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Thursday, 19 August 1920


Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- This is the main clause of the Bill. ' It provides that the Minister may prohibit the exportation of butter through any other channel than the Dairy Produce Pool. As I said on tha second reading, while we are desirous that the producer shall obtain a fair pricefor the butter sold in Australia., we have to study also the interests of the consumer, and to do what is right between the parties. It is apparent that under the clause as it stands it would be possible to create a local scarcity of butter. The Dairy Produce Pool could regulate stocks, whether there was an abundant supply or not, by putting butter into cold storage, and arranging for steamers to export it, so that there would be only a limited supply for the local market, and could thus make the price of butter to the Australian consumer as high as that at which it is to be sold in Great Britain.


Mr Ryan - It could make it higher.


Mr CHARLTON - At any rate, it might not be less.


Mr Mcwilliams - Is not that in practice what the coal vendor does?


Mr CHARLTON - If the honorable member refers to the combination of the proprietors, I have always said that that is wrong. While it is necessary to encourage the exportation of our surplus products, we should prevent manipulation at the expense of the local consumer.


Mr Gibson - How would you do that?


Mr CHARLTON - I intend to move an amendment which would, I think, effect that. My only desire is to do justice between the consumer and the producer. The producer should get a fair price for his butter, and a better price than he has been getting in the past, because the cost of everything has gone up. He should be placed in as good a position as he occupied prior to the war. But we shall permit an injustice to our own people if we allow supplies to be so regulated by the Pool that the local price of butter can be increased. That the public may have confidence in the Pool, and know that its interests are being looked after, and so that if anything is wrong there may be a voice to bring it under the notice of the public, I move -

That the following words be added : - " provided that the consumer shall have representation on such Committee."

Why should there be any objection to the appointment of some person to look after the interests of the consumers direct ? The Minister (Mr. Greene) says he is prepared to look after the*? interests, but he has more than enough to do in his Department and cannot hope to attend the meetings of the Pool.


Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - How many representatives does the honorable member suggest ?


Mr CHARLTON - I would be satisfied if we had one representative who \vould have the right, as a member, to attend the meetings and see that fair play was given the consumer.


Mr Prowse - Does the honorable member want the price regulated?


Mr CHARLTON - If this Bill is passed the price will be regulated.


Mr Hill - The honorable member does not fear that the price for local consumption will be above the world's parity ?


Mr CHARLTON - I am afraid it may be.


Mr Hill - We want world's parity for home consumption.


Mr CHARLTON - If the public knew that they were directly represented on the Pool they would not worry about price. They would know that they would get a fair deal, while, at the same time, the producer was being rightly safe-guarded.


Mr Hill - Would the honorable member be satisfied if the Government assured him that the price of butter for home consumption would not be above London parity or the price which we would be obtaining overseas under this agreement ?


Mr CHARLTON - That involves the very point which I am endeavouring to stress. I am trying to show that, as an outcome of the passage of this Bill, the price of butter will be practically fixed throughout Australia; and I am now asked by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) if I would favour that. I hold that if the producer can secure a return, adequate to compensate him, on the basis of the retail price of1s. 6d., then the consumer should not be forced to pay 2s.1d.


Mr Hill - For the past three or four months butter has been sold in Victoria at1s. 4d. per, lb. below actualcost of production. We want to make up some of that loss.


Mr CHARLTON - Undoubtedly the dairy farmer has undergone a period of trial; and in New South Wales, probably, his troubles have beenmore severely accentuated than in this State, chiefly owing to drought conditions. But the drought did not affect the whole of New South Wales, and it should be remembered also" that there are periods of the year when the dairy farmer can produce butter in abundance.

Dr.Earle Page. - It will take the whole of this year to pick up last year's losses.


Mr CHARLTON - I am not advocating that fair compensation should not be given the producer; but there are other interests also to be considered. So far as compensation is concerned, I would favour the Bill being so framed as to provide for the compensation of those who may suffer loss through drought and kindred causes. If this Bill is to establish a co-operative concern it should provide means by which the Pool could compensate those who suffer loss owing to adverse seasonal conditions. At present, however, I desire first to insure protection for the consumer.







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