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Wednesday, 1 October 1958


Mr DUTHIE (Wilmot) .- I feel that Government supporters have failed during this debate to sustain some of the criticism that they have offered during the last few years. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) indicated that he has been fighting for some measure like this for several years, but it is not until the Government is faced with a federal election that it is prepared to bring down a measure to assist an industry that has been crying out for assistance for the last five years.


Mr Luchetti - A death-bed repentance!


Mr DUTHIE - As my friend, the honorable member for Macquarie, says, it is a death-bed repentance - and there may be more truth in that statement than is immediately apparent. Interestingly enough, farmers throughout the world - and there is no exception to this statement - like to socialize their losses and individualize their gains. Though I am a farmer's son and spent years on a wheat farm in Victoria, and though I represent a huge rural electorate in Tasmania, I still feel that this statement is correct. I am not saying that there .is anything wrong with that attitude. All I say is that those farmers who scream protests against socialism should consider their own behaviour occasionally, and realize how many times they come to a government for assistance when they get into trouble. They like a spot of socialism when they are . in difficulties, and they scream to high heaven against it when everything is going well. They socialize their losses by approaching governments for aid when in trouble, and they individualize their gains in good times, saying to the government, " Go jump in the lake as far as we are concerned. We are all right." I would like farmers to be more consistent in this regard, particularly those who sit on the Government side of the House.

This bill seeks to inject a spot of socialism into the dairying industry. The call for government aid is widespread in the dairying industry in every State. It is a legitimate call. Government members, however, refuse to recognize this measure as a spot of socialism, and they approach this discussion, therefore, in a hypocritical fashion.

The main purposes of the bill before us are fourfold, and I shall again remind the House what it proposes to do. First, it seeks to plan a research programme, providing a continuing study of the effort to obtainbetter markets, of consumer buying habits and product improvement. Secondly, it envisages a public relations programme, using magazines, articles and television - which is an excellent field of advertising, especially with regard to consumers in the cities - and providing material to sections of the community able to influence others as to the wisdom, economy and pleasure afforded by the inclusion of dairy products in the diet. Thirdly, it seeks to make possible an advertising programme, to induce the public to buy the products of the industry as supplied to the retailers. Fourthly, it provides for a merchandizing programme to achieve greater buying and selling action where the product is sold. It proposes to give merchandizing aids to the retailer. This, of course, is an excellent place to start, because many retailers are still in the last century when it comes to selling butter and dairy products.

Those are the four main purposes of the bill. A levy is to be struck at the rate of so much a pound of butter and of cheese. Thislevy will bring in £250,000 a year, which will be spent by a special committee to be set up by the Australian Dairy Produce Board. This committee will consist of nine members, who will administer the research and promotion programme. We on this side of the House agree entirely with this scheme, although it should have been instituted four years ago rather than at this time. We should have four years' experience of it behind us, instead of just starting this scheme.

Mr. Speaker,the dairying industry is, to my mind, a basic industry in Australia. It is a small man's industry, and it is the small farmer that we on this side of the House want to encourage. As a primary producer, the small farmer is the salt of the earth. Despite all the big men with their large sheep stations and other big farms, the small potato-growers or the producers of maize, fruit, hops, sugar, dairy products, oats, barley and the like are the salt of the earth of primary production, and anything that can be done to help them increase their production or improve the quality of their products should be done by this Government or any government.

In fact, the dairying industry is the fortress of the small farmer, who is the greatest decentralizing influence in country areas. Where you find thriving dairying industries you will find many small towns. You will find great congregations of people, a very strong business community and a lot of goodwill. The capital invested in the dairying industry amounts to £700,000,000. More than 600,000 persons are directly engaged in the dairying industry in farms and factories.


Mr Wheeler - Is that why you want to nationalize it?


Mr DUTHIE - Did you say nationalize?


Mr Wheeler - Is that why the honorable member for East Sydney wants to nationalize it?


Mr DUTHIE - Whatever he thinks, it is not Labour party policy. I explained that to the Parliament the other night, and I deliberately and calculatedly described what the honorable member for East Sydney meant to say. At no time has it been in our policy, or is it likely to be in our policy, that we will nationalize all small farms. We are opposed to big estates not being put in full production. The scope of this industry shows its growth. In 1956-57, milk production was 1,356,000,000 gallons, of which 66 per cent. went to butter and 7 per cent. to cheese. The number of dairy cows in the industry in Australia in 1935-39 averaged 3,232,981. Last year that number had increased to only 3,451,469. In other words, in a period of eighteen years the number of dairy cows increased by only 218,488.

