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Thursday, 19 August 1920

Mr RILEY (South Sydney) -7].- We have heard a good deal from the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) in regard to an agreement-

Mr Atkinson - The honorable member did not hear, because he would not listen.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - We have heard a good deal about cheap bread and cheap butter.

Mr RILEY - Is the Treasurer against cheap bread and cheap butter? Nobody disputes the statement which has been made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene). But surely tho Government can appoint a man of sufficient ability to look after the interests of the consumer.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - We have appointed Mr. Hugh Sinclair.

Mr RILEY - He is a man who is interested in the butter trade. How can he be an independent man?

Mr Bayley - We have to go to the trade to secure a man who possesses the requisite qualifications.

Mr RILEY - I know that the Minister for Trade and Customs has not time to watch over the export of butter. Why, then, do not the Government appoint a qualified man to 'look after the interests of the public?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - We cannot get a better man for that purpose than Mr. O' Callaghan.

Mr RILEY - He is only one member of the committee. He is not there tj re port upon the export of butter. He is there in the capacity of an expert upon the quality of butter. He is a most capable man. But we require upon the committee a representative of the consumer. No doubt there has been a lot of grumbling at various times about the price of butter in Australia. Sometimes when there has been an alleged scarcity of that commodity in Sydney the secretary of the cold storage depot there has informed me that the place was full of butter. Of course, the object of creating an artificial scarcity is to put up the price. Under this agreement no man will be able to sell butter for export, except through the Pool.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The honorable member read in the press to-day that a minimum price is asked for coal, and a minimum wage for the worker; why should not the farmer also get a minimum wage?

Mr RILEY - I do not say that he should not, but there is a danger of gambling in butter.

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Every time there has been a rise in the price since the Pool has taken control the Pool has known the whereabouts of every box of butter, and has always levied on the holders the additional price, and placed the money in the Pool. .

Mr RILEY - If the Minister knows where every box of butter is, and there is more butter in Queensland than car be consumed in that State, why is New South Wales short of butter?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - Federal control ceased and the price rose to 240s. for export. The New South Wales Government would not increase the price for local consumption, and no butter was sent from Queensland.

Mr RILEY - Under this arrangement will the Government have control of local consumption ?

Mr GREENE (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Trade and Customs) - No.

Mr RILEY - Then the Pool Committee will be able to export all the butter they choose, and there is no power in this Bill to compel them to retain sufficient for local requirements?

Mr Prowse - Would the honorable member like to have representatives of the public on the labour tribunals?

Mr RILEY - On those Tribunals labour and capital are represented, and the judge is an impartial person, who decides between the parties, and thereby represents the interests of the public. Under this arrangement, however, thejudges are to be the butter producers. It is a one-sided arrangement, and the Government would do well to appoint a man to look after the interests of the Government and the consumer, and prevent the country being depleted of butter supplies in order to get high prices abroad.

Mr Atkinson - How could the representatives of the public sway the committee to do this or that, when it will have the control of all the butter supplies '(

Mr RILEY - We know that the average weekly consumption of butter is ½-1b. per head of the population. We are, therefore, able to calculate how much butter is required per week, and it would be easy tokeep a supply for local consumption by means of cold storage.

Mr Atkinson - But the producers cannot be made to supply the butter if they arenot willing to do so.

Mr RILEY - The time has arrived for preventing any combination from manipulating the food supplies of the people. The amendment is fair and reasonable; it will improve the Bill, and give confidence to the public.

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