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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Meat Processing

27 November 2018

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, it was 
interesting listening to Dr Broad talk about a vision for Tasmania, a 
vision for the meat industry. Apparently, it is the first time we have 
heard Labor use that word in this place on a matter of policy. But it is 
not a vision to propose that there be a local facility for local producers
. It is commonsense and a statement of policy position. It is certainly 
no vision. We have not seen anything even approaching a vision from the 
Opposition since we returned to this place after the election. 

One of the issues we have in Tasmania is far too often we become captive 
to a major corporation or a major industry at the expense of local 
producers and local supply chains. It would appear that the same thing 
has happened here and it has left our primary products in the meat sector 
in the lurch. As I understand it, this is an issue that has been on the 
radar of government for some time. Yet we have come to a point where the 
Devonport abattoir is closing and our primary producers are being left in 
the lurch. 

I strongly recommend to the minister and to his Government that they look 
at the model being proposed, for example, by Jan Davis, former head of the 
Tasmania Farmers and Graziers Association, which is about a cooperative 
model that involves or produces -

Ms White - That was our model.

Ms O'CONNOR - That was not your vision; that is Jan Davis's vision.

Ms White - It is not actually; read the press releases.

Ms O'CONNOR - Your press release that articulated your vision?

Ms White - The press release identifies very clearly a cooperative to be 
examined.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. 

As I was saying, minister, it is a commonsense approach. Tim Morris, the 
former member for Lyons, would say that it puts the power back in the 
hands of primary producers. It makes sure that we are looking after our 
local producers first, protecting the local supply chains and not leaving 
industries in the lurch when corporations cut and run, as they so often do, 
from Tasmania. It is a cultural problem we have politically where we 
allow big corporations, whether it be Gunns Ltd or Tassal, for example, 
major corporations to call the shots with government. Then we become, as 
an economy, dependant on those major corporations so that when something 
happens, like the closure of the Devonport abattoir or the collapse of 
Gunns, the fragility of our small island economy becomes exposed.

If we are talking about some of the future challenges to the industry, I 
suggest that the erosion of our brand is a challenge to it. The erosion 
is coming about as a result of the assault on wilderness under this 
Liberal Government and the fact that Tasmania's wilderness underpins our 
brand but we have a government who wants to turn the World Heritage Area 
into a theme park. A brand must have integrity. This is a debate that we 
had the other night in this place on the Brand Tasmania Bill. Without 
integrity, the brand is weak. If we do not protect Tasmania's wilderness, 
the brand will be weakened. If the brand is weakened, it impacts on our 
primary producers and our export sector, as well as having broader 
economic implications. 

Another challenge for the meat industry, and this is not just in Tasmania 
but globally, is the accelerating trend of young people, particularly, 
choosing not to eat meat. The reasons that young people are making this 
choice are twofold. This is based on the evidence: they are making that 
choice for animal welfare reasons; and because livestock emissions are a 
major contributor to global warming. An informed generation of young 
people is walking away from the traditional, if you like, Australian diet. 
For example, at the Hill Street Grocer, you can have a vegan Christmas 
this year. There is a whole range of choices now for people who have 
chosen not to eat meat. 

How the industry tackles that is a major challenge for it. We have an 
edge in that the quality of the meat that is produced in Tasmania is of 
the highest possible standard. It is underpinned by a brand recognised 
globally but which we believe is fragile because of the policies of this 
Government. At the end of the day, for the industry dealing with the 
reality of young people making informed market choices will be a huge 
challenge in the future.

We will gladly support the proposal that has been put forward and dressed 
up as a vision by Labor. It is a good economic model, a collective 
approach, a cooperative. It brings all of the producers in and does 
things on a scale appropriate for Tasmania. It is focused on a future 
where we are protecting our brand and exporting quality produce overseas, 
but also making sure that people in Tasmania can have access to quality 
meat and vegetables. 

As we know, a lot of our best produce goes offshore. It is very hard for 
a Tasmanian, for example, to buy abalone or a crayfish. It is extremely 
expensive for the average person to buy King Island beef. Looking after 
the food security of our own people is really important and, as we know 
from the evidence of the community sector in Tasmania, we have food 
deserts where children and families cannot access quality food and fresh 
produce, and that should be a priority of any government. 

If Labor is serious about presenting a vision for agriculture and primary 
production they should also be talking about protecting the brand and the 
attributes that underpin it.