HOMEBUSH ABATTOIR CORPORATION (DISSOLUTION AND TRANSFER) BILL
Debate resumed from 24th October.
(Port Stephens) [8.8]: The Opposition does not oppose the legislation. The explanatory note on the front of the bill states clearly that the objects of the bill are: to dissolve the Homebush Abattoir Corporation, constituted by the Meat
Industry Act 1978; to constitute a body corporate with the name Homebush Bay Ministerial Corporation, to transfer the assets, liabilities and staff of the dissolved corporation to the new corporation and to give it certain functions in relation to the transferred property and other property acquired by it; and to amend various Acts consequentially. Those objects to me signal very clear intentions. The Opposition is aware of the need for administrative changes by way of the body corporate for the Homebush Bay Ministerial Corporation. This bill relates to the transfer of assets, liabilities and staff. It will achieve those goals. Though the bill may be necessary in those respects its ancillary consequences will have grave ramifications for meat wholesalers and their customers in the Sydney metropolitan area and slightly beyond.
The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs might suggest that this is not relevant to the bill but I assure him that the passage of this legislation will see the demise of the central meat distribution centre that has provided a valuable public service for the Sydney region. These are not issues separate form others in the bill; they are part and parcel of the whole structure. If wholesalers are forced to leave the present facility at Homebush and are not provided with an alternative site, the people of Sydney will have to pay up to $1 a kilo more for red meat. That will add hundreds of dollars to many families' annual expenditures. All this has been caused by the mismanagement of those opposite who have been able to build racetracks but mismanage a meat service that has contributed much to metropolitan Sydney. Later, the honourable member for Mount Druitt will speak about the need to clear the land at Homebush and its connection with the Olympic Games bid for Sydney. The Opposition is sceptical about the financial arrangements that have been made regarding the transfer of the Royal Agricultural Society from Centennial Park to the Homebush site. In offering these criticisms the Opposition is endeavouring to be constructive and to assist the House, as all loyal Oppositions should do.
Honourable members will be aware that the Homebush Abattoir Corporation and its predecessors had been supported by successive New South Wales governments from the 1840s to 1988. The corporation provided facilities for the slaughtering and distribution of red meat in the metropolitan area. The 1988 election policy of the coalition parties committed the Government to closing the slaughtering facilities at Homebush. The coalition parties promised that if elected they would retain a major centre for the wholesale distribution of red meat. Until now the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs has kept that promise but now he has decided that the wholesale meat industry is to be removed from Homebush Bay. The first proposal was to move the wholesale meat distribution centre to the Clyde Showground but at the eleventh hour that fell through. I understand the present proposal is to use railway land at Chullora. A site there is to be made available on a freehold basis or on a long-term lease at full market rates. It was expected that the lease would return 11 per cent on unserviced land. Site development and construction costs would have to be met by the meat wholesalers. But that proposal looks after only the few rich wholesalers who can afford to meet those costs. A whole range of others cannot meet the costs involved and the red meat distribution system will become fragmented.
I am pleased that the honourable member for Murrumbidgee is in the Chamber. He has been a great supporter of the marketing system. There is no reason why the Government cannot provide a site for the distribution of red meat, as has been done with the fruit and vegetable market and the fish market - even though the Sydney fish markets are a scandal. It is essential to protect meat marketing and give wholesalers a central distribution site. The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs has acted arrogantly and carelessly. He does not intend to provide any assistance to the meat industry, which is on its knees in rural areas of the State. Producers should be able to sell as much meat as possible at the highest price they can get for it. The Minister is on record as having said:
Governments have been most generous in the past, namely, the Government's maintenance of a significantly large debt accrued by the Homebush Abattoir Corporation -
In 1988 that debt was $76 million:
- and the Government's generous assistance package to the county council abattoirs of $48 million in 1984.
Neither of those expenditures has been of any benefit to the wholesale meat market.
The honourable member did not write this speech himself. He has plagiarised it.
