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Friday, 6 December 1935

Senator GRANT (Tasmania) . - I should like the Minister, when replying to the debate on the second reading, to say whether this bill affects the Butter

Equalization Committee. I voted against the establishment of that body, which has no statutory power, and yet it is carrying out functions which .rightly belong to governments. The appointment of the Equalization Committee -was only a subterfuge to overcome a constitutional difficulty. That body, without statutory authority, imposes grossly unfair levies on the industry; this should not be allowed. I did not hear all the Minister's remarks; but, if the bill proposes to do away with the Equalization Committee, I shall support it. The action of that committee is causing untold hardship to numbers of small dairy-farmers - I allude not to butter factories, but to farm buttermakers - whom it has prosecuted and persecuted simply because they have not affixed a 2d. stamp to each pound of butter that they make. Its action is absolutely unconstitutional, and yet the Government has not intervened.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Were the butter-makers prosecuted under a State or a Commonwealth law?

Senator GRANT - I do not know. The Equalization Committee demanded that on every pound of butter, even that sold at 5d'. or 6d. per lb., a 2d. stamp should be affixed, and it prosecuted, those who failed to do so. in some cases, the committee obtained convictions, and fines were imposed. When the persons concerned refused to pay the fines, an attempt was made to place them in gaol; but they congregated in one place, and the police were not game to take them into custody.

Senator Foll - Who prosecuted?

Senator GRANT - It was done under the authority of the committee. The prosecution of the dairy-farmers must have been launched under Commonwealth legislation because those producers were prohibited under the Commerce Act from exporting their butter, which was not pasteurized. If they desired to sell the butter, every pound of it had to bear an excise stamp on the wrapper. I shall support the second reading of this bill, if the Minister can convince me that it will abolish this committee which has hounded the dairyfarmers; otherwise, I shall vote with Senator J. B. Hayes in opposing the bill.

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