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Wednesday, 18 August 1920

Mr MACKAY (Lilley) . - I am pleased that honorable members of the Labour party are taking a keen interest in these proceedings. I would point out to them that this Bill is not designed to ratify any agreement made in regard to the sale of our surplus butter; it is merely to give assistance in the carrying out of an agreement -made with the British Government by representatives of the dairymen of' the Commonwealth. It is abundantly clear to me that the two gentlemen who entered into the contract went to London with full authority to act for the dairymen of the Commonwealth, and the contract entered into by them, is, I think, giving general satisfaction.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - 'Who elected those delegates?

Mr MACKAY - They were elected after consultation with the various cooperative butter companies throughout the States.

Mr Ryan - "Were there no produce agents represented on the committee which elected them?

Mr MACKAY - I do not think so. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has found fault with the nature of this contract, and has urged that there should have been an open market. I invite honorable members to consider for a moment what would have happened if there had been an open market. Quite a number of speculators would have bought up our butter, exported it to various parts of the world, and so have obtained the profits which, under this agreement, will go to the dairymen themselves. The contract has been well advised, and the Government, in bringing forward this small measure to assist in giving effect to it, are certainly doing a great deal to insure that the whole of the butter purchased by Great Britain shall be delivered.

No one can say that, having regard to the conditions under which our dairymen work, the price of butter is too high. We have periodic droughts throughout the States. In Queensland, for instance, every third year is a dry one. I well remember the last drought, when the farmers had to spend the little they had in purchasing fodder to keep their cattle alive. We have been told time after time, of the long hours worked by dairymen - we have been told that they and their families are practically the slaves of the industry - and the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) was not far wide of the mark when he said that if the dairymen were to receive fair payment for the hours -worked by them, then 4s. per lb. would not be too much to pay for butter. It is the one industry in Australia in which fair working conditions are not insisted upon. It is unreasonable to expect dairymen to work long hours, and to contend with droughts and the various pests which affect their herds, without receiving anything like a fair return for the work they do. I do not anticipate that this measure will occupy the attention of the House for any time. It is to my mind very important that it should be passed without delay in order that effect may be given to the agreement that has been made with the British Government by the representatives of the industry.

Mr Ryan - Why not come up to the collar; and admit that this is really a Bill to prohibit the export of butter?

Mr MACKAY - It is a Bill to assist the carrying out of the contract entered into by the representatives of the dairying industry and nothing further.

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