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Thursday, 24 September 1942
Page: 895

Mr BAKER (Maranoa) .- I find myself in agreement with the sentiment expressed by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) concerning the bravery of Australian soldiers. Our men have shown their quality in many parts of the world. Ogilvie called the Australian soldier " the bravest thing God ever made ". But there is something wrong, and we must find out what it is. I believe that it is leadership. Our leaders have taken our antagonists too cheaply. Sir Robert. Brooke-Popham told us that Singapore was impregnable and could never be taken. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) also told us that Singapore could never be taken. But it was taken in a few days. The right honorable member told us to-day that the war might last for tcn years. It seems to me that we need not take much notice of what he says. We were told also that the Japanese would never be able to cross the Owen Stanley Range. They have crossed it. Sir Thomas Blarney told me in the King's Hall that it would be a physical impossibility to invade Australia. I suggest that some of our leaders are physical impossibilities. The best general, we are told, is the one who makes the fewest mistakes. Many of our generals have made the mistake of taking the Japanese too cheaply. We need a change of generals.

Recently I had the privilege of visiting a large Australian Imperial Force camp somewhere on the coast of Australia. I saw the men at work and at play, and my heart was glad to observe their wonderful esprit de corps ; but as I looked at the camp I asked myself, " Where are the Light Horse ? " That camp was located in a thickly wooded range, and the men had ample mechanical transport. I had the questionable privilege of riding for 25 miles on a Bren gun carrier, and I can tell honorable members who have not had. that experience that "Dargan's Grey" was a rocking-chair in comparison with it. I believe that the Australian forces would be much better prepared for guerrilla warfare if they had adequate light horse units. In some districts mechanical transport would be moire or less useless. The great problem of defence to-day is mobility. Our trouble is the lack, not of defenders, but of mobility. We have to defend 3,000,000 square miles of country within 12,000 miles of coastline. If an enemy landed a force of 100,000 at a coastal town in which we had only small forces, our trouble would be to get adequate reinforcements to the spot in time to prevent him from consolidating his position and advancing. In parts of Australia we have only a single line of narrow-gauge railway, which in many places is served with bad roads. Adequate light horse units would help to counter these disadvantages.

A good deal has been said during this discussion about the importance of food supplies. Our man-power may be divided into three groups, though I do not suggest that they need be of even numbers. From one point of view the order should be men for the battle zones, men for the munitions factories, and men for the supply of foodstuffs for the forces and for civilians; but the essential sequence is: First, men to supply foodstutfs secondly, men to supply munitions; and thirdly, men to occupy the battle stations. Without food, both munitions workers and soldiers would be helpless. If soldiers were without food for twelve or 24 hours they would be of little use. Therefore, we must feed our armed forces, and feed them well. We cannot make a man a soldier by putting him in uniform. He must be fed and trained. Military strategists have frequently said that the first necessity is to ensure that a soldier shall be properly fed. and adequately armed; then that he shall be trained in modern methods of warfare and inspired by good leadership. For jungle warfare, which is such an important phase to-day, it is especially important that mcn shall be well led. In order to ensure an adequate supply of foodstuffs we must keep our rural industries at full production. In England, Germany, Russia, China and Japan adequate man-power is being reserved to grow food for military and civilian needs. We, also, must see to it that men are available to sow the crops and gather the harvests. We cannot expect our womenfolk to do this work. They are doing a wonderful job, and are worthy of their husbands, sons, brothers, and sweethearts ; but we must not put too heavy a burden on them. I consider, too, that young men who are kept back from the firing-line on essential service should not be subjected to indignity and insult. Certain thoughtless persons in the community are said to be distributing feathers. This is most unjust in many instances. Men who are kept in the fields and the factories producing food, should be given a badge or certificate to show that they are engaged in an essential service.

A good deal has been said in this chamber in the last few days about the conscription of man-power. We may have to conscript more men for essential industries. Coal-miners and munitions workers are not allowed to change their employment in these days, and it may be that men engaged in food production should be required to remain where they are. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Collins) said to-night that he shuddered when he thought about the shortage of food.

I shudder when I think of the condition of this country twelve months ago when this Government assumed office. I wonder how many people know that at that time a line had been drawn across the country and it had been decided that no attempt should be made to defend the areas north of that line if the Japanese invaded our shores. There was not a gun in those arena, and if the Japanese had not stopped in Java and Sumatra but had come straight into Australia they would have found us defenceless in the north. The Government of which the honorable member for Hume was a Minister was responsible for that state of affairs. I was not correct in saying that there was not a gun there, for I recollect that 154 years ago Captain Cook left a gun there that had been taken from the Endeavour.

