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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 884

Mr BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) . - The huge amount of this proposed vote shows that the importance of the war is realized by the Government and the Parliament. The people of Australia also appreciate fully that, although at the moment they are living in comparative safety, our forces in Papua, New Guinea and Egypt, and our allies in other theatres of the war - at Stalingrad and the Middle East in particular - are engaged in a desperate struggle, and that our future depends upon the success of their operations. We should bear in mind that we may not always enjoy the freedom of thought and expression that is ours to-day. The Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) has called upon the people for a united war effort, and to this honorable members should give their whole-hearted support. Nothing matters at present except the winning of the war. I hope, therefore, that in this Parliament we shall devote all our efforts to a supreme war effort. In this way only shall we convince our fighting services and those of our allies that we are in deadly earnest. We must do our best, also, to obtain the maximum output of which our factories and farms are capable. We should be proud that we have developed primary and secondary industries which are of incalculable value at this time. Our great iron industry is the basis on which we have built an amazing industrial edifice. From our factories there goes out day by day an unceasing stream of arms and equipment for the use. of the forces of the United Nations. We remember with pride that our iron industry, alone of our secondary industries, has proved itself economically capable of exporting its products at a profit.

I wish to emphasize, however, that primary production is also of immense value to ourselves and our allies at this time. In spite of harassing conditions, primary producers are standing up to their job manfully. In Great Britain every available acre of land has been put under the plough, with the result that a large proportion of the foodstuffs of the Motherland is being produced from its own soil. In the United States of America 300,000,000 acres has been put under the plough, because it is realized thatrural production is important in helping to win this war. Australians, in general, must also become more conscious of the immense significance of rural industries. Various items in this huge vote for defence and war provide an acknowledgment of the important place of primary production in the war effort. Our wheat, meat and wool industries have to play their part. I wish, however, to make a plea for another branch of rural industry which is not receiving the help to which it is entitled.

The dairying industry of Australia is in a chaotic condition, for which those engaged in it are by no means responsible. If we do not take early action to remedy this state of affairs the industry will collapse with disastrous results to the nation. If this industry be given the assistance it deserves, we shall be able to load ships with dairy produce for the help of our allies. The conditions which face the industry have been brought about by many causes, including the low prices for dairy products, the increasing cost of production, the lack of labour, the hard conditions under which dairymen and their families have to live, and the absence of transport facilities which were formerly available. Many men who engaged in dairying pursuits a year or so ago have been called to the colours and, from the small fund available in this industry to pay wages, it is economically impracticable for the dairymen to engage such outside labour as may be available. The consequence is chat the women and children of dairyfarmers are living an extraordinarily hard life. The women are bearing burdens of the utmost severity, which are beyond their strength to sustain for any length of time. School children on dairy farms are required to rise early in the morning, bring in the cows, struggle with the animals during milking operations, take a hasty breakfast, tramp long distances to school because transport is no longer available, and, after school, tramp back home again and repeat the morning's procedure. Tired and weary, they go to bed, only to rise the next morning to repeat the same severe programme. This goes on day after day, and week after week, without intermission. Saturdays and Sundays, and even Christmas holidays, are alike.

Transport troubles are now an almost unbearable burden to dairy-farmers. It will be realized that dairy produce must be got to the factories quickly and in Al condition; but transport is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. Moreover, margarine is becoming a most serious competitor with butter. The fact that many petrol service stations have been closed has added to the disabilities of the industry. Pool Petroleum Limited seems to have closed service stations without proper regard for the needs of local districts. I trust, therefore, that the Government will take immediate steps to have the activities of this organization investigated, with a view to ensuring that at least the bare needs of local communities shall be supplied.

The price of dairy products has always been unsatisfactory. For a long while the dairy-farmers received only 6£d. a_ gallon for milk. As 2 gallons of milk are required to make 1 lb. of butter, the return to the dairy-farmer in terms of butter prices was, throughout that period, only ls. Id. per lb. That figure got as low as ls. per lb. At present the price of milk to the dairy-farmer is 6|d. a gallon. The retailers of milk in the cities receive four times that amount, yet they say that that price is unprofitable. Professor Copland examined this industry last year and, by a calculation which is beyond my understanding, he decided that an increase of the price of butter by Id. per lb. would meet the case. Such an increase was ridiculous, and there has since been a continued agitation in the country districts, and in the country press throughout the Commonwealth, for a more equitable price to be fixed. Some little time ago the Government appointed a committee to investigate the position of the industry, and its interim report has been submitted to the Cabinet. I trust that before long the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) will be able to announce that a more equitable price will be paid for dairy produce generally. A substantial increase of the prevailing prices will be required.

Mr Martens - If an increase of 3d. per lb. were granted, how much of it would the dairy-farmer get?

Mr BERNARD CORSER - Such an increase would not be a t all commensurate with the needs of the case. If the present price were doubled the return to the dairyfarmer would not be proportionate to the £65 which an assistant cook obtained for a fortnight's work on a dredge that was recently . taken from Melbourne to Fremantle. The dairying industry must be given generous assistance. I am sure that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) does not desire the dairyfarmers to work at a loss. Like producers in other industries, they are entitled to the cost of production, plus a small margin. It is proposed to appropriate £30,000 for the evacuation of live-stock from the coastal belt of Australia. This stock will consist chiefly of dairy cattle. I hope that such an evacuation will not become necessary, or, if it does, that it will be properly policed and controlled, and that an irresponsible person will not be permitted to make the announcement over the air. In the coastal districts, the military authorities have taken possession of a number of areas. They have made openings in fences, destroyed property, and enabled cattle to stray on the roads. The local authorities have been asked to keep the roads clear of stock in order to avoid interruption of motor traffic. Unnecessary damage is done to the producer, and seldom is his concurrence obtained. Compensation should he paid for any needless destruction of property. The military authorities have impressed machinery belonging to local authorities, and have placed many roads in a state of disrepair. The local authorities have been left without the necessary machinery to repair such roads. In some instances, repairs have been effected by the military authorities. That practice should be general. There should be no delay in rectifying any grievances that are aroused. In local authority areas in which properties have been taken over, the hirings branch moves very slowly. In some instances, no satisfaction in regard to the compensation payable has been obtained for over two years. These matters should be expedited, in the interests of those who are suffering. The

Estimates make provision in that respect. In my electorate, a flying school was established. The local authority had expended £5,000 on an aerodrome, which was handed over to the Government. It had borrowed £1,000 from the Commonwealth, through the State, and was still paying interest on the amount owingWhy does not the Commonwealth take over the liability?

In the great war work that lies ahead, it may be assumed that Australian women will play as big a part as is being played by the women of Britain, where tens of thousands of them are manufacturing munitions of .war, with the result that the production in the United Kingdom is now greater than in any other country except Germany. It must not be thought that honorable members on this side of the chamber are opposed . to women receiving payment equal to that of. men when they do the same class of work. I do not believe that any section of the people would object to that. Slight differences of opinion should not be magnified into mammoth proportions for the sake of party politics. If the Government will co-operate more closely with the Opposition than it has done in the past, good results will accrue. Party differences and extremes should be avoided by both sides. Let us move forward as one, in the interests of Australia, as our allies are doing, realizing that we must sustain those who are engaged in industry, those who have taken up arms, and those who have suffered bereavement. "We should set an example to the whole people, by pulling together, and doing all that we can to avoid disunity.

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