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Thursday, 25 July 1946

Mr LEMMON (Forrest) .- I support the bill, the purpose of which is to give statutory authority to the kind of body that has been operating under National Security Regulations for the control of the meat industry. That body did exceptionally good work during the most difficult days of the war. It has brought stability of prices to the meat industry for all meats which have been exported. We must realize that if this hill does not become law, the control of our meat-exporting business will return to those who held it before the war. I strongly object to the methods which were applied in this, industry in the pre-war years. I point out to honorable members also that if we should be forced back to that position, shipping, the unreliability of world markets and many other difficulties which could be mentioned, will undoubtedly force producers of mutton, lamb, beef and bacon to accept very low prices for their product, because the exporting firms will have to take considerable risks in regard to markets and transport. To-day all countries which import meat purchase through one buying organization. Chaotic conditions would overtake the meat industry of Australia if producers were obliged to sell through ten, twelve or fourteen exporting firms, and it would be extremely improbable, under such conditions, that sellers would receive anything like a fair price for their stock. On those grounds it is imperative that the bill shall become the law of this country. I well remember that prior to' the operation of the present organization the price offered for fat lambs was approximately 12s. a head. The price of fat lambs' of the same quality to-day is approximately 25s. a head. The price of baconers weighing from 160 lb. to 180 lb. ranged between £2 and £2 10s., and "to-day if is approximately £7. Those prices indicate the benefits which this legislation will continue to confer on the. meat producers of this country, lt is rather astonishing to hear some members of the Australian Country party proclaim their great concern for the producers, particularly those who raise pigs. I remind them of an unofficial statement issued at the outbreak of the last war, in which they advised the producers not to mate their ewes with Southdown rams because of the insecurity of the market. Therefore, the Australian Country party " sold out " those producers in the early part of the war.

Mr McEwen - On a point of order, I claim that the honorable member has misrepresented me as a member of the Australian Country party, in stating that my party and I advised fat-lamb breeders at- some period not to join Southdown rams with their stock. That is untrue! The statement is objectionable to me, and I ask that it be withdrawn.

Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Barnard)- There is no point of order.

Mr McEwen - I rise to a different, point of order. As a live-stock breeder and a public man, my reputation would be prejudiced were it understood that I had given advice of that kind.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! If the honorable member has been misrepresented, he will be entitled to make a personal explanation later.

Mr LEMMON - Because of the 're-, flection on his party, the honorable gentleman now desires to withdraw from participation in the advice that was given by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) >as Minister for Commerce. I -also invite him and the other members of his party to recall what took place in the early period of the war in connexion with the pig industry. 1 well remember that pigs were then worth from £2 10s. to '£3, and that the bottom dropped out of the market very quickly because of the shortage of shipping and other difficulties. The pig producer had to bear the consequential loss. I know of one farmer who returned to his property with eight prime baconers which lie had found it practically impossible to (>ell.

Mr Scully - They were selling for 5i. each.

Mr LEMMON - That is "so.

Sir McEwen - Prime baconers?

Mr LEMMON - Yes, prime baconers.

Mr McEwen - That is a fairy tale.

Mr LEMMON - The .Minister for Commerce at that time was the right honorable 'member for 'Cowper. Had the members of the Australian Country party been in their places in this House last night when that right honorable gentleman spoke, they would have heard him recite the unfortunate conditions 'that then existed. I am not alleging tha't blame was attachable to any ohe.

Mr Scully - The Australian Country party was blameworthy in that it did not go to the assistance of the primary producers.

Mi-. LEMMON. - It is correct to say that that party did 'not go to the assistance of the primary producers. During thisdebate, we have witnessed the unedifyingspectacle of the honorable member for Indi making a personal attack, in his characteristically veiled, smart way, upon a certain pig-meat inspector in Victoria. He has referred on two other occasions to this matter and to pig-meat prices in Victoria, and has been furnished with a complete explanation. Perhaps in future he will accept statements that are made in this House, rather than the rumours and misstatements which apparently have been passed on to him by ill-informed people outside the House.

Mr McEwen - Did an officer of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture prepare for the honorable member the statement he is making?

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member for Indi had ample opportunity to present his case, .and occupied approximately an hour in doing so. He must remain silent during the speech of the honorable member for 'Forrest.

