A review committee looking at the operations of the Western Australian Meat Commission (WAMC) and WA Meat Marketing Corporation (WAMMC) has called for the eventual closure of both organisations.
The committee today released an interim report seeking comment from industry and other interested parties before it brings down a final report at the end of September.
Agriculture Minister Ernie Bridge said the review - which was required under legislation - was looking at whether direct Government involvement was appropriate in the acquisition, processing and marketing of livestock and derived products, and in the abattoir industry and associated trading and marketing activities generally.
It was asked to document the reasons for past Government involvement in meat marketing and processing, identify advantages or disadvantages with the present system, consider ways to improve effectiveness, and evaluate the consequences if the WAMC and WAMMC were disbanded.
The interim report says there are many examples of fragmentation and lack of effective communication between sectors of the lamb industry in WA, and this was a major reason for the poor and declining state of the industry.
It says the Government has a responsibility to ensure mechanisms are put in place to assist the future survival of the lamb industry, but direct Government involvement is no longer appropriate.
Key recommendations in the interim report include:
· Repeal of the Marketing of Meat Act from December 31 next year;
· Repeal of the Abattoir Act from December 31, 1994;
· Sale of WAMMC assets, with funds used to establish a Lamb Industry Trust Fund; and
· Sale of WAMC assets, with funds used to aid in the privatisation of the WAMC through establishment of an industry co-operative.
The recommendations would mean the WAMMC would cease to operate at the end of 1993, and the WAMC one year later.
In calling for a Lamb Industry Trust to be established, the committee says the Trust could use funds from the sale of WAMMC assets to:
· oversee the transition from present arrangements;
· ensure the industry acts in unison in its approach to lamb production, processing and marketing; and
· encourage research in areas such as product development, breed improvement and evaluation, improved methods of carcass description, over-the-hooks selling, and market investigation and development.
Disbanding the WAMC would result in the closure of Robb Jetty abattoir, and the committee therefore suggests a proportion of funds from WAMC asset realisation could be used to help establish a new greenfields abattoir to be run on a co-operative basis.
The review team included Professor David Lindsay from the University of WA, Sir Donald Eckersley, the inaugural president of the National Farmers' Federation, Dr Brian Martin, an agricultural economist, and Mr Jim Webster, a meat industry expert.
Copies of the interim report are available from the Department of Agriculture.