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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2558

Mr HEWSON (McMillan) -I appreciate this opportunity to raise a matter of great importance. At the same time I want to criticise this Australian Labor Party Government caustically for the lack of control of its Ministers and for condoning the actions that they take. It appears quite obvious to me that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Enderby) in unilaterally granting a margarine production licence tothe margarine company

Marrickville Holdings Ltd, did so without the knowledge of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). This poses a few questions to which I hope the Government will give this Parliament and the people of Australia some honest answers. First, I ask: Why did the Minister for the Capital Territory act so secretly and without consulting the Minister for Primary Industry? Could the answer be that the Minister for the Capital Territory and this Australian Labor Party Government have a close politico-financial alliance with this margarine company? Why would Marrickville Holdings be granted a monopoly licence without any apparent reference to or information being given to other margarine companies, several of which are Australian-owned? Surely the proper way would have been to give the right to all manufacturers to submit a proposition to be studied by the Government. I believe that he should have allowed all margarine companies to compete for the Canberra licence. His action prompts the question: Has the Marrickville company been selected to break the quota system by manufacturing in the Australian Capital Terirtory? If so, it is clear to me that this is the most serious threat to the dairying industry in 33 years.

The Marrickville company could be a stepping-stone to flood interstate markets in defiance of the State quotas. I remind this Parliament and this Government that no company has fought the quota system more determinedly that has Marrickville. It was the company, which, with Lever Brothers, launched the Mrs Jones' campaign in 1966. I was then in the Victorian Parliament. That was a misleading advertising campaign and I had great pleasure in supporting the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Sir Gilbert Chandler, in the legislation which he brouht down at that stage and which defeated their plan. I think they are probably like elephants - they never forget.

The unilateral granting of permission to Marickville Holdings brings to mind many reports over the years that this company has been one of the Australian Labor Party's backers. This prompts me to ask another question: Is Marrickville at last being rewarded for its political and financial investment in the Australian Labor Party over the years? If one casts one's mind back to the records of prosecutions for breaches of the margarine quota and misleading advertising by margarine companies, Lever Bros and Marrickville Holdings have a poor record. I represent an elec torate where the dairy fanner population is probably one of the largest of any electorate in this Commonwealth, so I view this situation with alarm. Are we to see the great stabilised dairying industry pulled down to its knees by the irresponsible and rather dubious actions of the Minister for the Capital Territory?

Can the Government honestly condone this approach to the smashing of margarine quotas? The whole episode savours of being near to a public scandal. One company only is selected by the Minister for the Capital Territory. The announcement was made the day before the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council of which his colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry, is chairman. The Minister for Primary Industry was not told of the announcement but at a belated moment the Minister for the Capital Territory attended the Australian Agricultural Council meeting and had his actions confirmed on the explanation of the Minister for Primary Industry who said that he was responsible for a misunderstanding in the mind of the Minister for the Capital Territory. It is nice to have colleagues, is it not? But the interesting observations are that prior to the Minister for the Capital Territory making his announcement many things had taken place and, I believe, in anticipation or by collusion.

Firstly, the factory of Home Pride bakery at Fyshwick was purchased some months ago. Plant suitable only for the manufacture of margarine was installed at least 1 month before the announcement. This surely must have been done in consultation with the Minister and it raises doubts in my mind. It certainly makes a mockery of the statements by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that there is full consultation within the Ministry and at Cabinet of all policy initiatives. The fact that the licence was granted to a company which apparently had already acquired premises in the Australian Capital Territory is disturbing. It would appear that the Minister by his decision deliberately backed a political favourite and gave it a monopoly. He certainly needs to explain his case.

I have raised this matter because I believe it should be aired. It is certainly contrary to the allegedly anti-monopolistic Labor policy which is boasted about by honourable members opposite. This action which appears to be somewhat suspect will have the opportunity to break the long standing all-States agreement on quotas. I see it as a threat to an industry traditional for its great contribution to the wealth of this nation. The whole of my electorate will feel its repercussions. This Government will go down in history as one which refused to recognise the importance of the rural areas of this Commonwealth, particularly the most efficient dairying areas which are in the electorate of McMillan and upon which thousands depend for their livelihood.

Dr Gun - What about those with a coronary condition?

Mr HEWSON - It has no effect on them. It concerns me deeply to see the initiatives taken by the coalition government being imperilled because of an anti-rural industry stance taken by Ministers of the Australian Labor Party Government.

Margarine quotas by the unanimous agreement of the States took into consideration the oil seed industries importance but that industry, because of bad seasons and many disabilities and some lack of know-how, cannot supply the present quotas which were recently increased by 6,000 tons by this Government. This means that the polyunsaturated table margarine industry has to rely on a great quantity of imports and therefore must stand aside for our own nationally important dairy industry. It horrifies me to think that this Government would play one industry off against another when both would manage to exist comfortably in co-operation. That is what the previous Government had promoted.

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