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Thursday, 7 May 1970

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) - I rise to direct the attention of the Parliament to the problems of some of our people at home. Behind the facade of words that Australia is the envy of the world for its progress, its material advantages and its economic growth, we find that in the past 10 years we have lagged behind most advanced nations. Behind the words is the performance. The performance is that Australia has not in its economic growth matched the performance of countries such as Italy, Germany, Holland, Austria and even Ireland, or made itself much better at all. Complacency is one of the features of the last 2 decades of administration. Behind the words designed to keep young Australia from being restless about its future or questioning the present is a performance that for 10 years and more has been sluggish and inadequate in a young nation. Australia in the last decade in its economy must be likened to the arthritic who does not want to be found out so he wears a neon sign that says: '1 am fit. I am the greatest. But do not look too closely'.

Typical of the way in which important segments of the community have been left to the winds of economic exploitation by disinterested Government, exposed to lack of guidelines and the absence of national planning, is the egg industry. The position facing the Australian poultry industry is that in 1965 the present Government brought to birth a fowl tax. I should say that the word is 'fowl' in case there are any worries about it. That means for every adult female bird over 6 months the owner pays $1 a year. Over the years while struggling to pay the levy thousands of small farmers have been driven out of the industry. Recently the Federal Council of the Poultry Farmers Association presented a stabilisation scheme to the Australian Agricultural Council but it was rejected. Now abandoned by the Government we find the march to monopoly control has been accelerated. A leading industry spokesman, Mr S. Sciberras, summed up the position very well on behalf of the industry and the producers when he said: 1 am convinced that without some equity in the industry my time us a farmer is limited. 1 am convinced that well over 80% of the producers in the Commonwealth by ballot would also express support for production control.

The aim of the stabilisation scheme that has been rejected by the Government was to do 2 things: to stability for the family farmer and cheaper and better quality eggs for the Australian housewife. I raise the plight of this industry today but let us be quite clear that its problems are common to many rural industries at this time - industries based on independent settlement, industries efficient and effective but exposed because of Government policies to a vicious cost-price squeeze combined with a com plete abdication of responsibility to provide production guidelines. If the situation :s, as Government spokesmen claim, that there are no market outlets, that future prospects are grim, that Australia's troubles arc only part of the world's troubles, how can they explain that every time a family is banished from a particular plot of dirt because of the costprice squeeze there is always an overseas corporation waiting in line to take it up?

The egg industry to which I direct attention was described by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) as one of Australia's important primary industries. He summed up the problems as increasing production and reliance on export markets. Australia's export egg surplus has increased from 20.2 million dozen to an estimated 38 million in the current season - an increase of 88%. The Minister said that the industry must relate its production objectives to the market prospects. Then, returning to his Pontius Pilate stance, he washed his hands of the problems and said, in effect: 'Get on with it.' But the Minister knows and the Government knows that it is not the industry which controls costs; it is not the industry which determines freights; and it is not the industry which sets the basis for negotiations with countries such as Japan and England to which we sell major quantities of eggs at this time. The first responsibility in this industry, as in other industries, must l e with the Government to determine firstly, whether it wants to have an Australian egg industry; and secondly, whether it wants to see Australian family units as the mainstay of the industry - whether this is Government policy; thirdly, whether it will provide the guidelines necessary for the production required at home and abroad. Once the Government does this exercise then it should of course provide and be prepared to provide the stable basis for the industry to go forward, or if the Government decides that the industry is expendable then it is honest and proper and right for the Government to say so and then take proper steps to phase it out and to reallocate the people and the resources in it

In the present situation with Pontius Pilate presiding - in spirit at least - what is happening is that Canadian and British interests are moving in quickly. The prospects are they will take over and dominate the Australian egg industry in a reasonably short time. This will abdicate control of the family's breakfast egg to board rooms in Montreal and London. They will determine the size, the quality and the price. In such a situation of absentee control the housewife's interests will suffer and the Australian egg producer will simply follow the exodus from Australia's farms which the Government is accepting and by its attitude has been encouraging. If this is to be contested, if this is to be halted, then let the Government make a modest start to stability in the countryside by tackling the urgent problem of an industry of which we are reminded every time an egg smiles up at us at breakfast time. The issue is not one of Sydney or the bush; it is one for all the community and all Australians together. I want to enter a modest plea to the Parliament lh's morning after so much thunder and smoke. Let us unite in defence of the Australian egg or be prepared to take what someone else gives us for breakfast in the future.

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