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Tuesday, 16 November 1976


Mr SCHOLES (Corio) -I do not think I can let pass some of the remarks of the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume). He has spoken as if there is only one view in the Government parties on this matter of milk quotas he raised and that the only people proposing or supporting the removal of the milk quota zones were in the New South Wales Government. I can assure him that that is not so. I think that in the national Parliament we should be looking at that matter in the light of the reality of the situation. The present problems which are besetting the industry and the internal fighting which is taking place between those who have the milk quota and those who have not has been a fact of life for quite a number of years.

I remember attending a very well supported meeting in Warrnambool several years ago at which the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) both dealt with this problem. It is a problem at the moment of the haves and the have-nots. The honourable member for Macarthur quite properly has defend the haves in his electorate. I am quite certain that there are other honourable members of this House whose electorates are further removed from the Sydney Milk Board region who would be proposing a quite different set of circumstances. If I may say so, the battle is joined very strongly in Victoria. The honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon) would be more than well aware of it.

The problem really is that there has been firstly, a decline in the available markets. I am not sure whether one could blame the French Government for its protective measures. Not very long ago that country was in diabolical economic straits. The fact that it has found a solution to its problem which is not to our advantage, is regrettable from our point of view but I am certain that it is not regrettable from the French point of view. I think that we are entitled to be looking after our own interests as we are seeking to do with the beef contracts. We are quite horrified that Japan and other countries would impose quotas on imports of Australian beef. But in my electorate, we would be quite horrified if we did not impose quotas on the importation of Japanese motor cars. So it is not all milk and honey. The problem is one of insufficient markets and the capacity to supply goods very efficiently- goods which at the moment cannot be sold at anything like a reasonable price.

One of the factors which I think honourable members opposite might remember is that a number of years ago there were very strenuous efforts made by Ministers of a government of the same political colour as the present one. Indeed, I think that the responsible Minister at the time may well have been the present Leader of the National Country Party or the Deputy Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Sinclair). I think it was the Leader. Bitter debates took place between the then Bolte Government in Victoria and its Minister for Agriculture, Mr Smith, and the Federal Government about the expansion of dairy areas and the continued development of dairy farms in that State. Up until early this year the Victorian Government was, in fact advertising dairy farms for persons to settle. This was a case of providing properties which could efficiently produce dairy products. There was no question about that. But they were to produce products which could not be sold.

At the same time in the same areas dairy properties were being handed over for the development of softwood forests. On the one hand, the State Government was developing, advertising and seeking people to go on to properties; on the other hand, people long established in the industry were going off properties in exactly the same area. To me, this is a very shortsighted policy. It is a policy which was epitomised by the former Premier of Victoria who said at the time of this argument: 'While we can put people on to properties who can produce efficiently, we will put them on the properties and the Federal Government can go jump in the lake'. I do not profess to have used the exact words of the Premier of Victoria, but they are the sort of words he would have used. Certainly, this is the meaning of what he had to say. I might not be able to say here what he actually said.

The problems of the dairy industry are problems which exist in almost every Australian industry which is dependent on export markets and access to those export markets. Australia in the 1960s moved to a position very close to free trade in many areas. Other countries at the same time moved away from that position. The tariff walls and the import barriers- there were some very successful barriers which were not claimed to be either- have been built into the system to the extent that large sections of industry, and primary industry is amongst the hardest hit, are not able to sell their product in the quantities which they can produce efficiently, more efficiency than those countries which are excluding the products. This is a general breakdown and I do not believe the problems can be solved by highlighting the internal differences within Australia on the question of access to markets. I also have a milk area in my electorate. The argument at this stage obviously is not as heated in Victoria as it is in New South Wales because the Victorian Government has not moved into that area, but the pressure in Victoria is very great and we could move into this problem area in the not too distant future. Hopefully we will not Hopefully the problem can be solved by finding adequate markets for those people who are able to produce efficiently and if it can be done by finding alternate usages for land for those who cannot so produce. However, it is not easy. Generally the problems in this area are problems which need solution not by removing someone else's markets and destroying the total industry but by concentrating the industry in those areas where it is possible for people to make a living quite properly from that which they do most efficiently.







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