The Minister interjects. I shall repeat what he said if he chooses to find fault with my quotation of his words. I did not come here looking for an argument but to put the Opposition's point of view constructively, to demonstrate to the people of New South Wales that it is essential to have a red meat distribution centre in the Sydney metropolitan area. Crazy decisions were made during the time of the Askin Liberal Government, which wasted $27 million on refurbishing a 50-year-old abattoir. Good money was thrown after bad, merely to maintain an export licence, or to stroke gently the ego of the chief executive at that time. That $27 million and the interest on that sum would equal the losses incurred by the Homebush Abattoir Corporation. That fiasco and the events surrounding the county council marketing of meat, following the terrible decisions made in the 1950s, left no alternative but to reform the system. Ratepayers today still bear the cost of the bad economic decisions that were made regarding the eight county council abattoirs. Members who came to this Parliament in the 1980s have been made aware of what their forefathers had to pay because of those bad decisions. The decision to dissolve the Homebush Abattoir Corporation and not replace it -
How can our forefathers be paying for it now?
How many fathers do you have?
I can assure you that if you want to bring your fathers into -
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Chappell):
Order! The honourable member for Port Stephens will address his remarks through the Chair and return to the substance of the debate.
Members on this side of the House can identify their fathers but I have my doubt about a similar ability being shared by members on the Government benches. I turn now to the legal aspects of this bill. The Homebush Abattoir Corporation was established to serve as a central meat distribution point for the population of the Sydney metropolitan area - 3.45 million people, estimated to rise to 5 million by the year 2010. Henceforth, under the proposed Homebush Bay Ministerial Corporation there will be no centralised system for the distribution of meat. The State is going backwards rather than attempting to meet the needs of the future. The Government is a failure. It is unable to make a decision. It is unable to deliver the services and facilities that the people need and demand. Meat wholesalers claim that about 35 per cent of Sydney's meat consumption goes through this marketing system but the Minister and his officers claim it is a lot less than 35 per cent. On 25th May, 1988, shortly after the honourable member for Lachlan became the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs in this Chamber he said:
The distribution complex supplies about 45 per cent of Sydney's weekly requirement of meat and therefore there is a present need for its continued operation.
Though the Minister may have been naive -
But he was right.
Of course he was right, yet a minute ago he shook his head and said I was incorrect.
But you were referring to what is happening now.
Does the honourable member understand about the distribution of meat? Has he had the sort of briefing that Opposition members were given? Have the lobby groups been to see him? The honourable member comes from the banana republic of Coffs Harbour. His constant interjections show that he has not got a clue about the meat industry.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Chappell):
Order! The honourable member for Port Stephens will address his remarks through the Chair.
Members opposite do not understand that because of this legislation the price of meat will rise by $1 a kilo. The Government will be responsible for that price increase. The producer will not receive the benefit of the additional money that the consumers will pay for meat. The additional money will be used in administering the fragmented marketing system, which is not in the best interests of the people of New South Wales. Much of Sydney's meat supplies are transported direct from country abattoirs. It is clear to Opposition members that if meat from country abattoirs is sent to a centralised place for distribution the consumers, producers and the industry will benefit. A better variety and quality of meat will be available. The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs said that the Homebush Abattoir Corporation would remain open - another broken promise. This Government is not delivering the services that it promised. The Opposition has no option but to argue the case on behalf of the people of New South Wales.
The New South Wales Farmers Association has said that there should be a central wholesale red meat distribution centre. What would such a centre cost the Government? The Government has surplus land. The people in the industry are prepared to construct their own facility. All they require is a serviced site at a reasonable price, which is a far better economic proposition than other forms of marketing, yet the Government blindly continues with its ideology, which is hurting the people of this State. The present Homebush Abattoir Corporation is a government trading enterprise returning a dividend to the State. It should be given the chance to get on with the job. Instead it encounters nothing but arrogance and difficulties from the Government. The history of the Homebush abattoir complex is both long and complicated. I have touched only briefly on some of the issues. What is important to the meat consumer is that there should be a healthy future for this industry. The Government has failed once again to honour a promise. The Government is doomed. It has failed to listen to the people and it has failed to act on their behalf. The people deserve far more than ideology and hype.
(Coffs Harbour) [8.28]: In 1988 when in opposition the coalition parties pledged to close down the disgracefully inefficient and polluting abattoirs at Homebush Bay. The present Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs achieved that
goal in June 1988. His action prevented the haemorrhaging of taxpayers' funds used to prop up the abattoir without compromising the supply and price of meat to Sydney consumers. The Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs subsequently closed the saleyards in May 1990, thereby achieving further savings for the taxpayers of New South Wales, something that the former Labor Government never did.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Chappell):
Order! The honourable member for Port Stephens has had his opportunity to participate in this debate.
