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Wednesday, 1 October 1958


Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) .- I' rise to support this bill because I think it is very important to the dairying industry. Some six months ago I asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) a question in the House about establishing a national promotion scheme for dairy products. He answered my question by saying that he was giving consideration to the matter, and that plans were being drawn up for a national promotion scheme.

At this juncture, I should like to congratulate the Minister for managing to get this bill before the House, because that has not been as easy as it might seem. Before this national promotion scheme came into being the States had the right to promote their own sales of dairy products. Queensland had the Queensland Butter Marketing Board, New South Wales had the New South Wales Sales and Promotion Organization, Victoria had a Dairy Industry Bureau, but in the other States there was no organization whatever to foster an increase in the sales of butter. Under this bill, the Commonwealth Government will stimulate the sales of butter and cheese in this country. These products will also be given the maximum amount of publicity.

The dairying industry faces many problems, and not one single factor will solve all the present difficulties of the farmers. However, this bill will help to solve quite a few of the problems. It will help to prevent margarine from gaining increased sales at the expense of butter consumption. It will enable farmers outside milk zones to get products into the milk zones in competition with milk, and the competition between milk and other products will eventually enable the price of milk to the public to be reduced. The bill will help to overcome the problems of declining or low fertility in certain parts of the country. This decline of fertility is causing concern to many dairy-farmers. The bill will enable the butter industry to carry out research into new types of products for sale to the public, and will permit the Australian housewife to be encouraged to buy these new products.

I shall deal now with margarine. Under our stabilization scheme at present, as the cost of production rises, the producer must pass the increase on to the consumer if he is to receive a higher return for his product. If he passes the price on to the consumer, he is met with fiercer competition from the margarine firms. That trend was noticed particularly this year. As soon as we increased the price of butter, the margarine people started on a gigantic sales promotion scheme. The butter industry was not organized on a national basis and could not counter the advertising compaign of the margarine firms. As soon as the price of butter was increased, the margarine firms inserted big advertisements in all the newspapers and advertised over the radio and television. What was the butter industry doing? Nothing whatever, because it could not do anything. There was no legislation to permit the butter industry to do anything; only isolated States had the necessary legislation.

In this new and more modern world, we find a tendency towards self-service. If the butter industry is to hold its place with self-service, we must keep up to date. 1 shall read a comment from a journal called " Self Service Merchandising ", published in July of this year. The article reads -

This leads me to the butter-margarine set-up. I believe the current drop in butter consumption is largely due to the fact that no-one makes any effort to sell butter.

That is because we have no national organization to promote the sale of butter. The article continues -

Certainly there is a big ticket in the window, but inside the store there is no promotion at all. Retailers couldn't care less about selling it. And this is one reason why margarine is giving butter a hiding.

The first thing the butter industry has got to do is to get some profit back into the product for the retailer.

The promotion organization envisaged in this legislation could perhaps look into that aspect. 1 do not know how more profit could be given to the retailer, but we will have to look into that if we want increased sales of butter in this country. The article goes on -

While the butter people have been idle, the margarine firms have been active. They have made margarine a much more profitable line to the trade. They have given it much more promotion at every level - right down to the point of sale.

Retailers have made the promotion doubly effective by giving margarine increased display and by using the point-of-sale material at the expense of butter.

After all, the size of the cabinet is still the same.

That is a reference to the cabinet in the retail store. A customer entering the store looks in the cabinet and can see what is there. There is only a set amount of space for these perishable products, and we find that the self-service stores are concentrating on the most profitable lines. Butter is just a minor item. The stores are concentrating on the various types of margarine. The article continues -

After all, the size of the cabinet is still the same. That means every brand of margarine that goes into the standard size cabinet is at. the expense of butter.

