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Thursday, 18 May 1972
Page: 1827

Senator WILKINSON (Western Australia) - I do not propose to detain the Senate for a lengthy period with mv speech on these Bills because I think we have heard a fair expression of the views of both sides of the Senate on their attitude to the 7 Bills. I wish to bring out one or two points which have not been mentioned so far or which, when they have been mentioned, perhaps have had a slighly erroneous value placed on them. The most important Bill is the first one - the Dairying Industry Bill - which proposes to continue for another period of 5 years the stabilisation scheme which has been in existence for 3 periods of 5 years. This was done at the request of the dairying industry. I noted that when the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) introduced this Bill he spent more time telling us about the dairying industry's proposals than about what was in the Bill. One of the proposals of the dairying industry was to have the subsidy increased to a minimum of $40.8m instead of the $27m which the Bill proposes should be continued. The 2-price quota scheme wa9 another proposal which was suggested by the industry but which was not included in the Bill. Actually the Minister dealt with the contents of the Bill only in the final paragraphs of his second reading speech.

I express a certain measure of caution at the optimistic attitude that is prevailing with regard to the dairying industry. As Senator Webster said a little earlier today, about 18 months ago Australia was faced with the position of a world surplus of milk products - butter and cheese. The surplus was held mainly in the European Economic Community. It was a threat to the export of our dairy products. So the dairying industry requested that considerable aid be given to that industry in order to meet the situation which was then facing it of a lack and loss of export markets. A lot of work was done by the various States to try to rehabilitate dairy farmers, to try to amalgamate farms into viable units and so on, so that the situation could be met. Suddenly the world surplus disappeared. One of the main reasons why it disappeared was that the European Economic

Community started to unload, at ridiculous prices, butter and cheese in areas where we had considered we had quite a fair market, with the result that the tremendous sale of these products brought about the situation in which the previous surplus of 70,000 tons was so reduced that we could again come into the market.

Senator Websterexpressed an optimistic attitude with regard to world prospects for dairy products. I share that attitude, but I feel that we should be cautious. We should not let ourselves run away with this feeling of optimism. We should not expand the industry wherever we can, because the situation as far as milk products are concered is very delicate. I put forward the positive approach that we should endeavour, in the research project which is envisaged in one of the Bills, to widen and continue the research operations. We should be continually looking at the possibility of producing more end products Which are protein rich, because this is what the world will require. We should be producing more cheeses, more butter instead of whole milk or powder. They are the important avenues. These points should be conveyed through the research authorities to the industry, so that it can understand what is required of it and can make arrangements in the production line accordingly. I think that is very important.

I also sound a warning in regard to the bounties paid to the dairying industry. They will be continued. On previous occasions when we have dealt with bounties for the dairying industry I have mentioned that they are paid on the amount of the commodity that is produced. That means that those who are in need, those who have small production farms and are On the borderline of existence and need assistance, get a meagre amount because of the small quantity of the commodity that they produce, whereas the farm which is producing a large amount of butter fat or whole milk receives the same amount per lb or per gallon as the small farm does. That means that the larger farms get the majority of the bounty. The bounty is to be continued. The matter should be looked at closely by the Government to see whether it would be possible to direct these measures of assistance to where they are so greatly needed. I do not, for one moment, think that because we are channelling finance into these areas there should be created a situation in which the number of small dairy farms will increase. The number should be controlled so that the problem is not expanded. The problem should be contained for the time being until those farms go out of existence by the effluxion of time. That is the kind of thing which should be done.

I think the levy, consideration of which is being requested in the research Bills. is a very good move. The industry itself supports the proposition. This legislation will enable the amount of finance which is obtained from the industry by way of the levy to be increased by about one-third. In the region of Sim will be available then for research work. My only objection to this legislation is that I feel that 2 of the clauses of the Dairy Research Levy Collection Bill need clarification. I will deal with those clauses at the Committee stage. But they do not really affect the operation of the legislation as a whole. I believe that because of the extension of the stabilisation scheme, the operation of the research levy, the method of collection and so on, the 7 dairying Bills now before the Senate are worthy measures. From that point of view, I have no hesitation in supporting them.

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