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Thursday, 11 September 1958
Page: 1143

Mr JEFF BATE (Macarthur) .- I wish to refer to a number of matters which affect the Department of Primary Industry and which come under the proposed vote for Miscellaneous Services. ' I have in mind dairying industry investigation, drought relief, extension grants, dairy research, and the annual appropriation of £13,500,000 for bounties and subsidies. The dairying industry is a most important one. As you well know, Mr. Chairman, about £700,000,000 is invested in the industry, including about £50,000,000 invested in the factories. In addition to that investment of capital and all that goes with it, a great social question is involved, because engaged in the industry is a great number of men deriving modest incomes from small holdings. They are to be encouraged. Their participation in the industry is the result of efforts all over the world to keep people on the land and to provide for them prosperous conditions and a good standard of living. So the dairying industry is not to be treated lightly. It is an important part of our economy. It creates a great deal of purchasing power in the community, particularly in the cities, where farm machinery, motor cars, radios, clothing and many other commodities are purchased. I repeat that the dairying industry is quite important, particularly as our economy is trying to survive in the midst of difficulties all over the world.

I want to make sure that the Government /maintains the annual subsidy of £13,500,000. I want to be certain that, although the industry is faced with certain threats, it is given confidence to carry on. Two threats face the industry. The first is the fall in world prices. The price of butter overseas has dropped from more than 400s. a hundredweight to just over 200s. The 50,000 tons of butter that is being exported is bringing us a very much lower realization. Secondly, the industry is confronted by the beginning of a fall in the home consumption of butter. That does not apply to other dairy products such as whole milk, ice-cream and cheese, the consumption of which is steadily .expanding in accord with the dietary needs of an expanding community. The consumption of butter fell from approximately 117,000 tons a few years ago to 114,000 tons last year, and perhaps this year it will fall another 3 per cent.

I come now to the inroads that have been made by margarine on the consumption of butter in Australia. I am glad that honorable members opposite :are interjecting, because it is their line of policy which has led to the present state of affairs. I refer to the action of the New South Government about ten years ago in raising the -margarine quota from 1,248 tons to 2,500 tons. One company was given a very large quota, and other highly reputable companies were given ridiculously small quotas. It appeared that improper influence was used. Some companies - there is no need for me to give their names; they are probably well known - began to produce more than their quota, thus defying the New South Wales Government, and 'forced that government to take them to court.

Those companies were taken to court by the Department of Agriculture. They asked the department to produce the files relating to the fixing of the quota. The department said that it would produce the files up to, I think, lune, 1951, but not for the next three months. In other words, something improper had occurred which could not be brought before the court. That showed that the New South Wales Labour Government had indulged in some improper practice. Learned counsel then asked for a case to be stated to the High Court in order to ascertain whether a restric tion of the production of margarine was a matter for that court to consider. The matter was before the court for nearly two years, during which time margarine production in New South Wales rose to about 10,000 tons.

An even worse thing happened in Queensland. The then Labour Government of Queensland, faced with an annual consumption of about 900 tons of margarine, said to the dairying industry, "We will fix you properly. What we do with margarine quotas will damage you." That government fixed the dairying industry in Queensland by raising the quota of margarine in Queensland to 6,000 tons although consumption was much less than 1,000 tons. In that way the Labour Government in Queensland made a vicious attack on the dairying industry. Only now are we feeling the effects, because consumption of margarine in that State has risen considerably. Sales of dairy products from some factories in Queensland have dropped by 20 per cent, in certain areas.

I can point to one aspect of this question by referring to a speech made in this chamber by the honorable member tor Fremantle (Mr. Beazley). In his academic way, the honorable member said it was merely a matter of switching from one group of producers to another. That is not the situation at all. It is a question of putting out of action a great number of people - say, tens of thousands - and starting with one or two factories employing a few hundred men. The nation .has to say whether it is prepared to allow persons to come here from the United States of America - I refer to some big soap manufacturers - to flood this market with margarine and with the sort of advertising which is designed to support the pretence that the goods they produce are as good as the natural wholesome foods produced by the dairying industry.

Let us consider this matter from a dietary point of view. In Australia, we have magnificent young people and athletes. On last Sunday night, eighteen young Australian athletes returned to Australia with 27 world records, and I am glad to say that fifteen of those athletes come from the Sydney milk zone. That fact reflects the quality of the produce of the dairying industry, and the diet that it supplies. At the Olympic

Games, Australian athletes won gold medal after gold medal, because they had had whole milk, butter and ice cream - all the things that the dairying industry produces. Let us look at the other side of the picture. What happens in South-East Asia? It takes fifteen pregnancies to produce two live children. Malnutrition and diseases like scabies are everywhere because there is no dairying industry in South-East Asia. That is the sort of thing that could be brought about in Australia if any harm is done to the dairying industry, which faces a tremendous task not only in producing a diet for the nation but also in keeping a large number of modest people on the land. They play an important part in our economy because the purchasing power of the dairying industry is so important. There is a babble of interjections from the Opposition, because it has been' the policy of the Australian Labour party to back up margarine, whether corruptly or properly. That party's action in this respect in New South Wales is deliberately corrupt.

Mr Duthie - I rise to a point of order, Mr. Chairman. I object to the statement by the honorable member for Macarthur that the State Labour Government in New South Wales is corrupt.

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