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Wednesday, 3 June 1942


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES (Wakefield) (4:23 AM) . - I cannot take the rosy dawn-like view of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) with respect to this measure. The operations of the Australian Dairy Produce Board during the last year resulted in the sun setting upon many of the dairy farmers of South Australia. In regard to dairy produce, the position of South Australia is different from that of any other State. The percentage of second-grade and pastry export butter to the total exports of the State is as high as 71 per cent., the figures being 79,269 boxes in a total of 111,600 boxes. The percentage of lowgrade butter in the other States is much less, being 25 per cent, in Western Australia, 34 per cent, in Queensland, 13 per cent, in New South Wales, 12 per cent, in Tasmania, and 8 per cent, in Victoria. One of the reasons is that in our dairying districts we concentrate on the manufacture of cheese. For our cream supplies to the butter factories we concentrate on the mixed farmer and on outside areas. Consequently, the supplies are not great from men who are engaged in dairying in the real sense; they consist, of small consignments from thousands of farmers, who have only a. few cows and do not produce sufficient to forward very frequently. Also, our climate, particularly in the summer, makes .the conditions such as to militate considerably against the production of a high-grade cream. Long distances, in the districts represented by the honorable members for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), Grey (Mr. Badman) and myself, together with small supplies, prevent frequent forwarding. This applies largely to the Murray lands, Eyre Peninsula, and a considerable area in the northern part of the State. I do not consider that the granting of increased powers to the board will be of benefit to our farmers. Partly because of its short-sighted policy, Ave have not now as much butter for export purposes as we should like to have, and as Great Britain would be glad to take from us.


Mr Chifley - Great Britain did not want to take it a while back.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - I agree. Recently, Great Britain would take only choice and first-quality butter. This hit South Australian dairymen very hard.


Mr Chifley - It was not prepared to take all the first-quality butter it originally contracted to take.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - There is no difficulty in disposing of it now.


Mr Francis - There is the shipping difficulty.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - Butter is high on the list of priorities.


Mr Chifley - Great Britain wanted us to change over from butter to cheese. Steps were taken, at some expense, to that end.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - This has hit the South Australian dairymen very hard, particularly the smaller and poorer men who conduct dairying operations as a sideline to their other activities. Desperate efforts were made to induce the Commonwealth Government or the Australian Dairy Produce Board, or both, to take steps which would obviate the forcing of these small men out of the industry. The honorable member for Barker and 1 were associated with those efforts, which extended over a period of some months. However, it was decided that certain compensation should be paid. T propose to quote, first, the compensation price paid to the factories, and then the price charged by the control committee for resale.


Mr Chifley - The British Government did not want to take those grades at all.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - Not at first, perhaps. But there is no difficulty in getting rid of them now. Did the British Government itself decide not to take any but first and second grades?


Mr Chifley - Yes.


Mr Archie Cameron - That was only because of the shortage of ships. Prior to the development, of that shortage. Great Britain took all the butter that was offering.


Mr Chifley - The Government acquired the low-grade butter for the pur- . pose of helping the producers. At the time, it seemed likely to be a total loss to the Government.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - The figures in regard to compensation paid to the factories and the prices charged for resale are as follows : -

 


Mr Chifley - The action referred to by the honorable member has nothing to do with the Dairy Produce Board; it was taken under national security regulations.


Mr DUNCAN-HUGHES - Surely, if it is proposed to amend the act, we are entitled to consider the position as it obtains to-day? Manufacturers understood that the compensation on pastry grade butter would depend on realization, and that there was a possibility of a further advance on second grade if realizations justified it. There was no difficulty in disposing of acquired butter at prices justifying increased compensation. The South Australian Dairy Produce Equalization Committee urged the Dairy Produce Board to grant such an increase, but only selling, prices have been increased. Butter production in South Australia has declined from 33,073 boxes of 56 lb. for the four weeks ended on the 25th December, 1939, to 10,608 boxes for the four weeks ended the 13th May, 1942. Sales in South Australia have increased by 20 per cent., owing to greater spending power of the public, and the influx of overseas troops. Some relief should be provided, so that there shall be no further loss of cattle by slaughtering. We all are familiar with what happens in regard to boards of this kind. There is usually a good deal of justification for their appointment, and at first they are fairly representative of various sections of the community, but as time goes on they become tenacious of power. I find it difficult to understand why these further powers should be required, especially during the war. All surplus butter is sold to the British Government through the board, under contract, and exportable butter submitted for grading to the Commonwealth grader is acquired by the board four days after grading. After that, if butter or cheese graded for export is required for sale in , Australia, the consent of the board is required for its release. It would appear that the board or the Department of Commerce is anxious to retain control of these primary products after the war, instead of allowing trade to revert to natural channels. I have always held the opinion that the marketing of primary products overseas is not properly the concern of the man who produces them, but should be handled by experts. In Great Britain before the war, there was a tendency to discourage attempts by outsiders to control the marketing of primary products, and New Zealand, which interfered in this matter, made heavy losses.

In the proposed new section 13a c (i) the board, through the Department of Commerce, is trying to take from the State agricultural departments some of their powers regarding the control of factories. This paragraph provides that, with the approval of the Minister, the board can, either on its own behalf, or in collaboration with another board, take any action likely to lead to the improvement of dairy produce, or the prevention of deterioration of dairy produce before or during the transport from Australia. That is a matter which now comes within the control of the State departments of agriculture, the federal authorities having no control until the produce is submitted for export. The result of federal control of the industry in South Australia has been calamitous. Despite the attempts of State and Federal members of Parliament and other public men to avert it, hundreds of dairy cows have been sent to the abattoirs for slaughter, and a great many producers have been driven out of the industry. In addition, several butter factories have been closed down, and these things have happened despite the fact that Great Britain urgently requires fats. Therefore, I cannot be expected to regard the activities of the board with satisfaction, and I am opposed to the bill.







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