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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr ROSEVEAR (Dalley) .- I have listened to the debate on the vexed question of Werribee beef and to the reply of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully), and I am trying to make up my mind what to do about it.

Mr Conelan - Do not worry about it.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I began to worry when the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) implied that it will become an international matter, because the beef will give tape worm to our Allies. It would be interesting to know how this sudden shortage of beef developed, because we are not exporting so much beef as we did previously, and the residue that used to be exported should now be available to the people of Australia. Yet, we suddenly discover that, because of the war - and we see no evidence of the cattle having been enlisted or called up for munitions work - there is a shortage. I am beginning to wonder whether the interests which are represented by honorable gentlemen opposite, who are making such a row about the Werribee beef, are keeping cattle off the market for their own gains. That is possible. The manner in which Country party members worry about Werribee beef is remarkable when we know that the people in the districts which they represent are required to eat meat slaughtered in circumstances which render it unfit for human consumption. They are complacent about the lack of proper inspection of killing in the country as was pointed out by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard), but they are greatly perturbed because Werribee beef is to come on to the market. I am led to think that they are more concerned about the welfare of the big cattlemen than they are about the health of the soldiers and the people generally.

On the general question of the difficulties of primary production, there is another side to the problem. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) is perturbed about the position with regard to certain vegetables required for canning. Some time ago, I was in the Leeton area and I discovered that alien farmers, who grow the great bulk of the vegetables in that area, were growing vegetables, not for the market, but for seed, because it was more profitable to grow for seed than to grow for the market. Those people cannot have it both ways. They cannot grow vegetables for seed when it is profitable for them to do so, and when the position is reversed, claim that the Government ought to subsidize them in some way. Honorable gentlemen opposite are perturbed about the labour position in primary production, but they cannot blame this Government for that, because they took no greater steps than have been taken by this Government, probably not so great, to solve this problem while they were in control of the country. The great bulk of the farmers are men who employ hands normally for a few months each year. What does the orchardist care about the fruit-pickers after they have picked the fruit? Does he .care if they starve for the rest of the year ? No. What does the potato-grower care about the future welfare of the potato-diggers after his crop has been dug? This applies to practically every form of primary production. Primary production has reached its present state in this country, because always in the past there has been a surplus on the labour market of people who wandered through the country looking for seasonal occupations. But honorable gentlemen opposite must realize that now there is a war on and that many thousands of those fellows who for ten years had to walk the country looking for work or live on the dole, have been called up for military service or are employed permanently in the munitions industry. This country is now reaping disadvantage from the policies applied by previous governments.

If honorable gentlemen opposite are perturbed about the farmers' sons being called up, I am equally perturbed about the manner in. which the man-power officers are operating in my electorate. I have no primary producers there, but there are many men who have their life savings invested in one-man businesses and who are losing all, because they have been called into the ranks and their businesses have been closed. I hope that the Minister for War Organization of Industry (Mr. Dedman), will consult with his colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) to see whether we cannot get some fixed principles upon which the man-power officers shall operate. Different interpretations are placed on man-power regulations by the various man-power officers in my electorate. Some men with only one-man businesses have been called into camp and others are apparently out. I hope that the Minister for the Army will regulate the conditions under which the manpower officers work. I am as much concerned about the small business men who lose their savings because they are called up as honorable gentlemen opposite are about the men who lose their farms because they or their sons are called up. Prominent men can get out of the Army - I mentioned one case to-day - and there should not be one law for those gentlemen which is not applicable to all.

Mr.Forde. - That gentleman has not been discharged from the Army. He has been temporarily seconded from the Australian ImperialForce to do a certain job, and when that job is done he will go back to the Australian ImperialForce.

Mr ROSEVEAR - If he does not do any more service then than he did before he will not do much. I do hope that something will be done to prevent these people from losing their life savings.

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