I wish to say a few words about the dairying industry, which at present is in a desperate plight. It is my privilege to be a member of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. The committee recently took evidence in Queensland, and I shall refer honorable gentlemen to some statements that were made to us by well-informed witnesses. The Queensland Director of Dairying, Mr. Rice, said on oath -

The butter production will be about 400,000 boxes less this year than last year, or a falling-off of nearly 20 per cent. Queensland's production of butter in 1940-41 was 2.090,077 boxes, and the estimated production for 1941-42 is 1,680,633 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 is a serious comment. Mr. Wilson, the general manager of the Port Curtis Dairy Association Limited, which controls butter factories at Bundaberg, Gladstone, Rockhampton, Mackay, Wowan, Biloela and Monto, gave the following evidence -

The shortage of man-power on farms is now becoming more apparent, as many people who had share-farmers cannot now get them. As an instance, Mr. Willert of Berajondo, who has three dairy farms of about 100 cows, each run by share-farmers,has closed one dairy, is closing another in August, and may close the third one later. Mr. A. Dougall, of Miriam Vale, is closing his dairy, and he told me that other people in his district are going to close down and only graze cattle for the meat-works. Many farmers are reducing the number of milking cows in their dairies, owing to members of their families being called up and the scarcity of labour. A Mr. Jense, Coast road, Bundaberg, is an example - sons called up, reducing from 40 to ten cows. Mr. G. B. Mouatt, chairman of directors of our association, whose farm is at Mungungo, carried 60 dairy cows, and will now reduce to 25 through shortage of labour. Many other instances can be recorded if necessary. The butter price, to a great extent, enters into this question of labour. The dairying industry is noted for the low wages paid to farm workers. Farmers cannot pay good wages on the price they receive for butter. My opinion is that, with a better price for butter, production will increase. If farmers are to receive a price comparable with that paid in other industries, and appropriate to the hours worked, the price of butter shouldbe 2s. per lb.

I agree with that opinion. Dairying is the Cinderella of all the industries in the Commonwealth. It is carried on by means of the unpaid slavery of women and children. There is only one remedy, namely, to give to the dairymen a price comparable with what may be earned elsewhere. Later, when our soldiers return to civil life, the Commonwealth will have to rehabilitate, resuscitate, and repatriate them. The best place for them would be on the land, where they would have the advantage of fresh air and sunshine.

I direct attention to the plight of the apple and pear grower in what is called the granite belt in the Stanthorpe district, in the south of Queensland. The origin of the establishment of the Apple and Pear Acquisition scheme was the scarcity of shipping soon after the outbreak of the war. Our surplus production of fruit could not be sent overseas; consequently, the Apple and Pear Acquisition Regulations were formulated by the Commonwealth Government, with the object of ensuring to the grower a just price for his product. Unfortunately, that good result did not accrue. Since the establishment of the scheme, the conditions in Queensland have changed very greatly. Because of enemy attacks in the north of Australia, large numbers of Australian and allied troops have been sent to that region. These need to have their diet supplemented by fruit, particularly apples and pears. When the acquisition scheme was inaugurated, ten units were allotted to a bushel case in Queensland, and the price was fixed at6d. a unit. Thus a case containing from 12 dozen to 14 dozen apples was sold on behalf of the grower for 5s. - a very cheap price; too low to enable him to make anything out of his operations. Later, on account of the advent of soldiers into that portion of the continent, cases of apples were sold for 20s., and up to 2Ss. The grower is asking where the difference has gone. He believes that his return should be greater, because the present price of 5s. does not defray the cost of production. The grower in Queensland has to surmount special difficulties. The trees in that. State do not crop so prolifically as do the trees in the south, the respective figures being from 1 to 1$ cases, and three or four times that number. Payment for labour is on a much higher scale in Queensland; in fact, it. is now almost unobtainable. The seasons are not regular. Last year, particularly, a very serious drought was experienced. It would be a great mistake to permit these mau to fail. Only 2 per cent, of the total quantity of apples and pears grown in The Commonwealth is produced in Queensland. They mature early; consequently, they do not interfere in any respect with the southern fruit. The Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) has given evidence of his sympathy for the primary producer in what he has done for the wool and wheat industries. He is now inquiring into the dairying industry. I hope that he will also consider sympathetically the apple and pear growers, and that in Queensland they will be granted an exemption. Failing that, I request that a royal commission be appointed to inquire into their circumstances. Only yesterday I received a letter from Mr. D. Pfunder, an apple grower, of Applethorne, in which he said -

We believe we have an unanswerable case notwithstanding that informal ballot. That ballot was taken on the understanding that a number of anomalies would be removed. This has not been done. The anomalies referred to were discussed by a mass meeting of growers at the same time when it was decided to hold the ballot ... We derive no benefits, only losses. It is estimated that the profits (nett) made by the board during the past season out of Queensland fruit amounts to at least £li3,000. This is a huge sum to take out of our small production, and would be sufficient to provide at least 57 growers with the basic wage ... I am enclosing a short letter received from one of our growers (J. K. Archer). He was a soldier in the last war and one of the few original soldier settlers remaining here. After 22 years' struggle he is now driven out, and just at a time when he had real hope of surmounting many obstacles. Others must go if this is to continue.

I have received other letters, written in a similar strain. These growers have a real grievance. I know that this Government. i3 determined to give every man a fair deal, especially those who are producing food when it is so badly needed. I appeal to the Minister for Commerce for that fair deal on behalf of this small number of growers, who produce only 2 per cent, of the total quantity of fruit grown in the Commonwealth. I stress the necessity for exemption; otherwise, the industry should be investigated by a royal commission.

The restriction of sport is rather an important matter. At present, the people are suffering a great emotional strain. There must be a safety valve, and it is provided by nature. From its early years, a child plays sport willingly and enthusiastically. I have nothing to say about the control of horse and dog racing ; but I urge that it is important to see that our men and women, while working so hard, at high pressure and under a great emotional stress, shall have a safety valve. Recreation is a wonderful healer that has been provided by nature. We have to bc very careful as to how we screw things down. All work and no play is not beneficial. Every man and woman must have relaxation and keep fit, and the best way in which to so so i3 by engaging in physical exercise and sport.

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