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Thursday, 19 August 1920

Mr RILEY (South Sydney) .- The one object of the Bill is to control the exportation of butter. I understand that representatives of the farmers have entered into an agreement at Home for the sale of our butter there. If the Government was not consulted about that agreement, why has it brought in this Bill to sanction it? The honorable' member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) says that he does not desire Government interference or control, and I hope that the House will take him at his word by rejecting the Bill, and letting - this agreement stand on its merits. I hope, too, that the honorable member will give effect to his views by his vote. Are none but the producers of butter interested in this matter? If a body of unionists made an agreement with, say, the boot manufacturers, to charge a certain price for their labour, while the manufacturers were to put up the price of boots 100 per cent., would it be said that no one else was interested?

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This is an export matter. Our contention now is similar to that of the Opposition last week when the Industrial Peace Bill was before the House.

Mr RILEY - You are asking for the sanction of Parliament to an agreement made "on behalf of the butter producers. But the British Government might sell our butter at a profit of 10s. or 15s. a cwt., and the object of the amendment is to secure in that case the. world's parity to our producers.

Mr Marr - Suppose that the world's parity falls.

Mr Bayley - Then the butter producers will be thankful for this agreement.

Mr RILEY - I have heard my friends of the Corner party contend that the producers should get the London parity for their commodities. In the past they have been cheated of that, and have justly complained, and a strong farmers' party was sent into this House to look after their interests. I am afraid that that party is not doing so in this matter. They say that an agreement has been entered into for the sale of our butter at 240s. a cwt. But it is not provided that, should the British Government sellthat butter at a profit, the producers here must benefit.We ought to protect our own people. There is another party to this matter, the consumers of this country, who ought to be considered.

Mr Stewart - In what way?

Mr RILEY - The people in the towns have helped to develop the country. The farmers depend on them for the supply of clothes, boots, implements, and other necessaries. It is the people generally who haveborrowed large sums to build railways and open up the country, thus assisting development and making it possible for the farmer to live and send his produce to market.

Mr Stewart - Does the honorable member deny that the farmers have paid their share of taxes?

Mr RILEY - Of course they have; but there are plenty of railways running, into the country which do not pay interest on capital cost.

Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The railways do not pay because they have been built for the benefit of the city man.

Mr RILEY -Country railways are not paying, but city people have to make good the losses. I have been astonished at the coolness of some honorable members, who say,"Will you not give us the benefit of the world's parity for all our commodities?" Can you imagine a country such as this, which over-produces, being compared with a country which, throughout several years of war, has been surrounded and nearly cut off by enemy vessels?Here, in Australia, we cannot get rid of all our produce ; yet some honorable members seek to compare the Commonwealth with starving countries of the-' Old World. The idea behind the indorsement of this Bill by Parliament is to insure to producers good prices oversea for their commodities. Once this Bill is passed, producers will send away all the butter possible, and up will go the price to local consumers.

Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - Now you have let the cat out of the bag.

Mr RILEY - Surely we should consider the consumer as well as the producer. I would not argue or protest against reasonable profits being secured to the producer. The dairy farmer leads a life of drudgery, and should be well paid for his produce; but for this Parliament to inaugurate a ring to send out of Australia what it chooses to describe as a surplus, suggests several questions, amongst which is, "Who shall say what is surplus?"

Mr Stewart - What advantage would there be for the primary producer to send too much butter overseas if he is receiving the same price in Australia?

Mr RILEY - But he would not be receiving the same price. If this Bill passes, only those who come into the agreement will be able to export butter, and these people will practically control export. Who are these controllers?

Mr BELL (DARWIN, TASMANIA) - They represent every man and woman, and every little "kid" who, milks a cow from one end of the year to another, all over Australia.

Mr RILEY - Then we will take it that all these folk are interested in securing the best possible price for butter. If 5s. is the price in England these people will expect to get the same here; or they will say, " England is the place to which to send our butter," and, naturally, they will send their produce there.

Mr Hill - This Bill is designed to prevent that.

Mr RILEY - Who will prevent it? .

Mr Hill - The Pool.

Mr RILEY - It will be to the interests of the Pool to secure the highest price available abroad, and sell at that price as much as possible of our Australian butter overseas. The Pool will see to it that considerably more than what should be fairly regarded as surplus will be exported, and home consumers will not only be almost unable to buy butter, but will be required to pay a higher price than ever for such supplies as they can secure. Honorable members of the Country party say, " This is an honorable agreement ; let u3 honour it." Do honorable members believe in honouring honorable agreements?


Mr RILEY - Then what about standing by the honorable agreement set forth in the Constitution for the building of the Federal Capital?

Mr Hill - We are prepared to stand by that, but we do not say when.

Mr RILEY - Here we have an honorable agreement, set forth in black and white in our Constitution. Honorable members will not admit that it is their intention to dishonour it, but they say, " Not now, oh Lord ! but some time."

I hope the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will see to it, that, if this Bill is passed, the interests of consumers will not be lost sight of, while those of the producers are specially conserved. Are the butter producers the only people to be considered? They are a hardworking honest body of men; but it is the manipulation of the middlemen that I fear. I cannot understand why honorable members should not accept the amendment of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney).

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