9th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Deputy President (Senator Newland) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate if he can give honorable senators information as to the volume and magnitude of the legislation to be introduced during the remainder of the present session, and how long such legislation is likely to occupy the attention of Parliament?
– The notice-paper of the Senate indicates that there is very little legislation awaiting consideration in this chamber, but ten or eleven bills are listed in another place. All of them were foreshadowed by the Government either in the speech at the opening of the’ session or in the budget. Most of them are necessary as following on the budget proposals. They should not occupy more than a couple of weeks at the outside, but the Government does not propose to adjourn Parliament until they have been dealt with.
– Is it a fact that the Government has decided definitely that there shall be no more all-night sittings during the present session, and that the Government is prepared to continue with public business until Christinas time ?
– It is obvious that the Government could not, at this stage, say that there will be no more all-night sittings this session. Everything must depend on the manner in which business is proceeded with.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Home and Territories if he has noticed, in the report furnished by Colonel John Ainsworth, on the administration and other matters affecting the interests of the natives in the Territory of New Guinea, a statement of a particularly mischievous character in these words-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator will not be in order in quoting from a printed statement.
– Well, I ask the Minister if he has seen in that report a particularly mischievous statement, to the effect that the proposed advisory committee at Rabaul shouldbe empowered to levy taxation in proportion to the services rendered, rather than on the uptodate methods of Henry George, which have been adopted at Canberra; and, if so, will he have that particularly objectionable recommendation excised from the report ?
– The Government has not yet had time to consider fully the report referred to.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to bring down an amending Superannuation Bill this session, providing that widows of deceased Commonwealth officers will participate in the benefits of the act?
– The Treasurer has furnished the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
Yes. Steps have already been taken to introduce the necessary bill in another place, and the intention of the Government is that it shall immediately become law.
asked the Min ister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer lias supplied the following answer: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, -upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
Australia’s Participation in Wak.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The’ Prime Minister has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Information received by the Government indicates clearly that it is not proposed to make military or naval action obligatory on any nation. The Council may make a recommendation, but beyond that it cannot go.
Shipping Service Contract
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the many serious charges being made in the press and elsewhere involving a certain member of another place and a certain officer of the Home and Territories Department, and in view, too, of a statement by Mr. Nelson, M.H.B., to the effect that his name has been listed as a registered shareholder of the Boucaut Bay Company without his knowledge or consent - will the Government consider the advisability of appointing a royal commission to inquire into and report upon the contract entered into between the Commonwealth and the company for the maintenance of a shipping service between certain ports?
– So far as the Government is aware no responsible person has made any definite charge of corrupt or improper conduct in regard to the contract referred to that would justify an inquiry by a royal commission. The statement regarding Mr. Nelson, M.P., referred to in the question, does not appear to be one that calls for such an inquiry. In regard to the statement as to certain shares said to be held by an officer of the Home and Territories Department in the Elcho Island Naphtha Petroleum Company, action has been taken as provided for in the Public Service Act to inquire into this point, and as to its relation to the contract in question. The whole of the papers relating to the contract are open to the inspection of any honorable senator or any honorable member of the House of Representatives at the office of the Home and Territories Department.
Motion (by Senator Gardiner) agreed to-
That the time for bringing up. the report of the select committee be extended to Thursday, 23rd October.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Provision is made in this bill for the appointment of a board of control. I think that honorable senatorswill admit that that is a step in the right direction. In England the methods adopted for handling Australian butter are most objectionable to a keen business man, and they must not continue if the industry is to progress. The board will handle the exportable surplus of butter, which represents 30per cent. of our total production. Many districts are admirably adapted to the dairying industry, and considerable development has taken place. In 1920-21,. the number of dairycattle in Australia was 2,056,000, whilst in 1922-3 it was 2,420,000. The production of butter in 1921-2 was 267,071,000 lb., whilst in 1922-3 it was 234,995,000 lb. In 1921-2 the production of cheese amounted to 32,653,000 lb., whilst in 1922.-3 it was 23,711,000 lb. The market value of the butter and cheese production is approximately £43,000,000 annually. Honorable senators will, I think, realize that an industry which represents so much to the community should be assisted in every way to attain the highest state of efficiency.
– It would probably make better progress if it were left to itself.
– The men who are engaged in the . dairying industry are obliged to work almost continuously. I think it will be admitted that no other work demands such close personal’ attention during every day in the week. In England there are many persons who are making as much out of the handling of our butter between the receiver and the consumer as the man who is engaged in its production in Australia. I feel quite sure that that has not the approval of Senator
Gardiner. The policy of the Government was announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) at the last Sydney Show. He then stated that the Government was prepared to assist in every way possible any industry that was properly organized, but that it would not assist any industry thatdesired merely to be spoon-fed. This industry comes well within the. condition laid down by the right honorable gentleman on that occasion, and the Government is observing the undertaking which he then gave. In 1922 the Australian Dairy Council and’ a number of advisory boards were appointed. They have done excellent work, but they have not gone far enough. Later a bill will be introduced dealing with the dried fruits industry. It will be found that the organization in that industry has also done very well up to. a certain point, but that, as in this case, the industry has had to take care of itself on the other side of the world, where outsiders have been able to make big. profits from it. The board to be appointed under this bill will deal only with the butter that is exported; it will have nothing to do with that which is consumed within Australia. Local consumption represents 70 per cent. of the total production. We do not wish to interfere in any way with trade and commerce. We merely wish to assist in the organization of the industry. I am certain that Senator Gardiner is anxious that the producer shall get the full reward of his labours.
– That was provided for in our old platform.
– It was a very good plank in that platform. The honorable senator, I am sure, will not take exception to our making use of it for the benefit of the primary producers-. It may be contended that the assistance the Government propose to render to the dairying industry is spoon-feeding. On the contrary, the industry will pay all expenses incurred in connexion with the scheme, just as it financed the operations carried out by the Australian Dairy Council and the advisory boards in 1922. A levy which will be imposed on the butter and cheese exported will sufficiently cover all expenditure incurred in marketing these: products overseas.
The formation of this board will also prove valuable in another direction. No butter will be exported unless it bears the Commonwealth brand. The people of Great Britain know Australia only. They do not know the names of the Australian states. It may be disturbing to the people of New South Wales to realize that their state is practically unknown on the other side of the world; but how many honorable senators know the names of the various provinces of the Dominion of Canada? One can realize the difficulty of educating the consumers cm the other side of the world to use Australian butter, when there are no less than 453 different brands of butter exported from Australia. It has now been decided to adopt a uniform brand, and place it om the choicest butter only. One of the. largest handlers of butter in London said to me, “ I could not touch Australian butter. I have had a. lot of experience of it, but when one buys 1,000 boxes one gets so many different brands, and so many variations in quality, that its handling involves too much anxiety and worry for those who do a large business such as we do.” That is almost the general feeling in London in regard to our butter. It is one of the difficulties we hope the proposed board will overcome by using one brand only, so that the London buyer who buys 1,000 boxes will find that they are all of uniform quality and bear the “.kangaroo” brand.
– How can uniformity of quality be assured?
– Before -butter is allowed to be exported it will have to pass an examination by the Customs Department.
– Butter from adjoining farms often varies in quality.
– If it is not firstgrade, choice butter, it cannot be exported under the “ kangaroo “ brand. Australia may be said to be a land of feast or famine.
Sutter is plentiful for four or five months iri each year, and during those months it is rushed off to London and sold there for what it brings. One of the duties of the board will be to feed the London market with some degree of continuity of supply. Some dealers in London regard the arrival of shipments of. Australian butter as their own particular harvest-time, and by ‘two or three transactions they secure a very satisfactory income for the year. Instead of allowing the speculator in London -to hold
Australian butter and use it to his own advantage, as we have permitted him to do in the past, the board will feed the market in London without glutting it. Early in April last, when I was in London, and when five shipments of Australian butter were on the water, I learned that one of the big British companies handling Australian produce already had. 80,000 boxes in store. Mr. O’Callaghan, the dairy expert, advised me that he thought the butter market was likely to drop. At that time the ruling price ranged from 338s. to 142s. per cwt. We then entered into an arrangement with the caterers at the Wembley Exhibition, which hound them to- use and sell only pure Australian butter, and I cabled the Commonwealth Government that the Dairy Council should be prepared to pay for the advertisement Australia would receive by this agreement. I thought that within a few weeks the expenditure involved would be repaid many times over. I proved to be a good tipster. As a result of that arrangement, the price of butter rose to something in the vicinity of 150s., below which it has not since fallen. It has even gone up to nearly 180s. per cwt. The gentlemen on the other side of the world who have been buying Australian butter have, been using it for blending purposes. Prior to the Wembley Exhibition, the British consumer had no chance to become acquainted with pure Australian butter. It had been, as I said to these people in London, used mainly for improving the quality of other butters. Sir Joseph Cook, the High Commissioner, cabled only a few weeks ago that, as a result of the sale of pure Australian butter at the Wembley Exhibition, there’ had never been in his experience such a demand as now existed for it on the part of the householders of London. That exhibition gave us our opportunity to get our product right into the homes of the people under our own label, and to make them acquainted with pure Australian butter.
Our selling organization in London has certainly been disorganized in the past, and the men who have been doing the work in Australia have not obtained the full result of their labours. It is the aim of the Government to enable the people who are engaged in the dairying industry, which is so valuable to Australia, to secure the full reward of their labours. As honorable senators are aware, there is considerable competition amongst the agents handling dairy produce in Great Britain. Only by the last mail I received several letters in which reference was made to the serious competition which exists amongst agents operating, not with the intention of lifting the price, but with the idea of lowering it. One correspondent informed me that one purchaser of Australian butter rang up an agent stating that he could buy at a certain price, and he was informed that he could “shade” that, while another said that he could “shade” it still further. This shows how necessary it is to provide some organization to handle our dairy products in Great Britain. The most striking example of the advantages to be gained by organized effort is New Zealand, in which country the producers obtain a better price for their butter than do those in Australia.
– This is a means of making dairying more profitable.
– It may be. Honorable senators may be surprised to learn that New Zealand butter producers receive 10s. per cwt. more for their butter than is received by producers of Australian butter.
– It is carefully graded.
– Yes, and properly marketed. If we adopted the New Zealand system of marketing, the Australian producers would, at present market rates, receive an additional £500,000 per annum. It may be said that a higher price is received for the New Zealand product because it is of a superior quality, but that is not so.
– The dairying herds in New Zealand are superior to ours.
– In some cases they may be, but I do not intend to decry our own herds.
– Some of our herds are the worst in the world.
– And we have some of the best.
– On three different occasions . I was present at Tooley-street stores when consignments of New Zealand and Australian butter were opened, and it was impossible, even for one with expert knowledge, to detect the difference in quality. They were both of a high standard, but, because the New Zealand product was carefully graded and marketed and the brand was known, it brought 5s. per cwt. more than butter from Australia.
– Is all theNew Zealand butter marketed under one brand?
– Yes. It will be the duty of the board to assume complete control of all dairy produce exported from Australia, and to co-ordinate the selling arrangements in Great Britain. It will also be the responsibility of the board to regulate supplies by preventing large quantities being purchased for speculative purposes when there is a glut in the market. The board will engage in a system of advertising, under which prominence will be given to the excellence of our butter, which will be sold under a recognized brand.
– Has a penalty been provided for any one who illegally uses the brand?
– Yes. It will also be the duty of the board to carefully consider the question of shipping freights, and, if this matter is properly handled, there is a prospect of some reduction being made. It is reasonable to assume that a freight quotation for 300 or 500 tons of butter would be less than it would be for smaller parcels offered by individual organizations shipping only a few tons each.
– How is it proposed to deal with the unpacking of butter. It may be placed in different containers on the other side of the world?
– It would be difficult for the board to control butter after it had been removed from its original packages, but the representatives of the board in London will police its regulations as far as is possible.
– When it is once in a different container, it may be sold under a different brand.
– I do not think that likely. It is the practice in Great Britain to sell a box containing 56 lb. in 112½-lb. packages.
– Then it can be used, as it has been used in the past, for blending purposes.
– I do not think that can be entirely prevented. The representative of the board, however, will encourage consumers in Great Britain to ask for the Australian product.
– Has the Government a London agency ?
– We shall have a London representative.
– Can the Government register a brand for the retailers in London ?
– We cannot do that; but we shall do it so far as the wholesale man is concerned.
– Could not the board sell direct to the large retail distributors ?
– No. When I was in business I never sold butter under the brand I purchased, but under the name of my own business. As my business had to be protected, I naturally sold the best, and Australia will onlymarket butter of a superior quality under its brand.
Denmark has achieved a good deal in consequence of her marketing arrangements, and butter from that country is sold in London under one brand.
– Does the Danish organization sell to the retail houses?
– Not to Tooley-street ?
– There is nothing to prevent it selling to any one.
– This is not a state enterprise?
– Not yet. It may be said that the board, when appointed, will interfere with the operations of those who are now conducting our butter export trade.
– It does not matter about them.
– They will be given the consideration to which they are entitled. The bill provides that the Minister may issue licences, subject to such conditions as the board approves, to those who desire to trade in butter in the overseas markets. I am sure that honorable senators will realize that the board will endeavour to encourage that class of business. Only the butter that is handed to it will be dealt with by the board. Any company or person who desires to trade in butter overseas, may do so under licence. The power to grant licences is necessary to give the board control over unscrupulous persons ; but there will be no interference with those who are doing a legitimate butter business on the other side of the world. Rather will that business be encouraged.
– What would happen if the board refused to grant a licence to a man in view of the competition that would be set up ?
