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Tuesday, 4 December 1973
Page: 4266

Mr NIXON (Gippsland) - I rise tonight to make a quite serious charge against a fellow member of Parliament. The charge is that he has been misleading, misrepresenting and distorting information about the purposes and recommendations of the meat prices inquiry of the Joint Committee on Prices, not only in his own electorate for shallow, shabby political reasons, but he has carried these distortions-

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member for Gippsland is not in order in reflecting on another member of the House.

Mr NIXON - I will not reflect on the honourable member if I can help it, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! It is not a matter of whether or not you can help it. The Standing Orders provide that you cannot reflect on a member of the House.

Mr NIXON - Well, Mr Speaker, he has carried these distortions beyond that to a much wider circle and indeed into this Parliament itself. I make these charges against the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan).

I told the honourable member last Thursday that I would be speaking on the adjournment debate on this matter.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honourable member for Gippsland is not allowed to reflect on another member of the House. He may criticise a speech or anything that has been said, or some action which has been taken, but he is not allowed to reflect on the personality of another member.

Mr NIXON - I take the point, Mr Speaker. The functions of the Committee are contained in its terms of reference and it is by the use of the terms of reference and the ignoring of the recommendations by the Committee, to which he is a party and also a signatory, that the honourable member for Eden-Monaro seeks to convey the impression that he did not support the recommendations by the

Committee inquiring into meat prices to impose an export tax but that he was a party only to a fact finding committee and not a party to a Committee that not only has the right to make but in fact did make recommendations to the Government.

Clearly, the terms of reference do not instruct the Committee, either way, but it is apparent from the recommendations that the Committee holds the view that it should recommend to the Government what action should be taken on its inquiries. This position has been supported publicly by the chairman of the Committee, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford). I should like to quote the first recommendation of the Prices Committee report on the stabilisation of meat prices. I draw to the attention of the House that each recommendation is positive in its approach and intent, thus further nailing the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. The first recommendation reads:

As the principal means of stabilising domestic meat prices steps be taken introduce a special flexible tax on beef exports; proceeds from this tax to be refunded to beef livestock producers with some of the proceeds set aside to establish a capital fund which should be used to improve technology in the meat industry and promote the industry;

Without question, that is a positive recommendation. I repeat: 'steps be taken to introduce a special flexibile tax on beef exports'. That positive recommendation was signed by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. Yet it is against those recommendations that the honourable member for Eden Monaro claims in this House, and also has claimed outside, that it is merely a fact finding committee. Not only is the member for EdenMonaro guilty of misleading the electorate but also his misleading has been exposed.

I have in my hand a copy of a letter circulated widely throughout the membership of the Australian Cattle Council, the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council and its constituent organisations. It is dated 11 October 1973 and signed by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. Not only does this letter restate the deceit on this issue but also it makes several other points that are either untrue or misleading.

Mr Whan - Put the letter into Hansard.

Mr NIXON - I seek leave to incorporate the letter in Hansard.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -

Dear Sir,

In answer to your communication regarding an export tax on meat I would like to inform you that the Government has rejected the suggestion that it should impose export taxes or impose quotas on meat exported from Australia.

On 3 May 1973 the House of Representatives asked the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices to consider the stabilisation of meat prices.

Until this committee reported to Parliament on 20 September the Government could not properly reach a decision on meat price stabilisation.

As soon as the committee tabled its report the Primary Industry Committee of the Government considered and rejected the recommendations relating to export taxes and quotas. This decision was supported by Cabinet and Caucus.

This action was in complete agreement with the views that had been expressed by the Minister for Primary Industry.

As early as the 30th August the Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony claimed that the Government had decided to impose an export tax on meat. Later in the House of Representatives he admitted that he had made similar statements on earlier occasions. Of course, Mr Anthony had no basis or authority for making such a statement.

Any impression that the Government intended to impose meat export taxes was created by Mr Anthony. Many people in the industry were mislead by his statements.

