beef is so dear that only people in a pretty good financial position can buy it. After all, we hear talk about starvation in Pakistan but I have not heard anybody say that we should send over 2 or 3 shipments of prime beef. So far as we are concerned beef today is for the ones who can pay for it. After all, it is a scarce commodity in certain parts of the world.

Finally, 1 want to refer to a recent newspaper report that people want more tender meat. If a person goes into a cafe or restaurant and orders a steak he frequently finds it so tough that he cannot eat it, although he has to pay for it. He will not be very happy and will hesitate to order it again. Possibly some process may be introduced to make meat tender, which will make it more acceptable to the consumer. In this way, more meat will be sold and the cattle men and the nation will benefit.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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