– If a person engaged in. trade is acting detrimentally to the best interests of the industry, he will not be granted a licence. The Minister will have the determining power, but he will, no doubt, be guided by the recommendations of the board. If I were the Minister in charge, I should not dictate to thosewho were doing the work unless there was good reason for such action.
– This Ministry is run by boards.
– It would be well if we had more business boards in connexion with other concerns. There are none better fitted to deal with these matters than men who know the business.
Great progress has been made during the last few years with the butter industry of the Argentine. In 1910 the Argentine produced 16,617,000 lb. of butter. By 1921 - a period of eleven years - that quantity had increased to 72,294,000 lb. In 1910 that country produced 6,045,000 lb. of cheese. During the next eleven years its production increased to 52,265,000 lb. Those figures speak for themselves. They show that if we are to capture the markets of the world for the primary producers of this country, nothing but the best efforts on our part will suffice.
– What has the production of the Argentine to do with the creation of a board to control butter in Australia ?
– It shows the competition which we have to meet, and the necessity for our doing the best possible if we are to hold our own in the markets of the world.
– Does the Argentine market on this system ?
– Very largely. Their legislation is, in fact, more closetyled than this is. The board will not come into operation until a poll of those connected with the industry is taken.
– Does that include the consumers.
– The bill does not affect the consumers of this country. It deals only with the surplus production, for which a market must be- .found, and does not touch the 70 per cent, of Australia’s production which is- consumed in the Commonwealth. When we- were dealing with this large quantity of butter in England, we experienced some difficulty in getting a company to finance the project, over the period of the Empire Exhibition. Overtures were made to the Commonwealth Government that it should find the money, but to that I was opposed. Eventually, we were able to get the money from, another source. I desire to emphasize the necessity for capital if the market is to be fed. If we are to sell our products to the best advantage, we must be in a position to hold supplies over -for a reasonable period. In the past Australian butter has been shipped at the cheapest freight, irrespective of whether the vessel had the proper equipment for the conveyance of butter. That has operated to the disadvantage of the Australian article. When in London I was shown some butter which the experts assured me had been tainted in the cool chamber. Evidently, the vessel by which that shipment was taken to England was not suitable for the carriage of butter-. That is a matter which necessarily will engage the attention of the board. In this connexion I desire to add that it was admitted to me when in England that the vessels with the best equipment for the purpose were those belonging to the Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. The question of shipping is one with which individual traders cannot effectively deal,, but the board will be able to see that proper arrangements for the convey- ance ‘of the butter are made. After, this bill is passed, a further bill will be introduced to enable the board to make advances on butter which has been delivered to it, and which has been passed by the Customs authorities for export. Those who wish to export butter may do so, under licence, and those who desire advances will be able to obtain them by handing their butter over to the control of the board. Advances will then be made against the security of the butter.
– What rate of interest will be charged ?
– That will depend on the rate from time to time charged by the banks.
– In addition to interest, there will be administration costs.
– Those costs will come out of a levy that, will be made. The- board will comprise thirteen members. It is thought that, in a huge country like Australia, a -board representative of all the states would be somewhat cumbersome. Therefore, the bill provides for the appointment of an executive which will be able to deal’ expeditiously with important matters as they arise.
– How often will the board meet?
– That will be decided by the board itself. Perhaps it will meet once a quarter.
– The Minister would not accept that principle in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank Bill.
– This proposal must be dealt with on its merits. In the absence of an executive on the spot, it would be” impossible for all the members of the board, living in the different states, to get together promptly acrid deal with problems that might call for immediate decision.
– Are- we to assume, then, that the executive will be a Victorian executive?
– Not necessarily, but the executive might be expected to carry the burden of at least one Victorian.
– Why is South Australia to have only one representative on the board ?
– Because South Australia is one of the smaller butterproducing states. The big exporting states- are Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. I can assure honorable senators that the Government has given the most careful attention to the details of the bill. The proposed levy will pay the expenses of the board and the salaries of officers, and provide travelling expenses and fees for the remuneration of the board. The votes of the producers can,, I believe, be taken inside five or six weeks.
– What will that vote decide,?
– Whether or not the scheme is to be operative. There is provision in the bill requiring the board to present an exhaustive report in July of each year. What I saw when in
London confirmedme in the opinion that, if primary production in Australia is to be developed along sound lines, we must have a more satisfactory scheme for the marketing of our exportable surplus.
– Can the Minister say if the majority of those engaged in the industry will welcome this measure ?
SenatorWILSON. - I am led to believe that an overwhelming majority of butter producers are in favour of this legislation, butwe think that the men engaged in the industry should have an opportunity to say definitely that they approve of it. Hence the provision for the taking of a poll.
– Has the Government considered a proposal to take complete control of the industry in the same way that postal matters are under Government control ?
– No; the bill deals only with the exportable surplus. That is the only ‘section of the trade that is in difficulties, and that is the only matter which the Government feels called upon to deal with at present. I commend the bill to the. Senate.
– In my desire to help the Government with its legislation, I am prepared to debate this measure at once, although I think the proposal calls for grave consideration. As one who took some part in the last election campaign, although not thena candidate seekingreelection, I realized the strength of the attack that came from our opponents, who declared their unqualified opposition to the socialization of industry, which was a plank in the forefront of the Labour programme. During that campaign we had to meet the most vile misrepresentation of Labour’s ideals. Therefore it was with mixed feelings that I listened to the Minister’s explanation of this scheme. He certainlydid not say that the Government had adopted the whole of Labour’s programme. We could hardly expect that.
– Not all at once.
– Having a medical man inthe Ministry, the Government is dealing out small doses of socialism, say a half-teaspoonful every 24 hours. Evidently this hill represents one 24 hours instalment of the -socialization of industry.
– A homoeopathic dose.
– Yes ; usually a medical prescription recommends that the mixture should be well shaken before taken. For the last six weeks I have been trying to shake the patient who has to swallow these doses of the Government’s socialistic medicine, but as my efforts have been of no avail, I am not inclined to bother further. Let us see what this proposal means and where the Government and its supporters are going. Thebill proposes the appointment of a board, representative largely of the existingbutter factories, with power to tax the butter producers of Australia.
– Why not call it aneconomic council?
– The board will have powers similar to the powers of a parliament, because it will have authority to levy a tax upon butter producers for the various funds associated with the industry.
– What about the levies on trade unionists?
– That is a very pertinent interjection, and in reply I invite the honorable senator to point to any legislation passed by a Labour Government with a majority in both Houses that gives powers to trade unions to tax their people in the same way that this board may tax the butter producers of the Commonwealth.
– The Arbitration Act. empowers trade unions to recover levies from theirmembers.
– The Arbitration Act was designed in the interests of the community generally. Can Senator Pearce indicate any legislation passed by the Labour Government that depends for its continuance upon the votes of trade unionists? As a matter of fact members of the Labour party ought to be grateful to the Government for this precedent. In future we shall be able to justify any legislation along similar lines. One of my objections to this Government is that theCountry is being over-governed by boards. Some time ago I put a question tothe Leader of the Senate on this subject, and was informed that, up tothe end of 1922, the Government had appointed 20boards, costing £35,000. I have herean interesting return published in the Melbourne Age, dealing with Commonwealth boards and their cost to the people of Australia. It is as follows: -
Now we are asked to bring into existence another board.
SenatorWilson. - The members of this board will not draw any fees from the Commonwealth Government.
– They will have the power to fix their own fees. Does the Minister wish me to believe that they will work without fees?
– By whom will those fees be paid?
– The industry itself.
– Will the nominee of the Government be paid by those who are engaged in the industry?
– Most decidedly.
– At the last elections, the members of the present Government claimed that they were opposed to government interference with private enterprise. They promised to allow industry to have a free rein to see how it would get on. Anything in the nature of socialism, they declared, was abhorrent to them.It is most gratifying to me to find that the efforts, in debate, of honorable senators on this side have converted the Government.
– This does not provide for socialization, it provides for organization.
– The honorable senator may quibble over the term; that is due to the training he has had in the profession that he adorns. When the Labour party said that it believed in the socialization of industry, endeavours were made by certain honorable gentlemen, and others who wished to become honorable gentlemen, but could not, to give to that declaration a meaning that it was notintended to convey.
The whole trend of the Minister’s speech has been in the direction of showing that the marketing of our butter in London has not been successfully carried out; in fact, that it has been most unsuccessful. He stated that, for butter of equal quality, Australia received 10s. a cwt. less than was received by New Zealand. Private enterprise having failed, the Government has found it necessary to come to its aid. It proposes to do so by establishing a board to control the export of butter. How. will it be possible for the board to ensure that a higher price will be received ? I do not think that any one will claim that the members of the board will go into the factories to try to improve the quality of the butter. They will not be able to exercise any influence in that direction.
– The honorable senator is wrong in saying that they will not exercise any influence, because the butter will have to be of a very high standard before permission will be given for it to be exported.
– I realize that before the butter goes out it must be of a very high standard. The point I am endeavouring to make, however, is that although honorable senators opposite, a little while ago, were opposed to government interference with industry, they now support theproposal of the Government to interfere with the butter industry. The Minister’s trip to London is a justification for the changing of his mind on any matter. Travel is useless to any one who does not learn by it. Before the Minister’s departure from Australia he possessed a very alert and active mind, which could change more quickly than that of any other honorable senator. Therefore, I am not surprised that now he has views upon the butter trade that are altogether different from those which he had when he left Australia. He quoted figures to show the strides that were being made in dairying by the Argentine, and he urged Australia to wake up. Instead of calling a board into existence to interfere in the marketing of butter, the Government should have approached the managers of factories and the dairymen, and urged them to tighten up their methods. That would have been a more appropriate action from persons who believe in non-governmental interference with private enterprise. The Government has not done so. It has fallen back on Labour’s methods. Therefore, there is not a great deal of room forme to find fault with the bill. To me the objectionable feature about it is that it will interfere with natural liberty. Some honorable senators may say, “ Is that consistent with your position as a member of the Labour party ? “
– Hardly, is it?
– I quite realize that honorable senators opposite may regard my attitude as an evidence of inconsistency. I tell them that in the Labour movement there is a greater desire than there is in any other movement in Australia to preserve natural freedom, and to allow of the exploitation of those natural opportunities that come to every person in the community. I intend to oppose certain portions of the bill, because 1 feel that they will unnecessarily interfere with the butter industry.
– Does not the honorable senator believe in interference with industry and trade ?
– We believe in improving the methods adopted in industry and trade, where that object can be achieved by socialization. As a general principle I believe that there should be as little governmental interference as possible. That clearly defines the beginning and the end of liberty.
– The honorable senator does not draw a very clear distinction between liberty and licence.
– No conference of the Labour party has shown a disposition to go as far as this bill does in interfering with individual liberty. I welcome the bill, because it will blaze the track for the socialization of industry, which is coming more rapidly than honorable senators expect. It is gratifying to find that the members of the Government are now the chief banner-bearers.
– Why find fault with the Government for adopting the good points in the platform of the Labour party ?
– I am not finding fault with it on that account. The Minister said that the aim of the bill is to secure to the primary producer the full results of his industry. In 1905 that ideal was in the forefront of our programme in New South Wales.
– It is a good ideal.
– It is an excellent ideal.
I want to quote figures regarding butter production in Australia to show that the efforts of those who are engaged in the industry have not proved altogether a failure. On the contrary, I think that the increase in Australia compares very favorably with that in the Argentine. In the tables I shall quote I have taken two periods of three years for the sake of comparing the progress made by the dairying industry in Australia. The butter produced is shown in the following table: -
These astonishing figures are surely justification for leaving the industry alone without harassing it by bringing into existence a board of control that, no matter how enthusiastically we may intend it to operate for the benefit of the industry, may. only serve to do it harm. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Incompetent men may be chosen to control the industry. The board which will controlthe export of butter and cheese will be given almost unheard-of powers. It will be practically in a position to prevent a private individual from exporting butter. Such :a possibility was .pointed out in “another .place, and the Government, realizing that there might be same interference with the operations of their friends who -are engaged in the export of inferior butter, exempted from the control of ‘the board butter ‘sent to eastern countries. I wonder why that was done.
– The Government have -given notice of an amendment to alter that provision.
– All I know is that the Government in another place inserted a provision under which the export of inferior butter to the East will be permitted. If the standard of Australian production is ‘to be maintained at a high level, it is as well to maintain that level for the smallest customer in a small market as it is to “maintain it for big customers in our largest markets.
– The honorable senator is mistaking the object of the proVision in “the bill.
– I shall be pleased to hear Senator Duncan’s explanation of what it means. To me it seems that it has been inserted for the benefit of exporters who make a living by exporting inferior butter and other produce from Australia to the East. The export of butter and cheese has also shown a wonderful increase, as indicated in the following table: -
I do “not know that the Minister has .made it -clear .that .an .industry which has made such enormous progress should have a board (tacked on to -it to interfere with it.
– This .bill is the result of .the almost .universal request of .the producers of butter and .cheese in Australia.
– Nothing >of -the sort.
– The Government seem to be in doubt on that point, because the bill provides that a board must be elected by the directors of the butter factories before the scheme drawn up is accepted.
– There has first to be a poll of the producers on the hill itself.
– I am not surprised that Senator Crawford knows nothing about this matter. If it were a bill to deal with sugar production he would know something about it.
– The honorable senator is mixing his blessings and curses so evenly that I do not know whether he is for or against the bill.
