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Wednesday, 24 May 1972
Page: 2047

Mr PRESIDENT - I adverted to that earlier. Senator Webster is out of order in referring to it.

Senator WEBSTER - The matter of like importance and connected to the first mentioned matter relates to multi-national corporations and their effect on Australia. The financial pages of 24th April 1972 headline the fact that the Unilever group in Australia had a record year in 1971, and made a profit of $4.1m. The Chairman claims that this was the best the group had done in its history in Australia. He went on to say that sales and earnings in 1972 were better than they were in the previous year. For that information I quote the 'Daily Telegraph'. From a business trading point of view this is a most creditable performance. The report revealed:

It is paying back $4m of this to its AngloDutch parent. Last year's dividend payout was the same - -half a million dollars more than the net profit of $3. 5m.

For that I quote the 'Australian'. Australian shareholders of this company, if there were any, would at least be satisfied that the dividend paid - that is, virtually the whole of the profit - was paid to shareholders. However, Australians have no equity in this company, as the whole of its dividends are paid to its huge multinational Anglo-Dutch parent, which lifted profits in 1971 by 32 per cent of $416m. For that I quote the Sydney 'Sun' of 1st March 1972. Unilever Australia Pty Ltd produces and sells a wide range of household products.

Senator Willesee - 1 raise another point of order. I think I am right in saying that Senator Webster has already spoken this evening on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. During the evening there was intervened another motion which was resolved. Mr President. I draw your attention to a ruling by Sir Walter Kingsmill. He was a President of the Senate and came from Western Australia. He ruled that debate on the adjournment of the Senate cannot determine any issue; discussion on the adjournment must only be to direct attention to certain matters. It is true that tonight we determined an issue which I suggest to you, Sir, was out of order. I hear the guffaws of Senator Wright. I am quoting Senator Kingsmill, who was a gentleman and a great senator. I draw your attention to this ruling. If we are to uphold that very outstanding president, Mr President Kingsmill, we are out of order in having an honourable senator speak twice on the motion that the Senate do now adjourn. With great respect, we did intervene tonight with a motion and determine that motion. That should have been ruled out of order. It is a very clear ruling that we cannot determine issues on the motion that the Senate do now adjourn. I suggest to you that anybody who is speaking twice tonight is out of order. I regret intervening on Senator Webster but it happens that my attention has been drawn to the fact that he has already spoken tonight.

The PRESIDENT - Earlier Senator Willesee indicated to me, when I was discussing these matters with him, that he was going to rely on Senator Kingsmill. As the President's desk contains rulings by presidents of the Senate I looked at this ruling. 1 must rule against Senator Willesee on the ground that Senator Webster is still within his rights. Because he is speaking to a formal motion which was moved by Senator Rae, I do not think that deprives him of his right to deal with matters which are appropriate and proper in the Senate. Senator Webster, I overrule Senator Willesee with much regret, because he is a very knowledgeable senator, and I call you to conclude your remarks. You may observe the verb in my statement.

Senator WEBSTER - Unilever Australia Pty Ltd produces and sells a wide range of household products, including soaps, detergents, tooth paste, shampoos canned goods, margarine and ice creams under various company and brand names. The chairman declines to give a breakdown of the group's profits or sales and states:

There are some who would dearly like to know.

I am. quoting from the 'Australian Financial Review'. However, in one area in which I am vitally concerned some of the facts are known. I speak now about the Australian dairy industry and the effect that Unilever's activities in the margarine field have had upon it. The following information is readily available from the

Commonwealth Statistician or market surveys. Mainly due to the development of so-called soft cooking margarines the Australian butter market, which previously held some 80 per cent of the total spread market, has now lost 9 to 10 per cent of that market. This is mainly due to the activities of this company which, by intense and extremely costly advertising, has come to dominate the market. I instance that by saying that so much has it dominated the market over the last 9 years its production and sales of cooking margarine have increased by 1,100 per cent whereas those of other Australian competitors have increased by only approximately 82 per cent. Obviously this is not to the advantage of other Australian margarine manufacturing companies.

This policy of dominating the market by Unilever which is common throught the Western world is not only to the disadvantage of competitors in the industry but also it can be doubted whether it is to the advantage of the consumer as this company's monopoly of the market depends on extremely high levels of advertising which can be paid for only by the consumer. In other words the growth of this multinational foreign owned company, with absolutely no Australian equity, is currently operating to the disadvantage of the Australian dairy industry, Unilever's competitors in the Australian margarine industry and, doubtless, of the Australain consumer. As I have said in this senate on a number of occasions, because cooking margarine is 90 per cent tallow it is not the Australian vegetable oil seeds industry which will benefit from the development of such a market. If there is any gain to be made at all it will be to the tallow industry. I again exhort the other governments in Australia to follow the example set by the governments of my own State of Victoria and of Tasmania, and restrict the devastating effects of the growth of this product by banning the use of artificial colouring and flavouring in cooking margarine.

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