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Friday, 27 March 1942

Mr MCDONALD (Corangamite) . - I. take this opportunity, while the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) i3 present, to allude to the proposal to lift, in the near future, the ban upon the marketing of beef from the Werribee sewage farm. If that action is taken without the necessary safeguards, a very grave disservice will be done to many beef -raisers in Victoria. When this subject was debated on Wednesday evening, some honorable members declared that the "big beef barons" were responsible for the imposition of the. ban. The number of "big beef barons" in Victoria can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Mr Calwell - So the "little beef barons " were responsible.

Mr McDONALD - I am deeply concerned about the plight of the small men. Thousands of them purchased store stock in New South Wales and Queensland at high prices. If the Werribee beef is marketed, we shall witness a repetition of the previous experience when prices declined seriously and consumption was reduced. I forecast that the small men will lose a sum equal to- that which they lost on the last occasion, namely, £1,000,000. Some honorable members opposite asserted that these men fear the competition that will be encountered from the Werribee beef in the fat stock market. My reply to that statement is that the quantity of fat stock which will come from the Werribee sewage farm will make no difference, as it represents only 2 per cent, of the fat stock sold at Newmarket. It is only one week's supply, so the marketing of that meat will not materially affect prices. There is one fact that the Minister has evidently overlooked. During the last scare concerning the sale of Werribee beef the consumption of beef in Victoria fell by 40 per cent., and the price by 25 per cent. I am not holding a brief for any one; that is a statement of fact; and the Minister must seriously consider the previous experience before he lifts the ban. If the honorable gentleman has definitely made up his mind to act, there is a proper course to pursue. Thousands of people have declared that they will not knowingly eat beef from the Werribee sewage farm. If the origin of the meat be stamped upon the carcass, they will be able to refuse to accept Werribee beef; at the same time, members of the Housewives Association of Victoria and other persons who asked the Minister to lift, the ban will be able to purchase the meat. If the lifting, of the ban be justified, no hardship will then be inflicted upon any one. But if the meat is marketed willy-nilly, the consumption of beef will be reduced and prices will steadily decline. That will deal a severe blow to the small producers in Victoria, who forward fat stock to the market each week. It was also suggested that some men were holding back stock in order to increase the price of beef. That is too silly for words. Once a beast is fattened, the next job is to market it, and the man who- attempts to hold fat cattle through a period like this is riding for a fall, because they will soon slip back to good store quality, and cannot be sold in the fat cattle market.

The Commonwealth and State Governments have imposed additional work upon the municipalities of Australia. The State Government has asked the municipalities to devise plans for evacuation. The War Damage Commission has asked them to provide the machinery for collecting its funds. The Liquid Fuel Control Board has asked them to undertake the revision of motor spirit consumers' licences. This work can be carried out by the municipalities more effectively, expeditiously and economically than by any other body, but it will involve them in a great deal of extra expense, and impose a further heavy burden upon their staffs already depleted by enlistments and the military call-up. The municipalities have willingly undertaken this extra work, but it is only fair that they should be recompensed in order to enable them to increase their staffs. Their ordinary work has suffered as the result of these additional responsibilities. In order to cope with their work, the staffs of some municipal councils are working eighteen or nineteen hours a day.

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