– I am certainly in that position, and I think the party to which I belong is in the same position. We welcome this interference with the dairying industry as a first step towards the socialization of industry, whether it be under a board, as honorable senators opposite are pleased to describe it, or under an economic council such as we propose to bring into existence.
– The difference in this case is that all the profits will -go to the producers, and not to the state.
– The honorable senator has not read the bill. How can all the profits go to the producers ?
– If the price of butter is increased, the producer will get more for his product.
– No doubt when Senator Foll speaks., he will show us clearly that by increasing the price of butter the producer will get more ‘for his product, but the selection of this board will be by. the managers of butter factories, the greatest sweaters of dairymen we could have. In some districts they exercise such an .extreme influence in the fixing off the price of cream that the producers have no say in the matter.
– In Queensland the factories are mostly -co-operative concerns.
– They are only co-operative in name. The word “ cooperative “ is used ‘to coyer private enterprise in its worst features of monopoly and control, and the dairymen who milk the cows and do .the work .will .derive the benefit -of the proposed -scheme of marketing only after .the profits have passed through the hands of the companies. I have another table showing the increase in the number of persons engaged in the dairying industry. It is «s follows : -
The figures are of considerable value, as they show the growth of this great industry. There has also been a corresponding increase in the profit per head of the people engaged in dairying. I should like the Government to delay the passage of this bill until a vote of those in the industry has been taken, to se© if they really require it.
– There will be a revolution in Queensland if its passage is delayed.
– The Queensland butter producers, when compared with the sugar producers, have been so unfairly treated that they will naturally feel like participating in a revolution if they do not derive some benefit. What causes a revolution?
– Injustice and oppression.
– For once Senator Reid and I are in accord. What causes a revolution? Generally, oppression on the part of governments. I have already quoted a list of Commonwealth boards which are oppressing the people of this country. The remedy is not to be found by constituting yet another board, and thus bringing pressure to bear upon another section of the community.
– The dairymen do not regard this proposal in that way.
– Does- Senator Reid represent the dairymen?
– I did not say I represented the dairymen, but that the dairymen do not regard the bill in the way the honorable senator does.
– The honorable senator is speaking on behalf of the dairymen, but I have very grave doubts as to whether those actually engaged in the work of dairying support this proposal.
– If the honorable senator will peruse the Queensland newspapers ho will see that the dairymen support this proposal .
– I have not the slightest doubt, judging by the activities of the Queensland people’ generally in putting their grievances into print or bringing them before Parliament, that they are the most energetic, industrious, and well-informed people in the Commonwealth.
– That is possibly due to the climate.
– And, I suppose, as a result of the efforts of Labour governments, which have been in office for nine years.
– Yes; Labour governments assist in building, up useful communities.
The bill appears to be an unnecessary interference on the part of the Government, and an indication of their intention to do the very thing they promised the electors they would not do. As it is a step in the direction of doing what the members of my party promised the electors, I am inclined to support some of its- provisions. I shall support the portions of the bill which, I think, will benefit the producer - the man who does the work on the land - and shall oppose those clauses . framed with the intention of conserving the interests of those who make money out of the actual workers. Stripped of all its verbiage, the Minister’s second-reading speech simply means that the Government intend to appoint a board to protect the interests of butter- producing companies.
– To feed the overseas markets.
– Would it not be better to say that “the Government intend to ration the markets ? When men engaged in industry, who are not receiving sufficient on which to maintain their wives and families in a reasonable degree of comfort and to provide a little for recreation and old-age, say that they will not work any longer at the existing rate of pay, they are regarded as strikers. In this instance the Government have introduced a measure in which it is provided that if butter is being sold at a price which is considered too low, those controlling the factories will strike for a higher price. That is, in effect, what the Minister has stated. We have discovered, what that great captain of industry, Mr. Pierpont Morgan, did, when in a remarkable speech concerning the shipping combine, he said, “We have discovered that combination and not competition is necessary in trade, and we will take the profits of combination until the people are sufficiently intelligent to take the profits for themselves.”
– Does the honorable senator agree with that ?
– With every word of it.
– Then the bill will have the honorable senator’s support.
– I shall support those provisions framed with the intention of benefiting the actual workers. We are informed that action is being taken with the intention of stabilizing the industry. The producer scratches his head and says, “ It will be all right if you do not tell the people that butter is likely to be dearer, and that the men conducting the factories will obtain larger profits than previously.” As a representative of a state in which dairying is extensively undertaken, and of the people who are so close to the bread-line that an increase of 3d. a lb. in the price of butter is of great importance to them, I say without hesitation that in following this course the Government and their supporters are actually scraping the butter off the bread of little children.
– The- honorable senator favours high wages and cheap commodities.
– Yes, and I am prepared to forfeit my seat in this Parliament if the honorable senator can produce any person who does not believe as I do in this regard.
– The honorable senator must not, of course, mention sugar.
– No, sugar is sold at an excessive price in consequence of an embargo which has been placed on importations from other countries.
– Every one favours high wages and fair prices.
– There is not an intelligent man or woman in the community who does not wish to derive th«» highest return for his or her labour. It is ordinary common sense. The crowds which assemble at some of Melbourne’s retail establishments on Monday mornings, when goods are being sold at bargain rates, clearly indicate that the people are anxious also to purchase in the cheapest market. Members join trade union organizations, because they believe that as a result of combination they can obtain more for their labour.
– Then why object to the butter producers organizing?
– I do not. 1 object to the principle adopted in this instance by a Government opposed to interference with private enterprise, and which introduces legislation the effect of which will be the very reverse of the policy which they are supposed to support. They are standing between the consumers and the producers. Instead of allowing free scope for private enterprise, which they are supposed to advocate, we have in this instance private enterprise tempered with Government management. The Honorary Minister said that the Government representative would take the responsibility. One member of the board is to be appointed by Cabinet. As soon as the bill is passed, butter will be increased by Id. per lb. ; when the board is appointed it will be increased by another Id., and it will then be said that a further rise of Id. is necessary to meet administrative expenditure.
– By that time we shall be approaching the dry season.
– That is nonsense. We have to’ take into consideration the wonderful improvements made in the means for the preservation of butter. In the early days, when the wife and children of a dairy farmer were employed in making butter under the most primitive methods, the wife, while the farmer was working in the fields, visited the neighbouring town, with her butter in a basket, and sold it at 6d. a lb. I have been watching the effect of additional supplies, and have been very pleased to find that the consumption of butter, which is one of our most nutritious foods, has, during the last ten years, increased. The consumption of meat and potatoes is decreasing, because they are practically beyond the purchasing power of the poorer people. Butter is one of our most valuable foods, and during recent years has been used more extensively. As many other commodities are becoming beyond the reach of the poor, people are living on a poorer diet, which will lead to race deterioration. I was pleased to see butter - one of our most valuable foods - being consumed in increasing quantities, but the “ clutching hand “ of this Government, which wants to take from the people everything which they now enjoy, made the price of that commodity 3d. per lb. dearer. It wants to take the butter from the bread of the children of those who placed it in its present position.
The Minister says that we on this side should be satisfied with this measure, because it accords with the policy of the Labour party. He spoke of state control and state boards. Possibly, I should be thankful for this one step towards the socialization of industry, but, like every other step taken by this Government, it may be retraced. If the butter factory managers do not like the bill, they have six weeks in which to signify their disapproval. But the general community, the consumers of butter, are not to be shown that consideration. Do Ministers contend that the millions who consume the butter, and who probably have never seen a butter factory, should have no say regarding this legislation ? It is merely another piece of class legislation, introduced to benefit a small section of the community. I never thought that I should live to see the Federal Parliament legislating in the direction taken by this bill. Least, of all did I expect to see this Government legislating in that direction. This measure appears to have been introduced at the request of some exporting interests who think that it will give them a “pull” somewhere. What would honorable senators now on the other side say if, in the next Parliament, when five of their number are sitting; on this side of the Senate, and 31 members of the Labour party occupy seats to the right of the Chair, legislation were in troduced to assist the boiler-makers, and a clause were inserted to provide that if they did not like the bill, and signified their disapproval within six weeks, it would not become law ? If a Labour Government introduced legislation affecting carpenters, engineers, or wharf labourers, which provided that it would be subject to the approval of the unions concerned, what would honorable members opposite say then ? They could only say that they had assisted to pass the first legislation of the Federal Parliament which was subject to the approval of an irresponsible outside body.
.- I thought that after the very interesting address delivered by Senator Gardiner, some member on the other side would have risen to speak. In my opinion this bill is misnamed. It is supposed to be a bill “Relating to the Export of Dairy Produce,” but its title should be: “ An act to establish a corner in butter and other dairy produce.’’ Clause 2 provides: -
Sections one, two, five and thirty of this act shall commence on the day on which this act receives tlie Royal assent and the remaining sections of this act shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation :
Provided that a proclamation under this section shall not issue unless and until, at a poll of producers taken in the prescribed manner throughout the Commonwealth, a majority of votes have been given in favour of the act being brought into operation.
While Senator Gardiner was speaking. Senator Foll interjected, if my memory serves me rightly, that all the producers were in favour of this legislation.
– I said that, strong representations were made by them.
– If I have misquoted the honorable senator, I regret it, but I do not think that I have done so. Even if that statement is now qualified to mean that most of them are in favour of it-
– I will say that.
– In that case, what is the necessity for the clause providing that there shall be a referendum of the producers before this measure becomes law ? The bill is ahead of its time. The .Government should have taken a referendum prior to introducing tha measure. Then, provided that the result of the referendum was that a majority of the producers in Australia favoured such legislation being introduced, the Minister would have been iu a position to say so definitely. Instead of that being done, Parliament is asked to pass the bill, after which the opinions of the people who are most directly and vitally concerned will be ascertained. That is my principal objection to this measure. No one realizes more than I do the arduous nature of a. dairyman’s work, for which oft-times he receives but small remuneration. Every morning we have evidence of the early hours worked by those who deliver our milk, and we should realize the inroads made on their hours of leisure and enjoyment. If any industry in Australia should be assisted, it is the dairying industry. Personally, I should prefer any other employment to that connected with this industry. If a measure came before us which would assist the whole of the dairying industry of Australia, I should be one of its most ardent supporters. But this bill is designed to control the surplus butter which is shipped to the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, and to secure a better market and more satisfactory returns for it. Of the butter imported into England, one-twelfth only comes from Australia..
– We want to make the percentage greater.
– That result will not be attained by this measure; and, if it were, it would be at the cost of the Australian consumer. I endorse Senator Gardiner’s remark that the direct result of this legislation will be to increase immediately the price of butter to the Australian consumer.
– How would the honorable senator improve the conditions existing in the industry ?
– When I am a member of the party which is governing the destinies of Australia, I shall assist the Government to better the then existing conditions.
– Should not the honorable senator do that now in his official capacity as a senator?
– At the proper time I shall do so, but that time is not now. If I set out to explain my proposals for dealing with this matter, I should occupy more time than is allowed me by the Standing Orders. Australia has to compete in the London market against butter from Denmark, the Argentine, and Ireland. Not only does Australia supply but one-twelfth of the requirements of the London market, but that butter is available for only three months in the year.
– Nevertheless, that market takes one-third of our butter.
– The comparatively small quantity of butter imported into England from Australia shows the impossibility of our controlling the London market.
– Under this bill, we shall eventually supply nine-twelfths of that market.
– That time is a long way off.. And until it arrives, that result will be achieved only at the expense of the Australian consumer.
– Not necessarily.
– I can imagine a scheme which would not necessarily have that result, but that scheme is not embodied in this bill. Undoubtedly, this measure will have that result. In it I can see the. intention to eliminate the f.o.b. selling price in Australian ports.
– I thought that I dealt with that aspect of the matter.
– The honorable senator attempted to do so. Possibly he may make the position clearer when he replies. The f.o.b. principle has proved its superiority over the method of direct consignments, which is purely specular tive in character. The establishments which adopt the consignment policy are freed from all risks as trading companies-, and the producers are left to carry the burden. Will the producer be freed from that burden under this bill? I do not think that the Minister in his secondreading speech indicated that he would be. If the bill passes the second-reading stage, we may, in committee, be able to protect the producer. I understand that the Government advanced the sum of £75,000 to finance the Overseas Federation, which is the London selling floor of a combination of co-operative selling companies in Australia. If that amount was advanced, I ask the Minister whether it was advanced to that federation, and, if so, whether it was done with the knowledge and consent of Parliament? That federation has been in existence for five years, but is not yet in a position to shoulder its own financial burdens. This bill will be followed by another which will enable the board to make advances.
I come now to the question of co-operation. I believe in real cooperation; it is, in fact, part of the policy of this party. These concerns are not co-operative in the true sense of the word. Some of them have invested their capital in various undertakings at the expense of the shareholders. The proprietary organizations in Australia represent big London buyers. They purchase direct,and pay cash on shipment.
– Is the honorable senator making out a case for the middleman ?
– By no means. I am presenting the case against the bill, which, with the help of the Minister, I hope to improve in committee.
– Icongratulate the honorablesenator. He is making out a good case for the proprietaryfirms.
– And Senator Duncan,by his supportof this measure, is departing fromthedefinite undertaking given by his party, during the last election compaign, that it would have nothing to do with the socialization of industry. My objection to the bill is that it creates a monopoly.
– How can it be both socialistic andmonopolistic?
– It is not socialistic at all.
– But Senator Gardiner said it was.
– In this bill the Government propose to hand over ‘sole control of the dairymen’s products to a board dominated by the representatives of so-called co-operative factories unhampered by competition. There is monopoly. If the Minister in charge of the bill had come down with a measure, byvirtue of which the Government proposed to takesolecontrol of the business, I should have supported it.
