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Wednesday, 18 November 1936

Senator COOPER (Queensland) . - I strongly support the hill, although greatly regretting the necessity for its introduction. The decision of the Privy Council left no other course open to the Government, if it desired to preserve to the primary producers of this country the conditions which obtained before the James case was finally decided. On this occasion I find myself in full agreement with the Leader of the 'Opposition (Senator Collings) and his colleagues, and am glad that in Queensland, at least, members of all parties will be able to present a united front on this issue. I do not agree with Senator Brown that the Government lacks courage in not going further, and seeking greater industrial powers for the Commonwealth. In a matter of this kind, strategy, even more than courage, is necessary. During the war, I found that the courage of brave men did not always save them, whereas had they shown more strategy, they would have preserved both their courage and their lives. In this instance, the Government has exhibited strategy of a high order in that it has introduced a measure whch can be accepted by the people general ry, and after all, we must not lose sight of the fact that this alteration of the Constitution requires the approval of a majority of the electors in a majority of the States. The primary producers merely ask to be enabled to continue to organize as is done in other industries. That they have good grounds for desiring a continuance of the existing organization is shown in the last report of the Australia Dairy Produce Board, where the advantages that have accrued from orderly marketing are set out. Before the dairy industry was organized, there was no proper regulation of supplies or prices. In 1926, before the marketing of dairy produce had been properly organized, Australia exported 37,000 tons of butter, whereas in 1935 the quantity exported amounted to over 105,000 tons. That enormous growth of the export trade in butter indicates that more land was put into profitable use, and provided a livelihood for a greater number of Australian citizens. In 1926, the price margin between Australian and New Zealand butter in the London market was about £6 a ton, whereas in 1935, as a result of orderly marketing, that margin had almost disappeared. It was only through the organization of the industry that the producers were enabled to improve the quality of their butter to that extent. The same observation applies to dried fruits, the sales of which in Great Britain rose from a three-


year average of about 22,500 tonsa year to over 40,000 tons, the proportion of Australian fruit to the total quantity imported by Great Britain rising from 17 per cent, to 32 per cent. During the same period the quantity of Australian canned fruits sold in Great Britain rose by nearly five times, to over 23,000 tons in 1935, the proportion of Australian fruit to the total imports increasing from 6 per cent, to 13 per cent. Eggs sold in Great Britain rose by six times, from 335,000 great hundreds to nearly 2,000,000 great hundreds, the proportion of Australian eggs to total imports rising from 2 per cent, to 10 per cent. And sales of apples and pears increased from 1,350,000 cwt. to 1,725,000 cwt. in the face of unprecedented competition. The Australian producers were enabled to secure this greatlyincreased share of the British market only through organized marketing.

As the result of organized marketing, the producers have also reaped considerable advantages in respect of shipping. By working regular shipments in bulk, they Iia ve secured contracts at lower freights than would have been obtainable if they had shipped their exports individually to Great Britain. They have also been enabled to bulk the whole of their insurance and secure more favorable rates. They have been saved considerable sums of money in that direction. Then we should take into account the savings to the producers resulting from cheaper and more effective publicity. When marketing is organized the advertising of a commodity can be dealt Wit through one centre. I understand that in London, at the present time, one department, controlled by one head, deals with the advertising of certain of our primary products, with the result that thousands of pounds have been saved to the producers, who have also benefited from the increased sales resulting from this more effective method of publicity. The following statement was made by the Dairy Produce Board on page 6 of its report : -

In little more than a decade the Australian fruit-grower and farmer have progressed from uncertain and negligible quantities to factors of high consequence and influence in the

British market. Their products have im proved from packs noted for irregularity and sources of constant suspicion and invitation to goods coming to bc held in growing esteem by experts and discriminating buyers. All of the benefits which I have enumerated have resulted simply because the primary industries concerned have adopted an organized system of marketing. One body has had the power to say what can, and shall, be done. It is of interest to mention that the contribution by the industry for these services during the past season, based on an export of 100,000 tons of butter and cheese, represents less than 3d. (sterling) a cwt.

Despite these improvements, however, the British market can be further exploited by our producers. The producers of butter suffer disadvantages as the result of the fact that no less than SS2 brands are now placed on the markets of the United Kingdom. This should bo remedied. I understand that the butter board contemplates introducing four uniform brands for the butter of different qualities. New Zealand effected this improvement some years ago, and the producers in that country have found it most profitable. Unless, however, some board, or council, is placed in control of the marketing of each of our primary products, it will be impossible for us to effect a similar improvement. Without such control the present multiplicity of brands of butter will continue to appear on the English market, resulting in further loss to the producers. Under present conditions with SS2 brands on the market, the best publicity that can possibly bc given to our butter in the United Kingdom is some general slogan, such as, " Use Australian butter " ; that is not very effective. If the present number of brands were reduced to four, however, the publicity could be concentrated on making those brands widely known.

As all honorable senators are aware, Great Britain is the biggest market for our primary products, but in respect of butter and cheese, particularly, there is room for further exploitation of that market. Our supply of these products to Great Britain in proportion to the total British imports leaves room for improvement. In 1935 GreatBritain imported 480,431 tons of butter, of which Australia supplied only 105,6S2 tons, or about 20 per cent. Of 135,666 tons of cheese imported by Britain in the same year, Australia supplied only 6,712 tons. Honorable senators will agree that unless the production and marketing of cheese be placed under uniform control we shall have no hope at all of increasing our exports of that commodity to Britain. If such a system be adopted, however, we shall have every chance of competing on that market with other cheese-producing countries.