Mr LEMMON - The Commonwealth Government, upon the appointment ' of the Meat Industry Advisory .Committee, directed that particular attention should be given to the pig industry, and the Controller of Meat Supplies presented to d;he Government what is now known -as the pig-meat plan. That plan was intituted at the request of the pig producers throughout Australia. It gave 'stability and security to the industry; because, in addition to the plan, .there was the assurance of the Commonwealth Government that outlets would be available for unlimited pig-meat production during a :considerable number of years. The prices determined under the plan were accepted generally by producers as being fair and reasonable. Firstgrade bacon carcasses were priced at 9d. per lb., with proper margins for second and lower qualities. The plan has been acclaimed by pig producers throughout Australia, who, having experienced the "benefits of .a stabilized price and security in their industry, are most insistent that it shall be continued by the Commonwealth Government, even to the degree of securing the co-operation of State govern. ments to ensure its continuance. Yet the honorable mem'ber for Indi suggested this morning that the plan should be disrupted by means of market prices which are grossly in excess of the plan prices. For a considerable time, market prices in Victoria were 10½d. and11d. per lb., compared with the plan price of 9d. per lb. The honorable member for Indi, I am sure, is aware of the reason for these higher market prices. They could be brought about only by the black marketing activities of certain individuals. Yet he has advocated that they should have been allowed to remain: In effect, he has suggested that the laws of the Parliament should not apply in regard to this matter.

Mr McEwen - Irise to order. The honorable member has said that, in my speech, I suggested that the laws of the Parliament should not apply. He has also implied that I condone and advocate a state of affairs which permits; in fact encourages, black marketing. Those statements are objectionable tome and I ask that they be withdrawn.

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order! There is no point of order.

Mr Adermann - I rise to a point of order. I understand that when an honorable member saysthat a remark is objectionable to him, he has the right to demand that the remark be withdrawn.

Mr Spender - If an honorable member regards as objectionable a statement which reflects upon him personally, in what circumstances may he ask that it be withdrawn?

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - If an honorable member has been misrepresented he may make a personal explanation at the appropriate time. If one honorable member, speaking of another, uses unparliamentary language, the latter may ask for the withdrawal of that statement. Such a situation does not exist now.

Mr LEMMON - Last night; I listened with great interest to the right honorable member for Cowper bestowing praise on the Controller of Meat Supplies, his deputies, and inspectors for their success in the onerous duties which they have had to perform. Their job was to keep prices within the limits fixed by the price-fixing authority in order to prevent black marketing. I am not really surprised, although I am ashamed, that members of the Australian Country party should rise in their places and, for the second time, support black marketeers. They are speaking for the same interests as are trying to break down price control. We remember that the wholesale butchers went on strike for no other reason than that they wanted to increase their profits. Now they are making trouble again, and for the same reason - they want to increase their profits. The honorable member for Indi and his colleagues must make up their minds whether they stand for this stabilization scheme, or whether they stand by the black marketeers. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Mr McEwen - I desire to make a personal explanation regarding statements about me,made by you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker (Mr. Barnard), speaking from your place in the House, by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), and by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Burke). You, when discussing my reference to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), suggested that I would not have spoken as I did had the honorable member been present, and you added that he was absent on urgent business.

Mr Bryson -i rise to a point of order. Is this a personal explanation, or is the honorable member attempting to continue the debate?

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER - I am watching that point very closely.

Mr McEwen - I remind you, sir, that another honorable memberstated, by way of interjection, that the honorable member for' Ballarat was absent because of a bereavement in his family.

Mr Mulcahy - That is true.

Mr McEwen - Both statements cannot be true. I accept the explanation that the honorable member is absent because of a bereavement in his family, which I greatly regret. The last thing I would do would be to take advantage of the absence of an honorable member for that reason to make any reference to him. Let me add that I would not take advantage of the absence of any honorable member for any reason to make reference to him, adverse or otherwise.

The honorable member for Perth charged me with making allegations by innuendo against the honorable member for Ballarat. I made no charges whatever against that honorable member, either by innuendo or directly. I said that it had been reported that the honorable member for Ballarat was present at a certain meeting, and had presided over it. When I made that statement, the honorable member for Ballarat replied-

Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.The honorable member is entitled, to make a personal explanation, but he may not reply to earlier debate.

Mr McEwen - I am making an explanation in order to clear myself of a charge. When I said that it had been reported that the honorable member for Ballarat had presided over the meeting, the honorable member himself, who was present, interjected - " That is a dastardly lie ! " I am on record as having replied that there was no need to describe the statement as a dastardly lie, because I had merely quoted a report, and I accepted the honorable member's statement that he had not been present. That disposes of that matter.

The third point in respect of which I desire to make an explanation was raised by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), who said that the Australian Country party had advised fat-lamb producers not to mate their ewes. That is personally objectionable to me; I am sure no such advice was given.

Debate resumed from the 24th July (vide page 3006), on motion by Mr. Chifley -

That the following paper be printed: -

Financial Statement by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., Treasurer.

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