– The Government is doing that.
-Not at all.
– If the Government did asthehonorable senator suggests, the dairyfarmers in the Commonwealth would be inthe insolvency court within six months.
– The Government,instead ofseeking real control of the industry, proposes to handover control to the board. This is not socialism by any means. If it were, I would support the bill. The reflex action ofthis measure will be an increase in the local price of butter, in orderto make up the leeway on London losses. That is the main objection which I have to the bill: Every honorable senator knows perfectly “well that one effect will be to increase the price of butter to local consumers.
– Of course. What else is it for ?
SenatorCrawford. - Is cheap butter the slogan of the honorable senator’s party ?
– Does the honorable senator believe incheap butter ?
– I believe in good butter being sold to Australian consumers at a reasonable price.
– What doesthe honorable senator consider a “reasonable” price?
– When butter is 1s. 6d. to 2s. a lb. it is at an unreasonable price inmy opinion.
– Does the honorable senator say that1s. 6d. a lb. is an unreasonable price for butter ?
– I did not mean that1s.6d. a lb.was unreasonable.
– That is whatthe honorable senator said -from1s. 6d. to 2s. a lb.
– Say 2s. alb.
– There are not many butter producers in Western Australia, so the honorable senator is quite safe an saying that.
– Thereare dairymen in raystate, and I am just as muchconcerned with their welfare as is the honorable senator with the welfare of butter producers in his state. The fact that theyhave not been consulted is a serious objection to the bill.
– Iassurethe honorable senator that they have been consulted.
– Then whythis provision in the bill for a referendum of the producers ?
– The organizations have been consulted.
– Whatdoes the Ministermean by that? Does hemean that half a dozen men have been consulted ? The Minister declares thatthey have been consulted and yet we are told that before the bill becomes law, there must be a referendum of the producers?
– That is a democratic proposal.
– It is, but why were they not consulted before the bill was presented ?
– They would not then have known the nature of the proposal.
– The Byron Bay Co-operative Company, which is the largest concern of its kind in the world, withdrew its support from the Coastal Farmers’ Co-operative Society, which was its selling agent in Sydney, and opened its own selling floor on that market as the Coastal Farmers’ Co-operative Society had become so financially impoverished, that it could not continue operations. For the last 20 years the Byron Bay Company has had its own selling house in London. It refused point blank to link up with the Overseas Federation which, as I have stated, is being financed by the Commonwealth Government. I repeat that the producers have never asked for and have not been consulted with regard to this measure.
– And yet the honorable senator is complaining that we propose to consult them.
– They should have been consulted before the measure was brought down. The entire scheme has been suggested by a few co-operative selling agents, whose balance-sheets reveal the weakness of their position, and who now hope that the Commonwealth Government will save them from the bankruptcy ‘ court. This bill quite appropriately follows the Bankruptcy Bill which was before the Senate yesterday, because if it is adopted it will mean financial safety for the people I have mentioned. The measure has not been introduced for the purpose of assisting the real producers, nor has it been designed to safeguard the interests of the people in regard to local prices.
– Are not the producers members of these co-operative societies ?
– A movement has been started in the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales to link up a number of co-operative butter factories, which have been marketing through cooperative selling channels, to start their own selling floor, or amalgamate with the
Byron Bay Company. The reason for this is that the present co-operative selling organization in that state has fallen into discredit with the producers. I can see in this one reason why the Government has been induced to bring down this measure. The people concerned are seeking to free themselves from the control now sought to be imposed on those engaged in the industry by this measure. The bill is really designed to eliminate, by statute, the freedom of producers to control their own affairs. I do not object to governmental control in all matters of this nature, provided there is real governmental control. In this case there is not. The measure appears to have been framed on lines similar to the New Zealand legislation.
– If it brings the same results, it will prove to be good legislation.
– I will tell the honorable senator what has happened there. A similar measure was passed in New Zealand about eighteen months ago, and a board of control was appointed. That body, after visiting various parts of the world and acquiring knowledge of the export business, decided not to exercise the functions conferred upon it by the act. New Zealand sells 50 per cent. of its output on f.o.b. basis. A scheme similar to the bill now before the Senate was, . I believe, prepared by Senator Greene when he was a member of another place and Minister for Trade and Customs. That scheme, upon being submitted to a referendum of producers, was rejected by a substantial majority. Whether this proposal is a facsimile of that prepared by Senator Greene I do not know, but in that case the producers, when appealed to, turned it down. Tin’s bill will eliminate free marketing for the benefit of a number of co-operative trading concerns. It will impose a measure of hardship on the people by directly taxing the producer in order to create certain positions for interested persons, the result of which will be an increase in the local price of butter. The following is an extract from an interview with Mr. Meares, published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 22nd instant: -
As with all self-help movements by and for producers, there had been considerable organized opposition to the bill, and certain clauses had been inserted. However, the general consensus of opinion during the progress of the bill in the House was that amendments would be secured in committee bringing it more into line with the full proposals submitted to the Government by the Interstate Dairy Conference last month.
At the conclusion of the interview Mr. Meares, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, made the following further statement : -
The ‘Australian bill also suggests that a poll of suppliers of all factories be taken before the act. becomes operative; this will be opposed, and the suggestion of conference that a poll be taken in two years strongly advocated. There will also be considerable opposition to the additional member suggested as representative of selling agents oversea. Steadier markets achievable by organized marketing under statute will materially assist the producers of both Australia and New Zealand by uplifting the average price, both locally and in London, and should be the means of giving to all concerned a definite productive and marketing security, which is so lacking in this industry tit the present moment. [ am at all times desirous of helping the dairying industry, but I think that it can be assisted without inflicting upon the consumers of Australia an increased price for their butter. The Minister referred to the necessity for uniformity, and said that if the marketing of our butter in London were organized, as in the case of New Zealand butter’, we should get an additional £500,000 a year. The N’ew Zealand butter obtains a higher price because the quality is uniform, on account of the standardized manufacture and also the pastures; whereas Australian butter varies in colour, texture, and quality in each state, and in every district of each state, because of the difference in the pasture, the climate, and the conditions under which it is manufactured. How the bill will affect the position I do not know. It has been very badly prepared. I should like to have seen a referendum of the producers taken before it was introduced. I intend to move at least one amendment in committee, to try to make the bill more acceptable.
Honorable senators opposite evidently look at the bill from different angles. Senator Gardiner approves of it to a certain extent because, he says, there is evidence of socialism in it. Senator Needham, on the other hand, is wholly opposed to it on the ground that it does not contain any socialism. When the Leader and Whip of the party opposite hold such widely divergent views, it is difficult to determine what are the views of the party upon the measure. Honorable senators opposite can find no fault with the bill, and they are seeking some excuse for opposing it, merely because it has been brought down by the Government. No reason has been advanced from the other side for even altering the provisions of the bill. Senator Gardiner said that it is a step in the direction of the nationalization of industry. If it is, I am converted to that policy. But a comparison of the bill with the policy of the Labour party in regard to the nationalization of industry will show that the two are as wide apart as the poles. As it is preached publicly by honorable senators opposite, the nationalization of industry is the running of an industry by the Government, the profits, if there are any, going into the Consolidated Revenue. We know, from our experience of Queensland, that there are no profits from a nationalized industry. Generally, huge deficits are incurred, which have to be made up by the taxpayers. What is the proposal of the Government here? It is simply to assist a certain section of the primary producers to organize their industry. If honorable senators opposite really believe that collective effort is better than individual effort, I fail to see how they can criticize the bill. Senator Wilson quoted interesting figures, and related his experiences in London, to show the unfavorable position occupied by Australia in the marketing of its butter. Other countries have organized the industry in such a way as to ensure that there shall be uniform grading, and the purchaser may know instantly the class of butter he is buying. The disadvantages under which Australia has been labouring have caused the primary producers to lose a very large sum of money. Senator Needham, whose speech had evidently been prepared for him, argued that if the bill . became law ‘ it would necessarily have the effect of increasing the price of butter to the consumer in Australia. I fail to see in the bill anything that will bring about an increase in the price to the local consumer. We are compelled to accept London parity for nearly all the primary products that we export. If the whole of the production were sold at London parity, the price obtained would not always return to the producer the cost of production. Consequently, since Australia has been an exporter of butter the price of Australian butter on the
London market has been less than that at which it is sold in Australia, for the simple reason that it is necessary to sell in London ata pricethat will enable us to compete with other countries.
-Doesthehonorable senator not think itwould be better to first supply thedemand in Australia ?
– Unfortunately, the consumption in Australia is notequal to the supply, and with this, as with every other primary product, a certain quantity has to be export ed ,so that the whole of the production may be absorbed. Large quantities of sugar are being exported. It has been pointed out that one of the reasons for our unfavorable position on the London market is that usually our butter is marketed in London when a glut exists. The average producer of butter is not financially strong enough to fix the time when his butter shall be placed on the market. Generally speaking, he has to sellas quickly as possible, and he cannot wait for the increased price that rules in London when a shortago is experienced there. It is well to remind honorable senators that Denmark, which is a great butter-producing country, works under a scheme that is similar to this. It ‘has its own agents An London who control the quantity of butter tobe placed on the market at any particular time, and thus secure for the producer a larger return than is now obtained by the Australian producer. Senator Wilson has pointed out that for every cwt. of butter placed on the European market, New Zealand under its scheme of marketing gets a far higher price than is obtained by the Australian exporter. I was surprised to hear Senator Hoare interject that we havein Australia some of the poorest dairy herds jn the world.
SenatorHoare. - That is recognized as a fact.
– I venture to say that the honorable senator is quite wrong in making such a general statement. It does him no credit to decry an industry which means so much to Australia.
– We should never be ashamed of the truth.
– I regret that Senator Hoare is so ready to decry hisown country.
– Todo Senator Hoare justice hewasonly referring to the Adelaide parklands cows.
– Senator Hoare was merely pointing out the very striking need for improvement.
– This bill will enable improvement to take place. It will bring greater profits to the dairymen, and not at the expense of the Australian consumers.
– That being the case, Senator Hoare will probably be found supporting the bill.
– One cannot say. I do not know now what attitude Senator Gardiner will take up. When he finished speaking it seemed to be about “ fiftyfifty.” He will, no doubt, be very disturbed to learn that as soon as he left the chamber Senator Needham opposed the bill, because it was monopolistic. I fail to understand the reason for the fear expressed by Senator Gardiner that if this bill becomes law the consumers in Australia will be obliged to pay more for their butter. My opinion is that if the producers can secure a higher price fortheir butter in London they will accept a lower price for the butter they dispose of in Australia. Very often local consumers have had to pay higher prices for Australian produce than were being obtained overseas.Senator McDougall sought to amend the Commonwealth Bank Billby inserting a provision under which the bank would be authorized to make advances to primary producers to enable them to carry on their operations. In another bill to follow this measure provisionwill bemade to make availableto thedairying industry advances which will enable the producers to carry on operations until they sell their produce overseas. As that was thebasis of the amendment submitted by Senator McDougall, and supported by every hon- . orable senator of the Labour party, one can reasonably expect that the honorable senator and his friends will giveunqualified support to this measure. It contains the provisionhe was anxious to have inserted in theCommonwealth BankBill. An honorable senator opposite has claimed by interjection thatthefees of the board to be paid under the provisions ofthis bill will be taken from funds drawn from the Commonwealth Treasury. Nothing of the sort is intended.
– Can the honorable senator show : me that in the bill ?
– It is provided for in clause 22.
– The expenditure incurred by the board will be covered by a levy on all butter and cheese exported.
– Who will make the levy ?
– The board will make the levy.
– Then the proposal is to delegate taxing powers to a board that is not responsible to Parliament?
– The levy will be provided for by a bill, and will thus he imposed by Parliament.
– No matter what authority may impose the levy, the levy itself will raise sufficient to cover the expense of administering the act, and notone farthing of the cost will come out of the Commonwealth Treasury. The industry, which is practically voluntarily organizing itself, will bear the whole of the cost. Those who are vitally concerned in the success of this measure will have an early opportunity to say whether they are in favour of it or not. The bill will not become law until a majority of the producers declare that they are in favour of it. Some honorable senators claim that the poll should have been taken before the bill, was introduced, but I am sure that the producers will be in a far better position to record an intelligent vote after they have read the speeches made in this House for or against the bill, than they would, have been if the matter had been sprung on them before they became fully acquainted with the proposal. It is generally recognized that the Australian Dairy Council has done a great ‘ deal of good work for the dairying industry. As a result of its efforts a brand has been established for Australian first-grade butter, and this season the bulk of the butter exported will be marketed in Great Britain under the national brand. However, it has not been possible to get all the interests to come under the council’s scheme. This bill will bring all the interests into one scheme of marketing, and thus more efficient work will be done than has hitherto been possible. At first I felt inclined to support the view taken by Senator Grant when he interjected that the fees to be paid to the board should be prescribed in the bill, but upon further consideration I see no reason for disturbing the arrangement provided in the bill. The board will be chosen by the very persons who will be called upon to provide its fees. I understand that, the board will, be represented in London by an agency which will enable it to enter into better contracts with the butter coming forward in one large parcel, than- were possible when it was shipped in individual lots. That will be of advantage to the producers of Australia. The agency in London will also be in a position to make favorable arrangements for refrigerating space on steamers. As it can offer large tonnage it will no doubt secure substantial reductions in freights. That also will be of advantage to the producers of the Commonwealth. Most of the shipping companies trading to Australia have their head offices in London. The London representative of the board will be able to negotiate with the shipping companies with a view to securing adequate refrigerating space and reduced freights, and generally to make arrangements to effectively handle this commodity. The representatives on the board in Australia will, I understand, exercise full control over the export of all dairy produce at this end, and instead of 453 registered brands of Australian butter being placed on the market, first-grade Australian butter will be marketed in Great Britain under one standard brand. In these circumstances, consumers in Great Britain will be able, without any difficulty, to obtain best quality Australian butter.
