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Wednesday, 20 March 1957

Mr MCMAHON - First of all, 1 should like to say to the honorable gentleman who is a representative of a large section of the butter industry in Victoria that the returns to the Victorian section of the industry this year are close to the same level as they were last year. I see no reason to think that they are likely to drop substantially in the near future. Production in Victoria is high. For the first six months of this financial year I think that Victorian producers were responsible for 60,000 tons of a total Australian production of 113,000 tons. I make that comment right at the beginning because I do not want the impression to be created here that we are not looking at the problem. We are looking at the problem of butter production continually. I did give the question of the imposition of sales tax on margarine most careful consideration. I would like the honorable gentleman to realize that the imposition of a substantial sales tax on margarine would cause a lot of Australian housewives to protest vociferously and he would be one of those who would feel the wrath of the ladies if a sales tax as high as 25 per cent, were put on margarine. I have asked the Australian Agricultural Council to consider this matter and I think that at the last meeting each of the governments represented agreed that, within its capacity and taking into consideration the question of the local production of the commodities that went into margarine, it would not increase quotas. I think that production was to be restricted to about 9,000 tons in New South Wales. There were also to be some restrictions in other States. The last part of the honorable member's question dealt with sales tax on ice cream. Again, that matter has been considered. The Treasurer is always kind when I put these problems to him. I shall put this problem to him again, with a full knowledge of the kind way in which he deals with these matters relating to the primary industries.

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