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Tuesday, 15 March 1966

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock (LYNE, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Order! I suggest that this has nothing to do with the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

Mr HAYDEN - But it has a lot to do with the future of the Country Party. All I shall say is that after the next Federal election the only Queensland electorate represented by the Country Party will be Fisher, and even that will be a shame. The dairy farmers in Queensland are the people with whom I am greatly concerned. I want to express the concern of these people at the introduction of the Free Trade Agreement and to voice their alarm at certain features of it.

I begin by pointing out that these people are concerned about whether they can rely on the word of the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen), who is the Deputy Prime Minister and who happens to be also the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Federal Parliament. This man has stated publicly that the interests of primary industry in this country will be absolutely defended. The honorable member for Riverina mentioned that there would be 182 days in which arrangements could be made to extricate some items from the Agreement if a section of the economy was being adversely affected. I remind the honorable member that that is six months. From the time that the symptoms of malaise originally show until six months have elapsed is a fairly lengthy period and if there is to be any deterioration surely it will have set in well and truly. Yet this is the only defence that the honorable member for Riverina seemed to offer. The honorable member for Capricornia has reminded me that because the Agreement depends on a volume of trade, if we extract one item the whole, thing will have to be readjusted.

I have mentioned the suspicion with which primary producers in Queensland are now regarding the Country Party and particularly the great reservations which dairy farmers in Queensland have when the Minister for Trade and Industry - the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Country Party - says that he will defend their interests. By chance I happen to have here a newspaper cutting from the " Courier-Mail ", a Queensland morning paper, of 11th November 1958. I shall read some extracts. This is a report of statements made by the Minister for Trade and Industry during the election campaign of that year. They are very interesting. The report states -

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) yesterday pledged the Federal Government to secure the dairying industry on a stable and profitable basis.

That was nine years ago. The Minister has forgotten about that promise. This, of course, relates to Queensland because he said this in Queensland. He also said, according to the report -

That solution may involve the provision of funds at reasonably low rates of interest to help the industry through its present difficulties. . . . My Government will not allow dairying to fail even in the difficult areas of northern Australia.

The Minister was speaking in support of the Country Party candidate for the Leichhardt electorate. Mr. McEwen said that he realised that dairy farmers in northern Australia - Queensland and northern New South Wales - faced difficulties not faced by the southern dairying areas of Australia where the cost of production was lower. The report continues -

Mr. McEwensaid that in the difficult dairying areas of the north, towns had been built around the dairying industry and it had been the greatest factor in closer settlement.

The whole tenor of the Minister's remarks is to stress the value of the dairying industry in Queensland, that he is there to look after the industry and that he will see that it is looked after. I wish to quote from analytical reports of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics which show rather convincingly that the dairying industry in Queensland has not been looked after but is indeed in a very serious situation which calls for drastic action by Federal and State Governments to introduce a policy of rehabilitation of the industry.

Mr. McEwensaid that he was there to see that nothing harmed the industry. On 8th December of last year he held a meeting on the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement in Brisbane. He was told by Mr. C. J. S. Conroy of Toowoomba that a section of the dairying industry is being sacrificed in the interests of Australian manufacturers. Mr. Conroy said that Queensland's cheese and pig meat industries would be hit hard by the admission to Australia of duty free New Zealand cheese and pig meats. Mr. J. V. Bermingham of Eastern Downs told Mr. McEwen that figures he had cited showed that Mr. McEwen had an inflated opinion of production per farm in Queensland and that the New Zealand pig meat threat's psychological effect already was depressing Queensland pig meat prices. A newspaper report of the Brisbane meeting quoted Mr. McEwen as saying -

I'll see that you don't come to any harm.

Mr Bridges-Maxwell - What is the date of the newspaper report?

Mr HAYDEN - It is a report in the Brisbane " Courier-Mail " of 9th December last. The Deputy Prime Minister had a lot of other things to say. When the dairying industry in 1958 was alarmed about threats to its future, the Deputy Prime Minister said that he would see that the industry was rehabilitated. He said he was there to protect it. In 1965, when the industry was again expressing alarm, he said the same thing.

Mr Armstrong - Why is the value of dairying land in Queensland rising?

Mr HAYDEN - If the honorable member studies the reports of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics he will find that the value of dairying land in Queensland is the lowest in the Commonwealth.

I was dealing with the attitude of Mr. McEwen to the interests of primary producers. In this House on 23rd November last he said -

It has always been the policy of my Party that those who produce, own and sell a product are the best judges of the way in which their own property should be treated, lt is the function of my Party to see that the will of those who produce and own the product is carried into legislative and administrative effect.

On 26th November last Mr. McEwen said in this House -

I am also a Cabinet Minister; and as such and as the Leader of my Party, as 1 have said before, when any great sector . of the Australian population makes a proposal to the Government in the interests of that sector of the population, i conceive it to be the duty of the Government to give consideration to that proposal.

How hollow those statements must sound to the dairy farmers who are complaining that they were never consulted about the Agreement in the first place. They say that the Agreement was rushed through this House quick smart, although they were then getting restive and wondering what was involved in the Agreement. Since the Agreement has been signed there has been no consultation with these people. This procedure is hardly consistent with the principles enunciated by the Minister for Trade and Industry in the past.

One step that could be taken by the Government would be to write into the Agreement right from the start a guarantee that there will be no butter exports. I would hope that there would not be, in view of the condition of butter production in this country and the problems of Australian dairy farmers compared with their counterparts in New Zealand. I cannot see any reason why the Government should not be prepared to write in a guarantee as a form of consolation for the concern which those in the dairying industry are feeling.

The importation of cheddar cheese from New Zealand cannot be understood as a matter of logic by Australian dairy farmers. They cannot understand why we should import cheese from New Zealand, because it will mean that we will have to export greater amounts of cheese as the imported cheese will displace Australian produced cheese on the Australian market. Our exported cheese will be sold at a lower price than would have been obtained for it had it been sold on the Australian market.

The honorable member for Capricornia has referred to a subject often raised with me by dairy farmers in my electorate; that is, the importance of pig meat production in Queensland to dairy farmers. Figures in the quarterly review of January 1966 of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics show that Queensland has a very high investment in pig meats. A table is set out showing the three year farm average for Australia by States. The average income for dairy farmers in Queensland from pig meats is $218. The next highest average is for New South Wales, which is only $65. It then falls quite steeply in the other States. It is clear why Queensland dairy farmers are concerned about the importation of pig meats. Three thousand tons of pig meat will be introduced into Australia under the Agreement. If these imports arrived in concentrated amounts and at concentrated points, it could be extremely disruptive to the pig raising industry in Australia. It is little wonder that Queensland dairy farmers are quite distressed that the Agreement has been negotiated.

A very serious problem exists in the dairying industry in Queensland. I have obtained statistics from the rural industries reports of the Commonwealth Statistician for the period 1962-63. These reports cover each State and all Australia. Since 1940-41 Queensland has had the lowest annual average milk production per dairy cow in the Commonwealth. That situation has been maintained consistently over this very long period and even before 1940-41 the situation in Queensland rarely improved. I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry when he was in the House earlier for permission to have a table showing the average annual milk production per dairy cow since 1940- 41 incorporated in "Hansard". He said that it would be quite satisfactory. I now seek permission to have the table incorporated.

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