– The honorable senator should not entertain any such idea.
– Does the honorable senator think that Australia cannot supply a first-class article?
– I think it can, but ther will be considerable difficulty in finding a satisfactory market for one brand.
– The average consumer in Great Britain does not care whether he purchases butter branded “ Thistle “ or “ Pineapple “ so long as he knows tha,t he is purchasing- Australian butter. The purchasers of our dairy products in Great Britain do not know the Northern Rivers district in New South Wales or the dairying districts in Queensland, and are consequently unable to exercise any discrimination, but if they know that all first-grade Australian butter is marketed under the one brand they will buy it. You, Mr. Deputy President, when visiting Java years ago, were strongly impressed with the necessity of Australian exporters supplying goods of the best quality and true to label. At that time it was the practice of certain Australian exporters to ship inferior goods which were not always true to label, with the result that Australia’s trade in the East was seriously impaired. Other countries which have adopted marketing schemes similar to that embodied in this bill have achieved great success. I am authoritatively informed that the Danish butter producers place all their supplies on the London market under one brand, so that those desirous of securing butter of Danish production can easily obtain the article they desire.
– The Danish butter realizes a much higher price.
– Yes, the Danish butter brings 20s. more per cwt. than that from New Zealand, which in turn brings a higher price than the Australian product. It is doubtful whether the Australian butter is not equal to the best Danish butter. At any rate, we can claim that the Australian butter is at least equal to the New Zealand production, although the latter, owing to the effective marketing scheme in operation, returns a higher price in London. The figures quoted by the Minister must make all those who are interested in the future welfare of the Commonwealth realize that the serious competition which exists on the other side of the world has a very detrimental effect upon the marketing of Australian dairy produce. I was amazed when the Minister pointed out the extent to which importations from the Argentine into Great Britain have increasd during the last few years.. As our competitors become a greater commercial menace, we must adopt more progressive methods of production and marketing. There are too many in our midst who decry Australian products, and who think that our commodities are not equal to those manufactured in other countries. There is no reason why the butter we export to London should not bring as high a price as that from any other country. The Minister has shown that the retail purchaser in Great Britain pays as much for Australian butter as for the Danish or New Zealand product, and, therefore, the consumers are not deriving any benefit from the lower prices at which our supplies are sold. The advantage, as the Minister pointed out, is derived by the speculators, and the additional profits, instead of coming to the Australian producers, go to the manipulators in Tooley-street. Freights are vitally important. Before the war the freight from Australia to Great Britain was 2s. 6d. per 56-lb. box., but it is now 4s. 6d. The New Zealand board has already sent a delegation to Great Britain to negotiate with the shipping companies for a reduction in freight, and at present efforts are also being made to bring about some coordination between Australia and New Zealand in this connexion. I understand that the Minister when representing Australia in London went very carefully into the question of freights, and ascertained that concerted action on the part of primary producers would possibly result in considerable improvements being made. That is all the Government are asking the Senate to approve of in this instance. The bill does not embody any fantastic socialistic scheme, as suggested by Senator Gardiner, or any monopolistic scheme, as suggested by Senator Needham; it merely provides a simple scheme whereby the Australian butter producers may obtain full advantage of the prices ruling in the European markets. The industry is to pay the cost incurred in establishing this organization, which is to receive the official recognition of the Government. I believe a majority of the dairy farmers in the Commonwealth, and of those controlling co-operative butter factories, is in favour of the bill. If the dairymen and others concerned are opposed to it they will surely say so. . The Australian consumers will not have to pay anything more, and under the proposed system money which at present is going into the pockets of unscrupulous manipulators of the butter market in London will be returned to Australia. Under the existing arrangement the merchants in Tooley-street purchase large supplies of butter when there is a glut in the market, place it in cold storage, and dispose of it when the market improves. Under this scheme that will be done by the board’s representative in London for the benefit of the producers. Australian butter-makers expect to receive only London parity, but, if the butter is placed on the market when the rates are favorable, they will receive the full benefits to which they are entitled. T welcome the bill, as I believe it will be a means of stabilizing the industry. When I was first elected to the Senate in 1917, a deputation representing Queensland dairymen waited upon the newly-elected members, who were asked to do something to assist in the disposal of surplus butter in Queensland. The supply was then greatly in excess of the demand, because butter had been declared a luxury in Great Britain, and, in consequence, refrigerated space was not available on overseas steamers. A number of suggestions were brought forward, and, in conjunction with the present Honorary Minister (Senator Crawford), and Senator Reid, I brought the matter under the notice of the then Vice-President of the Executice Council (Senator Russell), who was controlling the department, and who pointed out that, although there was a surplus of butter in Queensland, there was a shortage in some of the other states. To overcome the difficulty, a federal butter pool, embracing a marketing scheme somewhat similar to this proposal, was established, with the result that, in a very short period, the surplus was disposed of at a price which gave a very fair return to the producers. The members of the National party have always shown that they are desirous of conserving the interests of the primary producers as well as those of other sections of the community, and this bill is another example of the wisdom displayed by the electors of this country when they returned to power an anti-Labour government, as they did at the last election. If honorable senators compare the attitude adopted by this Government in connexion with the butter industry with that of the Labour Government in Queensland a few years ago, they will see the advantageous position in which the primary producers have been placed in consequence of the action of the present administration. When a shortage of butter occurred in Queensland, and prices were very high owing to a drought, the Queensland Government compulsorily acquired every pound of butter pro duced in Queensland at a price much below the cost of production. That was done to placate a section of their supporters who were crying out for cheaper butter. The result was that nearly every dairy farmer in the state was almost ruined. A lot of that butter was sent into New South Wales and sold at a profit, but the money was not given to the primary producers. It went, instead, into the coffers of the state treasury. That is the treatment that the primary producers of Australia may expect if ever the Labour party gains control of the treasury bench - which God forbid ! Tlie difference between the two parties is that, whilst the Labour party robs the primary producer of the profits of his work, the Nationalist party believes in securing to him the full reward of his labour.
– Yet the dairy farmers of Queensland again returned Labour men to Parliament.
– If the honorable senator would take the trouble to read the returns of the last election in Queensland, he would see that the only reason for the return of a socialist government was the gerrymandering of the electorates which took place. The Labour Government altered the boundaries of the electorates in order to secure the return of its own candidates. The votes cast for the supporters of the Labour party were many thousands less than, those cast in favour of the antiLabour candidates.
– If the honorable senator took into consideration the uncontested constituencies also, he would arrive at a very different result. “
– This bill has been introduced in order that a certain section of primary producers may act collectively, instead of individually, in order to exploit the European market, and receive the profits from their labour to which they are entitled. The Government is not paying .the cost of administration. It is merely giving the scheme its official recognition,and its blessing. This measure is one which every one who is desirous of seeing this country prosper should support, as it will help one of the greatest primary industries of the Commonwealth.
– Any one who has had experience of dairy farming knows that of all the occupations in which a person may engage, it is about the least desirable.
Not only is the work incessant, hut it is’ painfully monotonous. It does not matter whether the day is hot or cold, wet or dry, whether it is a Saturday, Sunday, or a holiday, the cows must be attended to. Dairy farming is probably the nearest approach to slavery of any occupation followed to-day in the Commonwealth. Should any one doubt the accuracy of that statement, let Mm obtain- some practical, experience for himself. It is true that during recent years the introduction of milking machines and other conveniences ha3 to a limited extent lessened the hardships, but it is; nevertheless, not an occupation to be desired. When we are asked to do something which is alleged to be in the interests of the dairying community, we should carefully examine the proposal before deciding to reject it. I am not satisfied that this measure will benefit the dairy farmer and the dairying industry generally. Indeed, I hope to show with unmistakable clearness that it will convenience another section of the community. Any honorable senator who then votes for the bill will do so with his eyes open. The Minister gave us some facts, with which most of us were already familiar. It is, apparently, necessary to-day to export a fair proportion of the butter manufactured in the Commonwealth, and, naturally, we look to the Old Country as the proper outlet for that butter. Australian butter is equal to that produced anywhere in the world.
– The Danish butter is ahead of it.
– I do not think that any butter can excel that produced in Australia, but higher prices are realized for Argentine, Denmark, and New Zealand butter.
– Australian butter commands a better price than Argentine butter.
– I doubt if the average price per lb. received for Argentine butter differs very much from that received for Australian butter. The reason that Australian butter has, year after year, failed to command a satisfactory price in the London market is that concerted action has not been taken by the butter producers of Australia. Great Britain requires such large quantities of butter that the small quantity that comes from Australia is not of great import ance to them, although it is to us. Approximately 453 different brands of Australian butter from time to time make their appearance on the London market. No matter how much a person in England may desire to use Australian butter, he would need to know a great deal about the butter business to be able to say definitely that a certain brand of butter came from Australia. In those circumstances, those who offer, in England, Australian butter of inferior quality are doing the industry a great injury. This proposal, according to the Minister, is in accord with the policy of the Australian Labour party, and should, therefore, have the support of honorable senators on this side. The Government will find it impossible to remain at the point to which this bill brings us. More will have to be done if we are to keep pace with the exporters of butter from other countries. This is essentially an age of organization. The industry which fails to organize and take concerted action, must, in the keen competition which prevails to-day, be left behind. Speaking of concerted action, I am reminded of the industry displayed by the members of the legal fraternity to conserve their own interests. Because of their determined and concerted action, their fees have increased considerably.
– Is the fee not still 6s. Sd.?
– The honorable senator is years behind the times. To-day, these legal gentlemen demand guineas every time. A person may enter a lawyer’s office for 10s. 6d., but if he opens his mouth it costs him a guinea. If the legal gentleman replies, one does not know the limit of the fee which may be asked. In that case, a man might just as well hand over his bank account. Aided by the Government, these gentlemen have organized in their own interests. If any one attempts to do their work, and to charge for such service, he is liable to a severe penalty. It does not matter how efficiently that work is done. The charges levied on their unfortunate clients ‘by these gentlemen constitute an outrage. Honorable senators sometimes speak of the levies of Labour unions, but they do not like to be reminded of these things that I have mentioned. If a person purchases a block of land, the desire of those who introduced the Torrens system of titles is not achieved because of the excessive charges of the lawyers. This bill does not rely upon the voluntary efforts of the organization to secure payment. If we examine it, we shall find that if a person fails to furnish certain returns he is liable to a penalty. That penalty is not the insignificant sum which a union member would be called upon to pay, but it is the considerable sum of £100. We are asked to endorse va measure- containing a provision of that nature. The levies of theLabour unions, to which reference is sofrequently made, are as trifles compared with the exactions imposed on the people of this country by the organization’ to- which Senators Drake-Brockman, Elliott, and other legal members belong. It is time that we realized the necessity for taking steps to reduce the exorbitant fees now charged by the members of the legal fraternity.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator is out of order. There is no reference in the bill to legal fees.
– I thought I would be permitted to reply to Senator Elliott’s interjections earlier in the debate, and to show what members of his profession were doing. The bill has been prepared in a -most slip-shod fashion. We are really dealing with two measures. One clause makes reference tothe Dairy Produce Export Charges Act 1924. I pay close attention to the business of the Senate. I attend with clocklike regularity. I am a full-time” senator, and yet I have never seen the Dairy Produce Export Charges- Act of 1924, which is referred to in this bill. It may be quite true that government interference with, private enterprise is always more or less unsatisfactory, but it should be noted that the concerns which governments handle are usually the most difficult, and generally lead to trouble. The bill provides for the appointment of a board of control consisting of thirteen or fourteen members. In my opinion it will be a costly body. If its operations disclose a deficit the Commonwealth Government should not be called upon to make good’ the loss, although I have no doubt that it will be. The board is to be endowed with very, extensive powers. It may prohibit the export from the Commonwealth to Europe of dairy produce except in accordance with a licence to be issued by the Minister, and subject to such conditions and restrictions as the board approves. It is to be given control, of one of. the most essential commodities in. the Commonwealth. If instead of’ bringing down a scheme to supply the best of Australian butter- to foreigners overseas, the Government had given more, attention to the proper organization of the butter supply for consumption in the Commonwealth, Ministers would have rendered some service. It is well known that the best of Australian production is always exported, and that the local consumer has to be content with second quality produce. We should carefully consider this proposal to endow the board with such plenary powers in respect of our- dairy products. In pursuance of my policy to show practical sympathy for the man on the land I endeavoured some time ago to secure an amendment of the Income Tax Act by relieving the taxpayer of the necessity to furnish in his return particulars of any increases in his cattle1, sheep, and horses. Unfortunately, the Government opposed that -amendment, but clause 20 of this bill provides that the income of the- fund to be established from the levy shall not be subject to taxation by the Commonwealth- or a state. This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but the- Minister has not explained why the benefit of the exemption is to be confined to this fund. If the principle is good it ought to be extended to all primary producers.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– The superior organization of the dominion of New Zealand and of other countries in placing their produce on the London market has, no doubt, been responsible for the introduction of this measure. I say emphatically that the1 bill does not go far enough. It does not nearly approach the degree of control that the Labour party would be prepared to take in an industry of this description. But apparently it goes as far as the Government is prepared to go. The Government is going this distance ostensibly with the object of substantially benefiting the dairy farmers. With that contention’ T absolutely disagree. Many honorable senators opposite well know that ultimately this measure, no. matter how successful it may be, cannot benefit the primary producer. We could temporarily benefit the primary producer by taking over control of the railway systems of the states and charging cheaper fares and freights. We could substantially benefit him again for only a limited time if we removed the heavy impost that is now placed upon all the machinery that he uses. Many primary producers require to use motor cars, but we penalize them to the extent of £50 on each car. We take particularly good care that we do not do anything beneficial in those directions. It is proposed to appoint a board and to give it powers that are of the most far-reaching and comprehensive character. One does not need to examine the bill at any great length to realize that the butter industry, in relation to both internal and external consumption, is to be placed entirelyunder the control of the board. I feel certain that if Australian butter is placed upon the London market under a system of proper grading it will fetch a price equal to that obtained by any butter that is marketed there. If the bill will succeed in doing that it is to be commended. But it is not to be commended on the flimsy pretext that it is going to benefit the dairy farmers. Any honorable senator who understands the matter knows that that is not the purpose behind this bill. It is mere empty make-believe to say that it is. What happens to-day if a railway is constructed into a dairying district, and the cost of transport is cheapened? The immediate result is to immensely enhance the value of the land that is suitable for dairying purposes. If under this bill, when it becomes an act, Australian butter upon the London market brings a very much higher price than is now received, who will benefit? Every one knows that the extra amount will go not to the dairy farmers, but to the owners of the land. The result of every improvement in transportation facilities or in manufacturing processes is that the men who own the land gain the benefit. Honorable senators opposite are too cowardly to admit that that is so.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw. If the increased price would go to the dairy farmers I should feel inclined to enthusiastically support the measure; but I am. not so foolish as to believe that this bill will have any such result. In a district in New South Wales, which has some of the richest lands in the state for dairying purposes, approximately 50 per cent of the area devoted to dairying is being worked not by the owners of the farms, but by share farmers. Under that scheme the owners can secure the best possible return. That land is on the north coast of New South Wales. Enormous rents are being paid for it, ranging up to as high as £3 an acre, because of the price that is secured for butter and other dairying products. Does not Senator H. Hays realize that if, under this bill, the price of butter is increased, an immediate result will be that the value of dairying land will be enhanced?
