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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr FRANCIS (Moreton) (4:11 AM) . - These proposed amendments of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act are designed to include in the measure similar powers to those in other acts dealing with the control, export and overseas marketing of primary products. The present act does not give the board the powers that it should have, and that it believed it had, to assist the dairying industry as other primary industries are being assisted by legislation. In 1935, when the functions of the Australian Dairy Council were incorporated in those of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, it was thought that this board was being empowered to perform the functions of the council. The council was a voluntary organization which assisted in the expansion and development of the dairy industry within Australia, whilst the Dairy Produce Board supervised the export and sale of the produce after it left Australia.

I pay tribute to the exceptionally fine work performed by Mr. Rankin, of Victoria, and Mr. William Harris, of Toowoomba, Queensland, who have given practically a lifetime of service to the industry. The former Australian Dairy Council did splendid voluntary work in providing financial assistance to increase production in the industry by the encouragement of herd testing and pasture improvement, and to train dairy factory operatives, and encourage and improve State dairy colleges. It also encouraged the improvement in the manufacture of dairy produce by making grants and contributions to the Australian Dairy Factory Managers and Secretaries Institute to promote competitions, and to promote an advertising campaign to encourage the consumption of Australian dairy produce. From what I have said it will be seen that material assistance in the expansion and development of the dairy industry in Australia on approved lines was carried out by the council before its aims and objects were thought to be embodied in the amending legislation of 1935.

The amendments proposed in this bill will give to the Australian Dairy Produce Boardthe power which was thought to be contained in the 1935 amendments to carry on the work of the Australian Dairy Council. Power will also be given by these amendments to encourage, by organized publicity and other such means, the consumption of dairy produce in the countries to which it is exported.

The people engaged in the dairy industry work 365 days a year. It is the hardest and most Under-paid work. Dairying has been Australia's greatest aid to closer settlement, and . has helped remarkably to open up our coastal lands. Before the Dairy Produce Export Control Act was introduced in 1924, Australia sold its butter overseas under the hundreds of individual brands of the factories that produced it. Upon reaching Great Britain it Jost its identity and was not known as Australian butter. Merchants used the first-class Australian butter for blending with cheap butter imported from the continent, and thus made a profit at the expense of our dairymen. The board has largely removed that imposition. To-day, a high standard of quality is maintained, and the product is exported under the brand of the kangaroo, which is' the hallmark of perfection in butter production ; consequently, Australian butter is now identifiable. Increased prices have resulted from the operations of the board. For many years prior to the appointment of the board, a substantial difference always existed between the prices of Australian and New Zealand butter. That has now been eliminated, and at times Australian butter tops the market in Great Britain. By reason of the operations of the Australian Dairy Council and the Australian Dairy Produce Board, the exports have increased substantially. We have to export our surplus production so as to ensure that a payable price shall be received for that which is consumed locally. In 1920-21, which until then was the record year, our exports were 56,850 tons of butter and 5,656 tons of cheese. Those quantities were almost doubled in 1938-39, when the exports amounted to 102,571 tons of butter and 16,476 tons of cheese. For 1939-40 the exports amounted to 117,022 tons of butter and 19,500 tons of cheese. The board has rendered further invaluable service to the industry in the economies effected in regard to freight and insurance. Through it, the dairymen have been able to make representations to the shipping and insurance companies, with the result that millions of pounds has been saved since the act become operative in 1924. The bill gives to the board the power to encourage the improvement of herds by means of herd-testing, pasture improvement, improvement of the manufacture of butter by means of competitions between the several factories, the training of dairy factory operatives, the development of State dairy colleges. The court will also control advertising in Australia and overseas. Under an agreement with Great Britain, the industry is' required to make available 70,000 tons of butter and at least 42,000 tons of cheese this season. My reading of press reports indicates to me that we shall not be able to honour those obligations to Great Britain. I remind the House that Britain is on the meagre ration of 2 oz. of butter to each individual. If we are unable to honour our obligation, that ration will have to be lowered. Difficulties are also being experienced by the industry because of the shortage of man-power and fertilizers. I hope that every effort will be made by the Government to ensure that the producers shall have the necessary man-power to assist in the production of this commodity. Man-power is imperative for our fighting forces, which I regard as the first army. It is imperative, also, for the munitions workers, who constitute the second army. Then there i3 the food-producing army, which must not be overlooked; if it is, we shall not he able to meet our obligations to Great Britain and our allies, or to supply the requirements of our own fighting force!or of our allies who are coming here in ever-increasing numbers in order to assist us with our problems. Herds are being depleted; many of the stock have been dried off; herds which some time ago numbered from 150 to 200 have been reduced to less than one-half of that number, because it is not possible, with the limited man-power available, to deal with the cows that are ready to milk.

I commend the Minister for having introduced the bill. I ask him to investigate the man-power problem in order to ensure that the labour made available shall be equal to the demands that will be placed upon it.

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