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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 4064

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - Mr Speaker,some of my constituents have expressed concern to me because their dogs have ceased to eat blood and bone. I have been able to determine to the best of my ability that the probable reason why this has happened is because the price of meatmeal has increased and there is therefore less meat in blood and bone these days than there used to be. The constituents who have complained to me are avid readers of Hansard and they are not on the telephone. So I have now got my message through to them.

Last night in the adjournment debate I was tackled on the very point that has just been raised by the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King). I am once again indebted to him for raising it. I will never know why it is that the honourable member for Wimmera and I seem to follow each other in a debate. On this occasion I am grateful to him for his introduction. Last night the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O'Keefe) went to great pains to say that the Department of Primary Industry had in some way abused its privilege in printing what was a very accurate representation of certain events that took place. I presume that the paragraph which offended the honourable member for Paterson was the one which reads:

This, however, did not prevent Country Party Leader, Mr Anthony, from issuing a Press release on 31 August predicting that a tax as high as 12c per lb will be applied initially to exports. He went on to say that when this did not work, the Government would keep on increasing the tax.

The document from which I am quoting goes on to say:

Other members of the Country Party and Liberal Opposition did their best to stir the pot, knowing full well that the imposition of an export tax was not being proposed by the Government.

I refer to page 1349 of Hansard of 20 September 1973 in which the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Anthony, is reported as having said: let it be known that on 17 March this year at the opening of the Boorowa Show I said that this was the Government's attitude and that the Government would be trying to find a means of bringing down a tax on meat to reduce the domestic price. I have made a series of statements during the year.

The Leader of the Country Party is reported in Hansard as having stated the very thing that was objected to by the honourable member for Paterson last night. We should look at the rationale of the situation. What right has the Leader of the Country Party to speak for the Government on a matter on which it had not made a decision and on which it was not in a position to make a decision? The Leader of the Country Party, with his as usual inaccurate powers of perception - I am indebted to the Country Party for this pearl of wisdom - completely misread and misinterpreted the attitude of the Government on this matter. He had no authority to make such a statement. He is not a member of the Government. The only motivation for his saying that the Government has already reached a decision was to create mischief in the meat industry.

I turn now to the quite accurate statement by the honourable member for Paterson about what I said during an interview on the Federal File' program. I quote from the honourable member for Paterson's quotation. The quotation begins: on the evidence available. . . .

Later it states: and the evidence that has been given to the meat prices committee which is, of course, public information . . .

The entire interview was restricted to the evidence available to the inquiry by the Joint Committee on Prices into meat prices. On that evidence certain conclusions could be drawn. It was not a statement of my position in the policy making area of government. It was a statement of my position as a conscientious member of a committee which had been charged with the responsibility of advising the Government on what it could do to restrain meat price increases.

The members of the Joint Committee who submitted a minority report avoided carrying out the responsibility they were given. They came up with the answer that there were no ways in which meat prices could be restrained. That answer was a complete negation of the terms of reference of the Committee. Those who submitted the minority report were not prepared to work within the terms of reference of the Committee. They were not prepared to draw conclusions from the evidence. But they were prepared to use the Committee as a political vehicle to perpetuate the trouble that the Leader of the Country Party was already stirring up in the meat industry. It does not surprise me that the Country Party confuses the functions of a fact finding committee with the policy functions of government because throughout the period in which it was making decisions it failed to make this distinction.

I am once again indebted to the Country Party for the information that has come from it tonight that the referendum on the export of merino rams should not have been held among all sheep breeders but instead should have been restricted to those who have a vested interest in the embargo on the export of merino rams being lifted. We have heard those vested interests stated by a member of the Country Party tonight. According to the Country Party the stud merino breeders are the only ones who should have been consulted on whether the merino ram embargo was lifted. We know, of course, the answer that they would have come up with. Their own financial interests would dictate that answer. It is also interesting to note that the Australian Wool Industry Conference - so we have just been told - represented those vested interests. That simply confirms what honourable, members on this side of the House have said for years and years, that is, that the Australian Wool Industry Conference is not representative of the whole wool industry. One does not have to go any further tonight for confirmation of those observations than to examine what has just been said by a member of the Country Party on this subject. I am very grateful to the Country Party for continually providing me with a forum. It provided me. with such a forum in relation to Yennora. It has now provided me with such a forum in relation to the imposition of a meat tax. It looks as though the next saga will be the embargo on the export of merino lambs. I am greatly indebted to the Country Party for a lifetime of service to my electorate of Eden-Monaro.

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