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Friday, 25 September 1942

Senator FRASER (Western Australia) (Minister for External Territories) |;i.4CJ. - This morning, Senator Herbert Hays addressed a question to mp. regarding the position of the dairying industry, and I undertook to furnish him with a statement on the matter as soon as possible. The honorable senator's statement, that there has been a serious decrease of dairy production, particularly butter, is not quite accurate. There was a falling off in respect of all kinds of dairy produce towards the autumn of this year and during the winter months. This was most noticeable in Queensland and New South Wales, where unfavorable seasonal conditions prevailed. An added factor affecting production, which applied in all States, was the absence of adequate man-power on dairy-farms. The Commonwealth Government was aware of the position, and, early in June this year, the War Cabinet directed the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) to set up a special committee of inquiry to investigate, and report to the Government upon, conditions in the industry, with particular reference to production, price, wages and conditions of employees, fodder reserves, herds of dairy-farmers and the difficulties of the industry generally in connexion with the shortage of manpower. This committee has completed its inquiries, and has submitted to the Government two reports, together with recommendations. The reports are at present under consideration, and it is hoped that the Government will be able to announce its decision in connexion with the recommendations of the committee at an early date.

Obviously the Government has been aware of the position of this important industry, and has taken adequate steps lo deal with the present situation. It moy, however, be advisable at this stage for me to -mention that the latest information available indicates that,' following the improvement in seasonal conditions in practically all States, there are indications of increased milk supplies being available for butter, cheese, condensed milk, dried milk powder and casein. The

Government is aware of the demands which are being made upon this industry for supplies of these commodities, not only for the fighting services in Australia .but also for the civilian population. Every effort is also being made to meet the demands of the British Ministry of Food, which has indicated that it desires butter during the next contract year in preference to cheese. Il will, therefore, be necessary for the industry to revert from the production of cheese to the production of butter, as the demands for this particular product are in the vicinity of 70,000 tons, together with 10,000 tons of pure butter fat, which in terms of butter means that the total demands approximate 85,000 tons. The original demand for cheese has been reduced from 40,000 tons to 10,000 tons. I have mentioned these figures to illustrate the difficulties which confront the Government in particular industries because of the changed demands which are received from time to time. The Government, through the Dairy Produce Control 'Committee established under National Security Regulations, is in constant touch with the position. It has taken energetic measures to meet it, and so insure that, as far as possible, that the essential demands for dairy produce from all sources are satisfied.

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