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Tuesday, 21 March 1961

Mr ADERMANN (Fisher) (Minister for Primary Industry) . - Mr. Speaker, I am happy to associate myself with the programme for the progress of Australia outlined in the Administrator's Speech. That programme represents this Government's approach to the development of Australia and it outlines the actions which it proposes to take to protect the economy. Many aspects of the Speech have been touched upon by preceding speakers. In the main,

I want to refer to two particular statements contained in it. The Administrator stated: -

In the economic sphere, it remains the firm aim of the Government to maintain soundly based national expansion, immigration and full employment . . .

The attainment of our national objective of expansion must go hand in hand with an expansion of our export trade. Positive steps are being taken to improve Australia's external trading position.

In the penultimate paragraph of the Speech,

His Excellency said -

I spoke earlier of the need to develop quickly this country's capacity to export. National development has always been a major objective, and indeed an achievement of my advisers. As a further contribution to national growth and the development of exports, the Government is considering some important specific development proposals, and will co-operate with the States concerned in detailed planning so that, as circumstances allow, actual construction may proceed without delay. The projects under particular and sympathetic consideration are road development in the north; improved port and loading facilities to assist the coal export trade; standardization of important railways in South Australia' and Western Australia; and proposals to stimulate the search for oil and minerals generally.

I want to say something about the proposal respecting roads in the north which is contained in the last-mentioned paragraph. I think it is recognized even more to-day than in our earlier pioneering days that adequate transport is essential to the opening up and developing of the country. I am happy that the Government is favorably disposed towards the State of Queensland and will co-operate with it in the development of transport. The Commonwealth will also accept its own responsibilities in the Northern Territory and, in association with the Western Australian and Queensland Governments, has in hand a proposal to link roads in western and northern Queensland with the roads system of the Northern Territory and, in turn, with that of the northern part of Western Australia. As has been mentioned, the Government's proposals embrace the standardization of the gauges of important railways in South Australia and Western Australia.

These proposals in themselves may not directly bring about so much development as will be caused by the industries encouraged by them. I should mention, also, the rehabilitation of the railway between Townsville and Mount Isa, in northern Queensland. This will be like a shot in the arm to the northern part of the

State. The operations of Mount Isa Mines Limited and other companies there have brought life and hope to the north of that great State. In addition, there is the potential for development arising out of the opening up of the Weipa bauxite field. We hope that that field will be developed as successfully as forecasts would lead us to believe. The provision of adequate means of transport by road and rail encourages settlers to invest their money and their efforts because it affords them means of marketing their products. One of the possibilities that the Government has in mind as a result of this programme of road development is the expansion of beef production. Every one knows the great difficulties involved in marketing beef from animals which are pastured so far from the markets. But the latest methods of transport by road, rail and other means make marketing much more economical and enable better beef to be put on the market because the beasts do not lose so much weight and condition through being walked out. I shall have something more to say about beef later, but I think we all can agree that the expansion of the output of this commodity would be of great benefit to us.

I want to deal briefly with the wool situation now. The 1960-61 clip totalled 1,600,000,000 lb.- somewhat less than the record clip of the preceding season, which totalled 1,690,000.000 lb., but still about 10 per cent, higher than the average production in the five years 1954-55 to 1958-59 inclusive. Estimates place the decline in the gross value of the 1960-61 clip at £67,000,000. This will be offset by an increase of approximately the same amount in the sales of other commodities owing to increased values of those commodities, of which I mention three. Wheat is expected to bring in £42,000,000 more in 1960-61 than in the previous year, barley £10,000,000 more and sugar £5,000,000 more. The volume of exports of primary products should reach the second highest total ever achieved - only 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, below the record level of 1959-60. But the total output of primary products is a record.