This bill deals with the final stages of the winding up of the Homebush Abattoir Corporation. The corporation no longer has an effective function other than to manage its assets and liabilities. It will be wound up on 31st December. The new vehicle for managing the current responsibilities of the corporation will the Homebush Bay Ministerial Corporation, which will commence its operations on 1st January, 1992. The object of the legislation is to establish a more appropriate legal entity to manage the considerable lands under the control of the present corporation. It will permit the new corporation to properly develop the land under its control so as to allow the implementation of the Homebush Bay strategy, to which a more co-ordinated approach will be taken.
As honourable members are aware the strategy encompasses, among many things, Sydney's Olympics 2000 bid. Eventually the new corporation will be transferred to the portfolio of the Minister for Local Government and Minister for Cooperatives and will be under the direct control of the Property Services Group. It will be subject to the audit reporting requirements of the Public Finance and Audit Act. The hypocrisy of the shadow minister for agriculture is highlighted by the extent of outstanding liabilities, of the order of $13 million, that were run up during the term in office of the previous Labor Government. That debt will be fully funded by the development of stage two of the Australia Centre at Homebush, and it will be eliminated by the financial year 1995-96. That will be possible because of the financial management expertise of this Government. The previous Labor Government never had that expertise. You have adopted scaremongering tactics by telling the residents of Sydney that the price of meat will increase by $1 a kilo. That is absolutely disgraceful.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Chappell):
Order! The member for Coffs Harbour will address his remarks through the Chair.
Some of the remaining staff of the corporation, 30 in number, will transfer to the new corporation. Those who will not be required by the new corporation will be offered redundancy arrangements that have been approved by the Public Employment Industrial Relations Authority. Funding for such payments to the staff of the corporation was set aside in 1988. I commend the Minister for pursuing the wind up of the Homebush Abattoir Corporation in such a purposeful and efficient manner. The previous Labor Government intended to wind up the corporation but it never got around to it. It was more intent on wasting money. When in government the Labor Party did not have the guts to introduce initiatives to realise savings and efficiencies similar to those achieved by this Minister. I support the legislation and congratulate the Minister on its presentation to the Parliament.
(Mount Druitt) [8.32]: I inform the House that the Opposition supports the bill. I make the observation in passing, however, that Government
supporters always seem to be congratulating themselves on creating unemployment. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour spent most of his time congratulating the Minister and the Government on winding up this corporation. The Government continually congratulates itself on putting people out of work. The object of the bill is to dissolve the Homebush Abattoir Corporation and to establish a new corporation to manage the Homebush site, which will include the sporting facilities to be constructed for the year 2000 Olympics. The Opposition has had two briefings with the Minister and his advisers about a number of matters. I was advised that the long service and superannuation entitlements of employees of the old corporation will be protected by the provisions of the bill. Thirty employees will be affected in that regard. Meat industry operations on the site will be phased out. I shall have more to say about that later in my contribution. Subclause (1) of clause 7 provides:
7. (1) A person who was employed by the Homebush Abattoir Corporation immediately before the transfer becomes, upon transfer, an employee of the Ministerial Corporation.
The provisions of part 4 will guarantee the superannuation, long service and employment-related entitlements of employees. I accept the advice of the Minister and his advisers about those protections. I was advised also during those briefings that the new corporation will be involved in the management of the Homebush site and, therefore, the Olympic bid that New South Wales has made. On 23rd September, 1993, in Monaco the city that will host the year 2000 Olympics will be named. The New South Wales bid is strong and well co-ordinated. All athletes who will take part in the Olympic Games in the year 2000 will need to be accommodated in the one village. The Homebush site has the capacity to provide that essential accommodation. Nineteen sporting venues will be located within 10 minutes travel of the Olympic village. The central location of the site is a strong feature of the bid. Most of the training facilities for athletes will be available at the site also. The marathon event will conclude at Homebush. Along with Darling Harbour - which has had its share of criticism from Government supporters - and the Penrith Lakes scheme, Homebush will play a significant role in the New South Wales bid to host the Olympic Games.
