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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 2022

Mr McVEIGH —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask- -

Government members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER —I suggest that the House come to order.

Mr Peter Morris —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Is it in order for the honourable member for Franklin to claim that he has been robbed--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Minister for Transport will resume his seat. That is not a point of order.

Mr Peter Morris —He has not risen to his feet to ask a question. How can he deny that he has been given the opportunity?

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the Minister for Transport. I call the honourable member for Darling Downs.

Mr McVEIGH —Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the disturbing industrial action affecting the dairy industry in Sydney today? Is it the intransigence of the Victorian Labor Minister which has led to the failure to implement the national dairy industry marketing plan? Does the Minister intend to take action to stop milk being sold across State borders? If so, when and how will he do so?

Mr KERIN —I am sure that the honourable member for Franklin could have asked a better question than that, if he had had one ready.

Mr SPEAKER —I remind the Minister that the honourable member for Franklin did not get the call.

Mr KERIN —Thank you. I was very interested that the honourable member for Darling Downs should ask a question about this because on other public occasions he has demonstrated a great ignorance of the dairy industry. I draw his attention to an article in the Advertiser of 19 June headed 'McVeigh stuns rural sector'. He was talking about the dairy industry. After reporting that he had stunned an audience of experts on wheat, wine, the drought, plant variety rights and the export inspection service, the article states:

The final straw for the embattled Mr McVeigh came when SA Dairy Farmers' Association secretary David Higbed expressed incredulity at a statement in the rural policy, apropos the dairy industry . . .

The honourable Member was reported as saying:

''Domestic pricing will be freed up to attract sufficient milk production to meet Australian domestic requirements on a year-round basis.''

Mr Higbed was reported as stating:

''We have never yet, in living memory, failed to produce that much milk, and over and above that in abundance.''

The article concluded:

All in all, it wasn't a good day for Tom McVeigh . . .

The honourable member has asked a serious question. Industrial action is being taken in New South Wales today and in Victoria, as I understand it, because of the threat of a milk war across State borders. The immediate issue before the industry is the total industry revenue and the preservation of the market milk premium.

There is no need for me to go through with the House the history of this problem in the dairy industry. The Government has been most assiduous in trying to get the parties together. We should understand that we have to get the industry in agreement and the States in agreement and then I have to take it to Cabinet.

Mr McVeigh —They are, except Victoria.

Mr KERIN —The States are not in agreement. As the honourable member points out, Victoria has reservations about the Australian Dairy Industry Conference's levy entitlement scheme. I called a special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on, I think, the Thursday before last. Again, even with all the States there together with the ADIC, no agreement was reached at that meeting. The one aspect on which there was unanimous agreement was the decision to ask the market milk co-ordinating committee to report within 28 days on whether the current uncertainty surrounding the marketing of liquid milk was a sufficient justification to proclaim the 1977 Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Act. That committee will get back to me at the latest by 25 October. That committee is working. It met last week. I have a report of that meeting before me now. I was discussing this question with my officials this morning. The Government is aware of this problem and it will be addressing it this week.