The importance of the British market to Australian primary producers has been dealt, with thoroughly by honorable senators and I do not want to labour the subject. I point out, however, that the great increase of the exports of our primary products to Britain, during the last ten years, has been a very valuable asset in creating financial credits for Australia in that country.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - It has been an indispensable asset.

Senator COOPER - Yes ; particularly during recent years. The value of butter exported last year to Great Britain was £11,500,000 in Australian currency, the total quantity exported being 94,9S2 tons, which brought an average price of 96s. 3d. a cwt. We cannot afford to overlook this aspect of financial credit overseas in dealing with' these industries. We cannot afford to say, in face of the difficulty which has now arisen with regard to marketing, that our primary industries should be left to carry on as best they can without organized marketing. If the proposal embodied in this measure is not adopted by the people, these industries, as exporters, will recede to the position which they occupied prior to the establishment of the marketing system which was upset by the Privy Council's decision, and it is possible that they would provide only one-third of the financial credit which they are now establishing for Australia in Great Britain. We must also consider the welfare of those engaged in secondary industries. Money received in payment for our exports is new money which helps to keep in employment a big proportion of the people engaged in secondary industries. Furthermore, the dairying industry is a factor in the development of our large and prosperous country towns, which invariably spring up in the centre of districts where this industry is carried on successfully. This development is not so marked in pastoral areas. Keeping these facts in mind, honorable senators will readily realize the great damage that will be done to secondary industry, as well as to primary industry, if this proposal be not carried at the forthcoming referendum. lt has been stated that the adoption of this proposal by the people will cause the price of food in the cities to rise. On that point, I remind honorable senators that the report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, to which I have already referred, reveals that first quality Australian butter sold in London, in multiple shops, which I understand are similar to "cash and carry" shops in this country, at an average of ls. per lb. If that butter were re-imported into this country, and allowance were made for exchange only, the corresponding price here would be ls. 3d. per lb. We know that butter sells in any small store in Australia at ls. 4d.; it would, therefore, sell in any multiple, or " cash and carry " shop in Australia at a similar price to that obtained in London. Thus the contention that the granting of power to this Parliament to control marketing would cause the prices of food to rise is unfounded. I have discussed this matter with quite a number of housewives who expressed the opinion that, since the prices of butter and bread have been fairly stabilized they have been able to budget accurately for their requirements for a week or a month. Before prices were stabilized the price of butter fluctuated from as much as ls. 3d. to ls. lid. within very short periods, with the result that housewives were unable to budget with any degree of accuracyCity workers are not justified in. assuming that if this proposal bc carried the cost of living will increase. The possibility of the handling and marketing of wool being brought under the control of the Commonwealth Government was disposed of by Senator Guthrie. Wo should remember that Commonwealth marketing legislation is passed only at the request of the States. If a majority of the States agreed to a proposal to control wool, it would be reasonable to assume that a majority of the wool-growers favoured it.

It was rumoured in Queensland at' the beginning of this year that a wool pool was likely to be formed in that State, but the graziers said that if a pool Were established they would 'ship their wool to Sydney and dispose of it in New South Wales where there was no governmental control. The only alternative to the referendum which has been suggested was an excise duty and the payment of a bounty, but it ba3 already beendemonstrated that such a system would be unsuitable and costly. Senator Grant showed quite clearly that an excise duty and bounty system would be detrimental to the producers.

Senator Grant - The excise to which I objected was not imposed by the Government.

Senator COOPER - The honorable senator related what happened to certain butter producers in Tasmania.

Senator Grant - The Commonwealth Government allowed a body which did not possess constitutional authority to impose and collect an excise duty.

Senator COOPER - I understand that a 3d. excise stamp had to be affixed to every pound of butter sold, and I suppose that a similar procedure would have to be followed in respect of other coinmodi ties sold under a system of excise and bounty. We1 do not wish all our primary producers to be harassed by governmental control, and having to be gaoled because they refuse, to comply with a cumbersome method. If Senator Grant gave the subject his serious consideration, he would realize the difficulties which would prevail under an excise and bounty system, and that the method proposed in this bill is the only way in which to help the primary producers concerned. The butter-producers mentioned by the honorable senator were not only opposing the board of control, but were also taking advantage of the prices prevailing in consequence of a system of organized marketing. Had such a system, not been in operation, they would not have obtained the prices which th"' received. They were breaking the law, and obtaining an advantage over other producers on the mainland. I discussed this subject with some Tasmanian farmers who were opposed to marketing control, hut when I explained the position of the mainland producers they agreed that the system, though it may present difficulties to those who produce butter in only small quantities, has its advantages. Similar troubles would be experienced by primary producers in other parts of Australia if the excise and bounty system were employed to control the marketing of other primary products. The policing of such a scheme would place unnecessary expense upon the whole community, and would not be in the best interests of the Australian people. If the proposal to be submitted to the people by means of a referendum is agreed to by a majority of the people in a majority of the States, the Commonwealth will have the power which it thought it possessed prior to the decision of the Privy Council in the James case, and the primary producers will have the advantage of stability for an indefinite period.

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