Though the Opposition supports the bill, it has some concerns about a number of matters. The Meat and Allied Trades Federation's wholesale meat distribution centre at the site must be relocated. Surely the Government can provide assistance in that regard. It would be in the best interests of consumers, producers and wholesalers if a market for the distribution of meat in the Sydney metropolitan area centrally located. That important aspect was argued strongly by the honourable member for Port Stephens. The court action that was initiated by the wholesalers was not influenced in any way by this legislation. It contains no provisions for retrospectivity. Producers and wholesalers agree that the legislation should not be delayed. The Opposition is eager, therefore, to have the legislation pass through the Parliament to enable the new corporation to get on with the task of managing the site. As my colleague the honourable member for Port Stephens said, the Opposition is concerned about the situation so far as consumers are concerned. It is concerned also about the Minister's apparent unwillingness to reconsider other options for a distribution centre, and that no assistance has been offered by the Government in this regard. That is an appalling state of affairs. Though it may be necessary for the meat distributors to move from the Homebush site, no assistance is being offered by the Government for that relocation.
The Minister seems unwilling or unable to acknowledge that consumers will pay more for meat if there is no central market. The honourable member for Port Stephens was interrupted continually by members of the National Party who scoffed at this point.
From statistics gathered by the Opposition it is estimated that consumers in western Sydney could pay an extra $300 a year for red meat for a family of four people. That figure is based on increased costs associated with meat distribution if there is no central city facility. However, the Minister ignores this fact and scoffs at the claims. Apart from this gigantic and unnecessary impost on ordinary working families, the Minister's stubbornness will also cause hardship to suburban butcher shops and other retail outlets. Nothing that has been said by the Minister will relieve this hardship. Butchers are concerned about the apparent loss of a central meat distribution point. The industry is stunned by what it sees as misrepresentations by the Minister of its arguments. In a briefing note made available by the Minister's office to members of the coalition no mention is made of the offer of the industry to build, at its own cost, a modern and efficient new distribution centre if some assistance is provided to relocate to suitable land.
I understand that Mr Bill Patterson of the Meat and Allied Trades Federation has claimed in correspondence to the Leader of the Opposition that the Minister's briefing notes make no reference to the constant message to the Government, that is, to lease State Rail Authority land at Chullora which would enable the industry to build a new meat market at no expense to the Government. The industry has made it clear that it has not requested that the land be given to it, nor has it requested the building of a new market. The proposition is to the contrary, yet the Minister's head remains in the sand on this issue. The Minister continues to ignore these concerns and to scoff at the claims made by industry spokesmen and by the Opposition. Can the Minister imagine the chaos and confusion if Sydney did not have a centralised fruit and vegetable market? Can the Minister imagine what the agents and growers at Flemington would say if they were told that the market had to close because the land was wanted for something else, and if those agents and growers were offered assistance to relocate to land at Chullora on the basis that they purchase the land for up to $6 million and, as well as that, build their own markets? One can imagine the outcry from market operators at Flemington were that to occur. This is a ludicrous alternative that is being offered to the meat industry. It is vacating land of about 400 acres, valued at about $250 million. It is land which has been used by the meat industry for more than 70 years.
I should like to place on the record a few matters of importance. It is important for the wholesale meat industry that these issues be recorded because the dispute is between the Minister and the meat industry. On 6th November, 1990, the then Acting Minister for Administrative Services, the Hon. Ian Causley, officially advised that Chullora land of approximately 4.5 hectares - 11 acres - was available for purchase for $7.2 million or at the outrageous rental of 11 per cent of that value. In both instances the nominated values were in excess of market-value, as subsequent events have proved. On 27th November, 1990, the Property Services Group advised that the Chullora land was available on the basis of full commercial rates for the occupation of the site. On 14th January, 1991, a delegation of wholesalers met with the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs and stated that the success of the Chullora project required a joint effort between government and industry and that, if a satisfactory agreement could not be reached on the land valuation of 11 acres, the Minister's assistance was sought to intervene to ensure the success of the project. On 2nd May a letter was sent to Minister Armstrong seeking an urgent meeting to report on the feasibility study completed by Civil and Civic. No reply or acknowledgment was received to this material which emphasised that the $7.2 million land valuation was excessive and that on such a valuation there could be no likelihood of a meat market becoming a reality.
