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Thursday, 31 May 1973
Page: 3026

Mr LYNCH (Flinders) - I want to take the opportunity during the adjournment debate tonight to bring to the notice of the House the serious position which obtains in Victoria and elsewhere in Australia concerning the broiler industry.

Dr Klugman - The what industry?

Mr LYNCH - The broiler industry. I am sorry that the honourable gentleman is not aware of the term or of the very serious position which exists in the industry at present. Mr Speaker, I know that you personally would be very aware of the conditions in this industry which are causing such great concern to growers. If urgent action is not taken on a Commonwealth and State level to ameliorate the situation, the ramifications will be felt by every Australian who buys chicken meat and particularly by the producers who are suffering such adverse economic conditions at present. Victoria is second only to New South Wales in the number of chickens slaughtered each year and also in the dressed weight of chickens produced. I point out that some 90 per cent of Victoria's broiler growers live on the Mornington Peninsula which is within the boundaries of the Flinders electorate which I have the honour to represent in this Federal Parliament.

Since its inception the broiler industry has become a significant area of this nation's rural sector. In the 1950s it produced approximately 8 million birds a year. Its growth is reflected in the fact that in the 1971-72 season production had risen to approximately 113 million. This growth highlights the manner in which the broiler industry and in fact all sections of the Australian poultry industry have benefited from technological progress which has been made in recent years. The figures for the decade between 1960 and 1970 illustrate the dramatic changes which have taken place in performance, productivity and consumption. If overseas experience in relation to consumption, particularly in the United States of America, is any real guide, as I believe it is, there is major potential for further immediate improvements in Australia. And yet during the period which I have mentioned there was a concomitant reduction in gross returns per pound to the grower.

The Victorian Government - one of the most far sighted governments, of course, throughout this land - has recognised the seriousness of the situation among broiler growers in that State. At the request of the former Minister for Agriculture, Sir Gilbert Chandler, an all-party parliamentary meat inquiry committee began in January of this year an investigation into the structure of the broiler industry. It has already produced an interim report and is expected to bring its final report before the State Parliament of Victoria at its next session. The major recommendations of that committee, which necessarily I summarise because of the restriction of time in this debate, were: Firstly, legislation to introduce uniform contracts for broiler growers to give them continuity of production extending over a period of 2 years; and secondly, the negotiation of final price, density and batch sizes before an independent arbitrator. The Victorian Minister for Local Government, Mr Alan Hunt, M.L.C., who represents South-Eastern - a magnificent parliamentarian in the State of Victoria - has promised legislation incorporating the recommendations as soon as possible in the next session of the Victorian Parliament.

But the problems besetting the broiler industry are by no means restricted to Victoria. In fact, consultants in the poultry industry say Victoria is fortunate compared with the worsening economic situation in other parts of Australia. There is therefore a fundamental need for a wide ranging inquiry to be initiated by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) at Commonwealth level so that the best expertise available at the national level can be matched with that which is available as a result of the Victorian inquiry to which I have referred. In recent years the broiler industry has, with few exceptions, enjoyed a level of prosperity somewhat unique in the Australian primary production sector. However, adverse economic pressures are now being experienced with very considerable impact on the growers. I would hope that it is obvious to honourable members on both sides of this House that solutions must be found which will ensure the long term viability of the industry.

In the interests of the industry, particularly the growers and also the consumers, I call on the Minister for Primary Industry to undertake an urgent and comprehensive inquiry with a view to developing a clear response to the major and fundamental problems which have emerged. This is an industry which is in very real difficulty. I hope that these remarks, when conveyed to the Minister, *vill convince him of the urgent need to undertake a public inquiry. Such an inquiry would, as I mentioned, maximise the knowledge of the industry at the national level. This must lead to urgent action to remedy the problems facing so many growers during the adverse economic conditions which currently exist for them. An inquiry also would lead to public recognition of the impact which those conditions have on the nation at large.

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