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Thursday, 9 December 1965

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade and Industry) - Journalists have their own system. I do not wish to challenge their treatment of this meeting. The meeting that I had in Queensland yesterday is of great public interest because many of the leaders of the dairy industry in Queensland believe that their industry will suffer under the trade agreement signed with New Zealand. Before I addressed the meeting I invited the leaders of the industry to state what they conceived to be the basis of their fears. They did this. They explained their fears fully and rationally. It seems to me that this is all that has been reported in one newspaper. I was invited by the dairying industry to address the meeting and to state the position as I saw it. I did that. This fact has not been reported. There was no challenge to my assertion, which I have made in the House, that if 100 tons of cheddar cheese were brought in from New Zealand it would cause, at worst, 100 tons to be re-exported from Australia, resulting in a maximum loss of one tenth of one farthing per lb. of butter fat.

Mr Cope - Too much.

Mr McEWEN - That may be so, but the cold fact of the matter is that neither honorable members on the opposite side of the House nor, I say with respect, many leaders of the dairy industry in Queensland place sufficient weight on the fact that the average production of milk per cow in Queensland is 301 gallons a year whereas the average production everywhere else in Australia is 513 gallons per cow. The fundamental problem of dairymen in Queensland - it is a very serious and a very personal problem - is that environmental conditions do not permit the average Queensland dairy farmer to achieve a level of production that is at all comparable with the average production in the rest of Australia. This Government has devoted a good deal of money and scientific and extension efforts to helping to correct this fundamental disability. When this problem has been solved, Queensland dairy farmers will be on their feet and will be equal to other dairy farmers in Australia. I produced the figures and asked the dairymen to make their judgment on figures and not on fears. The figures show that in the first two years of the New Zealand agreement the maximum loss that the average dairy farmer in Queensland could suffer would be 21s. for the year. I pointed out that the average dairy farmer in Queensland is receiving £245 a year voted by this Parliament under the policies of this Government.

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