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Thursday, 25 July 1946

Mr RANKIN - The buyer for Sir William Angus.

Mr Scully - What has that to do with meat control?

Mr RANKIN - It certainly has relation to the controls imposed by this Government on the meat industry, because the value of skins has a very great effect upon the price of stock.

Mr Scully - Could he not have had his stock treated on the weight and grade basis?

Mr RANKIN - The price control on skins would still have applied.

Mr Scully - There is no price control on skins. The wool-grower had the right to the skin.

Mr RANKIN - A farmer who put his lambs over the hook would get only the same price. That is an unjust example of maladministration by this Government. Another instance is to be found in the price of tallow which has been fixed at £27 10s. a ton for the last five or six years. In the United States of America and Argentina, the price is £120 a ton. Those engaged in the meat industry do not wish to see prices skyrocket so that the cost of living would be increased duly, but there is no reason why they should not be guaranteed a reasonable price for their products. Canada, which before the. war was not a large exporter of meat to Great Britain, to-day sends more beef there than does any other country. In 1945, Canada shipped to the United Kingdom 5,732,270 cwt. of beef, consisting mainly of fores and hinds, valued at £39,359,178. That dominion was able to increase its production of meat to such a degree because its wheat-farmers who had reaped heavy crops found it a more profitable venture to feed the grain to cattle. Unlike the Australian Government, the Canadian Government gave every encouragement to farmers to produce beef. New Zealand produced 5,621,134 cwt., valued at £23,630,027. Canada produced 111,135 cwt. more than that. In 1945, Argentina produced 4,837,083 cwt. for export to Great Britain, and Australia produced 1,S52,000 cwt. The return to Australia was £2 10s. per cwt. for ox and heifer beef and £1 lis. 8d. per cwt. for cow beef. For lamb the approximate average return to the grower was 6½d. per lb. and for mutton 3id. per lb. The Australian meat producers have very little faith in the boards set up by this Government to control their industry. They are most dissatisfied that many large producers' organizations have no say in the appointment of the members of those boards. The Australian Meat Board is to be set up under the Meat Export Control Bill. Two organizations have been selected by the Minister to nominate a panel from which appointments to that board will be made. The producers should elect their representatives by ballot, and those elected should continue to be members of the board regardless of whether they .displease the Minister. The chairman's right to . veto any decisions of the board makes the board a farce. We know the kind of man that is likely to be appointed chairman. He will be a man of the type referred to in the letter of Mr. S. W. Johnston, secretary of the Victorian Ham and Bacon. Curers Association. That man was the employee of ' the greatest meat exporting firm in the world, the greatest octopus that the meat producers have had to contend with. This Government has been the greatest friend of that octopus. In spite of its claim that it is opposed to monopolies, on every occasion it supports that firm against the interests of the primary producers.

Mr Scully - Did not the government that the honorable gentleman supported appoint to the Australian Meat Board the representatives of the firms referred to?

Mr RANKIN - I am telling the Minister that the Labour Government is backing those large organizations up.

Mr Scully - The men appointed to the Australian Meat Board by' the Menzies Government are still on the Board.

Mr RANKIN - The Government is trying to retain in peace-time the powers it exercised in war-time under the National Security Regulations. With regard to the recent trouble in the pig section of the meat industry, there is no question that a meeting was called and that a member of this House attended it on behalf of the Government. .There is no doubt that the buyers were threatened that if they paid more . than a certain price for pigs they would be dealt with. There is no doubt that they bought thousands of pigs at a greatly reduced price. There was no warning of the intention of the Government to enforce this back-door method of price control. There is no doubt that a representative of the buyers attended the pig sales and warned, the auctioneer that when prices had reached the level that he had determined as the limit, the pigs were to be sold at those prices. I have been informed on very reliable authority that when the sale was over he got a proportion of the pigs at the value he had determined and communicated to the auctioneer as the top value with the threat that if he accepted more he would be prosecuted. Such occurrences explain why the producers have grave doubts about the boards set up. by this Government with the intention -of retaining powers that I do not believe it has the constitutional authority to retain. Mr. Johnston says quite openly in his letter -

Mr. Pollardthen addressed the meeting and stated that it was not the desire of the Government to take any arbitrary action in this matter, but something was obviously wrong in relation to prices being paid for live-stock and the price of the finished product, whether it be bacon, canned goods or pigs into cool store for export, and if the present prices being paid were continued the first alternative would obviously be that the Prices Commissioner would take action and that the Government would be compelled to acquire all pigs. However, he felt that if the operators got together on the matter this should not be necessary.

That meant that they had to band together to do an illegal act. In Victoria the law provides that it shall be an offence for buyers to combine to regulate prices at auction.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - Mr. Hogan was re: sponsible for that law.

Mr RANKIN - Yes, when he was Labour Premier of Victoria. That act was infringed, but no action was taken. When the hold-up occurred at Newmarket, because the big wholesale . butchers and exporters decided that they would make only ,one bid -for stock and that there would be no competition, there was. a definite infringement of that law, but this Government took no action to ensure a fair deal to the primary producers concerned. I urge that the Minister reconsider this matter and allow the men who earn their living by producing stock for the meat market to elect members to the Australian Meat Board, ,1'f .he is not prepared to do that, I ask him to take, into consideration in appointing members to that board the recommendations of all the big meat producers' organizations,, not just a couple of his pets, which he believes will recommend men who will be " stooges " for the Government. ,

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