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Wednesday, 1 October 1958

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) .- Mr. Speaker,I welcome this bill, which provides for a levy for research in the dairying industry, and I should like to congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) on the manner in which he has handled this matter. I thank him especially for having seen fit to make a statement in regard to the speeding up of the payments of the equalization committee and for assuring us that in future the Government will underwrite those payments so that they may be given to farmers much earlier than they were given in the past. I should like also, while I am on my feet - I do not often speak in this House now - to congratulate the Minister on the enthusiasm which he always brings to measures of this kind and to all of his actions in connexion with primary industry.

The demand for this bill came, in the first place, not from the Government but from the dairying industry as a whole. The industry asked for permission to place a levy upon the proceeds of its products in order to ensure better publicity and more research to assist the industry in its fight against substitutes. This action is characteristic of the attitude of the dairying industry since its very beginning. It will be remembered by the older members, especially by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), who was here in the early days, that it was the dairying industry that brought into being the Paterson scheme which lifted the average price of butter by applying a home-consumption price and enabling us to get also a decent price overseas.

The industry also asked for the introduction of the Dairy Produce Export Bill, which was brought down in 1924 and which enabled the whole of our export butter to be handled, for the first time, by one organization, although, of course, many agents were used. The industry has been able to build up all sorts of very valuable connexions on the other side of the world. One of the organization's first actions was to establish the use of a single symbol for Australian butter, which was sold under the Kangaroo brand. Tremendous savings in insurance and freight, which of course benefited the farmers, were also made possible.

When we established a homeconsumption price, the New Zealanders, our very friendly cousins just across the Tasman Sea, thought that they would take advantage of the market, and we found it necessary to apply a tariff of 6d. per lb. against New Zealand and 8d. per lb. against other foreign countries, to make certain that they did not take possession of our market. Since then, we have introduced the equalization machinery, which has been of incalculable value to the whole of the dairying industry by abolishing rivalry between the various States which produce butter at different periods of the year, and avoiding the cutthroat competition which would, undoubtedly, have destroyed the industry's price and markets.

Having done all this work over many years, the industry has now come to the Government, saying that it is prepared to levy itself a substantial amount per lb. of butter and per lb. of cheese produced for the purpose of research, publicity, and the establishment of new methods of obtaining additional products that will be able to stand in competition with many of the newfangled products being made from substitute material at the present time.

Mr Haylen - What about margarine?

Sir EARLE PAGE - The industry is doing something about that. There is only one way to fight margarine, and that is by using the widest publicity. The dairying industry produces a better article. If it publicizes its article to anything like the same extent that margarine is publicized, the industry will be able to sell a very great deal more. The industry has decided to strike this levy, acting in characteristic fashion as an independent industry which has been working for the greatness and health of Australia by maintaining the real value of its product over many years.

I say, therefore, that this industry deserves the encouragement that the Government is giving by contributing £100,000 to the proceeds of the levy. I do not think that that amount is nearly enough for the job, and I hope that it will be increased. Our experience with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, which we established in 1925, has been that the more we spend on research the more we save and the greater are the benefits that are given. I am sure that there will be a similar result from this research in the dairying industry. Very much more than is set out in the bill needs to be done. If we are to compete with margarine and other substitutes, and if we are to have 20,000,000 or 30,000,000 people here, we must have a very much bigger dairying industry than we have now. If we had 20,000,000 people now, we could not feed them with milk and butter. If we had 30,000,000 people, we would need four times as much dairy production as we have now.

If we are to continue to produce our own food, we must have a long-term plan, as well as the short-term plan which was envisaged in the Minister's statement on the equalization scheme. We must have a longterm plan which will put the whole of dairy production on a continuous basis. In Victoria, where there are about 700,000 acres of irrigated land, it is possible to carry on the industry in a more continuous way and at a much lower cost than is possible in northern New South Wales and Queensland, where our seasons are different and where we do not have any winter rain. However, in those areas we have great rivers which could be harnessed to enable us to have water for irrigation and so to ensure constant production. Apart altogether from butter, Peters's ice cream, for instance, which is made from pure milk, is consumed every day of the week and almost every hour of the day. It is necessary, therefore, that the production of milk for making the purest ice cream should be continuous over the whole year. That will never be achieved until we have some other method of dealing with our problems. I believe that the report brought down by the Constitution Review Committee, which has done such excellent work, opens the way. We should adopt the suggestion that control of navigation be made an absolute power of the Commonwealth instead of being, as at present, only partially a matter for the Commonwealth.

We must insist that the people of Australia are fed with Australian products of high quality at a reasonable price. If we can produce continuously, making two blades of grass grow where one grew before, producing two gallons of milk where we produce one now, we shall be able to meet the threat offered by the cheapness of margarine, and so to protect the health of the Australian people. It is interesting to note that the federation of dairying organizations of the world has recently stated that we must safeguard health by bridging the gap in production, and that we must engage in more publicity activities. The important thing is to make certain that we get the continuous supplies that are necessary. If we obtain continuous supplies, we shall help not only the dairying industry but also all other industries in country towns, .where goods for farming communities are bought and sold, and city industries, which produce machines that farmers use. We shall enlarge the opportunities for work for every one throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The policy that the dairying industry is pursuing is, therefore, not in any way a selfish one.

There is something else that we have to do. We have to enable the farmer to make full use of the water that may be made available. There must be long-term loans at low rates of interest to allow farmers to buy the irrigation machinery and other equipment which will enable them to increase production. If that is done, it should be possible to develop many local industries. By increasing local population through the establishment of industries we shall increase the consumption of milk in the area in which it is produced. Instead of great quantities of milk having to be carted long distances to a big city, as is the case now, the milk will be sent to small cities handy to the sources of supply. This will lead to increased production of milk and lower retail prices.

In order to implement the suggestions I have made we should take the kind of action that we took in the 1930's. Honorable members who were in the Parliament at that time, and possibly all people who were living as adults in Australia then, will recall the great difficulties the wheat industry was in then. A royal commission was appointed to inquire into the industry. Its membership did not consist entirely of men connected with the wheat industry, but included also men with first-class brains who came from various sections of the community. That commission produced a very complete report, and the recommendations contained in it are still the basis of operations in the Australian wheat industry. I am convinced that we must take the same kind of action now. We must have an organization that will enable us to deal with the dairying industry on the widest possible terms. I have seen the report of the Constitution Review Committee, and there is no doubt that the Interstate Commission, the reconstitution of which the committee recommends, would be able to keep under continual review the basic principles that affect our primary industries. It would keep the same kind of watchful eye on our primary exporting and interstate industries as the Tariff Board keeps on our secondary industries.

I am glad that this legislation has been introduced at this particular time, because in the near future it may be of great assistance to us. I hope that we shall have an opportunity, as a result of a referendum, to secure the position by an amendment of the Constitution which might easily help us to make this a great nation, able' to defend itself by reason of its population and its essential strength - a nation of which the whole world will be envious.

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