The choice of the Joint Parliamentary Committee to give advice on this issue was significant. Normally the advice would be obtained from a confidential interdepartmental committee. By turning to a Joint Committee the Government made it possible for the views of industry groups to be considered.

In order to ensure that unbiased advice is given the Joint Committee must restrict its report to the terms of reference and its recommendations to the evidence before the Committee.

The Committee was asked to advise on methods of stabilising meat prices. It could hardly say there were none. Possible methods were reviewed and the limitations of these methods were set out in the report. On the basis of the evidence before the Committee a meat tax was seen to be the most likely device although reservations about its effectiveness were expressed.

A dissent report failed to consider methods of stabilising meat prices and did not answer the terms of reference. The dissenters also considered evidence which has not been examined by the Committee.

To ensure complete impartiality in the proceedings of the Committee, I signed the factual report produced by the Joint Committee. I opposed the tax and quota recommendations in the political committees associated with the Government.

On 16 September I agreed to appear on Federal File because Mr Nixon intended to speak on meat taxes. In the interview I made it quite clear that my comments would be restricted to the public evidence given at the Committee hearings.

The discussion was restricted to two proposals to reduce domestic prices; they were quotas and taxes. In answer to the question 'Which of these proposals did I favour ', I replied that the most workable appears to an export tax. I never at any time said that I would support the introduction of quotas or taxes on meat.

The use of Joint Committees to further political objectives must cause the Government to reconsider their existence. Obviously the Government is not going to allow the Opposition to turn these fact finding groups into an excuse to create mischief in the electorate. A reversion to the safer anonymous inter-departmental committees would deprive industry groups the opportunity to express their views to Government. The attitude and actions of the Country Party in regard to the Meat Prices Committee must be the cause of concern.

Yours fairthfully,


Member for Eden Monaro

Mr NIXON - I thank the honourable member for Eden-Monaro. He does not know what he has done to himself. Also, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro in this letter attacks my friend and colleague the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony) for properly carrying out his duty in informing the industry that the Government was considering either quotas or taxes on export meat and said that he - my leader - had no authority to make such statements. Of course the Leader of the Country Party does not need advice from anyone, least of all a new chum like the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, as to what statements he should make. More importantly, the Leader of the Country Party gave his warnings to the industry on the basis of direct Government action and direct Government statements.

Firstly, the Government called for the Australian Meat Board to recommend a method of stabilising meat prices. Then, when the Meat Board report did not support any such proposal, the Government referred the matter to the Joint Committee on Prices. Both these actions by the Government were accompanied by a stream of articles which caused concern to the industry. The proposition by the honourable member for Eden-Monaro is that the actions by the Government caused no harm or alarm but -that the statements made by the Leader of the Country Party did do so. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro is making himself look ridiculous. How right did the Leader of the Country Party prove to be? The Prices Committee majority report, to which the honourable member for EdenMonaro is a signatory, recommends that steps be taken to introduce an export tax. It has onlybeen by the further awareness created by my leader, the right honourable J. D. Anthony, in drawing to the industry's attention that such a proposal had real prospects that industry activity was stimulated to a degree that, when combined with opposition by my Party and the Liberal Party, the Government backed away.

What is more, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro had the effrontery to say in this letter that the dissenting report did not answer the terms of reference. That is the very charge that I made of the majority report on the day it was tabled in the House. I said that it went outside the Committee's terms of reference. The plain fact is that the dissenting report was supported by the Government's own instrumentality, the Australian Meat Board. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro finally repeats in his letter that he was only a party to a factual report but opposed the tax in Caucus and on committees. If the latter is true - we only have his word for it, and on his performance up to date I find it hard to accept - why then is he so lacking in integrity or intestinal fortitude that he will avoid the truth about the Prices Committee report on stabilisation of meat prices? To use a well known French expression that you, Mr Speaker, would understand, coming as you do from that very important suburb of Redfern, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, by his own words, is un sacre menteur.

Mr Hunt - What does that mean?

Mr NIXON - You work it out.

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