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Thursday, 19 February 1959

Mr JEFF BATE (Macarthur) .- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) is renowned for making stinging speeches in this place. Some of us on this side of the House listen to him with great care and we learn a good deal from him of what goes on in the inner councils of the Labour party. The reports concerning what the honorable member said at the declaration of the poll in Hindmarsh may have been true. The honorable member is alleged to have made an impassioned plea for the Labour party to go more left. The honorable member has not denied that, so perhaps he said it. If he did not say it, he always appears with the extreme left wing of the Labour party - with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and those people who have unfortunately, even if they did not intend to do so, identified the Labour party with the extreme left wing, which is infiltrated with Communists. When the honorable member for Hindmarsh made the charge that funds had been provided for the Liberal party by various big institutions in this country, he did not mention the fact that was brought out in this House that the Communist party gave £10,000 to the Labour party's funds. This information was given by a member of the Labour party in the House, and I think if honorable members cast their minds back, they will recall that a member of the Labour party said that it was only chicken feed.

It is clear to most of us here that the Communist party put £10,000 into the Labour party's funds. If it is true that organizations like the oil companies and other great private enterprise institutions have contributed to the Liberal party's funds, I think they were quite right to do so because if they did not, and the Labour party ever came to power, those great institutions would disappear, according to the statement of the honorable member for East Sydney, who recently received 32 votes when he was a candidate for the leadership of the party. He told the people of Sydney, or whoever was watching the telecast, that the Labour party would nationalize the banks, the steelworks, and other great enterprises which have made such a great contribution to the development of Australia. So we see the tactics of the Labour party, which, as was shown by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) here to-day, brought that party down at the recent election.

I think most decent people in Australia would deplore the attack on the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, and the attacks upon the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) that were made by several members. We can assure the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Balaclava that they are held in great respect not only by the Parliament but by the people of Australia. I believe that in the industrial areas in my own electorate the Liberal vote increased tremendously because of the outofdate, deplorable tactics that were employed by Labour when it used abusive literature, not only towards the Prime Minister, but also towards a great many other people. It shocked and disgusted the respected members of the Labour party who had run the party very well for many years, and these intelligent people turned away from Labour.

We have had in the House this afternoon a very clear example of the tactics to which I refer. The vicious personal abuse on a very low level in which the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith indulged was utterly deplorable, and I think that people who were unfortunate enough to be listening to the broadcast when he was speaking would have been disgusted. I am sure that if these tactics are continued, either by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who wants to turn further left, or the unity ticket members, whom the Labour party has not the courage to expel, and if they are the leaders of the Labour party, that party cannot hope to be entrusted with the reins of government by an enlightened community.

We in Australia should be grateful to all these firms, whether they are making motor cars or diesel-electric locomotives or sewing machines, and to the great industries which are coming here. Men who are enjoying good wages and are learning new, exciting techniques in the cement works, and other places, will not be bothered with people who speak as the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith has done. Good gracious, those people like respect, not the kind of exhibition that we saw here this afternoon! If the honorable member for KingsfordSmith and the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who perhaps speaks a little more incisively and succinctly, are going to control the Labour party, of course we will have a weak Opposition, and it will get weaker and weaker while the Government gets stronger and stronger.

We have seen in the last few days evidence of the strength of the new members who have come to the House. We congratulate them on their election, we congratulate Mr. Speaker on his re-election, and we say to the honorable member for Balaclava that we resent the reflections that have been made upon his character and upon the contributions he has made to the debates in this House. I think that everybody on the Government side regrets very much statements made here which have not been couched in decent terms, and which have not been of the quality that we should like to be observed in Australian politics.

The Labour party should advance from the pick-and-shovel era in which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is apparently still living, and abandon the bitter class struggle and the tactics that it used in the last election. Until the Labour party acknowledges the competence and intelligence of highly qualified Australian technicians - the men who are proud to run the big machines in the coal industry and the metal industry, some of which are worth £200,000 each, and who are possessed of a higher intellect than those we have heard here this afternoon, and who despise such tactics - the Labour party has no future. I think that Liberal, Country party, and Labour supporters alike deplore the fact that this Parliament is cursed with this type of tactics, when it means that the Government, wanting to do something useful, must ask itself, " What will the Labour party say? Will it say that we are doing something at the behest of the banks or that we are involved in a class struggle against the workers?"

