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Friday, 28 June 1946

Mr McEWEN (Indi) . - I support the remarks of the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) regarding the dipping of cattle at Alice Springs. I agree that it is unprecedented and stupid to impose a law that cattle in so arid an area should be dipped. The cattle tick is indigenous to tropical district's, and cannot live in the dry areas of Central Australia. Some horses associated with a mob of cattle were brought into Alice- Springs from the north and tick, was found on them. Certain people with a curious mentality have now decided that because of this occurrence it is necessary to construct a dip at Alice Springs.

Mr Johnson - The honorable member knows by whom the restriction ha=> been imposed.

Mr McEWEN - It is a requirement of South Australia, and the Commonwealth authorities have no arbitrary power to defy that State iri the matter, but no practical cattle-man would regard it as reasonable to require the construction of a cattle dip at Alice Springs. The Commonwealth authorities should try to persuade the Government of South Australia that its action is unreasonable. The movement of cattle overland in Western Australia is not restricted by a requirement that cattle shall be dipped. A comparable requirement is not attached to the movement of cattle in Queensland, which embodies both arid and tropical areas.

The honorable member for the Northern Territory protested against the dip being constructed near the point at Alice Springs at which cattle are trucked. The trip from Alice Springs to the slaughter yards at Dry Creek, near Adelaide, is a long one, and the requirement by South Australia would result in an additional day elapsing before the stock could be slaughtered. To dip. cattle near the trucking centre would result in most of them dying from pneumonia. If the dip is to be constructed at the point of loading, where about 20,000 cattle are trucked annually, they will have to be held for an additional 24 hours in yards completely devoid of stock feed. So there will be another 24 hours of starvation and wastage before slaughter. If the South Australian authorities insist' on this requirement the dip "should be constructed some distance out of Alice Springs, in an area which ought to be acquired by the Commonwealth authorities, and where stock feed would be available. An arrangement should be made with South Australia to waive the requirement for trucking within 24 hours, as it is obviated by the dipping regulations applying to cattle arriving at the Dry Creek slaughter yards. There the regulations provide that the cattle shall be held for a week or two before slaughter, provided they are held under certain conditions of quarantine. I hope that the Minister will endeavour to arrange that a great burden shall not be placed on Northern Territory cattle producers.

Certain action was taken in Victoria two or three weeks ago in respect of pig prices and sales. It also concerns honest administration. Ceiling prices are fixed for pigs and pig carcasses. As the Government has well known for a couple of years, auction sale values have been very considerably in excess of the proclaimed ceiling prices. That has- not been a secret. The Meat Controller and the Department of Commerce have known it. The weight of and the prices paid for pigs have been published weekly in every newspaper in Victoria. The auction sales could be attended by representatives of the Meat Control and Prices Control. Yet for a long period the Government did nothing to correct the position. Following protests by bacon curers, butchers and exporters, a meeting was held. It was reported to have been presided over by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), who, as we know, assists the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). .According to reports, it was attended by representatives of the Deputy Controller of Meat in Victoria, if not by the Deputy Controller personally. The object of the meeting was to discuss pig prices, and to decide whether action should be taken in regard to them. The first point that I make is that the people by whom the industry is conducted, the producers, were never informed of the intention to hold the meeting to discuss the fate of their industry, and not one of them was invited or given an opportunity to be present to state their views. It is reliably reported that it was decided to restore the market to the proclaimed ceiling-price level. Such a decision can be easily made, but not so easily given effect in an auction market of live stock, at which it is necessary that the human element shall be introduced in estimating the weight of the carcass and the quality of the beast, because the proclaimed market level ii based on the weight of the carcass. It was decided that some authority should be sent to all sales, with a view to ensuring that, in the, purchase of slock oil the hoof, the buyers should observe the. proclaimed carcass scale of rates. Lo and; behold, at all the sales in the Goulburn Valley area of. Victoria, a Mr. Wilson, who is in business as a buyer of pigs and normally attends sales in that capacity, attended them in the new guise of an inspector of the Government, with authority to estimate the weight and finality of the stock on the hoof, and to. ai-e:d<- what should be. their live value at auction!

Mr WILLIAMS (ROBERTSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Totalitarian methods.

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) -Completely authoritarian. But that, is not novel in the administration of the Government. It is the inevitable concomitant of the crazy system of controls from which there seems to bc no escape. But the point that I make is the impropriety of cloth ing. w ith the authority of a government inspector a nian who is interested in the business as a buyer. That is a completely improper act of public administration, and it must be explained. The past cannot be recovered; but there must -be an explanation of' how this occurred, and an assurance that the Government does not intend to repeat it.

I come now to the final point, lt !S generally believed in the Goulburn Valley districts of Victoria that, as a result of this action, which- was taken at only one or two sales, because of popular protest, against it, the producers lost at each normal pig sale in an average country town not less than £1,500. It is further generally believed that the gentleman who normally was a pig buyer but attended these sales with all the authority nf a Commonwealth inspector and, as suchactually fixed the prices of the pigs offered for sale, was himself a buyer of pigs at those sales. If that be true, the Government must explain how it could occur, ff it be not true, then the Government ought to clear itself of the charge. I do not make a charge against jr. I have deliberately used the words " it is generally believed It is bad that in a country like this a large number of nien engaged in an important industry .-should almost unanimously believe that the Government has permitted such a thing to happen - that a man engaged in the industry as a buyer should be vested with the authority to fix the prices of pigs and, having- fixed them at £1, £1 5s. anc) £1 10s. a head lower than the previously prevailing level, should acquire for himself or his company the ownership of the pigs he had inspected. I put- it to the Government tha* this allegation must be investigated, and a reply to it must be made.

Mr. SPEAKER,_ 'The honorable member's time has expired.

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