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Thursday, 19 August 1920

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - No cable to that effect has been received by the Government.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Or by anybody?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Or by anybody, so far as I know, beyond this: That I believe that there are some negotiations going on at the present time in England between the representatives of the dairymen and the British Government as to an increase of price.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - This House should know exactly what is being done.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I have not that information in any official way. I have no official paper to show honorable members that that is the case. All I know is what has appeared in the press.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I accept the Minister's statement, of course; but there is a member of the House who says that he lias received such a cable.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - He may have received a cable.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I am satisfied, from what has been said, that the price obtained will be over 240s. per cwt. ' I understand that the cable received says that it will be at least 250s. per cwt. If that is so, I want to know where the extra 10s. per cwt. is going. I do not want the dairy farmers to have to fight for it as the wool-growers have had to fight for the extra price received for their wool.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I can tell the honorable member at once that if the British Government pay more than 240s. per cwt. for the butter every penny in advance of that price will go into the Dairy Produce Pool, and the committee controlling that Pool will in turn pay it to the producers of the butter.

Mr.Parker Moloney. - This Bill will prevent that.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The Minister's statement satisfies me, but the House should have had that information before.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How can that be done when the price is fixed by the agreement at 240s. per cwt.?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I have good reason to believe that although the price has been fixed at 240s. per cwt., there is an understauding equivalent to an agreement that the price paid will be more than 240s.

It is a bad thing that the British Government should be accused of squeezing the primary producers of Australia as they have been accused in connexion with the operations of the Wool Pool. That must create a feeling of unrest. No one can accuse me of not being absolutely loyal, of not standing by the Empire, or of not playing the game, but I am quite prepared to ask what right the British Government have to say to the producers of butter, wool, or wheat in Australia that because they have control of transport they will take from them some of their hard-earned profits. They are not entitled to do anything of the kind, and if we had business men conducting the arrangements it could not occur. That it has occurred must be the result of bungling. If an extra price is paid, the farmers have a right to get that price, less the expense of placing the butter before the British consumer. I am glad to have the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) that the butter producers of Australia will get that price.

Mr Mahony - Does not the honorable member see that if this Bill is passed that cannot be done?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - That is not so.

Mr Mahony - It is. so. The Minister's word cannot override the provisions of an Act of this Parliament.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - The Bill has yet to go through Committee, and we can there provide that this shall be done. We have the assurance of the Minister, and, generally, that is good enough.

Mr Mahony - I do not think so.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - That is my experience, at any rate. I am assured that the agreement was made by representatives of the dairymen, and in their interests. I accept the assurance of the Minister that the best price will be obtained. We all know Mr. Sinclair, and know that he will do the best that he can for the dairymen. I am assured that whatever price is obtained, that price, less expenses, will go to the man who produces the butter, and that satisfies me. I regret that so much time has been taken up in debating the Bill, because information in the possession of some honorable members was not given to the House generally. We are not playing marbles, but are dealing with one of the great primary industries of Australia. The dairy farmers work late and early. They have no holidays, no furlough, and no overtime, and they are subjected to all sorts of innuendoes about the treatment of those they employ. We have had a reference to the treatment of dairymen's children, which is an infamous libel and slander upon them. I can take the children in my district, and in the district of Richmond, represented by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and the district represented by the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), and compare them with some of the children of the city. That is the answer to such slanders. There are, no doubt, taskmasters in the country as well as in the cities, but country children will compare more than favorably with city children, and they enjoy the advantage of God's pure air which is not enjoyed by the children of the cities. When we come to consider the Bill in Committee, we can make sure that the best price will be obtained for our butter, and will go to the primary producer. It is a practical certainty that the price will increase, because the price of everything is on the up grade. The consumer should be given consideration, as he has a pretty hard time as well as the producer. He can afford to pay higher prices because he is getting double wages. Getting more wages, he expects to have to pay higher prices. I have no desire to be captious concerning the Minister, but he did not treat honorable members well in introducing the Bill.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I gave the House every scrap of information in my possession.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN -Did the Minister not know about the cable that has been referred to?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - No. All I knew was what appeared in the press, and I could not treat that as official information in putting the Bill before the House. I might have referred to it, but I had no official information, and that is why I did not mention the matter. I felt that a Minister dealing with a question of this sort should confine himself to what he can confirm by his official records. All that information I gave the House.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I think it is a pity that the Minister did not take the House more fully into his confidence, as the matter is one of vital consequence to an important section of the community and to a number of honorable members.

Mr Lazzarini - What will be the use of an agreement fixing the price at 240s. per cwt. if the price is to be raised ?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I presume that, as a representative of the primary producers has received a cable to the effect that a higher price will be given, that cable will be produced when we get into Committee, and we shall know what we are doing. I shall take a very different stand if it is not produced, because I have no desire to vote in the clark.

Mr Lazzarini - It is said that 250s. per cwt. may be given now, but the price might be 270s. six months hence.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - We have an agreement entered into by representatives of the primary producers for a price of 240s. per cwt. We are given to understand that that is not to be the maximum price, and that, if any higher price is paid, the dairy farmer will get it. That is surely what honorable members opposite have been contending for.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I can show honorable members when we get into Committee how the farmer must get every penny obtained for the butter. We do not handle it in any shape or form.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - There should be some provision in the Bill which will make it quite certain that 240s. is not to be accepted as the maximum price, and that what will be paid will be the London parity.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - I shall be able to explain that.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I am very glad to hear it. I do not wish to find fault. because I have had trouble in explaining Bills myself. I intend to support the second reading.

Mr Mahony - What about the amendment? Does that not provide for the world's parity?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - I will take that hurdle when I come to it.

Mr Mahony - The honorable member must take it now. -

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - It seems to me that we are in a cleft stick. We must ratify the agreement.

Mr Lavelle - Why?

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - Because it was made by representatives of the primary producers, and we must assume that they are better able to look after their interests than we are.

Mr Lavelle - I do not think that it was made by representatives of the primary producers.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - We have the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and we know that delegates were sent Home.

Mr Ryan - This Bill does not ratify any agreement.

Mr AUSTIN CHAPMAN - No; but it enables the agreement to be kept. It does the very thing which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has stood so firmly for in order to avoid trouble and dissatisfaction where people have not been compelled to carry out something that has been arranged. The purpose of this Bill is to prevent persons who have done nothing to bring about the agreement securing an advantage over those who have agreed to it. I accept the Minister's assurances and will vote for the second reading of the Bill, whilst I reserve to myself the right in Committee to see that those assurances shall be given effect. I take it that that is all that honorable members opposite are asking for.

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