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Wednesday, 18 August 1920


Mr GREGORY - That has not been the case in the past, has it?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - That has not been the case in the past.


Mr Fenton - Is Britain paying us the same as for New Zealand butter?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The negotiations with New Zealand are not complete; but I think they will be very shortly. I understand that the basis with New Zealand is 2s. premium over the Australian price - 242s. instead of 240s. per cwt. The information which I have received, through the courtesy of the Dairy Produce Pool Committee, from the delegates in England, goes to. show that the difference between the price in England' and the Australian price is nearly 9d. per lb., which represents the cost of storage, shipping, and distribution, as between Australia and the consumer in England.


Mr Riley - Do you say that the British people pay 9d. per lb. more than is paid here for butter for local consumption?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - If the butter is at 24.0s., which represents the wholesale price, and is, I think, about 2s. ltd. per lb., the English price is in- the vicinity of 3s.; that is the price of butter to the consumer in London to-day.


Mr Gibson - That is the fixed price?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - That is the fixed price.


Mr Gibson - Did you notice in the press the other day that England was purchasing butter at 420s. per cwt.?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I do not think that is so. I can show the honorable member , a good deal of correspondence of one sort and another, which, I feel sure, does not bear out that statement. Such may have appeared in the press; but I am confident, from the information I have from various sources, that this sale to the British Government is as close a parity as it is possible to get. The British authorities who dealt with the delegates considered them a "pretty hard nut to crack," and those authorities are not sure they will be able to dispose of the butter at the price they are paying for it.


Mr Gibson - Have you any indication that the price of 240s. will be increased?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I have no indication of that kind; all the information I have is that we have got the biggest price it is possible to get in the circumstances - the biggest price we could expect.


Mr Gregory - What is the ' average wholesale price in the United States of America ?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I cannot say.From all the information I have, I believe that this sale is one really advantageous to the dairymen. What I wish to make quite clear, and to assure honorable members of, is that, in introducing this Bill, which is simply to support the contract and enable it to be carried out, the Government are endeavouring to give effect to the wishes of the dairymen so far as it is possible to do so. The Government have no particular desire in one direction or the other, but from my fairly intimate association with this industry over a long time, I believe, as I say, that the British market is far and away the most important one to Australia, and we cannot afford to play with it.


Mr Gregory - Did Britain not get the first lot of butter at about 175s. ?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Britain got that butter cheaper than it ought to have got it; at the same time, we were then in the position that, unless we sold to England, we had not the ghost of a chance of shipping our surplus at all.


Mr Stewart - And Great Britain took advantage of that fact!


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I would not say that for a moment. At that particular period in our history, with the shipping in the position it was, unless we sold to Britain and got the priority of shipment she gave us, we had no earthly hope of getting rid of our surplus stock.


Mr Stewart - And Britain took advantage of the fact!


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I do not think the honorable member is justified in saying that.


Mr Gibson - Who made that sale at 175 s.?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - It was effected by the Government, after consultation with the producers, and as a result of resolutions passed by them.


Mr Fenton - Can the Minister give the House any idea whether the British Government have taken control of Danish butter?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The British Government are the sole importers of Danish butter into England; and the last purchase, c.i.f., was, I think I am right in saying, made at 249s.


Mr Ryan - What need would there be for this Bill if it were not for the fact that a higher price could be got elsewhere ?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I do not think that is so.


Mr Ryan - Does it not look like it?


Mr Austin Chapman - It looks as if we were going to be " squeezed " again.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I do not think the honorable member is quite right in saying that. We have to finance this thing.


Mr Riley - The Government?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Not the Government; but, somehow or other, the financing of the contract has to be arranged. There must be a buyer and a seller ; somebody must receive the moneys and disburse them; there must be a channel through which the British Government can pay for the butter. It is to overcome these legal difficulties, and to put things thoroughly in order, that we are bringing in the Dairy Produce Pool Committee, and clothing it with power to carry out the contract. That is all that is being done.


Mr Ryan - The Bill says to the producer, " You shall not export your butter to any one else."


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Once having entered into a contract, we must fulfil it, and the only way we can fulfil it is by somehow getting control of the produce which has been sold, and which forms the subject of the contract itself.


Mr Riley - The Government have not entered into the contract?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - No, we have not.


Mr Riley - That is the whole point.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - What the Government have done is to sanction this agreement which has been entered into, and now we ask the House to sanction it also.


Mr Charlton - Have the British Government any power to compel us to deliver the surplus butter to them, seeing they have decided they are going to control butter until March next year?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The position, I take it, is, roughly, this: Supposing no contract was entered into.


Mr Ryan - Whatwould happen?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The position would be that various people in Australia would send their butter to Great Britain, and the British Government would commandeer it at the border, atwhatever the price happened to be at the time.


Mr Ryan - Then there is no use for the Bill.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - There are two difficulties associated with that.


Mr Austin Chapman - Is this Bill to stop the producers sending the butter somewhere else, where they could get a better price?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I do not say that at all.


Mr Austin Chapman - It looks to me like it.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is exactly the position.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - All this Bill does, so far as I understand it, is to enable the contract which has been entered into on behalf of the producers, and by the producers themselves through their representatives, to be given effect to - it does that, and no more. In this connexion I should like to Bead a telegram received from the Secretary ofState for the Colonies, on the 1st July, 1920-

Food Controller confirms contract signed by Osborne and Sinclair on behalf Commonwealth Dairy Produce Pool and requests Commonwealth Government take necessary steps to insure fulfilment contract.

That is all that the Bill does.


Mr Riley - What quantity of butter will there be for local consumption, and what quantity will be exported ?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - To answer the question, I should have to know how much rain is to fall, and how well the grass will grow. The object of the Bill is to clothe the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Pool Committee, in accordance with a resolution passed by the Committee, with full power to see that every factory puts on to the market the quota of butter necessary to maintain the local supplies, and I believe that that will meet the situation. For all practical purposes, the industry will be conducted under normal conditions, except that, instead of the surplus butter being exported through various merchants, there will be a bulk sale of it.


Mr Ryan - Who compose the Committee?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - The Committee has been in existence for three years, and operates under an Act of Parliament. I could not from memory tell the honorable member the names of those who compose it. They are mostly men elected by the various interests in the dairying industry, with three Government nominees. The deputy chairman is Mr. Hugh Sinclair, formerly the member for Moreton, and the Commonwealth Dairy Expert, Mr. O'Callaghan, is a member. The Minister for Trade and Customs is ex officiochairman, and I have had the honour to occupy that position from, I think, the beginning.


Mr Gabb - Are there any. middlemen on the Committee?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - There are three or four middlemen, in the ordinary acceptation of the term.


Mr Gibson - There are representatives of co-operative societies - Messrs. Wilson and Osborne.


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - There are also representatives of the proprietary factories and of the co-operative factories. Every State is represented - New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland by five representatives each, and South Australia and Tasmania by one each.


Mr Fenton - Did the Minister say that the two gentlemen who proceeded to London, finding that they could not get a free market there,- entered into a contract on behalf of the producers of Australia ?


Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Yes ; and that contract has been signed and sealed.

Sitting suspended from 6.26 to 8 p.m.







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