The story of dairy production is interesting. The average for the 1935-39 period was 1,149,697,000 gallons. In 1956-57, it was 1,362,583,000 gallons, or a very small increase of roughly 200,000,000 gallons in nineteen years. In the average milk production per cow we find the secret to the present rate of production of dairy products. This is primarily where research comes into the picture. Everything that we spend in the industry to increase production goes right back to the dairy cow. If the production of each cow can be increased, there will be increased production throughout the country. Unless attention is given to the individual cow on the farm to enable it to produce more, all our plans will come to nothing.

They even have music now in the dairies. I visit many dairy farms in my electorate, and I have never been to one where the farmer did not have music played from wireless sets in the dairy while milking was proceeding. They find that the cows respond remarkably to certain types of music. They do not like the classics or Elvis Presley, but anything in between gives remarkable results!

The average production per cow in Australia in 1935-39 was 357 gallons a year. Last year, it was 398 gallons a year. Tasmania has shown the biggest increase in the past eighteen years in production per dairy cow. Production in that State has increased from 350 gallons in 1935-39, to 557 gallons per cow each year. The next highest was Victoria with 541 gallons, and then South Australia with 529. Those are official figures from the Year-Book for 1958.

That is the secret of improvement in the industry. We must improve pastures. We must improve the quality of farming and conduct research into control of various diseases and the vaccines that are required by the industry. All that goes right back to the individual cow on the individual farm. Finally, I wish to make some comments about the industry as a whole. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth) complained that many dairy-farmers had gone off the farms in Western Australia recently. That is a tragedy. During the depression years, 20,000 farmers walked off their farms in Australia. They were principally dairy-farmers and wheat-farmers. That was excusable in the terrible financial conditions of those days, but there is no excuse to-day for a farmer to have to walk off any kind of land or any sort of farm. The blame probably lies with financial institutions, including government financial institutions. The men to whom the honorable member for Forrest referred could not get sufficient finance to enable them to carry on. I have found the same problem in Tasmania. There is no sure method of finance for farmers to-day. Some banks will help sometimes.


Mr Jeff Bate - Why did the Opposition block the banking bills in the Senate?


Mr DUTHIE - That has nothing to do with it. The Commonwealth Bank could handle everything that was proposed in those bills. What about the private banks that Government supporters have been boosting as though they were the be-all and end-all of life? What have they done to assist the farmers? It is all very well for them. They will always lend where there is plenty of security, but when the small farmers apply for a loan, they are turned away. You have to be a big man with a hyphenated name, like SmithSmythe, or be related to some big shot, before you can get money from the banks. Such people can get anything they want. That is the private banking system for you. There are men walking off the farms in Western Australia because the banks will not give them sufficient credit.

Under-capitalization is one of the weaknesses of the dairy industry to-day, particularly in .the case of the man with nineten, twenty or 25 cows. When the Australian Labour party gets into office we will make sure that sufficient money will be made available for primary production. Many out-of-date methods are still being employed on some dairy farms. The farmers throw superphosphate on the ground and trust to the Lord to do the rest; the Lord wants to meet us half way but we are not prepared to go half way. Those farmers do not use scientific aids. They refuse to read the latest bulletins, or take the advice of the Commonwealth

Scientific and Industrial Research Organization or even of their own agricultural extension officers. Those dairy-farmers cannot produce a good quality product by outofdate methods.

The third point I want to mention is poor management. In the dairy industry we have not sufficient dairy-farmers who study the management of farms, especially among those who have only a few cows. I do not believe that sufficient emphasis has been placed on the importance of management in successful dairy-farming. My fourth point is the lack of business methods on the farm. The modern farmer cannot afford to be out of touch with modern business methods. He must be a businessman as well as a farmer.


Mr Brand - So he is.


Mr DUTHIE - I am glad to say that most of them are. I am talking of a section of primary producers who are not businessmen and do not intend to become businessmen. They go along hoping for the best. They do not organize on a business basis. Their sons may think differently. 1 hope they will. But some of the older men have not learnt that yet. There is a refusal to learn new ideas. The farmer is the hardest man to convince about anything new.

The point is that the people amongst whom Australian Country party members move are all well-established, rich farmers. They refuse to believe me when I say that the farmer is the last man to accept new ideas. I will give an illustration. My grandfather was a wheat-farmer in the 1890's in the western district of Victoria. He was the first man to put a seat on a plough, and the people of the district said that he was the laziest man they had ever heard of. I could give illustration after illustration to show how hard it is to get farmers to accept new ideas. But when the farmer does accept a new idea he will use it to the best of his ability, day in and day out.


Mr Daly - He will have one new idea at the next election.


Mr DUTHIE - I hope that he will for his own good. I do not want Government supporters to give the impression to the country that they are the only ones who have thought about the dairy industry. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) did a great job when he was Minister for Agriculture in the Labour Government between 1947 and 1949. We have many things to be proud of. The amount of £280,000 which the Minister for Primary Industry mentioned at the end of his speech has been given each year. It represents the extension grant which was introduced by the Labour government. That has been repeated every year since then.







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