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Tuesday, 26 March 1985
Page: 957

Mr MILES(10.33) —The honourable member for Burke (Mr O'Keefe) talked about the need for Opposition members to support the Government's policies. I want to speak tonight about what is happening in the dairy industry. We have already heard a good deal on this subject today. The honourable member has asked people to support Government policies which are affecting people and which show a genuine lack of compassion for certain sectors of the community. I would like to go back over a little bit of history in this regard. The Australian Financial Review of 12 February makes clear that the Australian Dairy Industry Conference plan was accepted by everybody in the industry in Australia, except for the Victorian Minister of Agriculture; there was only one person who was holding out at that stage against it. Even the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) supported the plan at that stage, as did all the other State Primary Industry Ministers. Then on 26 February the Federal Minister said that there was no possibility of reopening any debate on the national plan; it was impossible. Yet after the meeting on 28 February, when all concerned came to Canberra and sat down and the Minister agreed with his State counterparts, there was a last ditch effort by the Victorians to stop the drift of popularity from the Cain Government. The Federal Minister and all the rest agreed to a plan, despite the fact that two days earlier he had said that no national plan was possible and that it was a closed issue. Then on 4 March the Federal Minister said he was extremely pleased that a price war had been averted and that he would put the proposals to Cabinet.

I think that type of approach by the leaders in our society is despicable. It was done for cheap political gain in the Victorian election. It was a cynical approach by the Minister. It shows that once again the factions which oppose him in Cabinet have had the effect of rolling him, which means that he has lost face with the people in primary industry in Australia. It also shows that this Government continues its attack on small business people and that it still desires to break the morale of country people and to reduce their capacity to earn. It would not be so bad if the present Government were prepared to deregulate everything in society rather than picking off a small part of it. Let us open up the wage-fixing system in Australia. Let us not have this centralised type of system. Let the workers go out and compete with each other for wages. That is what the farmers are having to do in this instance. They have to compete with each other to make their own living. Let us have all workers in Australia on the same footing. I go along with that-it would not be so bad.

Let me put into the record a few figures on the dairy industry over the last ten years or so. The number of producers in Australia has been halved. The number of cows in the industry has dropped by a third. National production is down by a quarter. The number of processors in the industry has also dropped by a third. Yet due to good training, education and hard work, production by farmers has increased from 2,600 litres per cow to 3,300 litres per cow. That has been due to the hard efforts of individual farmers.

Mr Chynoweth —What about greed?

Mr MILES —No, not by greed. If the honourable member were in their situation of earning about $6,000 a year, it would not be greed that would drive him on to earn another $2,000 to $3,000 a year.

Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.