– Most likely it will be.
– Undoubtedly it will be enhanced.
– The value of land is based upon the value of its production.
– Just so. Land which was almost unsaleable prior to the imposition of an almost prohibitive duty on Fiji bananas brought fabulous prices after that duty had been imposed. The expectations of those who bought it, however, were not realized.
– On the argument of the honorable senator, the land should not be cultivated.
– I am endeavouring to show who will benefit by this bill. If a permanently higher- price, both in Australia and abroad, is secured, the dairying industry will become more desirable, and the price of dairying land will advance.
– It will have to be considerably more attractive than it is now to induce the honorable senator to engage in it.
– Dairying is the very last job that any man should take on. It is on the bottom rung of the industrial ladder. I cannot imagine any employment for which I should care less. The cows have to be attended to every day, and in all weathers. The point I wish to make is that, although a considerable number of persons are engaged in the industry, only occasionally can they make ends meet. We have heard of men with families who pay exorbitant rents to the owners of dairy farms, and work their wives and children practically the whole of the 24 hours in every day, yet they can just manage to keep their heads slightly above water. If, under this bill, a higher price is secured for butter, it is quite evident to me that the rents of dairy farms will be raised.
– Many dairy farmers own the property that they work.
– That is quite true. But many do not. Irrespective of whether they own the land or not, the intention of the bill is that the small, number of persons who own dairying lands shall be benefited. We should be doing the right thing if we asked the owners of the land to make a substantial contribution to the cost of marketing the butter.
– -Very little dairying is done on rented land.
– We must realize clearly what we shall do if we pass this bill. By this bill we are giving, as we have given in other legislation, a clear donation to the owners of land, and we shall find that the condition of the working dairy farmer will not be improved. I realize that the Government have a two to one majority, and that the fate of the bill is assured, but I do not expect that any ultimate advantage will be gained by the working dairy farmer. I should like to know what has gone on behind the scenes. I should like to know who induced the Government to introduce this bill. The Government may have good intentions in bringing it forward, but it can only result in a higher price for butter locally consumed. No one can deny that. A higher price in London will have the effect of removing more and more butter from the Commonwealth for sale overseas, and in the long run the Australian consumer will be required to pay a substantially higher price than be now pays. The increased price secured will, in my opinion, be nothing more than a net donation to the owners of the land on which the butter is produced.
– Any one with a knowledge of the dairying industry must have realized long ago that something radical would have to be done, either by the State Go vernments acting in co-operation, or, more fittingly, by the Commonwealth Government, to remedy the deplorable condition into which the industry, through no fault of its own, has fallen. It is common knowledge that recently it has been almost impossible for any of the smaller dairy farmers to carry on with success. Not only have the livelihoods of the smaller men been endangered, but the position of the industry throughout the Commonwealth is such as to give occasion for serious thought to any one who is desirous of seeing it become the great asset to Australia that it ought to be. The Government, acting on representations which Senator Grant seems to imagine have come from all kinds of nefarious sources, has brought forward this bill as an earnest of its desire to do something for the industry. Almost every honorable senator has been approached from time to time by every section of the industry, and implored to see that steps are taken to lift the industry out of the slough of despond into which it has fallen. The Government, having carefully weighed the representations made from every section of the industry, has brought down a bill which has met with fiery and entirely unwarranted criticism from honorable senators opposite. Much of the criticism put forward by individual honorable senators opposite has been answered by other honorable senators of the party, so that there is not much need for me to say a great deal about it. Statements made by one honorable senator have been refuted by another who has followed him on the same side. For instance, Senator Gardiner said that the bill was another example of socialism, whereas Senator Needham followed him and said it was not socialism. Senator Gardiner said that the bill would unduly interfere with an industry which was already doing very well without interference. He spoke for a long time about the remarkable way in which it had prospered. He gave us statistics which he said showed that it was infinitely better not to interfere with it. He was answered by Senator Grant, who said that the bill did not go far enough.
– I said that it did not go as far as the Labour party policy would go.
– That makes the position worse. Senator Gardiner said that we should leave the industry alone. Senator Grant opposed the bill, because it did not go as far as the Labour party would go.
– The Labour party is not. opposed to this bill.
– I am merely pointing out the inconsistency of honorable senators opposite. Not one of them has said inwhat direction the bill should go further. Although Senator Gardiner at first said that it went too far, later on he inferred that it did not gofar enough, because it did not propose the complete socialization of the industry, which he thought would be a very fine thing. Having dealt with the inconsistencies of honorable senators opposite, I shall now deal with one or two of the objections they have raised to certain provisions of the bill. It has been said that the board will be given altogether too wide powers, and as a ground for not givingsuch wide powers we have been assured that the price of butter will be raised to the local consumer.
– That is correct.
– I cannot see why honorable senators opposite should raise any serious objection to the dairy farmers of Australia getting an increased price for their product. Everybody else in the community has been able to get an increase, because of the increased cost of production. The wages of workers have very rightly gone up and up to meet the increase in the cost of living. The price of almost all necessaries of life has increased because of theenormously increased cost of production, brought about mainly by worldwide economic factors over which we in Australia have no control. If it be right to re-adjust economic values in accordance with the increased cost in all other industries, it is only fair, after all, that the dairy farmer should not be treated differently from any other section of the community. If wages, which are regarded as the reward for the labour of the worker, are to be increased to meet the increased cost of living, surely it is only right that the dairy farmer should have an increase in the reward for his labour in the shape of the price of the butter he produces. His costs have gone up; the wages he has to pay have increased ; the price of the implements he uses has enormously increased and. the cost of his clothing and food has increased. Yet, honorable senators opposite tell us that it is absolutely wrong for this Parliament to sanction a measure which may have the effect of somewhat increasingthe price of butter to the local consumer.
– It will have that effect.
– It is not a sine quanon that the price of butter will be increased if this bill is passed. The board has only the power to regulate the price in London. Clause 20 defines the powers of the board. It will be given power to handle the following matters: -
That is governed by clause 14, which reads -
For the purpose of enabling the board effectively to control the export and the sale and distribution after export of Australian dairy produce, the Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the export from the Commonwealth to Europe of any dairy produce except in accordance with alicence issued by the Minister subject to such conditions and restrictions as the board approves.
Honorable senators will see that the clause includes the words “ for the purpose of enabling the board effectively to control the export and the sale and distribution after export of Australia’s dairy produce.” That is where the board’s powers terminate. My opinion is confirmed by the clausewhich provides that the board shall have power to deal only with the export and the sale and distribution after export of Australian dairy produce.
– What would happen to the butter under the control of the board if the Governor-General prohibited exportation ?
– I do not know. No provision is made in the bill whereby the price for local consumption can be fixed.. The board is to handle the exportable surplus, and to make the best possible arrangements for its disposal in London.If the price of butter to European consumers is to be increased in consequence of the action of the board, why should we worry ? We wish the Australian producers to secure the highest price for their exportable surplus. Consumers on the other side of the world may possibly be compelled to pay a higher price, but I cannot imagine how any one can say that, as the result of the passage of this measure, the price to the local consumers is likely to be increased. Schemes submitted in another place have been considered, I know, by certain honorable senators. These, if adopted, Would have had the effect of increasing the price by 3d. or 4d. per lb. to local purchasers, but it was found impossible to secure the support of a large section of membersof another place, and honorable senators in this chamber. It is easy to imagine the difficulties which would confront any honorable senator supporting such proposals. This scheme, if adopted, will undoubtedly be a means of raising the price of our. dairy produce to overseas consumers, but it will not affect the local market in any way. The quantity of butter exported has been quoted this afternoon, and if by making arrangements in the direction desired higher prices are obtainable, additional money will pass through the ordinary channels of trade, and every section of the community, including workers, shopkeepers, and merchants, will benefit. That being so, I cannot understand why honorable senators opposite have offered such carping criticism against certain clauses in the bill. Objection has been raised by some honorable senators because the producers are to be consulted before the bill becomes operative. This Parliament is the chief legislative authority in the Commonwealth, and it is, of course, not right that its legislation should come under review, or bo amended by anybody in the Commonwealth but the Commonwealth Parliament. If it were proposed to submit legislation such as this, which had been passed by this Parliament, to any body of electors for review, alteration, or amendment, the. principle would be wrong. It is proposed in this instance to exercise a degree of compulsion, and it will, of course, be open to any dairy farmer to take advantage of its provisions if he so desires. On the other hand, if he can. make arrangements for disposing of his produce locally he will not be affected. That is the position which is taken up in connexion with all legislation passed by this Parliament. We propose to submit this legislation in a way to various interests concerned to see whether they want to use it or not. What is done, for instance, under our industrial laws? Under a section of our Arbitration Act registration of trade unions is permitted. If any trade unions do not want to take advantage of its provisions, they do not register.
– They have to register.
– Not necessarily. If a trade union does not wish to come under it, it does not register. Unions have to register under the Trade Union Act, but that is a different matter. Under our industrial legislation, registration is optional. The principle in this instance is exactly the same as under our industrial laws. This bill is to be submitted to the various interests for their approval or otherwise, which is quite proper, because the scheme can only succeed with the co-operation of those interests. Because we desire the.cooperation of all parties directly concerned, it is proposed to give them representation upon the board. There are certain features in relation to the board which, in my opinion, are not as suitable as they might be. It is provided, for instance, that the board shall hold office for two years. The period is insufficient when one considers the wide area to be covered in electing the board. It would hardly be in office and become accustomed to its duties before its members would have to seek re-election. When the bill is in committee I intend to move that the term during which the board shall hold office be extended from two to three years.
– The term will date from the date of the election.
– Yes, but even then some time will necessarily elapse before its members become thoroughly accustomed to their duties. The executive, as provided in clauses 4 and 11, is to consist of five members, and in view of all the circumstances, and particularly as meetings will have to be held frequently at certain times of the year, the number should be increased to seven.
– Seven! You might just as well have the full board.
– The executive should at least consist of six members.
The composition of the executive is also of considerable importance, as it should, I think, consist of representatives of the various interests.
– A quorum of the board is to consist of six members, and it would be unusual to have an executive of seven.
– I do not think so. It has been contended in certain quarters that whilst this board should be as representative as possible of the -whole industry, representation on the executive should be given to the London selling interests, but with that I do not agree. The interests of the London selling agents may at times be in direct conflict with those of the producers, the co-operative concerns, and proprietary companies. I want to be assured that there will not only be a representative of the cooperative interests, but also a representative of the proprietary interests, on the executive. Under the present proposal the executive is to be elected by the board, on which there will be a large preponderance of co-operative interests. Whilst these co-operative interests will be fully alive to the situation, as they undoubtedly will be, full ‘representation should be given to the proprietary interests. If the board is not thoroughly representative, we may have such a conflict of opinion among the various interests that the whole scheme will be defeated. We cannot afford to incur any risks. The board, when appointed, will have a big job ito tackle, particularly on the other side of the world, where, as the Minister has shown, the parties may be in conflict. It will take some time to make arrangements which will be satisfactory not only to the members of the board, but to a majority of the producers in whose interests they will be operating. I trust that we shall be able to secure from the Minister, apart from any provision in the bill, some assurance that the interests of the co-operative concerns and the proprietary companies will be fully conserved. After all, the executive will do the major portion of the business. This body will have to meet frequently to deal with situations which suddenly develop, and it is essential that it should be thoroughly representative of every branch of this important industry. In the interests of the whole scheme, it would not be wise for anything to happen that might jeopardize the proposals put forward in London. When the bill reaches the committee stage, I propose to make certain suggestions, some of which because’ of their inherent soundness, I feel certain will be accepted by the Minister. I regret that this bill has not received the earnest support and cooperation of honor-able senators opposite. When a non-party measure such as this is before us - a measure which is in the interests of the whole community - surely it is not asking too much that it should be examined on its merits, rather than that it should be viewed from any political stand-point. In a measure of this nature we should be above party considerations. I suggest that the second reading of the bill be agreed to. In committee we may be able to amend some of the clauses that seem to need alteration in the interests of the various sections of the industry.
