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Wednesday, 17 April 1985
Page: 1165


Senator COLLARD(5.27) —The Minister for Community Services (Senator Grimes) might tell Senator Boswell that he can milk a cow better than that honourable senator, but that is one thing I would challenge the Minister on. I have probably milked more cows than the Minister has in the past or is likely to milk in the future. Having said that, I can only reiterate what has been said by my colleagues about the parlous state of the dairy industry in Australia at present. The state in which the industry finds itself is recognised by the industry. For some time those in the industry have been working together to seek a solution to the problem. Indeed, at one stage the dairy industry in every State of Australia-and every State Minister for Primary Industry, except the Victorian Minister-agreed to plans. Then we saw the most cynical of political exercises take place about two days before the Victorian election, when at a meeting of agriculture Ministers a general plan of entitlements was agreed to. All States recognised that there would be peculiar problems for them, but they were prepared to accept those plans and work them out within their States with a certain amount of autonomy. Those entitlement plans recognised the overproduction that existed. In so doing they took into account that there would have to be a reduction. The plan would do it without any of the blood-letting we are likely to see now. The entitlement would be worked out on the basis of 90 per cent of the farmer's previous production. It was a method of rationalising without any great hurt to the industry. However, as I said, in that most cynical of exercises, with the Victorian election having now been and gone, the Kerin plan has been put forward. This is a plan that will lead to a lot of blood-letting.

Mr Kerin and the Government hide behind the argument that the dairy industry should be open to market forces. How can it be open to market forces when it is competing on world markets against the subsidised surpluses that exist in the European Economic Community? How can it be open to market forces when, once the product gets beyond the farm gates, we are dealing with a situation of wages set by the biggest cartels in this country, the trade union movement?

I do not mind primary producers having the prices of their products set by market forces if the secondary industries in this country also have their prices set by market forces rather than being able to hide behind tariff protection, and if the wages sector of this community has its wages set by market forces and is not able to hide behind the biggest cartel-in other words the trade union movement as it exists in this country. If we get to the situation in which wages of people in this country are open to market forces and the secondary industries of this country are open to market forces those in primary industry will quite willingly accept market forces. I venture to say that primary industry would compete very well indeed. I gently chide my colleague Senator Watson and pre-empt Senator Harradine in relation to the extremely efficient Victorian and Tasmanian dairy industries by saying that they are no more efficient than the dairy industry of Queensland. If those States want to put up the cost of production figures in cents per litre let them feel free to do so. We are not seasonal producers. Anyone, if a seasonal producer, can be efficient. This is particularly so with Victoria. I am not sure about Tasmania. We are not seasonal producers in Queensland; we produce all year round. I do not want any argument between us because most of us agree on the state of the industry. There was agreement on how the problems could be solved. However, to bring the chickens back home to roost, in that most cynical of political exercises, Mr Kerin and this Labor Government abandoned the promises and brought in a scheme which will cause great hardship within the industry and which will ultimately lead to the consumer paying much higher prices.