This Government is engaged in giving the workers of Australia the best wages, the best conditions, and the best hope that they have had in their lives of owning their homes. There are some members of the Labour party here, men of dignity and highly respected, who do not engage in bitter personal abuse. Of course, it is clear. I say to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is interjecting, that Labour has not got the guts to deal with its members who appear on unity tickets with the Communists. That is one of the reasons why Labour is in Opposition. Nobody knows that better than does the honorable member for Melbourne himself.

The Governor-General made reference to the proposed appointment of a committee to investigate the complex problems of the dairying industry, which is probably one of the greatest industries in Australia. About 600,000 people are engaged in it, and the invested capital is about £750,000,000. The retail sales of the industry average about £300,000,000 a year. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), when Minister for Primary Industry in the last Parliament, said in a very fine speech he made on the Dairy Produce Research and Sales Promotion Bill on 30th September last that this industry provides the basic prosperity of nearly all the towns in Australia, except the capital cities and a few other cities and towns in industrial areas and sugar regions in the north. The dairying industry provides the financial prosperity of the bulk of the towns and cities, particularly in the coastal belts of Australia. So if this industry encountered adverse times, a severe blow would be dealt to the economy of Australia.

I suppose that in the last six months more has been done for the industry than ever before. The Government has taken into consideration the international problems which confront the dairying industry. The fall in the price of butter in the United Kingdom was reflected in a very low interim or advance price to Australian farmers in July of last year.

A great deal has been done to stabilize this industry. Subsidies amounting to £138,000,000 have been paid since this Government came to office in 1949. Taxation concessions are given to the primary producers. Dairy efficiency grants and extension grants, each of £250,000 a year, have been given to the industry.

Mr Pollard - They were given by the Labour government.

Mr JEFF BATE - The honorable member was responsible for the administration of the dairying industry during a part of the time the Chifley Government was in office. Do not let us forget that the Chifley Government was giving a price of ls. 7d. per lb. and refused a well-based appeal for a higher price because it said, through the Prices Commissioner, that there were going to be good seasons. So, members of the Labour government became weather prophets. They also said that there would be plenty of men back from the war and plenty of equipment and machinery, so, they refused the request for an increased price. Two years later, when another appeal was made, the Labour government again refused it, but for a different reason. It was refused not because of good seasons but because the cost of production had been based on bad seasons and a dry period of two years.

Mr Pollard - Ananias was a gentleman compared with you.

Mr JEFF BATE - If the honorable member for Lalor had his way, the dairy industry would be out at its elbows and down at heel so that his supporters could get cheap butter and cheese. But that is not so under this Government because a fair price has been given. I am glad to say, in spite of the typical interjections from the other side, that there has never been greater activity on behalf of the industry than there has been in the last six months. The committee which I had the honour to form and of which I am an executive, has been very active in that regard.

The industry itself asked for a sales promotion and research committee and one has just been appointed. It is a very distinguished committee which will render great service to the industry. The problems are very complex. Not only are we confronted with high cost of production in certain areas, notably towards the north, but we are confronted with the inroads made by margarine, and with a lack of advertising of butter and cheese. Margarine was allowed to make inroads into the dairying industry by two State Labour governments - the Cahill Government in New Wales and the Queensland Labour Government. Two distinguished gentlemen in this Parliament, the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), as barristers, asked the New South Wales Government to produce the file showing the allocation of margarine quotas-. The State government could not produce the file. Its action in increasing margarine quotas was entirely corrupt.

Mr Daly - What is wrong with that?

Mr JEFF BATE - I am surprised that the honorable member for Grayndler should ask what is wrong with a corrupt decision to issue margarine quotas - a decision which could not face the light of day. The dairying industry has been hindered at all points by people who represent Labour. Recently, the Cahill Government, which is so dear to the heart of the honorable member for Grayndler, betrayed the industry by refusing to bring in a bill to regulate or ban the manufacture of filled milk which is such a deadly enemy to the dairy industry. Action has been taken by the Governments of Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, but not by the Cahill Labour Government. So we can say definitely that any Labour government, Federal or State, is a deadly enemy of the dairying industry.