[Extension of time agreed to.
On 1st July, a few months before the Opposition was briefed by the Government on this issue, a letter was sent to the Minister again seeking an urgent meeting and referring to the May correspondence. On 10th July an industry delegation met the Minister who expressed disappointment with what was referred to as the industry's lack of progress and its alleged failure to negotiate with the Property Services Group which was still adamant that $7.2 million was the value of the land. This is contrary to the claims that, since this issue has been on foot for the past year or so, the industry has been slow to respond to the many calls from the Government. I am told that at that meeting the Minister indicated he was not willing to make any recommendations regarding land valuations. On 18th July, after a three-week delay, industry representatives met with a Property Services Group officer, Mr Andrew Cappie-Wood, and the advice still was that the land value at Chullora was $7.2 million. They could not shake the $7.2 million. The industry was told that only a very minor reduction could be considered and that the Property Services Group could work only on current commercial values - without exception.
On 28th August an industry delegation met with Minister Peacocke and Property Services Group officers. The Minister offered a stepped rental for the early years of occupancy, to be recouped in later years. The Minister was informed that the revised valuation of land at Chullora - now reduced to $6 million - could not be financed by the wholesalers who would be responsible for financing a new $10 to $12 million meat market built at no expense to the New South Wales Government. The proposal to lease the land at a peppercorn rental with industry responsible for the construction, management and supervision of the market is not an unreasonable proposal. This is so when it is understood that ownership of the land was vested in the Crown. If for whatever reason the project was not successful, the Government always owned the land. I understand that reference has been made to a cold storage facility at Prospect as a possible alternative site. The industry claims that the site is not suitable and further refutes that its alleged suitability was confirmed by the Meat Industry Authority. In fact, it has been drawn to my attention that the chairman of the authority, Mr Carter, has complained of the unknown American entrepreneur - this Minister always seems to find unknown entrepreneurs - who is canvassing this project and about the misuse of the name of the Meat Industry Authority and promotional material issued. Opposition members might think this a familiar story - shades of the Dutton trout hatchery.
Not Jacques le Suave!
Not another Jacques le Suave!
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Merton):
Order! The honourable member will be heard in silence.
The relevance of this debate is that the Government has not honoured its pledge to assist with the retention of a wholesale meat market in Sydney. It is clear to me and to the Opposition that the wholesalers are not seeking a taxpayer subsidy to prop up a commercial operation. Industry discussions as long ago as 18 months show what the position is - lease the land at Chullora and the industry will ensure the new market is built. The suggestion that Homebush supplies between about 10 per cent and 15 per cent of Sydney's meat is incorrect. Current throughput averages 1,500 tonnes weekly, which is approximately 35 per cent of the Sydney meat market. The Government has not addressed the issue of what will happen to that meat when the cental
market facility ceases to exist. The Government has not addressed the question of what will happen when the inevitable prohibition occurs of large refrigerated meat wagons delivering direct from country abattoirs to Sydney's already choked suburban streets. The Government has not addressed the issue of Sydney's future needs for a central meat market.
The Opposition supports as inevitable the measures in the bill to close the abattoir and stockyards, and the wholesalers offer the same support. We do not like certain aspects of it, but we accept that it is history. However, the Minister agrees there will always be a need for a modern, centralised meat market despite his strenuous efforts to deny this undertaking. Unfortunately those assurances have not borne fruit. I ask the Minister to address those concerns when he replies to this debate. The Opposition supports the bill. It supports the role of the Homebush Abattoir Corporation in the Olympic bid. We are concerned about the meat industry. We are concerned about the removal of toxic waste from the site. We were assured a few days ago at a briefing by officials from the Public Works Department that the removal of toxic material from the site is going ahead as planned. With those assurances we are happy to assist the Government in getting this bill through the House. The Homebush site will be the central plank for the Government and the community's bid for the Olympic games to be held - we hope in Sydney - in the year 2000.
