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Tuesday, 17 February 1959

Mr BANDIDT (Wide Bay) .- I rise to second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. T am deeply conscious of the honour, and I am grateful for the privilege extended to me. I am grateful also to the electors of the division of WideBay for having given me the opportunity to serve them here. I shall try to servethem faithfully for as long as they will have me.

May I pay a tribute to my predecessor, Mr. W. A. Brand. The older members of this Parliament know him well. Mr. Brand, served for a long time in the Queensland State Parliament, and then for four yearsin the Commonwealth Parliament. Because of the state of his health and his advancing years, he made way for some one else totake his place. I personally wish him a long and happy retirement.

Let me add my congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker, on your re-election. I hope that you will extend to us new members the mercy that we will need as well as the justice we will deserve. I should also like to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) on their re-appointment to those respective positions. Many of us had the advantage of their help in the recent election campaign. We appreciated that help very much, and it is pleasing to see them occupy those positions in the present Parliament.

I have mentioned that new members need your help, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I may say that although many of us here to-day are raw recruits, each of us, as well as the seasoned members of the Parliament, "has a deep and abiding loyalty to our most gracious Sovereign.

May I say with respect that I support the various proposals which the Government intends to bring forward and which were mentioned in the Governor-General's Speech. In particular, I would support the Government's ' proposals for development and for defence, because I believe that without development Australia will get nowhere and that without defence we shall not retain what we have already achieved.

People tend to take things for granted. They take Australia for granted. They take their security and their safety for granted. They even utter derogatory remarks about the members of this chamber. I believe that honorable members are not as black as they are painted. I think that all new members will agree, Mr.

Speaker, after even the very short association that they have yet had with other honorable members, that the members of this House have a fund of wisdom, of knowledge and of experience, and I know that the new members will certainly lean lor a considerable time on the seasoned members of this place in order that they may themselves gain a little of that knowledge and that experience, and, if possible, :some of the wisdom of the older members.

You can imagine, then, how diffident a new member feels on coming into this chamber and rising to address the House. I may say that my feeling of diffidence was tempered with relief. I had gone into the procedure of the House of Commons in order that I should not appear too unversed in these matters, and honorable members can judge my relief at finding that the bill introduced by the Prime Minister this afternoon was not entitled, as is that introduced in the House of Commons, " An Act for the Suppression of Banditry in the Realm".

So I come to you with diffidence, but I am going to take the plunge and I propose to enunciate a proposition with which I believe every honorable member will agree. It is that every Australian is entitled to a fair return for his labours. This principle has been followed in the various industrial awards. It was followed last year, I believe, when the copper industry experienced difficulties and the price fell from £330 to £220 a ton. The Government considered - rightly, if I may say so, with respect - that it was desirable to pay a bounty of £45 a ton to those producers who could not make a certain percentage on their capital. In addition, the tariff was raised, I believe, by £65 a ton. That was carrying out the principle of a fair return.

I propose, with your forbearance, Mr. Speaker, to discuss that principle for a few minutes in relation to primary production. Let us take a few examples before we consider the proposition further. We all know that the price of wool has dropped to a little better than one-half of the price that it used to return, and we know that the wool industry is at present trying to find a way out of its difficulties. The return received by the farmer for his butter has fallen by about one-sixth over the last five years, and the future for the producer is quite uncertain.

Perhaps I should tell honorable members a little about pineapples, which are regarded by many people as a minor crop. The pineapple grower's plight is more serious still. Five years ago, he received about £40 a ton for first-grade pineapples. This year, he may be lucky enough to get £25 a ton. Last year, one can of pineapples could be exported overseas for every can sold in Australia. This year, two cans of pineapples must be exported overseas for every can sold in Australia, and markets have to be found. We cannot say that pineapples are a minor crop and that we can forget about the difficulties of the pineapple growers. I should like to recite some figures to the House to show that pineapples are scarcely a minor crop. In 1954, there was a total production of 65,700 tons of fresh pineapples. This year, production is expected to be 90,000 tons. In 1958, more than 1,000,000 cartons of canned pineapple fruit were produced, each carton containing the equivalent of two dozen 30-oz. cans. In the same year, about 508,000 cartons of pineapple juice were manufactured in Australia. An economic survey of the pineapple industry made two years ago indicated that at that time only one-tenth of the pineapple growers could make even the basic wage, after paying costs and1 allowing for interest on their investment, and since that time, the price of pineapples has fallen by one-third. So it is easy to work out just how the pineapple grower is getting along to-day.

But let us take another industry, which has a purely Australian market. In 1957. nearly 5,800 tons of beans were sold in Australia. Last year, the total came to nearly 8,000 tons - an increase of almost two-fifths. Yet those beans were sold for about one-half of the total amount received for the previous crop. The farmer sold nearly 40 per cent, more but received only 70 per cent, of the cheque that he had received in the previous year. I believe that the farmers would have made more money if they had ploughed under some 2,000 tons of beans.

These examples show that many primary producers in Australia have to meet increased costs at a time when the prices received for their products are greatly reduced, and this constitutes a serious problem. It is a challenge to both the members of this Parliament and the industries themselves, and it is not an easy problem to solve. I am the first to agree that it is difficult to solve such a problem when increasing costs and declining returns have reduced the situation to a stage at which many people engaged in some of these industries are receiving much less than the basic wage. It is not an easy problem to solve, but we must try to solve it, and I believe that if we try hard enough we may be able to find a solution.

