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Wednesday, 18 August 1920

Mr ATKINSON (Wilmot) .- I am not troubled with the difficulties concerning this Bill which seem to beset the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). The Bill appears to me a simple one, intended to give effect to an agreement which has been made on behalf of the dairymen of Australia. I understand that the great majority of these are satisfied with this agreement, and have sought the assistance of the Government to give effect to it. The step which is being taken is a commendable one. Those who are a party to the agreement may need advances against their butter. They may want money.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - They will.

Mr ATKINSON - Of course, they will, and when this Bill has been passed the Government will be in a position to make advances to the primary producers, to be repaid out of the amount received for the butter. That will be in keeping with the policy with which the Government went to the country, a proper policy to adopt in regard to the primary producers.

Mr Cunningham - In what part of the Bill is it provided that the Government shall pay money to the primary producers ?

Mr ATKINSON - The Bill is to assist the carrying out of an agreement already come to with the British Government. Regulations may be made not inconsistent with its provisions, and under the power to make such regulations the Government can provide for making advances. That they intend to do so is to be divined from the remarks . made by the Minister (Mr. Greene) in reply to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan). If the Bill is not passed, the dairymen of Australia will not be in the position which they should be in ; but if it is passed the Government will be able to come to the assistance of those who need it, and so do necessary and good work. As to what is a reasonable price to charge for butter to consumers in Australia when butter is being exported largely, and there cannot be a great deal for local consumption, let me say that, in my opinion, the consumer should pay the parity of the world's price for butter. Why should the primary producer always be called on to make a sacrifice ? He pays the full price, for the implements he uses, the clothing he wears, the necessaries he consumes, and gets no concessions from any one. He should be the last to be called upon to make a sacrifice, seeing that his industry is the most important in the community. It has been admitted by honorable members opposite that a reasonable price should be paid, and, under the circumstances, I have indicated it should be the world's parity. The measure does not touch the agreement.

Mr Mahony - Why talk of the agreement?

Mr ATKINSON - Because the Bill will enable the agreement to be more effectively carried out.

Mr Mahony - How do we know that there is an agreement?

Mr ATKINSON - Because the Bill clearly states that an agreement has been

Entered into for the sale to the Imperial Government of the exportable surplus of butter produced in Australia on and after 1st August, 1920.

Mr Ryan - If an agreement has been (entered into, there is no need for an Act of Parliament to give effect to it.

Mr ATKINSON - I am not prepared So admit that there is any absolute necessity for it, because the agreement will, of course, still stand; but the measure is accessary to enable the agreement to be more efficiently and effectively carried out in the interests of the primary producers. I cannot say whether the agreement is a fair one or not, and at present that is not my concern, but an agreement has been made by the representatives of the dairying interests of Australia, and She opinion has been expressed that most of the dairy farmers are satisfied with its provisions.

Mr Cunningham - Did the honorable member advocate the prohibition of the export of butter at Beaconsfield ?

Mr ATKINSON - I do not remem- ber having done so.

Mr Cunningham - The honorable member said that he would not favour the removal of embargoes on exports.

Mr ATKINSON -I do not remember the incident to which the honorable member is referring, but in a general sense I am opposed to embargoes, because I be- lieve in free markets.

Mr Mahony - The honorable member made such a statement at Beaconsfield, because I have a newspaper cutting of his speech.

Mr.ATKINSON.- IfI made such a statement it is not altogether inconsistent with my present attitude, because in this instance the primary producers are satisfied, and they are the ones who are principally concerned. I support the Bill.

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