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Thursday, 8 March 1928

Senator CHAPMAN (South Australia) . - This duty is proposed by the Government in the hope that the producers of butter will obtain a fair price for. that commodity. Senator Needham has frankly stated that he is afraid the consumers will have to pay a higher price. The protection of many city industries has, resulted in an increased price being charged for their products. Senator !Needham, therefore, is not consistent when he adopts a different attitude in regard to country industries. He has expressed a desire to assist the primary producer, and has said he does not want him to work for less than a living wage. The butter industry has been made one of the most important in Australia. The exports of butter in 1921-22 were valued at £7,968,078, and in 1925-26 at £7,006,830. The estimated production for 1926-27 was 250,000,000 lbs. The number of persons engaged in ' the dairying industry in Australia is 143,785, comprising 89,760 males and 54,025 females.

Senator Payne - It is an industry that is worth considering.

Senator CHAPMAN - It is an industry which we must consider. Unfortunately, because of the high cost of production, producers have had to work for far less than a living wage. But for the employment of their wives and families, many dairy farmers would not have been able to carry on. They have also been compelled to work long hours. Evidence was given before the Tariff Board of the returns from a number of average farms. The figures in relation to one were as follows: -



It will be seen that there was a balance of £39 15s. for the farmer's own labour aud the living expenses of himself and family. The evidence that has been tendered to a number of commissions during the last couple of years has gone to show that the average price received by the dairy farmer for his butter has been in the region of ls. ed. per lb., and that the cost of production has generally been over 2s. per lb. If Senator Needham does not want to see these men working for less than a living wage, he should take some action to protect them. Prior to the advent of this tariff New Zealand butter was being dumped into Australia at certain periods, with the result that the price of Australian butter was knocked to pieces. If that state of affairs had continued the dairyman would have been driven off the land, our commercial houses would have suffered, we should have lost our export trade, and when supplies became scarce the consumer would have had to pay a great deal more than he is paying to-day. It is to our advantage to protect the industry and retain our export trade. Senator Greene has put the position clearly in regard to the speculator. Speculators can import overseas butter at smash prices, and make huge profits by manipulating the market. If the industry is not protected tho speculator will import butter from New Zealand and elsewhere. Senator Greene also stated that to-day the co-operative companies practically control' the industry. In South Australia the farmers' Union purchases a tremendous quantity, while in Victoria the cooperative companies practically fix the price. As other industries are protected, dairymen should not be asked to work for less than a living wage. At the present time Australian consumers can purchase primary products at a cheaper rate than that which rules in any other country. .

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