We cannot afford to allow that state of affairs to continue. The butter industry must determine the grades of butter much more strictly than it has in the past. Many butter factories have sold to the Australian public lower grades of butter than they should sell, and this is detrimental to the industry. The new promotion organization should ensure that all butter is of choicest grade quality if it is branded first grade quality. This, too, must start at the farm. The farmer must be encouraged to produce first-grade butter. For the last 20 or 30 years there has been a price differential between choicest grade and first grade butter, but it has been only a matter of Id. or 2d. per lb., and that is not enough. As a consequence, a large part of the butter produced is second grade. That is not good for the industry; we must try to produce first-grade butter all the time.

I want to return now to the question of milk zones. I have not much time tonight, so I shall try to cover all these points quickly. We all know that the price of milk is too high. In Queensland, it is 9d. a pint; in New South Wales. 11 1/2 d. a pint, and in Victoria, 9}d. a pint. I cannot see any reason why it should be so high in New South Wales. An increase of 1 pint a week per head in local consumption of milk would mean taking 12.000 tons of butter off the export market, and would bring us into line with consumption of milk in European countries. Our consumption of milk per head is lower than that of European countries. Increased local consumption of milk would mean that the butter producer would receive 3d. per lb. extra. That alone would be of considerable help to him.

Honorable members may ask how we can increase the consumption of milk. I do not think that we can do anything about lowering the price under our present system. We have milk zones in the various States, and they are very well controlled. Naturally, producers inside the milk zones do not want them broken down. However, as this bill will provide finance for research into various types of products, I suggest that research should be done into substitutes for milk in manufactured forms. The first product I have in mind is sterilized milk. This could be produced outside the milk zone. It is a product that keeps indefinitely once it is sealed in a bottle. For instance, it would be kept for a year. It is becoming very popular in European countries and 80 per cent, of the milk sold in Wales is sterilized milk. The housewife does not need to worry about a daily supply of milk; she can get a month's supply at the one time. Research into that product would be helpful. Another substitute is instant milk. We now have a powdered milk that dissolves instantly when mixed with water, without forming any lumps. It is almost as good as milk and it can be sold more cheaply than milk. We also have powdered cream, which could be sold at half the price of fresh cream. They are just a few ideas.

I turn now to the question of declining fertility. The electorate that I represent was once probably the most fertile area not only in Australia but indeed in the world. It was a jungle, but when the scrub was cleared, the soil was rich in humus. It would grow anything. In fact, the early settlers had to climb the trees to find the cows amongst the grass. Over the years the fertility has decreased, and we do not now get the production that we used to get. We must carry out more research into the problem of declining fertility. We recognize the problem in the Richmond electorate. In fact, local organizations have collected £26,000 during the last six years, and they are endeavouring to undertake research into the problem.

I also think that the dairying industry should carry out more research in connexion with new kinds of products, particularly those suitable for our export markets. When I mention export markets I think mainly of the Far East. We should pay more attention to reconstituted milk. If we could arrange sales of milk in far eastern countries, we could send to them concentrated milk powders, from which milk could be manufactured and sold. We could also try to sell concentrated butter in those markets. This is a butter that contains no moisture and very little salt. The beauty of it is that when you pack it in tins there is no breakdown of the moisture and fat. It remains as a pretty solid product. Hot weather does not affect it to nearly the same extent as ordinary butter is affected, and refrigeration is not required. It is the moisture content that causes ordinary butter to become rancid.

Let me say most emphatically to those in control of the milk industry in the zone areas: You had better watch out for yourselves, because after further research is carried out we are going to move into the milk zones with our products. One of the things that this legislation makes sure of is that there will be no milkmen in the organization that directs the way in which the research is to be carried out, because the men already appointed to the Australian Dairy Produce Board are men who manufacture butter and cheese. I hope that when a decision is made on how the research will be carried out, it will be that the research shall be done in such a way as to develop products that we can sell in competition with milk, in the hope of bringing down the price of milk in the various capital cities, and, by so doing, increase the consumption of milk. As I have said, if we can increase the consumption of milk by one pint a head per week, we shall sell 12,000 tons less of butter on low-price export markets, which, of course, will mean an extra 3d. a lb. immediately for the butter producer.

I commend this bill to the House, and have very much pleasure in supporting it.







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