I turn now to the wheat industry in particular. We have just harvested a crop of about 265,000,000 bushels of wheat- easily a record - of which about 250,000,000 bushels will reach the Australian Wheat Board. A percentage, of course, is always retained on the farms for seed and other purposes. There will be a record overdraft of £125,000,000 to meet the first advance. If we add the administrative expenses, we get a total of approximately £150,000,000. Payments to the growers will exceed the total of last year by about £26,000,000. At the end of the last wheat season, we had a surplus of 60,000,000 bushels, with a bank overdraft of about £30,000,000, and I think it is fortunate indeed that new markets have opened up this year. To date, sales to mainland China have totalled 1,050,000 tons of wheat and 40,000 tons of flour. In addition, China has bought our surplus production of barley, amounting to about 300,000 tons, and 50,000 tons of oats.

Returning to the subject of wheat, Italy has opened up as a market, to our advantage this year, because of adverse seasonal conditions there. Normally, Italy is an exporter of wheat, but this year she has taken, to date, 450,000 tons from Australia. These sales are in addition to sales on our traditional markets. It seems that, even without any extra new sales, our carry-over this season will not exceed the surplus holding at the end of the last wheat year. We have from now until the end of November to sell additional quantities, and the prospects are bright for our doing so.

Butter production, estimated this year to be about 180,000 tons, will be about 15,000 tons less than last year's production. Cheese production will be about 43,000 tons, much the same as last year's. The reduction in butter output was caused by the dry conditions in Queensland and northern New South Wales and, quite recently, in the western districts of Victoria. The instability of an export market applies particularly to butter. Over the last three years, as honorable members will recall, the export butter price was as low as 205s. sterling, rose to 409s. and is now back to 249s. At the moment the market has firmed, and we are selling substantial quantities, but the seasonal flush in Europe has not yet started. 1 said that I would mention something more about meat. The Bureau ofAgricul tural Economics says that the outlook for the beef industry is particularly bright. Prices are still high, and demand both abroad and at home is still strong compared with the available supplies. Beef output this year is expected to reach 700,000 tons, or about 67,000 tons less than last year's output. I think that the figure in our record selling year two years ago was over 900,000 tons. I am not quite sure of the figure, but in that year, when culling was so heavy, we sold quite well on the American market. However, I am pleased to note that there has been no reduction in the breeding of cattle, because statistics show that in spite of heavy sales two years ago the numbers of our beef cows and heifers rose by more than 4 per cent, between 31st March, 1959, and 31st March, 1960.

Primary industry, Mr. Speaker, must be to the forefront in our minds when considering expansion of exports because it already accounts for more than 80 per cent, of this country's export income. The real problem of our primary industry to-day is to move its products into consumption markets at payable prices. Having regard to competitive marketing, as well as the increased number of suppliers operating against us in overseas markets, production is not now a serious problem for us. The development schemes we have in view will assist in rounding out production, particularly in commodities for which there is a healthy demand, more particularly in regard to beef.

The problem of selling our production is being tackled by the Government on many fronts. I mention only a few. Of course, the wool industry, in its disorganized state - if I may be so brave as to so describe it - is of prime concern. Some agreement has been reached in that industry, and we now have in operation the Wool Marketing Committee of Inquiry. Through the Australian Wool Bureau we have plans for more vigorous promotion on a world scale. I compliment the bureau on its activities and I hope that it will be successful in implementing the promotional scheme that it has in hand.

Then we have the sugar and canning fruits committee of inquiry whose findings, we hope, will assist the sugar and canning fruits industries not only to earn better returns, but also to determine a fair relationship between themselves.

The dairying industry also has its plans for the promotion of its products. A fortnight ago yesterday, I had the honour of opening a research centre in Melbourne which is to act as the nerve centre of a drive to popularize dairy foods. Twelve months ago, the promotional campaign in regard to cheese had a measure of success. Also as part of its promotional activities the dairying industry has established a research library. I wish the industry well in its various promotional ventures, and I feel sure that it will not regret what it has done to encourage sales of its commodities on the domestic market.

