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Tuesday, 18 September 1973
Page: 1196

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - I am disappointed that the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has fallen for the miscalculations presented to him by the Australian Country Party. Before this night is out, we will see that the public servants in the Department of Primary Industry have not made the error that has been attributed to them by honourable members opposite tonight. The shortage of meat inspectors is something which has concerned a number of members representing country electorates. Not very long after I became a member of this place, a difficult position arose at Goulburn. It was necessary to apply to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) to have meat inspectors restored to the abattoir at Goulburn in order that the production chain should not fold up. The need for more reserves and personnel in the meat inspection service is painfully obvious to anybody who has an abattoir in his electorate. We have heard from members of the Australian Country Party that it is rubbish to provide enough meat inspectors to an abattoir to keep it working. We realise now just how superficial is the Country Party's approach to this whole problem. The shortage of meat inspectors is paralleled by the quality of the work they perform. As we have heard already tonight, Australia has an unexcelled reputation in its approach to the question of meat inspection.

There is one aspect of meat inspection which has been overlooked by members of the Opposition in their approach to this question. We heard the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) drawing an analogy between meat inspection and the inspection of other rural products. However, there is a major difference between these inspection services. Meat inspection involves inspecting every carcass. In the sense that we must apply the inspection process in detail to every carcass, it is not so much a quality control question as most inspection services are, but indeed a matter of production input in the process of slaughtering meat. The difference between this process and the normal quality control process is the fundamental problem that arises in an abattoir when inspectors are withdrawn. It is impossible to carry out a superficial inspection of meat. It is essential that every carcass be inspected and, therefore, that we have enough meat inspectors in the abattoirs to carry out such an inspection.

The Bill now before us will ensure that the meat inspection services of Australia maintained not only in quality but also in the terms of the supply of inspectors. It is quite clear that we need more inspectors and I am pleased that this problem has at least been approached in a systematic fashion. It is the height of hypocrisy to say that export meat should not be charged to the industry when, in fact, meat consumed on the local market is already charged to the industry by the State governments. It is absurd. The Deputy Leader of the Country Party made the claim that export meat, like other export primary products, should be a charge on the taxpayer and not on the industry.

Mr Sinclair - I did not say that.

Mr WHAN - There is a large number of questions that need to be cleared up in regard to meat inspection services. The fact that we have duplicate meat inspection services - Federal and State - is something that should be looked at systematically with an open mind in order to simplify the whole process of meat inspection. There can be no question that unnecessary costs are involved because of this duplication, and I should like to see those costs reduced.

By this Bill we have placed the question of meat inspection on a proper ongoing basis. The industry pays for a production input just as any other industry pays for its production inputs. The meat industry is a strong and virile industry and I am absolutely sure - indeed, I have confidence in the people involved in the industry - that the people of the industry have no wish to be subsidised by the general taxpayer in this respect. They have no objection whatsoever to incorporating in the production process what is a legitimate production cost. The Australian Government offers the best method of collecting charges on export meat and the Bill we have before us tonight provides the most efficient way in which the charges can be collected and in which the meat inspection services can be administered. I believe that not only will the correctness of this Bill be accepted by the meat industry and meat producers but also the industry will recognise that it places a firm foundation under a splendid service offered by the Federal Government to the industry. For these reasons, I commend the Minister for bringing the Bill before this House.

I should like to conclude my few remarks by referring to comments made by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party. He made 2 factual errors in his speech tonight. They were, firstly, in his reference to my opinion on the subject of an export tax and, secondly, in regard to the calculations lying behind the Bill we have before us. I believe that this is indicative of the entire approach that members of the Country Party have to the rural electorate- panic the electorate into fear, create an atmosphere of uncertainty and then capitalise on the political implications of it for all they are worth. The real logic of the argument and its factual basis are not only covered up; they are also not understood by members of the Country Party who wish to create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for their own narrow political ends. I register my objection to the way that members of the Country Party have used this Bill to further those ends.

Mr SINCLAIR(New England)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a person explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr SINCLAIR - Yes, by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan). In the course of his remarks to this House the honourable member for Eden-Monaro alleged that I and my colleagues said that it was rubbish that we need no more meat inspectors. In fact, we do need more meat inspectors and I, as Minister for Primary Industry, was responsible for instituting schools in order to train additional meat inspectors. I understand that this practice has been discontinued by the present Government. I believe we do need more and adequate meat inspectors to cover the task of meat inspection.

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