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Wednesday, 1 October 1958


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Timson (HIGINBOTHAM, VICTORIA) - Order! The honorable member should direct his remarks to the Chair.


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As the right honorable member for Cowper said, this is -nothing new. All that is happening is that it is being paid a little earlier than previously. To make political capital out of it, or to deceive the farmer into believing that he is now by this means receiving a real increase in the price he would otherwise receive for his product, is' entirely wrong.

One of the most important ways in which the Government could help the dairying industry, and in which I am sure the government elected after 22nd November will assist it, is by providing higher purchasing power for the families of Australia. The decline in the per capita consumption of butter must surely be due in some way to the fact that child endowment has in effect been halved in Australia during the last nine years. As there has been no increase whatever in the rate of child endowment of 10s. for the second and subsequent children fixed in 1948 and the rate of 5s. for the first child fixed in 1950-51, the value of child endowment payments received by mothers has been effectively halved. When the mother who wishes to buy butter and dairy products for her young family finds that the amount she specially receives to assist her in that task is halved, obviously she is required to cut correspondingly the amount of money that she spends on dairy products. So, by the betrayal of the promise to maintain the value of child endowment, a great injury has been done not only to the families of Australia, but also to the dairying industry. Considerable help will be given to the industry when the child endowment payments are restored to their former purchasing power.

The honorable member for Lalor has pointed out that an increase of 1 lb. a year in the consumption of butter would absorb an additional 5,000 tons. We can be perfectly sure that if the mothers of this country had the means in their hands to buy more butter for their families, they would not let their children go short of butter and would not buy cheap and inferior substitutes as they are frequently required to do to-day. It is a great reproach to the members of the Australian Country party particularly that, even in the interests of the dairying industry, they have not fought to maintain the purchasing power of their most important customers within the nation. I do not think I have heard the voice of one of them raised in that behalf in all the years that I have been a member of the Parliament.


Sir Earle Page - We gave a subsidy of fi 8,000,000 to the industry. That helped to keep the price down.


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A subsidy of £18,000,000 to what?


Sir Earle Page - To butter. That kept the price down about ls.


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The right honorable member for Cowper points out that the present Government gave a subsidy of £18,000,000 a year.


Mr Bowden - In one year.


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In one particular year. This system of subsidies, of course, was not established by the present Government.


Sir Earle Page - It was established after a tremendous fight by me.


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am sure that the right honorable member for Cowper would agree that it was established by the preceding Labour government.


Sir Earle Page - After Mr. Anthony and I raised the whole matter in the House.


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nothing of the kind has ever been done by the right honorable gentleman in all the years from 1923 to 1929 when he was a partner in the BrucePage Government, in all the years of the depression when he was a most powerful figure in the Commonwealth Government, or in his term of office right up to the election of the Curtin Government. So, although he may claim that he was influential in forcing the Labour government to do it, his comrades will find it difficult to believe him when in all the years he was in office he did nothing to bring it about. The fact is that the subsidy system, for which the right honorable member for Cowper claims credit for the present Government, was established by the Labour government. The fact is, also that the subsidy provided by the Labour government for the dairying industry was far greater than the subsidy now being provided by this Government. I think the rate of subsidy to-day is about £13,000,000 or £14,000,000- it is about 7id. per lb. anyhow - whereas the subsidy provided by the Labour government was up to ls. per lb.


Mr Bowden - Sixpence, thank you!


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Up to ls. per lb.


Mr Bowden - Sixpence!


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A shilling in those days was worth at least 2s. now.


Mr Pollard - It was up to £16,000,000 one year.


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - As the honorable member for Lalor said quite rightly, the subsidy provided by our government reached a total of £16,000,000 in one year, which would he more than £30,000,000 to-day. So, even if we count it in terms of subsidy, the present Government, far from helping the dairying industry, ha3 reduced very considerably the amount of assistance formerly available to it.


Mr Bowden - Would you admit, too, that in those days there was a war and there was no possibility of the industry exporting all the butter it had available?


Mr ALLAN FRASER (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think the point made by the honorable member for Gippsland is a very reasonable one, but the assistance given by the Labour government continued long after the war. It continued until the Labour government was defeated at the end of 1949 and, if the Labour government had not then been defeated, the assistance would have continued throughout the subsequent years. Indeed, the undertaking to provide that assistance was a feature of Labour policy speeches in recent elections.

The other way, of course, in which the dairying industry will eventually receive considerable assistance is by the pursuance of an active immigration policy. The figures supplied to me indicate that, even on the present restricted basis of butter purchase, every increase of 1,000,000 in the Australian population means an increase of 13,500 tons of butter consumed on the home market - and, obviously, the home market is by far the best market for the dairy-farmer, for the simple reason that the application of Labour policies over the years Ms given a guaranteed standard of living and a guaranteed income to the body of workers who constitute the overwhelming proportion of Australian purchasers of butter.

Justice requires that the dairying industry should again be placed on an equal footing with all other industries in this country. To me it is a most extraordinary thing that workers and those in executive positions alike - it is not confined to any one section of the community - while prepared to fight and work most positively for a guaranteed living standard for all other sections of the community, accept no such responsibility in respect of the dairying industry. Instead, they appear to feel that butter is a commodity that ought to be supplied cheaply, even under sweated labour conditions, so as to -enable the cost of living of city workers to be kept down. This, of course, is completely unfair and unreasonable. The position of the dairying industry will not be safeguarded until the Australian people as a whole realize that it is essential to Australia's well-being, and that it must enjoy conditions comparable with those available to all other industries.

While the dairying industry faces its present severe crisis, much greater assistance than that which is being given by the present Government is justified. There is an obligation upon the Government to give increased assistance to the industry, and it is failing in its task and iri its duty in not giving the required measure of assistance. The present bill, while a useful measure, does not involve the Government in any heavy financial commitment. The need for a sales promotion campaign for butter and cheese is recognized by everybody. The need for research into the problems of the dairying industry is also a ground for common agreement. The attractive and misleading advertising engaged in by the margarine industry must have been substantially responsible for inducing people to switch who found the price of butter difficult to meet. This is the time when it is important that the dairying industry should recognize the need to make a determined fight to regain a higher proportion of the home market and to institute a concerted publicity and advertising campaign.







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