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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 877

Mr FRANCIS - He is not a specialist. The honorable member ought to know what specialist service means in the Army.

Mr Coles - How does he earn a living?

Mr FRANCIS - With a pick and shovel, I believe.

Mr Forde - That statement was made in reply to a question which was submitted to me. I made inquiries of the Adjutant-General, and he told me what categories he was calling up. I stated that, in the category of married menbetween the ages of 35 and 45 years, most of the men called up were specialists in some particular trade or calling which was essential for Army purposes. I did not say that nobody over 40 years of age would be called up. We are forced to call up older men owing to the shortage of man-power.

Mr FRANCIS - I do not claim that men over 40 years of age should not be called up, but the Minister stated that they would not be called up, and I ask him to stand by his declaration.

Mr Forde - I told the honorable member what the practice was. My statement was based on information supplied to me by the Adjutant-General.

Mr FRANCIS - I know the AdjutantGeneral personally, and I know that he always has a firm grip of any subject with which he deals. But, in view of the statement which I have quoted, I contend that men over 40 years of age should be called up only if they have specialist qualifications.

I refer now to the dairying industry. The demands of the war have had a serious effect upon the production of all kinds of foodstuffs, and, unless we take great care, a grave crisis will occur in the dairying industry. I say this after having made a most careful examination of the problems of the industry for more than two years, during which I have been chairman of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. A few days ago. the following statement by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. S. R. Carver) was published in the newspapers : -

Additional labour needed on Queensland dairy farms in 1942-43 will be 1969 permanent and 2251 seasonal or temporary employees.

Mr. Carversent questionnaires to all dairyfarmers in Australia and obtained replies from 46,876 of them, representing 64 per cent. of the industry. These returns show that 19,596 men have left the industry. That figure represents 42 per cent. of the total shown by those farmers who lodged returns. Of this number, 11,748 have gone into defence services, and 7,848 have obtained employment in the cities. Only 64 per cent. of the questionnaires were returned to Mr. Carver, but from my knowledge of the industry I am satisfied that the men who make up the remaining 36 per cent. did not make returns because they were so overworked that they had no time to do so. The industry is being carried on mainly by aged men and women and by juveniles. Enlistments from the country districts have been maintained at a much greater rate than those from the urban areas. In addition, a heavy drain has been imposed by compulsory call-ups. I am pleased to say that, as the result of recommendations made by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries, which has submitted a number of reports on the subject since the 17th September, 1941, the Minister for

Commerce (Mr. Scully) placed a temporary blanket exemption over employees in the industry on the 7th May, 1942. This prevented the calling-up of any more dairy-farm workers and saved the situation to some degree. But for that action by the Minister, the industry would be in a much more dangerous position than it is in to-day. The dairying industry has made more sacrifices for the nation than has any other primary industry. In support of my contention I direct attention to evidence given to the Joint Committee on Rural Industries by a number of competent witnesses. The Australian Dairy Produce Board's representative, Mr. Howey, said -

The effect of the shortage of labour is such that some dairy-farmers are switching over to sheep and fattening cattle. Dairy herds are being reduced because it is impossible to handle them.

The South Australian Minister for Agriculture (Mr. Blesing) made this statement -

Labour for harvesting crops and dairying was noticeably scanty on farms during the past year . . . The position is rapidly deteriorating and many rural employers of labour will, of necessity, need to reduce their activities to a considerable degree . . . The dairying industry in South Australia has had a very serious setback through the shortage of man-power brought ahout by enlistments and the large number of rural workers who have migrated to the city for munitions work. As a consequence dairy-farmers have been unable to obtain the necessary assistance to enable them to carry on with their usual herds. Numbers have reduced their herds considerably, and some have been forced to dispose of their cows altogether.

The Director of Dairying in Queensland (Mr. Rice) supplied this illuminating information -

The butter production will be about 400,000 boxes less this year, or a falling off of nearly 20 per cent. Queensland's production of butter in 194041 was 2,090,677 boxes, and the estimated production for 1941-42 is 1,686,633 boxes. In the most favorable period the butter production reached 2,600,000 boxes a year, and therefore the estimated production for the year just closed is 1,000,000 boxes less than the output of a peak year.

That shows that there has been a falling off of butter production in Queensland alone of over 1,000,000 boxes. At Gladstone, herds of first-class Jersey cows are being decimated. Hundreds of cattle are being killed each week because the farmers cannot obtain the man-power needed to milk them. Aged men and women and juveniles work so hard on the farms for such long hours, without breaks, that they are rendered almost insensible by fatigue. Another great disadvantage is that there is scarcely a ton of reserve fodder stored anywhere in the country, because no man-power is available to produce and store it.

Mr Scully - Where does the honorable member suggest that we should find the necessary man-power?

Mr FRANCIS - The trouble has been caused by allowing men to leave the industry. The man-power position generally in Australia is chaotic and needs reviewing. The price of butter is very unsatisfactory. The dairy-farmers are hopelessly underpaid for their products at a time when the price of nearly every other commodity has increased. Furthermore, wages for dairy-farm workers have risen considerably. Competition is very keen for the limited number of men available. The Joint Committee on Rural Industries, which represents all political parties in this Parliament, has unanimously recommended that the price of butter be substantially increased. I ask the Minister for Commerce to treat this recommendation as urgent. Dairy farmers are suffering greater disabilities than those engaged in any other industry with which I am acquainted, and the committee has examined most of the primary industries of Australia.

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