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Friday, 21 June 1946

Mr BERNARD CORSER (Wide Bay) . - Primary producers suffered during the war through the fixation of prices of many commodities including butter, and cheese. Instead of getting a reasonable price for their butter they received a sum much below the cost of production, in order to provide cheap butter for the people of Australia. Later, the Government, on being asked for an increased price, gave a subsidy to the butter industry, and since that time it has asked the Government of Great Britain to pay an increased price for the butter received by it from Australia. The Government of the Mother Country . acceded to that request. The last budget showed £1,000,000 as receipts from this source for the ensuing year. I drew. attention to this item during the debate and claimed that the amount would be at least £2,000,000. Now I believe that the Government is in receipt of- £2,500,000 from the Government of Great Britain as the result of extra payments for butter over a period of two years, and ' that this amount has been paid into, consolidated revenue. The Government should reconsider the matter and decide whether this money should not be paid to the producers of the butter who are struggling in the hope that the Government will provide them with a return a little nearer the cost of production than the present price. If the present drought continues much longer more than half of the dairying districts w ill produce only one-half as much butter as was obtained at this time last year. The Government should send experts, in the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, to the drought-stricken dairying and grazing districts of Australia, in order to secure information as to the conditions under which the primary producers are labouring owing to drought and the meat strike. It should adopt an Australian-wide policy in the matter of searching for water supplies, damming small rivers and creeks, and distributing heavy earth-shifting machinery for that purpose. It should also promote the carrying-out of larger irrigation schemes, in order to minimize general drought losses. Under existing conditions, . the Government should arrange for the purchase of stock feed and the transport of stock from one district to another, because ' of the . shortage of railway rolling-stock consequent upon the reduced coal supplies. The Government should ascertain the amount of loss it could prevent, and the development that could be induced by a policy of that kind. During the debate on the budget I urged the Government to obtain some of the earth-shifting machinery which had been offered to them by the United States of America and held in the islands, and to make available to. local governing authorities, ex-servicemen and others for the damming of creeks and rivers for irrigation purposes and for watering stock. However, nothing has been done. New Zealand has now bought millions of pounds' worth of this machinery which was lying in New Guinea and other islands, with the result that productivity of the land where they are now operating in New Zealand will be increased enormously. Land now unproductive will be settled by ex-serVicemen. This is a matter of the very greatest importance, and I ask the Government to have inquiries made now with a view to obtaining some of this machinery if more is available.

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