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Thursday, 3 May 1973
Page: 1674

Dr GUN (Kingston) - The honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) has just demonstrated how much the Australian Country Party represents sectional interests. He referred to the industrial sector but, of course, he meant wages. What he really means is that the Government ought to control wages and prices in every section of the community except in the area about which he is concerned; that is the prices that farmers receive. I hope that this reference to the Committee will not result in undue delay before a decision is made by the Government on this matter. I hope that it can be dealt with as expeditiously as the Australian Meat Board made up its mind on the matter of meat prices. The Government must decide very early what it is going to do. I believe that some reductions in quotas for exports of meat will result from the inquiry.

We have to decide whether wc are to please the producer or whether we are to try to do something to help the housewife. We cannot please both. The Country Party is prepared to say that we have to do something for the meat producers. Of course, when things start to go badly for the meat producers they will be the first ones to look around for help. They want it both ways. H. L. Mencken once said: 'The trouble with farmers is that when things are going well for us they rob us blind. When things are going badly, the first thing they do is run to the public till for assistance.' I hope that this matter can be expedited. I hope that it will be dealt with as quickly as is humanly possible. 1 do not believe that there is anything productive in having an extensive look at the market structure of the meat industry. Perhaps it would be fruitful in the long run but it will not solve the immediate problem of high prices which requires urgent action by the Government. My own judgment is that the retail butchers are not charging excessive profit margins at the moment. They are probably shaving their margins at present because of the high prices they have to pay. I think the deliberations of the Committee on meat prices will be most fruitful when the supply becomes more plentiful. If we then find that meat prices are not reduced, that will be the time to examine the whole vertical market structure of the meat industry.

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