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Labor Matter of Public Importance - Meat Processing

Parliamentary Activity - Tuesday, 27 November 2018, Cassy O'Connor MP


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.