Australia is a primary producing nation mainly; let us not forget that. Nine-tenths of our exports are primary products. Most of them are agricultural, although some are mineral. But nine-tenths of our overseas income is derived from primary production, and therefore we cannot dismiss the matter by saying that I am talking too much about primary production. We cannot afford to ignore something that returns nine-tenths of the money that we have available for the purchase of goods from overseas.

I happen to represent a division that relies largely on primary production. I will say, generally, that that division is much more prosperous than is that represented by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Browne). I am sure that any honorable member whom he succeeds in persuading to visit Kalgoorlie will have no difficulty in making up his mind on that score should he at any time visit the Wide Bay division. Nevertheless, there are pockets in that division in which difficulties have been caused by low prices for various products. I readily admit, of course, that there are secondary industries there, too. Indeed, there are plenty of secondary industries. Maryborough has the third highest production of manufactured goods in Queensland. It has foundries, ship yards and big saw mills, and it produces manufactures of all kinds.

In the few minutes that I have at my disposal I want to deal with the question of primary production in this division. Although it is only fair, as I said before, that every person in the country should receive fair play, it is vital that the primary producer in particular shall receive fair play. This question is not only one for Australia. It has been considered by many people in countries overseas. It was considered over a long period of years in the United States, which has a price support plan, and a very comprehensive one.

This price support plan confers benefits in relation to many primary commodities, but let us take just one. Section 204 (a) of the 1954 act of Congress in relation to the matter reads -

The production and use of abundant supplies of high quality milk and dairy products are essential to the health and general welfare of the nation; a dependable domestic source of supply of these foods is important to the national defence; and an economically sound dairy industry affects beneficially the economy of the country as a whole. It is the policy of Congress to assure a stabilized annual production, . . . and to stabilize the economy of dairy farmers at a level which will provide a fair return for their labour and investment when compared with the cost of things that farmers buy.

Similar sections deal with other commodities. When we remember that over 600,000 people in Australia are directly dependent upon the dairying industry, we can see that the industry is important in Australia, just as it is in America. Of course, other commodities are covered by the farm support plan in the United States. The grain, tobacco, and cotton industries are covered very fully. In fact, President Eisenhower recently appeared to be somewhat concerned over the question, because he pointed out that in the past four years the United States had distributed 4,000,000,000 dollars worth of surplus primary products to overseas countries that could not help themselves, and he suggested, too, that some restriction would have to be made with regard to that plan.

But I am not concerned with whatever amendment or change has to be made in the United States. I am merely concerned to-day to show that America itself has not only considered the question of primary production in the past but has also acted, and it is not the only major country that has done so. There is also a farm support plan in Great Britain. I could mention a number of products to which it relates, but I shall mention only one. Last month, in January, the fixed standard price in Great Britain for meat was £8. 3s. 6d. per 100 lb., subject to certain adjustments upwards. That is equivalent to more than £10 Australian. I am not saying that things are bad in Australia in the cattle industry. The cattle man is happy at present and no one has any complaint. The point is that the British producer of meat would have received over £10 per 100 lb. in January, irrespective of the price that was received anywhere else in the world. Although the Australian grazier received a good price for his meat, the English producer of meat would have received £10 per 100 lb. if the Australian grazier had been receiving only £5 per 100 lb. I give that one example to show how importantly the British Government regards the primary producer.

So, in the world at present there exists the situation that we have over-abundance of some things. We can produce too much of many commodities in Australia, the United States can produce too much of many things, and other countries cannot even afford to buy them. It is a problem internationally, and I must commend the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the Government for adopting a point of view regarding the stability of the prices of commodities overseas. I look forward to the day when all commodities, not merely sugar, will be regulated by stable prices overseas. Speaking of sugar, it is very pleasing that it will not be necessary to appoint any committee to consider the sugar industry.

In addition to commending the Government for its intention to establish a committee to examine the dairying industry, I suggest that the Government should also establish committees to consider every other primary industry that needs help. 1 will not say that the mere establishment of a committee will win perfect results, but it will produce the facts to enable the Government to decide whether to help the industry, or to give support to the industry to help itself. So I, with humility, advocate the appointment of various committees to deal with all primary industry requiring assistance, and then in due time it will be possible to regard primary industry generally not as a Cinderella but as an important part of the Australian economy.

As I said, it is not necessary for me, although I come from an area that grows sugar, to ask for the appointment of a committee to deal with the sugar industry, because this is one of those remarkable industries that have confounded the critics. Years ago, when Kanakas could no longer be imported, it was said that the white man could not grow sugar successfully. To-day, the sugar industry does not need a subsidy, lt is controlled from production to sale, and it is not socialized. The farmer is perfectly free and quite individualistic, yet the sugar industry to-day enjoys a very fine position because it is controlled. My submission is that we must control production as well as sale of goods, otherwise we shall finish, perhaps, as the United States has finished. It is not necessary for me to say anything more about sugar. No doubt the House has been told a lot of good things about it in the past, and knows that they are true.

May 1 say, in conclusion, that Australia is on the march. The accent to-day is on development and on change. For 100 years now Queensland has been progressing. We do not know just how far we shall develop in the next 100 years, but if we can do as well in planning our future as our athletes, including our tennis players and our swimmers, are doing perhaps the future will be well assured. If we can plan our affairs as well as the Australian cricket captain has planned, and if we can do as well as the cricketing kangaroo did recently in tucking the British lion into its pouch, there is hope for the future for all industries, and not merely primary industry. This is a question for all of us. It is a question not only for honorable members but for industry too. I believe that in considering this important and difficult question of a fair return for the primary producer we must be positive in our approach. We must not lie down. We must not blame anything onto a harsh fate-

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars. But in ourselves . . .

Debate (on motion by Mr. Duthie) adjourned.

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