The Australian Wheat Board has been very active in its search for new markets - mainland China and Italy are examples of such recently acquired new markets - and has shown great determination to exploit every possible opportunity for the sale of our very huge wheat crop. The present crop is such that, if we had sold only the same quantity of wheat this year as we sold during the last wheat year, we would have been left with a surplus of about 125,000,000 bushels. That would have been serious indeed. Fortunately, because of the new markets opening up, and also because of the board's energetic activities in selling to these and other markets, it looks as though we are going to be better off, in spite of our record crop, than we were at the end of the previous wheat year last November.

The Australian Meat Board has also been successful in keeping the markets that it has recently won, as well as opening new markets like Japan. We feared at one time that we faced a threat in regard to our sales of meat to America when American mutton and lamb producers succeeded in convincing the United States Tariff Commission that imports of mutton and lamb from Australia and other countries should be subjected to heavy duties. We put our best foot forward as a government, in co-operation with the Australian Meat Board, and secured the co-operation of the American importers, and finally we were successful in convincing the United States Tariff Commission that it should not penalize these imports from this country. Honorable members will readily recognize that had the American mutton and lamb producers won final success before the United States Tariff Commission the matter would not have rested there, but would have had further effects on our overseas sales, because American beef producers might have been emboldened into attempting to secure the same result in regard to beef.

Also engaged in the promotion of sales of primary products is the wine industry's wine centre in London, in which the Australian Wine Board has an interest. There has also 'been successful domestic promotion of that commodity. The canning fruits industry is levying itself for promotional purposes.

The Commonwealth Government is contributing to Australian trade publicity in the United Kingdom, and this year the Budget makes provision for £456,000 for that purpose - about one-third of the total being spent on it in the United Kingdom. In addition to the allocation for promotion in the United Kingdom, a total of £301,000 is being contributed to the costs of publicity in other countries. The producers are also contributing substantial sums for promotion through the various commodity boards, and so have played their part, just as the importers in the United Kingdom have also played theirs.

Wool-producers have given the lead in promotion. The trade commissioner service has been expanded in order to help ro open up potential markets and to expand existing markets. The Department of Trade has come more and more into promotion activities so as to help us to sell our goods in markets which are now highly competitive and at times not very favorable for us.

All phases of production and marketing at home and abroad are constantly under critical review. The dairy industry inquiry is a case in point. The Government set up a committee to inquire into the industry's activities. The committee has furnished its report to the Government and the recommendations contained in the report have been acted upon. I want to emphasize that the Government regards stability of the dairy industry as a very vital factor. That is the basic requirement if any phase of primary production is to succeed. The existing stabilization scheme will end in

June, 1962. The Government will honour to the full its obligations under that scheme, and is prepared to discuss with the industry a further five-year scheme. Of course, no one can commit a government so far ahead, nor would the industry want to commit itself at this stage as to what it may want to be included in the next scheme. The matter is left open for discussion and negotiation in the normal way when the existing scheme comes to an end. The Government will face up to its responsibilities in the interests of the dairy-producers.

The Government is prepared to do what it can to strengthen the equalization scheme that is operating in the dairy industry. Every one knows the difficulties associated with that scheme because of the constitutional position, but no bounty is paid to any factory that does not associate itself with the scheme. That is a very helpful factor in creating a uniform agreement. It is of great benefit to the factories; it is of great benefit to the consumer and undoubtedly it is of great benefit to the producer.

The committee's report indicated that some dairy-farmers are in unsatisfactory economic circumstances, and it made certain recommendations. The Government wants this situation to be rectified, and it is willing to discuss with the State governments and the industry the question of reconstruction, taking into consideration the views of the industry itself. Obviously, if one wants to obtain the co-operation of an industry and ensure its success, the industry must be taken into partnership. This Government believes in working in partnership with the primary producers.

This brief survey, Mr. Speaker, indicates that the primary producers have met the challenge by increasing production to a record level, and have played their part in assisting the economy. They have had to face increased costs, yet they have not only supplied the domestic market but also have contributed greatly to the export credits of £880,000,000 which it is estimated Australia will receive for this year. They well deserve any assistance that the Government's economic measures have given them in combating rising costs.

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