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Thursday, 11 September 1958


Mr BOWDEN (Gippsland) .- 1 wish to devote only about five minutes to the question of subsidies. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) quite temperately chided this side of the committee for speaking with some vehemence in accusing certain members of the Labour party of howling every time that mention is made of a reduction in the manufacture and consumption o'f margarine. That is perfectly true. But the honorable member cannot deny that certain Labour members, like old war horses scenting the battle from afar, hope to benefit during the forthcoming general election campaign from the temporary inconvenience of the dairy-farmer. If they take their minds back a few years, they will remember that a similar attempt was made before, and that nobody believed them. They did not get anywhere with it. T want to bring them up to date.

The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is not in the chamber at the moment, falsely claimed that the whole trouble with the dairying industry today could be laid at the door of this Government. I point out that when Labour was in power it had an arrangement on the basis of a guaranteed home-consumption price, plus 20 per cent, export, but in those days the 20 per cent, export never exceeded the home consumption. Therefore, the whole of the production came under the guarantee. That was a situation totally different from the present one. The trouble to-day is that overseas prices are low and the consumption of margarine in Australia has increased. There is no other cause of the troubles of the dairymen.


Mr Ward - They are complaining about their living standards.


The CHAIRMAN - Order! I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to be quiet.


Mr BOWDEN - The dairymen to-day are not complaining about .the temporary position in which they find themselves.

They are anxious that their industry should have permanent stability and should not just be bolstered from year to year by temporary means.


Mr Duthie - They want a bit of socialism.


Mr BOWDEN - 1 shall tell the honorable member now about the bit of socialism that the people of New Zealand are getting from the Labour Government there. I particularly want to mention this so that the dairy-farmers will never be caught by chaff - though Opposition members always seem to be trying to feed it to them. The example of New Zealand indicates just what the dairy-farmers can expect from socialist governments. I do not blame the New Zealand Government for what lias been done, .because the economic position in New Zealand may have made it necessary. The Labour Government there obtained the agreement of the dairy-farmers to a reduction of 10 per cent, in the guaranteed price, with emphasis on the fact that any difference between the actual return from exports and the guaranteed price would be met by a government loan to the industry - a loan made to a body equivalent to the Commonwealth Dairy Produce Equalization Committee Limited in Australia, and incurring interest and repayments of capital. That is' in contrast to the subsidy paid by this Government, which is a gift to the Australian dairy industry. That indicates the difference between the Labour approach to the problem and ours.


Mr Ward - The honorable member is supposed to be supporting the Government's approach.


Mr BOWDEN - Certainly I support it, and for very good reasons.


Mr Ward - He now appears to be criticizing it.


Mr BOWDEN - I am not criticizing it. I am criticizing the honorable member, and I shall never run out of material that would enable me to criticize him as long as I can stand on my feet.

I have indicated the difference between the socialist approach to the problem and ours. I remember when Labour was in office before. Conditions then were not identical with present conditions, because there was a war on, but it was frankly stated in this chamber that Labour's attitude was that the farmer was not entitled to any more than the basic wage paid to his employees, plus 25s. a week as an allowance .for managerial work and a little more to meet interest on the capital invested in his farm equipment. In addition, Labour expected the farmer to work a 56-hour week when every one else was expected to work only a 40-hour week. The farmers will not forget that overnight. I should not like any of my constituents to forget it.

In order to help their own big business people, several countries are trying their best to meet the overloading of the world's only free market for butter by increasing local consumption. In Holland, consumption of butter is only 6 lb. a head a year, whereas consumption in Australia, at its lowest, is 26.85 lb. a head. In Denmark, which is a great butter-producing country, consumption is only 10 lb. a head a year, and in the United States of America, 9 lb. a head. If the consumption per capita in the United States were as high as -that in Australia, the United States would not have a single pound of butter for export. The whole of its production would be consumed at home. Because the populations of these producing countries do not consume all of the butter that they produce, and because these countries export their surplus to the world's only free market for butter, a glut has been created in that market. This is a problem to all of these big producers. I heard only the other day that Finland bought cheaply a lot of American butter with a moisture content not acceptable on the British market, but acceptable to 'the people of Finland, and exported the whole of the Finnish production to England, with serious consequences for Australian, Swedish, Danish and other producers.

There we have the reasons why the dairying industry is in difficulties at the moment. A permanent solution is needed, and the finding of such a solution presents the real problem. Certainly, the Australian dairyfarmers want a little help from the Government to tide them over this period, but they are really looking for a permanent solution to their problems. It would be no permanent solution to reduce production on existing farms. One permanent solution would be to refrain from bringing any additional dairy farms into production.

This is where the States and the Commonwealth could do much by co-ordinating their approach. The Commonwealth is trying to discourage the establishment of additional dairy farms in new areas, and the States are defying it and breaking up more land for the establishment of additional dairy farms. This only accentuates the difficulties that the producers are experiencing at present.

I assure Opposition members, who think that the dairy-farmers are down and out and can be exploited for the benefit of the Australian Labour party, that any such idea is the greatest mistake in the world. The dairy-farmers are not down and out. They are not likely to be down and out. They are simply asking for help in finding a permanent solution to their difficulties in order to prevent the same problem from recurring year after year. The measures that I have mentioned would enable the dairyfarmers ultimately to stand on their own feet. They certainly do not want the Government to bolster them year after year. I strongly urge Opposition members to remember these things and to forget the idea that the dairy-farmers have their hands out, begging. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) bracketed them with the pensioners in a recent speech, in which he promised that he would see that the primary producers and the pensioners got a fair deal. From whose point of view would it be a fair deal - from that of the producers or from his?


Mr Ward - Does not the honorable member think that they should get a fair deal?


Mr BOWDEN - They are getting it, but I am afraid that they would not get it from the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr Turnbull - Of course they would not.


Mr BOWDEN - I agree. The Leader of the Opposition is simply using this present little upset in order to put over an election stunt in the hope of winning votes. But he will not win votes in that way.

The Australian Labour party is living up to the promise that was made in the early days of the Twenty-second Parliament by the honorable member for Melbourne, who, speaking for the Australian Labour party, promised that Labour would not co-operate with the Government in anything, either good or bad. Labour is certainly living up to that promise and, when something goes wrong because of its failure to co-operate and to help, Opposition members have the hide and the temerity to blame the Government. We shall not forget these things. The honorable member for Melbourne, who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, had the effrontery to make that promise that I have mentioned immediately after the public, by an overwhelming vote, had chosen the Liberal party and the Australian Country party to carry on the Government. That promise indicates the lack of responsibility of members of this chamber who claim to represent here 50 per cent, of the people. I hope that the dairymen and the other primary producers will not be deceived by the purpose behind the specious election promises made by the Leader of the Opposition. (Several honorable members rising in their places -

Motion (by Dr. Donald Cameron) put -

That the question be now put.







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