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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2563

Mr ENDERBY (Australian Capital Territory) (Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory) - I rise to speak because of certain remarks concerning margarine which were conveyed to me and which I gather were made a little while ago by the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Hewson). I regret that I was not in the House at the time the remarks were made. I was attending a meeting of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. I left that meeting to come into the chamber. I do wish - if I put it this way with all fairness - that the honourable member had let me know that he intended to speak on this subject which is obviously of interest to me, on the adjournment debate tonight, so that I could have been here to hear him and perhaps to reply to him. My difficulty now is that I do not know what he said. I shall obtain the Hansard record of his speech in the morning and if the honourable member's remarks call for any reply - I do not know whether they do - 1 will take the first opportunity to reply to them.

It seems to me implicit in the little I heard of the honourable member's speech, that there is confirmation of the long-standing attitude of the honourable members who belong to the Australian Country Party section of this Parliament in their determination to support one group of people in the country in apparent opposition to the interests of another group. In other words there is a divisiveness implicit in their attitude. It is well known what happened in Canberra as far as margarine is concerned. The Australian Agricultural Council met in February. It considered, amongst other things, the quota system of margarine production. In my view that quota system operates against the interests of the great majority of Australians who are consumers and who want a spread to put on their bread. In the interests of diversity of choice, maximising their freedom of choice as consumers and giving them a cheaper product when it is available, they should be able to buy what they wish. Perhaps more important than anything else it is a product that almost unanimously, from the point of view of medical opinion, is in the interests of their good health - polyunsaturated margarine. The quota system, it cannot be denied, operates against all those 3 purposes that should be fulfilled by any proper system of government.

Mr Hewson - That is where you and I differ.

Mr ENDERBY - Yes, that is quite clear. At the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council I argued, as did others, for a revision of the system of margarine quotas. The Agricultural Council agreed that the Australian Capital Territory, which had never been considered before - and it was as a result of my having raised the matter that it was considered - would be entitled to produce 300 tons of margarine a year. I accepted that. The Australian Capital Territory will produce its 300 tons. I hope that subject to consultation and discussion with the Australian Agricultural Council, because that is the purpose of that Agricultural Council, in the not too distant future the quota system will give way to a better system which will allow the consumers of Australia to have access to the spread of their choice, whether it be butter or margarine, polyunsaturated or otherwise in the interests of their health, their pocket and their freedom as individuals. I hope that the quotas will not be imposed upon the consumers as they have been imposed in the past, by a government that was dependent almost entirely on support from a sectional political party basing its support almost entirely on sectional interests.

The divisiveness which it seems to me is implicit in the sorts of remarks that I heard the honourable member saying, does not even take account of the people he claims to represent. There are rural industries in this country which depend upon ingredients produced by them to be used in the manufacture of margarine. So there is a shortsightedness in the approach of the Country Party no matter how one looks at it. I will not say any more at this stage except that when I have had a chance to look at the Hansard tomorrow. I may wish to say something else. But I shall certainly give the honourable member notice of my intention if I wish to say something further on the matter.

I have been asked by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) to indicate on his behalf in response to some remarks which I understand were made by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) that the whole question of import pricing has been referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Prices for its consideration.

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