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Tuesday, 16 November 1976
Page: 2697

Mr SULLIVAN (Riverina) -I support the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill. There can be no doubt about the wisdom of bringing this Bill into the House. It has been supported by both sides- by the honourable members for Fraser (Mr Fry), McMillan (Mr Simon), Wills (Mr Bryant) and Macarthur (Mr Baume). Although there may have been some technical dispute between the honourable member for Macarthur and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), generally the Bill has been well received and for obvious reasons. No one can question the need for the dairying industry. We must have this industry for the wellbeing of the community. No one would question that fact. The subject has been covered in fairly great detail and I would like to comment upon 2 problems as I see themproblems which may be tackled by the Dairying Research Committee and the Australian Dairy Corporation by way of research and promotional activities. Perhaps these 2 problems are of minor significance to the industry when taken from an overall point of view but I believe that they highlight the total problems of the industry.

The problems I refer to concern butter- to be precise, its spreadability and packaging. Let me say at the outset that I do not believe there is any substitute for the taste of butter. In my opinion margarine has been chosen by the housewife not for its taste but for its other qualities. First of all it is chosen because of its spreadability. It can be taken straight from the refrigerator and put on to bread. It has a better use in that context. We all know that butter is unspreadable when taken from the refrigerator. It must be warmed first. Even the containers built into refrigerators do not solve the problem. It is a problem with butter. Secondly, I turn to packaging. Margarine is supplied in very attractive containers which in some instances are re-usable. Butter, for as long as I can remember, has not changed in its presentation. We still get, speaking roughly, a pound slab or its metric equivalent wrapped in a piece of paper which in my young days made a suitable insert for a cake tin because it was greasy. But butter remained in that same package until 1976. This detracts from the very good article which is enclosed in that paper.

There is a third minor point. Diet is becoming of the utmost importance in affluent societies, and the polyunsaturated quality of margarine makes it preferable to butter. Some research has been done and in South Australia there is a product called butterine which is in some way polyunsaturated. Generally speaking, however, butter is not a competitive product on the market today. That is one thing which the Research Committee should look at as a matter of urgency and one also for the promotional side of the Corporation to look into. Years ago we had a promotional campaign which suggested that butter made better lovers. I have not seen too many rushing to the supermarkets to purchase butter for that reason. We must become more serious in the promotion of the product and put it on to the market in a competitive form. If this were done I believe that because there is no substitute for the taste of butter, butter would sell in larger quantities. I suggest that these matters be taken up by the Research Committee and the Australian Dairy Corporation.

As previous speakers have done, I would like now to range a little wider than the contents of this Bill and to speak briefly about the industry itself. We have heard previous speakers say that the industry at the moment has a problem. The honourable member for Wills stated that the industry had an economic problem. He said- I quote him- 'We are speaking about an industry which is in trouble in an economic sense'. That tells only half the story. The industry has a tragic social problem at this moment. There are families- men, women and children- involved.

Some of the hardest working people in this country are facing this serious problem right now, and this is what we must remember. Let us forget about the economics of the situation and think about people and the problems facing them. Let us look back at the reasons that these problems exist now.

We can talk about world over-supply and so on but I would like to turn to the financing of the industry in Australia and to a book put out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and so is authoratitive, called Public Authority FinanceFederal Authorities. It tells a pretty vivid story for those who do not know it, and I hope that those who do not know it will know it as from today. In 1971-72 the subsidies paid to the dairying industry amounted to $39.882m. That is why Opposition members have always cried 'another handout to the cockies'. In 1975-76 the subsidies paid to the dairying industry dropped to $ 1.275m.

Mr Lusher - What were those figures again?

Mr SULLIVAN - They are almost disastrous. They have dropped from almost $40m to Sim- a drop of 4000 per cent in the subsidies paid to the dairying industry. The Industries Assistance Commission has provided some figures which show that in 1971-72 the subsidies paid to manufacturing industry in Australia amounted to $2,000m. We have all come to learn that tariff protection is a subsidy paid for by the exporter. The rural industries of this country, which in 1971-72 earned 58 per cent of the export earnings of this country, would have paid more than $ 1 , 000m to manufacturing industries in the form of subsidies.

I no longer want to hear in this House the cry of 'hand-outs to farmers' when these subsidies are being discussed because it is a lie to say that they are hand-outs and those who spread that around are doing a grave injustice to the people on the land. For too long we have heard the subsidies to rural industry being referred to as handouts. They are nothing more than a tariffcompensating factor for those engaged in rural industry. When one looks at the dairying industry and sees that in 1971-72 the subsidies amounted to $40m and that they were progressively cut back by the Labor Government by more than $10m a year one can see part of the true story emerging. If this Government can bring in any legislation to give some compensation to those people who work probably the longest hours of any member of any industry in this country, then I believe that it is bringing in wise and correct legislation.

I suppose one can say that the present shipbuilding industry has a chance of being retained as an industry. The subsidies from the taxpayers of this country amount to $13,000 per man per annum. I believe that the car industry is currently being subsidised to the extent of $4,000 per annum for each man in the industry. Those are pretty frightening figures. No one denies that the dairymen are efficient. We have all agreed that the dairying industry is an efficient industry. I dare say that if the dairymen were working in the shipbuilding yards we would have the most efficient shipbuilding industry in the world. Some of us are standing up in this House and arguing the point quite strongly for the retention of the shipbuilding industry; yet here we are saying to the people who are the hardest workers in this country: 'Go and find somewhere else to get your money. Work a bit harder. Work longer hours. Get up earlier than 3.30 in the morning and go to bed a bit later than 10 at night'. It is just not good enough.

I believe that the true story must be told not only in this House but also through every outlet of the media in this country until the message gets home that the people responsible for productivity in this country are currently in grave trouble. Until that message gets home the country will remain in trouble. There is no other way. We are not going to get out of trouble in this country by giving subsidies to the people who are totally inefficient. We are only going to get out of trouble when we recognise that the way out of trouble is to produce more and to sell more.

I support this Bill because it involves the promotional side of this industry. There is no short term panacea for the industry itself except the provision of financial assistance by this Government to help it over a very difficult period. That is what I believe this House as a whole must recognise. We must look at the industry and its problems in the same way as we have looked at this Bill. I have said that both sides of the House have supported this Bill. But that is not good enough. We cannot get our consciences off the hook simply by coming in here and saying that we support this Bill because it will do much for the industry. It will do only a little and it will do that in the long term. The industry needs assistance in this grave period and that must be given.

I do not think that I need say any more because the subject has been covered in a fairly detailed form by previous speakers. But I do believe that the research and the promotion must be aligned towards making the product of this industry competitive not only on the home market but also on overseas markets. Recently I saw an Australian Broadcasting Commission program which involved a conversation between a person from a Middle East country and a representative of the Commission. The gentleman from the Middle East country said quite clearly that milk was not being purchased from Australia because it was packaged wrongly, that according to the system of packaging in Australia the containers were not being filled to their cubic capacity as they should have been and that European countries were getting the markets because their milk was packed in a better way. I believe that this is something at which the research committee can have a look. When those things are done I believe that they will offer some long term prospects for the industry. I repeat that I believe that this House must recognise the very serious problem that the dairying industry faces today and that I believe that we all have a responsibility to do something about it.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

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