I am proud to say that the industry has developed to the point where it can be put on a sound footing; where all its problems can be examined, and where long-term research into the feeding of the underprivileged and under-nourished people of Asia can be undertaken. We have reports that could go to the new committee which will investigate the whole of the problems of the industry. This committee is to be appointed on the highest level, from the most distinguished men available. It may be a shock to this Parliament to know that, before the war, half the people of the world were eating less than the basic nourishment of 2.200 calories. To-day, only one-third of the people of the world are getting a diet which can give them full vigour, full health and happiness. So we have a task to try to help these people.

Sirring suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.

Mr JEFF BATE - His Excellency, the Governor-General also said -

My Government proposes very shortly, in association with the States, to appoint an impartial committee of inquiry to investigate and report on the complex problems of the dairy industry.

Before the sitting was suspended, I was pointing out to honorable members the enormous ramifications of the dairying industry throughout Australia. I reminded honorable members that virtually every city and town outside of the industrial areas and the northern sugar areas was dependent for its prosperity upon the dairying industry, that the industry had an enormous effect upon the Australian economy and that it was therefore of great national importance. There is also the fact that it contributes to the diet and nourishment not only of Australians but also of people beyond our shores. We have lately become aware of the potential market that exists in the under-nourished nations of Asia. Already these are taking a small proportion of our output. We hope that later their purchasing power will increase and they will be able to take much more.

In the last six months the industry has come up against problems that are common throughout the world. I refer in particular to what has happened on the London market. The dairying industry had to get down to basic facts and reorganize itself on sounder lines. I do not wish to imply that it is not already sound; indeed, it is probably one of the soundest in Australia. It is loyal to its member organizations and has made important contributions in every field of national life. However, it has had to face the fact that in July the price in London dropped to 205s. a cwt. Fortunately, it has since recovered to 289s. During that testing period, the industry decided to ask the Government to impose on butter and cheese a tax of from one-eighth to onesixteenth of a penny per1b. to provide funds for a sales promotion and research campaign. It sought, further, the appointment of the committee of inquiry which has been referred to by His Excellency. A number of honorable members represent constituencies in which dairying is a very important activity. The committee is to be appointed in consultation with the States. We ask that it should be appointed at the very highest level, that it should realize its responsibilities, and that it should have not only a short-term research problem but a long-term one also, the latter to take into account the prospect of marketing our products in various countries. The short-term problem would be to look not only at the presentation and marketing of all our products - including the use of the new and exciting methods of inducing impulse buying - but also ways of reducing costs - especially in the north.

In the last few years, we have been most fortunate. We have virtually overcome the rabbit scourge. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is now experimenting with plants that are quite different from those that were brought here by chance in the early days. These new plants will be scientifically produced with the aid of the phytotron. They will compare with the plant which was recently found in Peru, near the equator. It is a legume which improves the nitrogen content of the soil to a surprising degree. It is already being tested at Deniliquin at temperatures of more than 100 degrees. I am told that it produces 70 per cent. more nitrogen in the summer than does the Hunter River strain and probably twice as much in the winter. The new plant will be tested in the phytotron which can, as everyone knows, simulate various climatic conditions.

We must seek answers to such questions as, " Does the plant stand up to high temperatures, high evaporation and other climatic conditions not encountered on the continent but prevalent here?" I venture to say that the new lucerne will make a tremendous difference to our fodder output, and that it will give us sufficient know-how to improve all our plants.

As is well known, many of our plants were introduced by chance. We also brought out European plants which were not suited to our climate. From now on every new plant will be thoroughly tested, will produce a higher nitrogen output and. through higher protein value, will create better stock, wheat, milk, butter, cream, cheese and so on. All of these things are important elements of our diet. We see not only an industrial revolution of the kind that is of such interest to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), but also an agricultural revolution which will improve our production enormously and will enable us to sustain a population of 100.000.000 such as is envisaged by the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, whose remarks on the subject were reported in this morning's press. There is now a chance, through the efforts of the Government, of honorable members from dairying constituencies, and of the committee which I founded - and on which I have the honour to serve - to bring real prosperity and solidity to the industry. Honorable members will be watching intently the choosing by the Government of the distinguished men who will be charged with seeking the short and long term solutions of the complex problems associated with the dairying industry.

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