(Auburn) [8.51]: I wish to contribute to this debate because the Homebush abattoir is in my electorate. Part 3, clause 5, subclause (2) of the bill deals with the dissolution of the Homebush Abattoir Corporation and its assets, rights and liabilities. I am concerned about the blue asbestos at the old Homebush abattoir site. Paragraph (b) of subclause (3) states that on transfer the following provisions have effect:
(b) the rights and liabilities of the Homebush Abattoir Corporation comprised in the business undertaking . . .
And paragraph (d):
(d) any act, matter or thing done or omitted to be done in relation to the business undertaking . . .
Paragraphs (a) and (b) of subclause (4) also refer to the assets, rights or liabilities of the Homebush Abattoir Corporation. The honourable member for Mount Druitt referred to assurances given for the removal of toxic waste, but I would like an assurance from the Minister that the blue asbestos will be removed from that site in accordance with regulations. Any government department or individual that does not comply with environmental protection requirements will be in breach of this legislation. In accordance with clause 11(1) of the bill the Governor will have the power to make regulations. I want an assurance that the blue asbestos will be removed from those buildings and disposed of safely so that the people in the Auburn electorate will not suffer as they suffered when the buildings on that site were partially pulled down a few years ago.
(Lachlan), Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs [8.53] in reply: I thank the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, who spoke in the debate on behalf of the Government. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour is a first-termer in this Parliament but already he is making outstanding contributions. This is probably because of his knowledge of rural affairs, and his capacity to research matters and present a balanced case. I thank also the honourable member for Mount Druitt, who has done his homework - and he obviously does most of his own preparation - on agricultural and
rural matters. As usual, the honourable member for Port Stephens, the Opposition shadow spokesman on agriculture did not do his homework. He did not understand what he was talking about and he did not address the bill. What did he do? He plagiarised the briefing notes given to him by some meatworkers at Homebush abattoir. I have the same notes. He made what is called a multiple speech; the notes can be used by multiple speakers. Of course, we know a fair bit about the honourable member for Port Stephens. He used to work for the Department of Agriculture so we know how good he was. I rest my case. I understand - and I have this on good authority - that recently there have been strong moves to ensure that the honourable member for Port Stephens remains in his position as Opposition spokesman on agriculture. We believe that if he remains in that position the Opposition will not be able to claim one vote in rural New South Wales.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Merton):
Order! The Minister has the call. He will be heard in silence.
Let us see whether we can put in Hansard
a bit of truth, a bit of common sense and a bit of balance in regard to the Homebush abattoir. I will address some of the points that have been made tonight by speakers in the debate. Earlier three speakers identified the reasons for the closure of Homebush abattoir. The works are old and inefficient; they were designed at the turn of the century. The Opposition does not understand that the facilities were designed in the days of train transport - before motor transport - and in the days of seasonal abattoir operation. There is no need for works of that size in the 1990s, let alone the next century. There is no doubt that the Homebush abattoir was a blight on this city and it created massive pollution problems.
What about the cost of meat?
The honourable member for Port Stephens had his go and he did not do very well; he made a fool of himself.
Order! I call the honourable member for Mount Druitt to order.
Homebush abattoir discharged into the Sydney sewerage system an amount of animal fat that was equal to the entire contribution of the rest of the city. For 12 years the former Labor Government did nothing. Its Minister for Agriculture did not have the capacity, the courage or the ability to address that major environmental problem or the fact that the abattoirs were outmoded and certainly not necessary. As I have said, the works and the facilities have a colourful history. Tonight we have in the Chamber Mr Terry Hukins, a long-time employee of the Homebush Abattoir Corporation. Earlier I was thinking about some of the other colourful personalities, such as the Riddell brothers. I do not know whether honourable members remember some of those people - some of the greatest stockmen this country has ever seen. Bernie Steege is one of the greatest stock auctioneers this country has ever seen.
