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Friday, 16 August 1974
Page: 1098

Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania) (Minister for Agriculture) - in reply- I am sorry that

Senator Websterdecided to make such a vitriolic attack on the Government in respect of its dairy policies. We all know that this Government inherited the legacy of the worst possible dairy industry policies of the Liberal-Country Party governments over 23 years. I am quite sure that if the Liberal Party had been able to determine its own policies in respect of the dairy industry, without a gun being held at its head by the Country Party- and in particular by people like Senator Webster and the Victorian dairy industry which were cleaning up the great bulk of the benefits that were being paid out of the public purse for a long time- its policies would have been a lot different. That was revealed in the McCarthy Committee report of 14 years ago, and the Liberal Party had to live with it all those years. I am quite sure that if the truth were known, if there was one organisation in Australia that applauded the decision to get rid of the dairy bounty it was the Liberal Party. The Liberals would have done it years ago if they could have.

I should mention just in passing that if ever States were disadvantaged by that system they were States like New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. The dairy industry in those States suffered for years while millions of dollars were poured into the Victorian dairy industry. So do not let us sing this sad song about what this Government has done for the industry. This measure is designed to undo some of the wrong that has been done over the years and to ensure that the moneys being made available under this scheme now will help the dairy industry in the States of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia where so many dairy farmers have been forced out of the industry because there was no support or help for them under the old scheme and because the cream of the benefits was going into Victoria and Tasmania, and to the people who needed it the least.

I do not want to canvass the argument for margarine. I do not really think we are here to do that. But I want to make one point clear. Senator Webster has said that this Bill is providing only $ 1 8m instead of $28m. That is not true. The original Act provided for an amount of up to $25m for the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme. That Act provided also that the scheme would expire in July 1974. Those moneys were not fully expended. I am not criticising that scheme because that was the one good scheme that was brought in under the Liberal-Country Party Government to help the dairy industry. What we are doing is building up and expanding that scheme. We are providing more money for it. The tragedy is that that was not done years ago. Because that $10m was unexpended, that money is legitimately used now under the Bill that we are now debating. It is the $2 8m which the Government promised would be provided. I think it is misleading to the dairy industry and to dairymen to suggest that the Government is not providing the full amount which it undertook to provide.

I was in agreement with only one thing that Senator Webster said. That was that the dairy industry is fortunately in a comparatively healthy position now. This is due mainly to the fact that it is in the processed product area where the market is, where the potential is and where the concentration of production is. I made the point earlier and I think it should be made again, that it is a tragedy that over the years the industry was not encouraged to move into these forms of production when it was quite obvious that it would have been to its betterment. Unfortunately time in this debate is limited. I am pleased at least that the Opposition intends to support the Bill because I know that, essentially, the Opposition realises that it will be to the benefit of the dairy industry.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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