– I agree with Senator Duncan that this is not a party measure. From the criticisms which have emanated from this side of the chamber I have, not gained the impression that it is viewed in any other light. It is the duty of the Opposition to criticise the measures brought forward by the Government - imperfect as they generally are - with a view to making suggestions for their improvement. In supporting the second reading, I notice that this measure is, to some extent at” least, in accordance with the principles of the Labour party. In it I see two or three planks of the Labour party’s platform, which I congratulate the Ministry on adopting. Embodied in the bill I find the principle of the initiative and referendum. The Minister said that representations had been made by producers, and the dairying interests throughout the Commonwealth, and that on those representations the Government had acted. That is the initiative. I find also, in clause 2, that a referendum - a partial one certainly - must be taken before the bill becomes law. In this bill I see also a step in the direction of the socialization, or the nationalization, of the industry. It is an admission that the principle that there shall be no interference with private enterprise, for which the Government and its supporters have stood, has failed in this instance. In times of emergency private enterprise often falls down on the job. This industry has got into such a deplorable condition that if something is not done to resuscitate it, instead of having an exportable surplus, there will be scarcely sufficient to supply the local demand.
– What . interference with private enterprise is contained in this bill?
– A board is to be created to take over the marketing of butter, a work which private enterprise has hitherto performed. That board is to be elected mainly by the directors of co-operative butter and cheese factories.
– That is not government interference.
– It is a step towards the socialization, or the nationalization, of this industry.
– It is industry organizing itself.
– If the private firms now dealing with the matter - particularly in London - were doing the work efficiently and satisfactorily, there would be no interference by the Government. But they having failed, the Government in the interests of the industry is to step in. That places the industry on a national basis. To the extent that I have mentioned, the bill is to be welcomed, but I should prefer that the producers should elect the board in the first place. While the Government should have the right to nominate certain members of the board, its members, for the most part, should be elected by the producers themselves, and not by the direct tors of the co-operative factories. If that were done, there would be no necessity for a vote of producers to be taken later. The board will be rather unwieldy, but as there is a provision in clause 11 for the appointment of an executive of five, who will discharge the main functions of the board, the size of the board itself is of less moment. I understand that the reason for the somewhat unwieldy board is the desire of the Government that all the states shall be represented on it. The main objection which has been raised to the bill is that it may increase the price of butter to the consumers in Australia. I do not think that it will. The object of the measure is not, as some honorable senators imagine, to increase the price of butter. No bill which we may pass here could affect the price of butter in London. The underlying principle of the bill is not to raise the price of butter, but to raise the standard of the butter which is exported, so that it will command the highest price paid in the London market. At present, owing to the large number of brands under which Australian butter is exported, the manipulation of middlemen and exploiters, and because our butter is not equal in quality to that produced in some other countries, we do not receive for it the highest price paid in that market. But, by seeing that only the best quality butter is exported, and that that butter shall be branded accordingly, we shall be able to command the best price paid in the overseas markets. If the position is as I have stated, I fail to see how the price of butter in Australia will be increased. But even if it were increased, I agree with Senator Duncan that we should not sweat the dairy farmer in order to supply a cheaper article to the consumer.
Reference has been made to the improved conditions in the dairying industry made possible by the introduction of milking machines and other machinery. This afternoon I read of an. interview with Mr. Henry Ford in which he stated that, just as mechanical inventions had, to a large extent, done away with horses, so would science ultimately do away with the necessity for cows. He stated that the constituents of milk were known to science, and that it should not be impossible to produce milk without cows. That time has not yet arrived. In the meantime we should endeavour to improve the conditions of the dairy farmers, whose work is both long and arduous, and whose profits are small. To the extent that it will assist them, I welcome the bill. In committee it may be possible to improve it. The various pools which were formed during the war cost the taxpayers of this country a considerable amount, but as the expenses in this case will be met by the producers themselves, the general taxpayers are protected. In clause 14 there is a provision which might operate injuriously; but, as its exercise is optional, its effect might not be so serious. I am supporting the second reading of the bill. It is not a party matter, as Senator Duncan seemed to infer. Labour members in another place treated it as a non-party measure. Some voted for it, and some against it, but the majority favoured the main principle of the hill, and I want to remove the impression in the minds of some honorable senators that Labour, as a whole, is opposed to it. It is an open question with members on this side of the chamber.
– It has been suggested that one reason why the bill should be opposed is because its probable effect will be to increase the cost of butter to the Australian consumer. Like the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat, I do not think it will do that, but even if it did, that would not be a good and sufficient reason for opposition to it by honorable senators on this side. Arbitration Court awards protect the worker in his wages, so that if the cost of living rises, as the result of an increase in the cost of butter following the adoption of this scheme, the workers may appeal to the Arbitration Court for a corresponding increase in wages. I have had some experience in the dairying industry. For many years I followed the occupation of a dairy farmer, so I know some of the disadvantages under which dairymen labour. It is generally recognized as a sweated industry. I do not know of any calling which more nearly approaches conditions of slavery than the dairying industry. Those engaged in it have to toil for sixteen hours a clay for 365 days of the year in order to make ends meetNo section of the community is more deserving of assistance. Returns recently furnished by the Queensland Cooperative Dairy Company at Boonah, one of the largest co-operative dairying concerns in Queensland, showed that the average return to the dairy farmer in 1921 was £4 10s. per week, and in 1923 it was less than £2 10s. per week. In 1921 the society produced 9,312,000 lb. of butter, and in 1924 4,692,000 lb. 6 The ‘total amount paid for, cream in 1921 was £664,925, and in 1923 “£323,808. The average amount paid to each supplier in 1921 was £233 lis., and in 1923 it was £123 6s lid. The average quantity of butter produced from each supplier’s cream in 1921 was 3,271 lb., and in 1923 it was 2,055 lb. The average number of suppliers in 1921 was 2,807, and in 1923 it was 2,283. These figures relate to dairy farmers on some of the richest dairying land in Queensland.’ “When I was in the industry I frequently finished work at midnight, and was up again at 5 o’clock in the morning. Reference has been made to the success of the New Zealand legislation, but as the New Zealand act was only passed in 1923, no one is in a position to say definitely that it has had any material effect on the export trade from the dominion. The strong position of New Zealand on the London market is due, in my opinion, to close attention given in the dominion to the grading of cream and the building up of high class herds. In the debate this afternoon, one honorable senator, by way of interjection, inquired how butter was graded. Butter is not graded at all. Cream is graded at the factory, and first-class cream produces first-grade butter. New Zealand, by permitting the exportation of only first-grade butter, commands very high prices on the London market. If we gave as much attention to the building up of our dairy herds as we- have to the organization of the wool industry, in all probability we should be able to claim that we produce not only the best wool in the world, but’ also the best butter and cheese. Senator Wilson this afternoon suggested’ that my knowledge of the dairying industry was confined to the dairy cattle one sees in the Adelaide park lands. I remind the honorable senator that many of the dairy cows grazing in the park lands of that city would do credit to the best dairy farm in Australia. Some of the best Jerseys in South Australia are to be seen in the Adelaide park lands. It costs no more to keep a well-bred animal than one of mongrel breed. Unfortunately, this fact is not generally recognized by our dairymen. Senator Guthrie, in this chamber some time ago, drew attention to Australia’s unsatisfactory position, and quoted figures in proof of his contention that, speaking generally, the dairy herds in Australia were not nearly so good as they should be. If we wish to be a great butter and cheeseproducing country, we must give close attention to the important factors which I have mentioned. We must aim at a more careful selection of our dairy herds, and pay closer attention to the grading of cream and cheese. There is no reason why Australia should not occupy the front rank as a dairying country. The bill, it is hoped, will give to the dairyman, something approaching London parity for his product. I do not see how any one can possibly object to that. In Australia there are about 150,000 dairymen working long hours on every day of the week for a pittance. Comparatively few of them have a banking account worth speaking about. On the other hand, the men who farm the ‘farmers’ - and they are to be found in every city of the Commonwealth - are doing very well. The middlemen, who fleece, rob, and cheat the farmer, increase their banking accounts, whilst the unfortunate dairy farmer becomes poorer and poorer. A few years ago, in my state, an agent in the butter line died leaving a banking account of £60,000. All along the line the middleman benefits. The consumer gets nothing; tho producer gets about the same. The right thing would have been for the Government to wipe out the middleman, undertake the exporting itself, and give to the primary producer the full results. Middlemen are unnecessary, and are “not wanted on the voyage.” In this measure the Government is giving the dairy farmer a very poor skeleton. A redeeming feature, however, is that the primary producers will be able to decide whether they shall accept or reject the scheme. They expect to gain something from it, and I trust that they will. 1 do not think that any. injury will be done to the consumer. Even if the cost of one-eighth of a penny per 1-lb. that will be incurred to administer the bill is added to the price that the consumer is asked to pay, he will not object if the primary producer benefits. I think that the Government has acted somewhat unfairly towards South Australia. This afternoon, when Senator Benny asked why South Australia is to be given only one representative on the board, the Minister replied, “ South Australia does not produce very much butter for export.” Is the numerical strength of representation of each state on the board .to .be decided according to the number of co-operative or proprietary butter factories in each state? In New South Wales there are 106 cooperative companies and 15 proprietary companies. In Victoria, the numbers are 87 and 66, in Queensland 43 and 3, and in South Australia 10 and 33 respectively. New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland are each to have two representatives, whilst South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania are each to have only one. In Western Australia there are 9 co-operative companies and 1 proprietary company, and in Tasmania there are 15 and 5 . respectively; yet those states will have on the board the same representation that is to be given to South Australia. Judged by the number of its factories, South Australia is entitled to have two members on the board. I hope that the Government will make that provision. If it did so, it would treat South Australia fairly. Senator Gardiner this afternoon said that he supported the bill because it is flavoured with socialization on the one hand and nationalization on the other hand. I do not think that there is a very strong flavour of nationalization about it, because under that policy the profits derived from an industry go to the state. The bill is, however, righly flavoured with socialization, under which policy those who are engaged in any industry have control of it. The Labour party believes in the socialization of industry for that reason. I hope that the bill will meet with the success that it deserves. One honorable senator said that honorable senators on this side are not prepared to support the bill. When he made that statement he had not heard the views of every honorable senator here. There are at least two who will support the motion for the second reading of the bill. We wish the dairy farmers every success, aud hope that the measure will confer a benefit upon them.
– I should not have risen had it not been for the tirade of abuse that was levelled by Senator Foll at unfortunate honorable senators on this side. I am very pleased to think that there is not another honorable senator opposite who would be guilty of such mud-slinging, under cover of supporting this bill. After many years of hard work in the Labour movement, we have been returned to the Senate to represent a class in the community. Senator Foll is an accidental senator, and he should be the last one to throw .mud at honorable senators on this side. He put into Senator Gardiner’s mouth words that that honorable senator did not use, and insulted Sena. tor Needham by saying that some one had prepared the speech that he delivered. He then went on to read his own speech, and, at its conclusion, he sat alongside the Minister, who said, “ A good speech.” If that is the Minister’s idea of a good speech, I have not much respect for his judgment. Senator Foll then rubbed shoulders with other honorable senators on his side, to obtain their appreciation of his wonderful effort on behalf of the Government. Whilst he was speaking, I interjected that the dairy farmers had again returned a Labour Government to power in Queensland, and he said that I was wrong. He abused the Labour party in Queensland for gerrymandering the electorates, and said that but for that the National party would easily have won the elections. Senators Crawford and Sir Thomas Glasgow also expressed their opinions. I do not think that any of those honorable senators had gone to the trouble to find out the details of the poll in Queensland at the last state elections. I have been to the electoral office, and I have in my possession particulars relating to the votes that were polled in every electorate in Queensland.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Sena tor Newland). - Does the honorable senator think that that has any relation to the bill?
– I do not; but, as Senator Foll was allowed to use the expressions that he did,I thought that I should be permitted to refer to these figures. I did not intend to read the whole of them.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator may make a passing reference to them.
– The figures are -
When the Standing Orders permit, I shall place on record the whole of the figures, and put an end to incorrect statements by these blustering, crowing persons from Queensland.
– I shall refute the honorable senator’s figures.
