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Wednesday, 7 August 1946

Mr SCULLY (Gwydir) (Minister for Commerce and Agriculture) . - in reply - The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) .has dealt thoroughly ' with the purposes of this bill, and the criticisms which honorable members opposite directed against it. The object of the measure is to transfer the powers, now exercised by the Controller of Meat Supplies to the board which will be established by this legislation, and at the outset, I believed that honorable members could not possibly object to it. Unfortunately, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) made many statements of such a questionable nature that they destroyed the whole force of his argument, and filled his listeners with a sense of repugnance. He lowered the standard of this Parliament. The honorable member for Indi was supported, although less offensively, by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony), who appeared in a new role. In the past, he was always- a clean fighter, and played the game. On this occasion he made innuendoes and. uttered half-truths. The honorable member for Ballarat effectively replied to both honorable members.

This Government has treated the meat producers with greater generosity than, was shown by members of the Australian. Country party who were Ministers in" the Menzies Government. The honorable member for Ballarat referred to the exceedingly low prices which were paidto pig producers before the Labour Government took office towards the end of 1941. Equally low prices were payablefor fat lambs and other meat. In 1941, ' before we took office, the prices for pigmeats and fat lambs in Australia collapsed.. That disaster was caused by thecessation of shipping as the result of the Japanese threat. Although the primary producers appealed to the Menzies Government -for assistance, no effort wasmade to relieve their plight. Under theauthority of my predecessors, the Department of Commerce warned lamb producers not to joint their ewes at that: time. Pig-meat prices also collapsed. On the border of my electorate, there is a. big market for pig-meats. Because of theunprecedentedly low prices, some producers took their pigs back to their farms, some sold them for as low as 5s. each, and others were prepared to give away a pig with young pigs. ' That was the - kind of " protection " which members of the Australian Country party afforded to meat producers on that occasion. About that time, the honorable member for Richmond, who was Assistant Minister for Commerce, visited New Zealand, where a Labour government was in office. It had the same problems as those which confronted the Commonwealth government of the day. What did the honorable member find? The Labour government rose to the occasion, and purchased all the meat at export parity and placed - it in cold storage. The government expended millions of pounds, and, in doing so, took enormous risks; but ultimately, when the shipping services were restored, the whole of the meat was exported to the United Kingdom which required it so urgently, and the producers - of New Zealand-, under the Labour Government, ' were adequately protected. .

When the honorable gentleman returned from New Zealand did he recommend that the Australian Government should act as the Government of New Zealand had done to protect the fat lamb and pig producers from absolute ruin? He did not. He was not prepared to take any risk. That is the difference between the treatment of the producers by a Labour government and by a so-called Country party government which was Country party only in name.

I wish to refer to despicable suggestions and innuendoes made during the debate that certain persons in the organization of the Controller of Meat Supplies had made a " rake-off ". More objectionable statements have never been made in this House, and an unjustifiable stigma has been cast upon officers who have been responsible for the sale of meat. Such attacks upon public officials debase the standards of Parliament. An unfair blow has been dealt at persons who. are not here to defend themselves. Yet the right honorable gentleman forCowper (Sir Earle Page) in the same debate, spoke in high appreciation of the efficiency of the Controller of Meat Supplies and his staff. I have attended meetings in the capital cities of Australia from Brisbane to Perth in company with the Controller of Meat Supplies and members of his staff and I have been pleased to hear the eulogistic references which have been made to them for the sympathetic consideration they have given to the primary producers of Australia. That very fact gives the lie direct to the baseless allegations that have been made during this debate. I have no more to say, except that I hope, for the sake of parliamentary propriety and the maintenance of a high standard of debate, we shall not witness another such exhibition.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

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