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Tuesday, 16 November 1976


Mr BAUME (Macarthur) -I wish to conclude the remarks which I was making concerning this matter when the House rose last week. At that stage I complained bitterly about the decline in both production and returns to the dairy industry. I claimed that these declines had brought distress to a large and economic group in Australia, particularly in the electorate of Macarthur. The point has, in fact, been well made by the President of the New South Wales Dairy Farmers Association, Mr Jack Eggert, who pointed out that Australian milk consumption had dropped by 4 1/2 per cent since 1973. There is no real reason for this drop except the fact that marketing is not properly organised. Last week I pointed to the need for further research into methods of increasing exports of milk protein. I hope that a fair proportion of the research undertaken under the Dairying Industry Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill will go towards the provision of finance for finding methods of exporting dairy protein.

There is no doubt that the domestic marketing situation also needs a great deal of stimulus. We should look at the promotion part of this activity in the Bill now before us with a great deal of interest. There has been a degree of attempt at self-help within the industry. I know that New

South Wales dairy farmers are keen to get together to pay a levy from their own incomes to mount a massive drink milk campaign. Of course their cause was not at all helped by the removal of the free milk scheme to schools by our predecessors. There is no doubt that the declining returns to the efficient sections of this industry have brought immense distress. One of the major reasons for this immense distress is what the New South Wales Labor Government has done to the dairymen of New South Wales and particularly to those in my electorate. No matter what sort of promotional efforts are made there seems to me no doubt that the actions of the New South Wales government in mucking around with the quota system will mean greater inefficiency and greater distress.

It is extraordinary that the New South Wales Labor Government can claim that it will be cheaper to bring milk into Sydney from hundreds and hundreds of miles away than it will be to provide milk from the richer pastoral areas of, for example, the south coast of New South Wales. If members of the Opposition ever get into the country- they have an urban bias- they would see on visual inspection that these areas are green, rich and lush and produce much better milk. The facts are that these areas are close to markets and are being disadvantaged. The existence of quotas is to make certain that there are no shortages of milk. There is no point in having promotion levies, as this Bill provides, if there will be no milk in winter to promote. It was a Labor State Government which introduced the quota system in New South Wales. The reason it did so was to avoid the habitual milk shortages which occurred every winter due to cows drying off. Another reason for the quota was to encourage dairy farmers to suffer a loss in winterwinter feed can be provided only at great costand offset it in summer by getting higher prices than would normally be available in the flush milk periods. It was a sensible scheme and it worked. It brought justice to the industry and in fact maintained the most efficient dairy producers in the most efficient areas in a reasonable way.

The system is now being destroyed, curiously enough by a State Labor Government which apparently has never read about, listened to or taken notice of its Labor predecessor which introduce the scheme in the first place. The fascinating morality of the situation strikes home I believe at the very heart of what so many governments believe they have the right to do; and that is to change the rules in the middle of the game. Dairymen have been buying quotas.

Let us face it: The quota is an asset. The Industries Assistance commission's report on dairying has recognised that the possession of a quota is a real asset and yet these quotas will be taken away, wiped out, by a stroke of the administrative pen. There will be no compensation whatsoever. There has been a suggestion by the New South Wales Dairy Farmers Association that something like $150 should be paid to the dairymen for every gallon of milk lost over the quotas. The abolition of quotas will send people broke. Efficient producers will be sent broke not because they have done the wrong thing, not because they are getting rich and not because they are doing anything disgraceful, but simply because the State Government has decided that in order to hold the seat of Casino in New South Wales, it will sacrifice the efficiency of this industry and the producers who are nearest and most capable of coping with the local demand for milk in the city areas. It will be interesting to see what happens in the first winter of the milk discontent after this system is destroyed by the State Labor Government. Who then will provide milk that the cities will need? Who will care at all whether there is a promotion levy to promote the sale of non-existent milk?

The general problem facing the dairy farmer has been well recognised not only by the IAC which, as I said, recognises these quotas as a real asset, but also by the Australian Agricultural Council which met on 8 October this year in Sydney. The Council quite clearly recognises that orderly marketing of both manufactured products and market milk continues. I think the House should note what the Agricultural Council- composed as honourable members know, of representatives of all States, including Labor States- had to say. It stated:

Preservation of orderly marketing for market milk was seen by certain States particularly New South Wales as an essential condition for participation in the new marketing arrangements.

