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Monday, 25 February 1985
Page: 100

Mr HUNT —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister concerned about the milk blockades in Victoria and threatened blockades in the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia and the prospect of an interstate milk war? What does the Minister expect to achieve at the meeting of agriculture Ministers on Thursday of this week to end this crisis? Does the Minister agree that the blame for the current crisis in the dairy industry lies upon the shoulders of the Victorian Labor Government and to a lesser extent upon his own shoulders for having failed to achieve agreement on the modified national dairy plan?

Mr KERIN —The first thing I must say to the honourable gentleman is, of course, that the blockade is purely politically motivated by the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia because there is an election on. This action is a totally negative action. The demands by these Leongatha militants would cost the Commonwealth Government $190m per annum, and that is how absurd the requests are becoming. They also want another 6.6c per litre from the State Government, and that is a matter for the State Government. The Premier of Victoria, the Victorian Minister and the Victorian Government have been acting for and with the Victorian industry. The problem with the dairy industry of this country is that there are six dairy industries. Apart from the States, the honourable member for the Northern Territory has 300 cows and then there is the Australian Capital Territory. The problem is that one cannot get the States to agree, and that has gone on for about 50 years in the dairy industry.

No man has fought harder for his dairy industry than the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Kent, during the period of negotiation over the past year, because of the problems in the dairy industry. The reason he opposed the Australian Dairy Industry Conference plan was that the adjustment would fall most heavily on Victoria; the levy being proposed would not have given the Victorian dairy farmers enough money. That is simply because the Victorian dairy farmers produce about 57 to 60 per cent of Australia's milk.

The blockade is a purely political stunt. Of course, we ought to look at what the Victorian Leader of the Opposition has to say about these things. This is the fellow who blames the Victorian Government for the collapse of the Australian currency, and cats and dogs not being safe. That is about the level of his performance. I have here the Australian Dairy Farmers Federation pamphlet sent to its members. It tells of a meeting that took place on 13 February and states:

After the Premier of Victoria and the president of the ADFF had spoken to the meeting the Victorian Opposition Leader Mr J. Kennett, leapt uninvited onto the platform. For two or three minutes UDV President Bill Pyle and Kennett squabbled over the microphone, cheered on by an appreciative audience.

This is politics Liberal style. It continues:

Eventually Bill Pyle won the first round but not before Kennett alleged that Pyle or the UDV had 'done a (secret) deal' with the Victorian Government.

Kennett, with Tom Austin, Opposition Spokesman on Agriculture in tow, then left the hall only to return five minutes later.

Following a resolution from the meeting that he be heard, Mr Kennett told the audience that if elected his Government would:

1. Move milk interstate.

2. Deregulate market milk prices-

that would be just marvellous-

(does this mean Mr Kennett has 'done a deal' with the supermarkets for cheap milk?)

That is what is coming from the Liberal Opposition Leader in Victoria.

Of course, it was the Liberal Party in government in Victoria for so many years that kept on pushing up dairy production in that State. The Liberal Government pushed it up and pushed it up. The market for Australian milk is about 4.3 billion litres; the profitable market is about 4.6 billion litres. Today we are producing 5.9 billion litres, and that is the problem; too much supply and disastrous international prices, neither of which is controlled by this Government or any government particularly.

The militants are attacking the only profitable markets. They will achieve nothing if they attempt to blockade the Australian Capital Territory because the Territory will get milk from New South Wales. I imagine that if they blockade the South Australian and Victorian markets ways and means will be found to get around that as well. This is a purely politically motivated blockade. I notice that the Opposition is supporting this industrial action, as it supports the militant doctors. I have received a series of demands totalling around $190m. That is simply nonsense, particularly with the Liberal Party of Australia and other parties represented in this place talking about keeping the Budget deficit down. Let us reflect on the existing mechanism, which is covered by ongoing legislation. No agreement was reached in 1977; so we have the ridiculous situation of no producer producing prescribed products ever receiving the real price for his product and no manufacturer getting the real price, due to the complicated system of export pooling, equalisation, allowances and an export levy. This genius of a scheme, concocted by the previous Government back in 1977 because no agreement was reached, also has a system of domestic value for levy purposes, whereby three times a year the Commonwealth Government is supposed, acting under 10 criteria--

Mr Cadman —I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Some history is necessary to answer a question effectively but the Minister is going over the same story time and again. It ought to be drawn to a conclusion.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The Deputy Leader of the National Party asked a detailed question. The Minister has not been repetitious, although I wish he would draw his answer to a close.

Mr KERIN —Thank you, Mr Speaker. I have all the information here; I was expecting the question. I am trying to educate the Opposition in some way but it is hard. I am talking about the genius of the existing situation and the ongoing legislation that we have now. The problem is that the previous Government put up the DVLPs by 27 per cent in 18 months. The message was: 'All right boys, produce, produce, produce'. That is the problem. New South Wales increased production by 22 per cent, Queensland by 22 per cent and Victoria by 7 per cent, and overall production has gone up in the last three or four years by some 14 per cent. If the Deputy Leader of the National Party wants to do something responsible--

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I suggest to the Minister that after seven minutes perhaps he should start winding up.

Mr KERIN —I have been waiting for this part, Mr Speaker: If the Deputy Leader of the National Party wants to do something responsible he should get the honourable members for Page, Lyne, Cowper and Gilmore to agree with the honourable members for Murray, Gippsland, Corangamite and Flinders; then get them to agree with the honourable members for Fairfax, Fisher, Hinkler and Moncrieff; and at the end of the day get them to agree with the honourable members for Braddon, Lyons and Bass, throwing in the honourable members for Barker and Forrest. If he can do that he will have achieved a lot.