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Thursday, 19 August 1920

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Many of them have been doing so.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has the honorable member mentioned the middlemen referred to by the Minister?

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. Messrs. Basche, Mackey, and Sandford are those whom the Minister regards as middlemen, but they are also dairy farmers and have large co-operative interests.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Mr. Holdensen is another.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But by no stretch ofimagination can they be regarded solely as middlemen. In any case, they are in a hopeless minority on the Committee. Mr. Sandford has only a onetwentyfirst say in the control of the Pool.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But he is anxious to get the highest price for his dairying machinery.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He represents South Australian producers with a total output of £698,000, as against £5,468,000 from New South Wales, and £4,278,000 fromVictoria. Even if Mr. Sandford wished to control the business, what possibility would he have of doing so ?

In regard to the question of the Government's so-called mala fides in this matter, the argument of honorable members opposite is most absurd.

Mr Ryan - Not necessarily mala fides; incompetency would be the better word to. use.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Minister (Mr. Greene) who has brought forward the Bill is a dairy farmer and represents the biggest dairying constituency in Australia. For the last eighteen months he has done his best to secure some cooperative methods in the control of the sale and handling of butter in Australia. Is it likely that he would bring forward a Bill which might possibly occasion loss to the dairy farmers inhis electorate? Is it likely that, realizing that during the war the farmers had been scourged with whips", he would bring down a measure to scourge them, as honorable members opposite put it, with scorpions ?

In connexion with the sale of primary produce in Australia, I would like to have a full explanation of the attitude of the Labour party. We have heard a good deal from honorable members opposite about the farmers getting a reasonable price for home sales. I would like to know exactly what they propose the farmer should get. Two or three weeks ago the honorable member forHunter (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) suggested a basis upon which prices in Australia should be fixed. Within my recollection, two Labour Governments have fixed the price of butterin Australia. Five years ago a Labour Government in New South Wales fixed the price at1s. 3d. a lb., although, over the border in Queensland, butter was selling at 2s. 6d. per lb. Subsequently, the Queensland Government commandeered all supplies in the State at 140s. per cwt. and sold some of it in New South Wales at 172s. per cwt. I did not hear of the difference of 32s. going back to theprimary producers.

Mr Ryan - The surplus realized on Queensland butter sold in London, amounting to tens of thousands of pounds, was given to the producers.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I was talking of the butter sold in New South Wales. That is to be the position when the world's parity is greater than the price prevailing in Australia. But what would itbe when the world's .parity was below what would be a reasonable price on the basis suggested by the Labour party? Would they still maintain that the price should be determined by the wages paid to the dairy farmers and their wives and children engaged in the industry ? If honorable members opposite are prepared to concede that point - if they are prepared to give the dairy farmers an effective protection of that character - we shall be able to join hands with them. But we require clearer and more precise evidence than is so far forthcoming that that would be their .attitude in connexion with the fixing of the prices of our primary products. In the early months of the present Parliament, when we had the sugar agreement before us, practically the whole of the influence of the Labour party was thrown into an effort to fix the price of sugar at a lower rate than was pro- posed by the Government. Although the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has read to the House a list of representatives of country districts who are members of the Labour party, the fact cannot be overlooked that they number only six or seven in a party of twenty-six. Is it reasonable to assume that that tail would "wag the dog" when the party had to come to a decision as to whether the consuming .or the producing interests of Australia should prevail 1

Mr Ryan - But every member of our party is pledged to the same policy. Here is an extract from the Labour manifesto -

We shall guarantee to the producer a return which will secure to him a price for his products that will cover the cost of production and allow a reasonable margin of profit.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the honorable member enlarge upon that statement in his party manifesto by informing the House as to the attitude which he and his party would adopt when the world's parity, so far as butter is concerned, was considerably less than the cost of production here? The Queensland Labour Government, I understand, has fixed the price of butter, not at 240s. per cwt. as under this contract, but at 228s. per cwt. ?

Mr Fenton - Queensland has had for some time an exceptional surplus of butter.

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