If orderly marketing is required for heaven's sake let it be done on a fair and reasonable basis. Let us, if we can, encourage the New South Wales Government to recognise the injustice of what it is doing to the producers in New South Wales. Recently the Jamberoo Co-operative Dairy Society, which is in the Macarthur electorate, expressed its concern to the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on this matter. I want to stress that pamphlets put out by the Labor Party have been going around in my electorate claiming, quite improperly, that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Primary Industry are opposed to the existence of quotas for milk producers. These pamphlets are, of course, utter nonsense and nothing that either the Prime Minister or the Minister for Primary Industry has said could be judged to be any rejection of the principle of having quota entitlement for capital city milk suppliers. The facts are that to guarantee supply an incentive must be provided for people to keep cows productive in their dry periods. Winter feeding is a costly practice.

I have here a letter from the Minister for Primary Industry which I hope gives the lie to the statements being made by the Labor Party in New South Wales. In a letter to me he said:

While we believe that there is a need for a closer integration of market milk and manufacturing milk sectors at a time of major adjustment within the industry, the steps taken by the New South Wales Government to cut down market milk quotas certainly seem inequitable. There are other ways by which some adjustment in returns could have been made without severely prejudicing the entitlements of market milk producers.

It is quite important that this Government's position, vis-a-vis the New South Wales Government's disgraceful and serious attack on an efficient and hard working industry, should be clearly stated as it was in that letter from the Minister. There is no doubt that this Commonwealth Government is making a very strong and determined attempt to fix up what is obviously a difficult and disturbed industry.

Admittedly, the underwriting arrangements for butter, cheese, skim milk powder and casein for 1976-77 season are only a holding operation. We must get longer term marketing arrangements implemented for the dairy industry. The Government has set forth a policy of introducing methods by which the industry will be improved and the people within the industry will not be on the starvation line and will not be struggling to survive in a prosperous world where, as usual, the city people seem to do so well but the people who work from before dawn to after dark in the country seem to get a bad deal. At least this Government is aware of and is concerned about those people, which is more than was the case with the previous Government. The interim measures which we have introduced at least will help out the industry until the further consideration of the very detailed recent report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the marketing arrangements in the dairying industry has been completed.

There is no doubt that the underwriting arrangements for 1976-77 must be accompanied by appropriate adjustment assistance measures to help potentially viable dairy farmers to remain in the industry. That is obviously the Government's policy. At the same time, there is no doubt that some dairy farmers would be better off out of the industry producing something else. There is no doubt that measures taken against our export industries by the previous importers of our products- the countries which have been our customers in the past- have in effect destroyed the prospects of many of our dairy farmers. For example, an extraordinary position arises in respect to the European Economic Community. The organisation was allegedly built up for the betterment of the world and to increase stability. In fact all that happens within that organisation in terms of its trade dealings is that it tells the rest of the world to go to blazes. The export dairy farmers of Australia have been told to go to blazes by the Common Market. It seems distressing that the most industrialised and developed section of the world- the Common Market countries-should be taking measures which grind down and attack the developing areas. They attack the most efficient producers in the world. These countries are involved totally in an introspective approach and an attempt to make Europe a sort of grand extension of the old Napoleonic French empire. It is some kind of extension of the French dream of honour and glory to the exclusion of all else, particularly the dairy farmers of Australia. I regret that so many dairy farmers in Australia who have been hard workers, people who have dedicated their lives to an industry which has never given then immense returns but which in the past has enabled them to live reasonably, are now suffering to the extent that they are being forced off their farms. I hope that the Government's discussions and implementations of measures arising out of consideration of the dairy industry inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission will result in a great period of stability for this industry. I hope that the dairy farmers of Macarthur, at least within 2 te years, will be able to look forward to a situation in which a government will be returned in New South Wales which will enable their just right of access to the city milk market to be restored to them. I think that what has happened in New South Wales is a typical example of the attitudes of Labor parties throughout this nation to the rural sector. I think that it is typical of the approach that is antagonistic to the people who work on the land. I use the word 'work' in a very real sense. For farmers there is no six or seven hour working day as now seems to be the popular approach in the cities. There are no demarcation disputes. There is no refusing to do the job because you do not like the look in the foreman's eyes. The facts are that people engaged in the dairy industry work. I am afraid that it is one of those situations in which people have not been receiving a just and adequate reward for that work. This Government at least is endeavouring to do something to improve the lot of the dairy farmer. I trust that this Bill- the Dairy Industry' Research and Promotion Levy Amendment Bill -will be only one part of a great collection of measures aimed at assisting those people who so very dearly and sincerely deserve our help and support.







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