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Friday, 15 November 1935

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) (During the discussion this afternoon, the statement of the Leader of the OppositionSenator Collings) that Queensland was responsible for over 90 per cent. of the total beef exports from Australia was challenged, and I have obtained a recent copy of the Commonwealth, Year-Book in order to establish the facts. I find that in 1930 there were, in round figures, 5,500,000 head of cattle in Queensland, out of 11,500,000 head in the Commonwealth. The consumption of beef per capita in Queensland is probably much lower than in other States of the Commonwealth, owing to the warmer climate. Although Queensland has only one-seventh of the population of the Commonwealth, yet it produces approximately one-half of Australia's cattle ; thus it is obvious that this State would be in a position to provide 90 per cent, of the beef exported. livery one must, I think, admit that the day of the middleman in the sale of our primary products is rapidly passing, and that the future control of primary industries must be in the hands of boards representative of the producers themselves. They realize that, if they are to secure a reasonable return for their labour, they must organize as the workers in other industries have organized. I assume that most honorable senators at some time or other paid a visit to the Mother Country, and I think they will agree with me when I say that, after a steady diet of frozen beef and mutton on the voyage, the change to fresh meat on the railway journey to London is* much appreciated. Because of their proximity to the British market, the meat producers of the Argentine Republic, our strongest competitors in the export beef trade, have, in more recent years, been able to market their beef chilled instead of frozen. Our exporters have, however, succeeded in applying the same process to Australian exports with the result that Australian beef is now landed in London in splendid condition and is in increasing demand. It is gratifying to know that this bill provides the machinery for the more effective control of the meat export trade, and that it will help us to secure a larger share of the British market. I consider that the most satisfactory commercial relations are those which are founded on a strictly business basis. In our business relations with Britain, so far as Britain is concerned, there is 99 per cent, business and 1 per cent, sentiment. Because of the large amount of British capital invested in the Argentine Republic, that country, in its business relations with Great Britain and as a competitor of Australia, may be regarded as a British colony, and we may be sure that British capitalists with investments in Argentina will use every means in their power to prevent Australia from getting an expanding share of the British market in chilled beef or mutton. Some honorable senators opposite believe that, because Australia is a British dominion, we have always received special treatment in the British market. It will be within the memory of most honorable senators that, during the war years, our primary products were sold in Great Britain at much below world parity. It would be safe to say that, had we received world parity for our wheat and wool during those years, Australia would be the richer by hundreds of millions of pounds; indeed one estimate which I read was that the amount lost by our producers would have been sufficient to pay off the entire external debt of the Commonwealth. The bill should assist to put the Australian meatexport business on a sounder 'basis, because the distribution of produce is almost as important as its production. In the British market Australia has to fight the British capital, invested in the meat business in Argentina.

One honorable senator said that the wool-growing industry could not he managed by a hoard such as is proposed in this bill, or by an organization similar to Bawra. I remind him of the wonderful service rendered to Australia by Bawra, and go so far as to say that had that organization been continued, the. wool industry, particularly in the depression years, would have benefited considerably.

Senator Abbott - Bawra was not a body similar to the hoard proposed in this bill. There was no need for such control of the wool-growing industry as is proposed in this measure.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) -Bawra gave great satisfaction to the producers of wool.

Senator Abbott - It also put money into the pockets of the workers. The industry was helped without 'being subjected to control similar to that proposed by this measure for meat.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) -I remind Senator Abbott that an association of graziers, with head-quarters in Roma, Queensland, lately issued an appeal to members of Parliament to bring about a better state of affairs in regard to the marketing of wool, and actually invited them to make suggestions for improvement. In my opinion, Bawra should have been continued.

The Opposition is prepared to allow this bill to pass to-day, hut its willingness to do that should not he taken as a precedent. It is asking rather too much to expect a bill of such importance to be passed through all its stages in one short sitting. Should the Government attempt to make a practice of this procedure, I shall do my best to prevent it. I regard this measure as a step towards national socialism, which should have been taken years ago in the interests, not only of the producers, but also of the people of Australia generally.

I come now to the composition of the board. It would appear from clause 5, which sets out the various interests which are to be represented, that the board will consist of at least sixteen members; there may be as many as twenty members. The Opposition is of the opinion that the workers who are engaged in the various technical processes connected with the meat industry should have representation on the board. There is no desire to take the control of the industry out of the hands of the. other interests, but it would be of value if the board contained some men with technical knowledge of the various processes of meat production, from the rearing of the cattle to the freezing of the meat and its shipment abroad. The Opposition will move an amendment to give representation to the workers, but, it knows that it will not be accepted by the Government. Nevertheless, we are of opinion that the board would be strengthened by the inclusion of one or two men with a practical knowledge of the various processes associated with the production of meat.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Hughes. What about representation of the consumers?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I should have no objection to the consumers of meat in Australia being represented on the board. I go further, and suggest that it might be well to appoint some person to get in touch with consumers of meat in England in order that their requirements might be ascertained.

The Opposition commends the measure because it will tend to eliminate middlemen, cheapen costs, and increase the value of stock, as well as lead to a better understanding of the requirements of overseas consumers. One reason why Argentina meat interests have been such powerful competitors is that they know what the

British consumer wants. I hope that the board will be successful in its efforts to develop the Australian meat industry.

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