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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 1944

Mr DAVIES (Braddon) - I want to refer to the dairying industry on King Island and to request the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wreidt) to send some of his departmental officers to the island to study the position at first hand. I realise that departmental officers were in Hobart recently for discussions with the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture and with industry representatives. But King Island is in a special problem area. I appeal to the Minister for an on the spot investigation of the problems. Some Department of Primary Industry officers have been to the island but I ask for an in depth study of the whole problem affecting dairy farmers in this area. In this regard I refer to statements made by the Tasmanian Farmers Federation on behalf of the island. This island is situated in the western entrance to Bass Strait about half way between Tasmania and Victoria and supports a population of about 3,000 people.

The Tasmanian Farmers Federation points out that following the Federal Government's decision to phase out the dairy bounty over the next 3 years the Minister for Primary Industry has suggested that special assistance may be given to dairy farmers to make their units a more productive and profitable enterprise. Furthermore he indicated that funds would be made available to make the dairy industry a more viable national industry. For individual dairy farmers he said that money would be made available to convert cream producers to whole milk production. While the Government has not given precise details of its intentions in this direction it is assumed that funds will be available for farmers to install refrigerated milk vats and other necessary specialised equipment required for whole milk production.

The Federation also pointed out that the Minister said that additional funds would be made available for the marginal dairy farmer reconstruction scheme. Presumably these funds would be designed to assist dairy farmers into some other form of production such as beef or wool or to assist dairy farmers to leave the industry entirely. The Minister has also said that the Australian Dairy Board would be restructured to make it a more effective marketing organisation. This apparently is being done on the assumption that if more profitable long-term markets can be established for Australian dairy products these will have a stabilising effect on the entire national industry.

The TFF points out that while these measures announced by the Minister may have some effect in improving the economic stability and efficiency of the Australian dairying industry, there are pockets of dairying in Australia that will not be effectively assisted by the measures already announced, and one of these areas is King Island. King Island is ideal for dairying because of its climatic conditions. It can produce up to 250 lb of butterfat to the acre and this, as others interested in primary production will agree, is a higher yield per acre than some of the traditional dairying districts in Australia. At the peak o. the war service land settlement on the Island there were about 200 dairy farmers there. Now this number has been reduced to 75. Under the conditions of war service land settlement these dairy farmers were restricted to approximately 220 acres. If these dairy farmers have to diversify into beef production or some other form of primary industry I cannot see how they will be able to do it because of the limitation of the area of their properties. The 75 dairy farmers oh the Island send their cream to a co-operative butter factory which produces about 750 tons a year. The Minister could best assist by providing finance to bring this factory up to export standards to ensure an outlet for the products it is producing.

The TFF emphasises that the co-operative cannot convert into some form of whole milk production because this would be far beyond the financial resources of the co-operative. There may be other solutions to this problem but I do not think that it can be solved either in Canberra or in Hobart. I repeat my request to the Minister for an on the spot investigation and I ask that departmental officers visit the Island. It has become one of the problem areas with the phasing out of the dairy subsidy. I do not want just a visit by some officers who speak only to somebody in charge of the co-operative. What II seek, as I said before, is an in depth study into the whole matter. This study is important now because an application has been made for Commonwealth financial assistance for the establishment of a cheese factory. Some people on the Island favour this proposal and others do not. There is a divergence of opinion as to whether they should continue to support the present butter factory or change over to whole milk production and the operation of a cheese factory.

I think it is time the Minister or the departmental officers and all the technical staff available to him from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and so on, were able to conduct a study in this area. It is a problem area deserving of attention. The people on the Island are both the old traditional settlers and those who have settled since World War II. They are taxpayers of this Commonwealth and they are entitled to a fair go. On the mainland of Tasmania it is not economic for some dairy fanners to continue to produce cream for butter at the 36c a lb being paid for butterfat as against the 49c a lb being paid for fat in whole milk. But some of these farmers who want to change to whole milk production will have to receive Government assistance and I have asked the Minister for this.

I refer again to the submission toy the Tasmanian Farmers Federation which indicates that the Minister has stated that it is his intention to investigate this matter and that some money will be made available to help to convert cream producers to whole milk production. I have suggested to the Minister on behalf of a group of farmers at Circular Head in the far north-west of Tasmania that he should make availabe to them a grant of $3,000 to $4,000, depending on circumstances, to enable the farmers to install the necessary vat, the cooler and the access roads required for the tanker to call. These requests are under consideration. If the farmers have to diversify because of the Government's actions, Government financial assistance must be made available. I hope that an announcement on this matter will soon be made. The Jersey Cattle Club in Tasmania has also submitted some worthwhile suggestions to assist the industry and those affected by the phasing out of the dairy subsidy. I hope that the Minister is giving consideration, through his Department, to the proposals put up by the Jersey Cattle Club and that some announcement will be made on those proposals.

I turn again to King Island. In the few minutes available to me I want to advise the House that a bright spot for the islanders is the fact that thanks to the efforts of the Tasmanian Transport Commission the vessel Straitsman' has re-entered the trade and King Island now has a weekly shipping service with Melbourne and Tasmania. The Federal Government has assisted to the extent of making additional loan funds available to the Tasmanian Government so that the Transport Commission could buy the 'Straitsman'. During the months that the 'Straitsman' was tied up the Tasmanian Transport Commission did a most commendable job in lifting stock from King Island to Victoria with the 'Joseph Banks'. I pay the highest possible tribute to the people in the Tasmanian Transport Commission such as Captain Maddox and others who saw that this service was carried through. However, the improvised service is not to be compared with the regular weekly services that the 'Straitsman' now gives.

I should like to give just one example of the value of the service. One of the most sought after trophies for livestock in the various States is the Buchanan trophy for Angus cattle. This is competed for on a points basis at various agricultural shows and thanks to the 'Straitsman' one of the leading cattle producers on King Island, Mr Peter Snodgrass, was able to take his cattle to the Burnie Show last weekend. He has tried for 3 years to get his cattle to the Burnie Show, but as Mr Snodgrass said, now it is so easy. It is only 6 hours steaming time from King Island to Stanley. It is wonderful to know that the shipping between King Island and the mainland of Tasmania and Victoria has been restored on a regular weekly basis. The islanders have a wonderful service to transport their stock between the island and the markets in Melbourne. The normal shipping service to the mainland of Tasmania has also been restored. This service of course now provides a flow of stock from the Island. As I have said in this House before, King Island is one of the best stock producing areas in the whole of Australia. The grass seems to grow all year round. It has a wonderful climate. This is evidenced by the win of Mr Peter Snodgrass last weekend. That shows that the stock was the best in Australia. He has won the Buchanan trophy on 3 occasions and this indicates the high standard of the stock that comes from the island.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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