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Tuesday, 27 September 1949

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (Barker) . - I take this opportunity to seek information from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) with relation to butter exports. I understand that .under the contracts that were entered into between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government with regard to the export of butter, the United Kingdom Government purchased the whole of Australia's exports with the exception of a small quantity of 500 tons which might be sold, subject to the veto of the Australian Government, in different parts of the world. As I understand the position, that provision has not been strictly adhered to. Whether it has been as the result of some arrangement made between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government whereby the terms of the agreements were modified, I do not know, but it is apparent from the official figures with relation to the exports of butter from the United Kingdom for several years past that quantities considerably in excess of 500 tons have been sent to parts of the world which normally are not supplied by the United Kingdom Government. I could quite understand circumstances arising in which the United Kingdom Government might ask the Australian Dairy Board to arrange for the transfer of some of its supplies to other parts of the world on that Government's account; but it would appear that considerable quantities of Australian butter totalling thousands of tons have been sold on the world's markets within the last three, or four, years at extremely high prices and, indeed, in some instances, at fantastic prices. I should like the Minister to inform me of the terms of the agreements, whether any variations of those terms were arranged between the two governments, whether the Australian Government knowingly, or unknowingly, permitted exports of Australian butter to other parts of the world outside the terms of those agreements, whether such exports were made under arrangement with the United Kingdom Government, and whether the Australian Government was aware of the prices at which that butter was sold in other parts of the world. T should also like to know whether the Australian dairyman, or certain Australian manufacturers, or any other persons got from the British Government what is commonly known as a " rake-off " in respect of those sales. I shall be interested to hear what the Minister has to say on this matter.

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