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Wednesday, 12 February 1986
Page: 203

Senator ARCHER(5.31) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The statistics produced by the Australian Dairy Corporation should be carefully studied by the people who are in control of the industry and by the Government. Over the last year or two there have been great manoeuvres to try to wind down the dairy industry to fairly low levels. But when I read the figures, which are the 1984-85 figures and thus are eight months old at this stage, the statistics are interesting. They show that in every State the number of cows has decreased. In every State the number of dairy farms has decreased. But they show that productivity has improved and that, in spite of the decreased numbers, milk production is up on the previous year and that the total wholemilk production is up. That has been described as one of the problems of the industry; that, in spite of the fact that the number of cows and farms has decreased, production has increased.

I need to draw attention to the statistics on the last two or three pages of the volume. These show that all the countries listed-these include Ireland, France, Belgium, Denmark, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Greece-are consuming approximately the same amount of butter per year as they have done over the last several years and on average are consuming considerably more cheese per year. The fact that those countries have also steadied their production indicates that there is an increasing world market. There are more people and they are consuming more of the product. I believe that, with Australia's extraordinary high productivity and technology, we can capitalise on this provided that we do not wind down our industry to a stage where we lose the specialists from it. Much research has been done. There are many new products. The technology has improved. New things are being done with dairy produce.

I would also like to say how pleased I am that we were able to delay the dairy legislation last year. It has given the industry time to make a few observations about itself. It has given the Government time to make a few changes in the staff which was giving advice, and to look at things slightly differently from previously. In the dairy industry we need to extend our co-operation with our New Zealand cousins across the Tasman. We need jointly to pursue third markets and to avoid too much competition when one or other of us will certainly get the business anyway.

Right now the Government is having difficulties with the rural sector and I do not think that that should go unnoticed, but I urge it not to take the action that some people are urging it to take on this industry, which is at the moment productive and profitable. The industry has an opportunity for expansion and it has undertaken high technology.

Senator Button —Expansion where?

Senator ARCHER —Both locally and overseas. I believe that we would be extraordinarily unwise to wind up an industry at a time when others that are falling to pieces all around it have really nowhere to go. We do not need to put dairy farmers into the same street as the producers of dried fruit, the wheat farmers and the sugar growers, unless that is the Government's aim. I doubt very much that it is; I do not believe that is the case. We have to remember that it is a trader commodity and that our unstable currency at present makes it very difficult for people overseas to have great faith in what we are doing. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.