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Thursday, 19 August 1920

Mr LAVELLE (Calare) .- -I must congratulate the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) on the speech he made this afternoon.. As an attempt at humour, it was certainly excellent, so excellent, indeed, that the honorable member stands as a worthy rival of Mark Twain. It must be , said, however, that his remarks were not quite so enlightening as they were amusing. The honorable member said that, after listening to honorable members on this side, he was satisfied that we did not possess a knowledge of the needs and requirements of the primary producer; but, observing his smile, we knew that he did not mean one word of what he said. Every one recognises that if there is one party standing for the primary producer in this, or any other country, it is the Australian Labour party. We, on this side, are opposed to the principle of the Bill because we say now, as we have said for years, that it is time the producer had a fair deal so far as the sale of his produce is concerned.

Mr Cunningham - Is the honorable member for Cowper a primary producer?

Mr LAVELLE - I believe he is. It ig now time we got back to normal conditions and the primary producers were given a fair chance and not restricted in any way as to where they shall sell their produce.

Mr Atkinson - How does this Bill re strict them?

Mr LAVELLE - If the honorable member does not understand how, I am not responsible. The Labour party contend that the producers should have a free choice so far as oversea or any other markets are concerned. The members of the Country party during the elections declared they were coming here to preserve the interests of the primary pro,ducers, but I am sorry to say they have not done so. It is pleasing, however, to know that the scales, have fallen from the eyes of the electors-, who realize more fully every day that there is one, and only one,, party to look after their interests, and that ig the Labour party. How can any one maintain that this Bill conserves the interests1 of the primary producers when it is realized that during the last four years they have been robbed of, approximately, £400,000,000 of the value of their produce in oversea sales? I notice that the " cabbage soldier," the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming.) laughs, but it is no laughing matter for the producers, not two per cent, of whom wish to see legislation of this nature. It is said, particularly by those who claim to represent the producers, that this Bill is introduced at the desire of the producers themselves - as a recognition of the organization of the farmers. But so far as I .can see, those honorable members cannot tell the House what organization does, represent the primary producers. Some tell us that the producers are represented by the Farmers and Settlers Association, while others say that they are represented by the Primary Producers Union; but it was stated very clearly by the honorable member for Werriwa. (Mr. Lazzarini) that the so-called primary producers' unions and associations in New South Wales and every other State are dominated and run by middlemen, stock and station agents, bank managers, and others who are the producers' natural enemies. The farmers and other primary producers were duped and deluded into sending members here who, they thought, would represent them, but who, as events prove, do not represent them at all. Those members, on the contrary, stand loyally by the middlemen, and just as loyally by the occupants of the Treasury benches, who are the recognised friends of middlemen. If a contract has been made for the sale of this butter, why is it necessary to pass the Bill? No explanation has been given why the producers' market should be restricted, and the fact must be emphasized that no restriction whatever should be placed on the disposal of their produce. It has been said that those engaged in dairy-farming work exceptionally long hours, and a harrowing picture was painted by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) of the heavy labour and privations suffered by the dairy farmer and his wife and children. It is true that all producers on the land work long hours, whether engaged in general farming, dairying, or any other branch of agricultural work, and I admit that the wife and children of the dairy farmer work hard; but that is only an additional reason why they should receive the greatest possible reward for their produce. I oppose the Bill because it restricts the. field of operations in the sale of produce, because it is unnecessary, and because the general farmer does not believe in it. He realizes that during the last three years, in the overseas trade, he has not been fairly treated by the Government and other so-called representatives of the primary producers. Representing, as I do, every section of the worker, whether dairy farmer, wheat farmer, or general manual worker, I am opposed, to the measure, and intend to vote against it.

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