I bet the honourable member would not be game to say that to his face. Bernie Steege is over 80. He is probably one of the greatest livestock experts in this country. We have seen the passing of a whole era. Most of the
opposition to this bill concerns the future of the present operators at Homebush. Opposition members have failed to state - probably because they do not understand - that the Flemington fruit and vegetable markets and the Sydney Fish Market are producers' markets designed to service producers and to provide them with a market-place. Members of the Opposition do not understand that sheep, goats and cattle are marketed at the point of production through the saleyards provided, in the main, by local government and, in some cases, by State governments - in many cases as a result of the county council development in the Askin-Cutler years. Some of the most successful meatworks in New South Wales are the legacies of that county council development in the 1960s. Opposition members do not understand that when we talk about the lessees at Homebush at the moment, it is a normal, commercial operation to do with the processing of meat. That is the second stage of meat industry distribution. Honourable members opposite are asking for a special deal - a sweetheart deal for a select group of people. They are used to doing this. The Labor Party specialises in sweetheart deals.
Honourable members opposite made it an art form. The record shows that. Let us get the facts straight. This Government has set aside a portion of land at the former site of the State Rail Authority at Chullora for the development of a central meat complex to replace the current operation at Homebush Bay. This land is available to the Homebush lessees at appropriate commercial rates, subject to negotiation with the Property Services Group. The Property Services Group is prepared to negotiate with the lessees on all their issues of concern. The Minister for Local Government and Minister for Cooperatives, for example, has undertaken to appoint an independent third party to arbitrate on the valuation of the Chullora land. Members opposite failed to mention that because it was not in their briefing notes. The Minister has agreed to arbitrate the valuation of the Chullora land, the value to determine the rental. Though the lessees' view is that the valuation by the Property Services Group is too high, to my knowledge the lessees have not yet responded to the Minister's offer. The lessees probably did not tell the Opposition about that so I will not accuse it of fudging the figures. If the lessees do not wish to utilise this option, there is at least one other cold storage site in Sydney, at Prospect, close to their current operations and ready for occupation after some minor preparatory work. The Meat Industry Authority has made a preliminary inspection of the Prospect site and has confirmed its suitability. Indeed, I understand that at least one operator has already moved into that facility.
The Government has pledged every possible assistance to the lessees other than financial assistance or assistance in kind. The Government believes it is not appropriate for the taxpayers of New South Wales to subsidise what is purely a commercial operation. Currently the Government - that is, the taxpayers of New South Wales - is subsidising rentals at the present site by 25 per cent. I bet the lessees did not brief the Opposition about that. The lessees have been given an undertaking that if they produce tangible evidence of their plans to relocate from Homebush Bay, consideration will be given to extending the date of lease termination by an appropriate period of time. To date representatives of the lessees, notably Mr Bill Patterson, Executive Director of the Meat and Allied Trades Federation of Australia, have not produced concrete plans for relocating the lessees from Homebush. Those lessees claim that the Government has an obligation to provide a central meat industry complex similar to the fish market at Pyrmont and the Sydney markets at Flemington.
This has been rejected on the basis that no such undertaking has ever been given and the Government does not believe that the taxpayers should be subsidising a commercial operation. The operations at Flemington and Pyrmont were commissioned
by the previous government and had different circumstances applying to their operations. Additionally it should be noted that these markets are growers markets, not commercial markets as proposed by Meat and Allied Trades Federation. The lessees at Homebush Bay currently supply between 10 and 15 per cent of Sydney's meat - not the figures quoted by members opposite. The honourable member for Port Stephens quoted from his cheat sheet, which I have in front of me, because he cannot string three words together himself. The eventual termination of the leases at Homebush Bay will not affect the supply and pricing of meat in Sydney. Meat supplies can be sourced directly from country abattoirs and that is currently happening. With approximately 85 to 90 per cent of Sydney's red meat supplies coming from country abattoirs, or from interstate in some cases, there is no reason why 100 per cent of these supplies could not be supplied, if necessary, in this fashion. There is no validity or logic in the argument being put forward by the Opposition.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Merton):
Order! The Minister will be heard in silence.
The Opposition claims that the Government has reneged on its election policies and promises. The Government has bent over backwards to endeavour to accommodate the interests of these lessees. The Homebush site has a wonderful future. I hope it will be chosen to allow Australia to host the Olympic Games in the year 2000. I look forward with anticipation to the Royal Easter Show under the prestigious Royal Agricultural Society being held on that site. A great jewel in the crown of the Government in years to come will be the setting down of foundations for a permanent home for the most versatile and well-recognised royal show in the world.
Order! I call the honourable member for Port Stephens to order.
Motion agreed to.
Bill read a second time and passed through remaining stages.