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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 905

Mr PATERSON (Gippsland) . - So much has already been said by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Bernard Corser), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins), and others, about the difficulties with which dairy-farmers are faced owing to the acute shortage of man-power, that it is unnecessary for me to repeat what has already been well stated. I need only say that my experience in Victoria confirms what those honorable gentlemen have said. In Gippsland, many dairy herds are being reduced in numbers merely because there are not enough men to milk them ; the fattest cows have been sold to the butchers. We can expect such a reduction of butter production in the near future that we shall have to choose between the cessation of exports to Great Britain, where each person is allowed only 2 oz. of marga rine and butter each week, and the rationing of our own consumption in order to maintain our exports. We should be doing no more than our duty if we rationed ourselves to a reasonable degree in order to spare something for Great Britain. We have been told that there will be no food shortage, but are those who say that thinking of ourselves alone? Great Britain is producing an enormous quantity of war equipment, and is exporting no less than80 per cent. of its production to Russia, the Middle East, India, New

Zealand and Australia. We, who are capable of producing surplus food, should not be content until we are sending the maximum amount possible to Great Britain, which is very strictly rationed with respect to many things which normally we have in plenty. The difficulties of dairy farmers have already been thoroughly discussed, but I point out that the production of the maximum amount of dairy produce is dependent upon conditions not only on the dairy farms, but also in the butter factories. The Victorian butter factories are in a very difficult position at the present time. Owing to military call-ups some of them are so short of key men that it is doubtful whether they will be able to process the quantity of milk and cream that is offering. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) made an admirable speech with regard to waste of food. He will agree with me that there will be a tremendous waste of good food if the milk and cream available cannot be processed owing to the lack of butter-makers and other skilled men in the factories. Strangely enough the position is very much worse in Victoria than it is in New South Wales and Queensland. For some reason, key men in butter factories in those two States have not been called up as they have in Victoria. I do not suggest that there has been discrimination as between States. I assume that this fact is due to the seasonal differences in the various States. As honorable members know, the butter season in Victoria reaches its peak much earlier than in New South Wales and Queensland. The peak months in Victoria are September, October, November and December. In the Northern Rivers area of New South Wales, and in Queensland, the peak period is from December to March. I assume that the key men in Victorian factories were called up for training about the time when supplies had become somewhat low in Victoria, and that, when the same position with respect to supplies had been reached in the two northern States, the Government had changed its policy with regard to calling up these men. At any rate, the Victorian butter factories are very short of skilled men. They managed to carry on satisfactorily while supplies were low, but supplies are now rapidly increasing and the peak will be reached in the near future. Some managers of butter factories do not know which way to turn. In many cases, when they have applied for the release of key men- from the Army, their applications have been strongly supported by the man-power officials, but the final decision rests with the military authorities. We know that the military authorities will not grant releases to men whose work will take them more than 24 hours' travelling time away from their units. Furthermore, they will not release any men from armoured regiments or any non-commissioned officers or commissioned officers, because they do not want to destroy the efficiency of their units. The young man who becomes almost indispensable to a butter factory is the kind of man who quickly gains promotion in the Army, and consequently cannot be released. I know of many butter factory managers who do not know how they will manage to carry on. One elderly manager of a moderate-sized factory has been attempting to do the manager's work and the butter-maker's work. But supplies are mounting up now and he can no longer do the two jobs. A week or two ago he handed his resignation to his directors. They begged him to carry on a little longer in- the hope that they might secure relief, but they have pointed out to me that he cannot possibly continue indefinitely to do the two jobs. The same sort of thing is happening on farms, where elderly men are trying to keep going until their sons return from- the war,, but the strain is too great for them. Some: substantial measure of relief will have to be given to butter factories and farmers. It has been estimated, that Vietorian butter factories are about 440' men short of the number needed to carry them on through the flush of the season. It. would be extremely difficult to get all of these men,. &r even. 300 of them, out of the Army. But, if: these men were allowed to return to the factories for the next few months of peak production, they would probably do more for the war effort in producing food than they can hope to do as individuals in their army units. I hope, therefore, that special consideration willi be given to the needs of this case. I have in mind particular butter factories in Victoria. The Minister for the Army should take immediate steps to ensure that a more satisfactory supply of man-power is available. The recommendations of the man-power authorities should not he too lightly overruled by military officers if the men are urgently required for food production.

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