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Friday, 11 September 1942

Mr RANKIN (Bendigo) .- According to press statements, the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) proposes to rationalize the pig industry on the basis of the contract that has been made with Great Britain. Every honorable member must know that this industry fluctuates tremendously. During the regime of a previous government eighteen months ago, pigs were almost valueless. There had been a boom in the industry. Pig men had embarked in it. on a large scale. Bacon pigs were worth approximately £2 10s., porkers £1 15s., slips 7s., 8s. or 10s., and sows £1, £1 5s. or £1 10s. During that period, those people lost a great deal ; in fact, they were in such a position that they had to get out of the industry. I admit that to-day there is a boom in pig meats and that prices are beyond reason. The Government must realize, however, that the man who has been in the pig industry for a period of years has lost a good deal, and that no government went to his assistance when he was in trouble. To-day, when he has an opportunity to recoup himself, the Government proposes a price of 7d. per lb., which is not equal to the cost of production. Costs are rising tremendously. In the last two years, the cost of agricultural labour has increased by at least 100 per cent. Feed costs, too, have increased enormously. Those who are in the industry in a big way, not realizing that there was likelihood of government, interference, have bought store pigs at high prices on many occasions. I know of one man who bought at a sale 70 store pigs at from £3 to £3 15s. each. If the Government should fix the price at 7d. per lb., he will sell those pigs at approximately the price that he gave for them, after he has fed them for from two to three months. I agree that the industry should be rationalized; but it is quite wrong that the rationalization should be on the basis of the contract with the British Government. Practically every other industry in Australia is allowed an Australian price. Apart from those who have lost their husbands, sons or brothers, the people of Australia -have not suffered in this war. I say definitely that they should be prepared to make sacrifices in order that Great Britain may be supplied with foodstuffs at the contract price. But the price paid for the foodstuffs consumed in Australia by our Army and our allies, as well as our civilian population, should be such as will return to producers the cost of production, plus a reasonable profit. That is the basis on which the dairying industry works ; and the attempt is being made to apply the same principle to the wheat-growers. The man engaged in the production of munitions, and the clothing manufacturer, are similarly circumstanced. If the Government allows the present proposal to operate, it will be forced by a definite shortage to withdraw the restriction. Prices for pig products will then be such as have not been previously known in Australia. A farmer cannot be compelled to breed, feed, and market pigs. He must be given reasonable compensation for the money he has invested in the industry and the labour he has employed. I hope that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Frost), who is in charge of the House at the moment, will bring this matter to the notice of the Minister for Commerce. It is most important. The pig industry is a large one, and could be tremendously expanded. Our export of pig meats can be very greatly increased. In fact, there is a great future before the industry, and I trust that there will be no unwise interference with its development.

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