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Friday, 6 December 1935

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) . - I cannot see that this measure Will confer any particular advantage upon the dairying industry. Certainly it consolidates the management of the industry but I agree with an honorable senator who said that the dairying industry may be divided into two parts - the commercial and the producing. As has been pointed out already in this debate the Australian Dairy Council, which the Government now proposes to scrap, has proved of great value to this industry. Most of the phases of the industry which I intended to deal with have been fully discussed by previous speakers, but none dealt in a special way with the quality of our butter. Although I have looked carefully through the bill I have failed to discover in what way it can effect an improvement in this respect. When he introduced this measure in another place, the Minister for Commerce, said -

It appears that despite the activities of all these bodies there is no specific concentration on the improvement of the quality of our dairy produce; yet this is of paramount importance.

In the next paragraph of his speech the Minister practically contradicted that assertion by saying -

The functions of the State dairy produce boards are performed under State legislation whilst the Equalization Committee is a special body formed for a specific purpose which is not a direct concern of any government.

I understand that the control of the quality of export butter is entirely governed by State legislation. The Australian Dairy Council has the right to frame regulations, which are placed before the State parliaments, and up to the present such regulations have never been rejected. Some time ago the council asked the Commonwealth authorities to take charge of exports at the factories, in order to assist in improving the quality of Australian butter, but it declined to assume any responsibility in that respect. It is proposed to abolish the Australian Dairy Council, but the proposed board will not have any greater power in the matter of suggesting how improvements can be effected in the quality of Australian butter. At present the council has the right to frame regulations in respect of butter and cheese.

Senator Brennan - Regulations can be framed only by the Governor in Council. (Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.- I cannot find anything in the bill that will give to the proposed board powers greater than those possessed by the council, and I trust that the Assistant Minister will inform the Senate if the board will have the power to frame regulations. The quality of Australian butter is controlled by State legislation, and the Dairy Council has done everything possible to increase production and to improve the quality. It may be said that the board will be of greater advantage to the industry because the number of producermembers is to be increased, but, as has been already pointed out, the Dairy Council is performing excellent work, and any alteration of the personnel will not necessarily be of benefit to the industry. The commercial men who are members of the board will overrule the producers' representatives. Both the boards at present in operation are working in the interests of the industry, and, in performing their respective functions are rendering valuable service, not only to the dairymen and butter producers, but also to the Australian community generally. I cannot agree with the Leader of the Country party in this chamber (Senator Hardy) that a unanimous request was made by the dairymen of Australia for an alteration of the present system. I admit that Queensland and New South Wales have a dominating influence, but the representatives of those States have not the right to speak on behalf of the Australian industry.The total exports from South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia are comparatively small, but at the same time the council has done good work on behalf of those States. We are as keenly interested as are any of the other States in increasing the quantity of exports and in improving the quality of butter. Many dairymen in South Australia are making only a meagre living, and, with the low price of wheat, those engaged in mixed farming are faced with numerous difficulties. If the Assistant Minister can show that there has been a unanimous demand for the proposed alteration of the system of control, and that the measure will benefit the industry, I may reconsider my attitude towards the bill.

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