– The honorable senator cannot do it; they have been obtained from the electoral registrar in Queensland, and are accurate in every detail. In this Parliament I do not represent any state ; I represent Australia as a whole. I rose merely to say that if the practice continues of throwing mud at honorable senators on this side, I shall show that I am as capable as anybody of throwing mud and making it stick. As for the bill itself, I do not object to the principle of it. But I do and always shall, object to any legislation that increases the cost of administration, and allows boards to do work that rightly belongs to this Parliament. This is the worst example we have had of that practice. The board to be appointed will have powers that should not be given to any body created by Parliament. It will be a super-Parliament. It will have the right to say to a dairy farmer, “You shall not export your butter unless you obtain a licence from us to do so.” I do not think that the members of the Labour party really approve of this portion of the bill. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) recently stated that politics had reached such a pass that a small sectional party can blackmail the numerically strong National party. I believe that that has been done on this occasion. In another place the Prime Minister accepted an amendment that absolutely destroyed the effect of the bill. When it was accepted the members of the Country party said, “We have wasted our time ; the bill is absolutely valueless.” Mr. Bruce also said that it is impossible to maintain our White Australia policy, or our present standard of living, or to ensure our national safety, unless we increase our population. This is a means by which he desires to increase the population. The Labour party will, under any circumstances, always fight for a White Australia. We say, as Mr. Bruce says, that every man must be a producer. We shall welcome in unlimited numbers our brothers from Great Britain so long as work is found for them when they arrive here. But we object to other persons being brought here whilst unemployment exists. That is our position. It is exactly the same as that taken up by Mr. Bruce, who went on to say -
But it is no use to increase our population unless every individual who enters the country becomes a productive unit.
We say exactly the same. Mr. Bruce is simply carrying out the policy of the Labour movement, that every man who comes to Australia shall become a productive unit. “Unfortunately many people are coming here who do not become productive units. They come here with the idea that they can get a good living and do very little for it. They come with the old idea that they can pick up gold in the streets. Every man who comes to Australia must be prepared, as the pioneers were, to go out into the backblocks and make a home for himself and his family. I am afraid that the men who are coming to Australia to-day are not of that class,, and that, unless the type of immigrant is very much altered, they will not become productive units, but will help to overload our cities. However, it is very interesting to hear a statement like this from the Prime Minister, in view of the fact that his Government are bringing thousands of people to Australia when there are already thousands of unemployed here. Mr Bruce also said -
It may be that this bill is the right step to take to develop the necessary markets abroad, but if it is not, some other steps must be taken, for the problem must be solved.
That is what we say. We think the problem must be solved. But it will not be solved by helping this or that industry in the way the Government proposes. The keynote has been struck by Senator Hoare, who declares that the breed of our dairy cattle is fast deteriorating. Senator Guthrie said the same thing not long ago. The Government must take steps to improve the breed of our herds so that we may be in a position to compete with the people of other countries. The butter and other produce of Argentine can be placed on the breakfast table in Great Britain within four weeks. We have to fight against the handicap of our distance from the world’s markets. We must find means to bring markets closer to us. If we concentrate on something that will counteract the great handicap of the long journey across the seas we shall do something to solve our greatest problem. In another place, Dr. Earle Page said-
The bill now before the House represents the most important advance made in the development of the butter industry since refrigeration was commercialized.
Although Mr. Bruce is uncertain of what the bill will do, Dr. Earle Page appears to he absolutely certain, indicating clearly where the measure has originated. I shall not oppose it if it will improve the conditions of any individual worker in Australia. We are told by Senator Crawford that most dairymen are the owners of the land they work, and they cannot be too badly off if there is a high market value for their land. We hear of very few dairymen going out of business. When the estates of many persons who have been associated with applications to the Commonwealth Parliament for assistance for various industries have been proved for the assessment of probate duties, very often they have been found to be worth £50,000 to £100,000, and in some cases as much as £200,000 or £300,000. None of them are paupers. No doubt Australia has passed through some very strenuous times j but surely with all the bountiful seasons the primary producers have recently enjoyed there should be no need for a bill of this kind. According to the measure butter cannot be exported without a licence issued by the Minister for Trade and Customs. To stifle enterprise on the part of those who are attempting to make good in Australia is wrong. In the issue of licences the Minister will be guided by the recommendation of a board which will consist of outsiders quite beyond Government control. The board can tell any individual that he must hold a licence before he can export butter, but it can also take very good care that he does not get a licence. It is a cruel comment on the industrial life of. Australia that an irresponsible board can tell a man that he must not export his produce unless they license him to do so. One member of the board only is to be chosen by the Commonwealth Government. Six members are to be elected by the directors of co-operative butter factories. They are to be elected not by the down-trodden producers we have heard of to-night, but by managers of factories. I do not think these men should have any voice in the election of a board which is to control a great Australian industry. The principle advanced is not only wrong, but in my opinion corrupt, and one that should never be allowed a footing in a democratic community. One member of the board is to be elected by people outside Australia. What right has any section of people outside Australia to dictate to the Government and the producers of Australia what shall be done with Australia’s butter?* I am not opposed to assisting the dairymen and butter producers of Australia, but I contend that the work should be done by the Government and not by an outside body appointed by persons who are not responsible to this Parliament. In my opinion a Minister of the Crown can control this business more effectively than a board. Dr. Earle Page said -
Up to 1010 dairy production had practically doubled, but in the following decade . . . dairymen were entirely discouraged. The result was stagnation of the industry.
What is the cause of that stagnation? Our Institute of Science and Industry should be able to tell us, and when we find it out we should put something into practice by legislative action, which will effectually prevent the dairying industry from ever becoming stagnant again. Attempts to buttress up the industry with bounties and bills like this are useless. It is like taking one dose of medicine and not repeating it. Every industry will have the right to come to the Federal Government for assistance. Taking the average for the years, from 1912 to 1914, and comparing it with the average for the years from 1920 to 1923, we find that the production of butter has increased by 22 per cent., and the value by 120 per cent. Why is it that the production has only increased by 22 per cent., while the value has increased by 120 per cent.? That is where we have to look for a remedy. Senator Wilson has told us about the people in the Old World who exploit the dairymen of Australia by purchasing shipments of butter, and make fortunes for themselves in a very short time. It is the duty of the Government to prevent that sort of thing, but this bill will not do so. While it may prevent the establishment of a combine overseas, it will at the same time create the strongest possible combine in Australia, which will be in a position to rule the dairying industry with an iron hand. Senator Wilson told us that agents in London mixed good Australian butter with inferior continental butter and sold it as Australian. He was correct in what he said. When I was in London in 1916 I attended a small dinner given by a lady. As her guests were all Australians she had all Australian food oh the table. The mut- ton was as hard as the hobs of a place we have heard of. I could not get my teeth into it. I put some of the butter on my bread, but not too much of it because it was rancid. If that is the stuff sold in London as Australian butter it is time the Government stepped in and took action. But this bill will not provide the proper remedy. The expenses incurred by the board will create a heavy drain on the Commonwealth. The board can travel anywhere it chooses, in order to ascertain what is wrong with the Australian product, and why it cannot compete satisf actorily with that of other countries. If it likes it can go to the Argentine and study the butter export trade there. It has been said that the industry itself will pay all these expenses, but the. bill says that all moneys raised by any levy imposed on the butter and cheese exported must be paid into the Consolidated Revenue, and, according to my reading of it, twice as much as has been paid in can be taken out. I do not think that Senator Wilson could have read the bill when he asserted that such was not the case. I have read the measure carefully, and. I declare that it is the worst that could possibly be conceived for aiding the dairying industry. Senator Foll says that the method proposed to be adopted is not socialism. As a matter of fact, it is exactly the same as the method adopted by the people engaged in the coal trade when they wanted to control the output and export of coal. The difference is only in name. A Council of Action was to be set up in the coal trade to do exactly what is proposed to. be done by this bill for the butter trade. I am in favour of the principle of the bill. I believe that it will help, for the time being at all events, the dairying industry, but I shall always be found opposing provisions that propose to set up new departments for the control of any industry in the Commonwealth.
.The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat has answered many of the objections which he considers the bill con- y tains. Such extraordinary statements have been made by honorable senators opposite that it is not surprising to find a conflict of opinion amongst those who are opposing the bill. Senator McDougall ‘ vigorously denounced the provision under which the board” is to be empowered to issue licences to those exporting dairy produce, and said that the liberty of the individuals would be seriously interfered with. The honorable senator said that those who so desired should be free to export what they wished, but he should remember that the dairying and other industries depend for their support upon the quality of the commodities produced. I have no objections to offer concerning the powers of the board, which, although extensive, are framed to prevent the export of inferior produce. Unless some safeguard is provided, and only commodities of the best quality are sold in the overseas market, the good name of Australia will be seriously impaired. Senator McDougall knows as well as I do that any competent tradesman cannot earn a living unless he is a member of a trades union organization. Under the law of the land he is practically compelled, if he desires to work at his trade in any extensive industrial undertaking, to join a union. In almost every award made by the Arbitration Court preference is given to trades unionists. . If a man does not join a union the members of the trades union organizations endeavour to starve him into submission.
– They do not do anything of the kind.
– They -do.
– The employers go on strike to starve the employees.
– The employers have their interests to protect, and in some instances have to adopt extreme measures. I intend to support the bill, be- cause I believe that to a certain extent the individual has to sink his own interests in order to ensure the welfare of the whole community. The powers to be exercised by the board are not unnecessarily comprehensive. It is only right that it should issue licences to ensure that dairy produce of the best quality is exported. I can recall ‘the conditions under which dairying was first undertaken in Queensland many years ago, when a man possessing a few “ scrubbers “ produced butter- in a very primitive way. Some time later butter factories were established in order to improve the conditions of the dairymen, but for a time they did not meet with success owing to the opposition of the very people whom they were created to assist. As we are now producing more than we can consume, we are faced with the necessity of finding a satisfactory market foi our exportable surplus. Australia’s export trade has been seriously interfered with owing to the inefficient methods employed in packing, the unsatisfactory quality, and the manner in which our products have been presented to the public. The Honorary Minister (Senator Wilson) who investigated the position in Great Britain, has informed the Senate that more than one-half of the trouble experienced in selling our produce overseas is, without any exaggeration, due to the way in- which it has been offered in European markets. Opposition has been shown to the method to be adopted in appointing the members of the board, and particularly to the fact that the directors of co-operative factories are to have representation. Senator McDougall and others who have opposed the composition of the board should remember that the directors of co-operative factories are elected by the shareholders, and are therefore truly representative of the dairymen. The butter pool established during the war period was of great service to dairymen; but, after the representatives of the industry withdrew from the management of the pool, prices collapsed. Dairymen have since been receiving inadequate returns, and the over-production is now so great that there is a difficulty in finding a profitable market. Senator Hoare, who has had some experience in the dairying industry, has mentioned the difficulties under which dairymen operate.- It is well known that those engaged in the industry are always on the job, and that many of them work from 3.30 a.m. until 8 or 8.30 p.m for seven days a week. The work is not continuous, and when’ not actually engaged in the dairy they can undertake other work or have a little recreation, but, generally speaking, the conditions are arduous in the extreme. Dairying is carried on extensively in Queensland, and the Queensland Government has, as the result of the strenuous work of Mr. McGregor, established an agricultural council. Any one who has had anything to: do with the organization of those engaged in the dairying and similar industries knows the difficulties associated with organizing them, even though action is being taken in their own interests. At a representative meeting in Melbourne of those engaged in the industry, and at which certain resolutions were carried, a member of the Country party complimented Mr. McGregor upon the excellent work he had performed in the interests of dairymen. In consequence of the recommendations then made, this measure has now been submitted to Parliament. Hundreds of men in Queensland, who were keeping their farms instead of their farms keeping them are, as a result of the improved conditions which now exist, living in comparative comfort. I know of no industry which offers a man a better chance of setting up for himself. The work is hard, as I have said, but if a man purchases a few head of cattle and a comparatively small block of land, he can, with the aid of his family, engage in dairying with a reasonable prospect of success. If a profitable market for dairy produce is available, employment will be found for immigrants, and land settlement generally will be stimulated. Once the butter industry is properly organized, with cold stores, from which supplies can be taken as required, there will be, in most of the states, unlimited scope for future development. In Queensland we found that dairying and cottongrowing could be combined. No two industries are likely to do so much to settle the undeveloped portions of Australia as the dairying and cotton industries. Butter is one of the necessities of life, but if the effect of this measure will be to make it a little dearer- to the local consumer, he will have to bear that additional cost. The hours worked by the dairyman, and’ the conditions applying to him generally, should at least entitle him to the same consideration that we give to a first class mechanic. The average ‘competent mechanic to-day receives from £6 to £9 per week, but the dairyman in many cases does not receive more than half of that sum. If local prices are increased because of organized exportation making butter scarce here, the wage-earners will have to stand the increase. I have no semples about interfering with the liberty of the individual. I consider that the liberty of the individual must be subordinated to the welfare of the community generally. The dairyman who is in a position to improve his herd, but will not take steps to do so, deserves no consideration. I believe that the effect of this bill will be to enable dairymen to improve their herds. Senators Hoare and McDougall said that Senator Guthrie had stated that our dairy cattle were not what they should be. Senator Guthrie was referring to the ordinary bush cattle. He did not say nor can any one say truthfully, that the dairy herds of Australia have not improved, although I .admit that there is plenty of inferior stock.
– Senator Guthrie said that we had the worst herds.
– I think that Senator Hoare has misunderstood Senator Guthrie’s meaning. He was referring to bush cattle. Those who are acquainted with the dairying industry know that the quality of the herds has improved. It has been the poverty of the dairymen which, in many cases, has kept the quality so low. So far as the ordinary cattle running in the back country are concerned, there is no doubt that they have deteriorated. By establishing the dairying industry on a proper basis, the dairyman will soon learn that it pays to keep the best stock. He will find that his output will increase, and that the better cattle will not eat any more feed or take longer to milk. The better the quality of the stock the better the returns. If the dairying industry of Australia is placed on a proper basis, there will be’ no trouble in finding a market for its products. Once it is known that the Australian brand stands for good quality, our butter will command as good a price as Danish butter. I trust that in committee the bill will be altered to include exports to the East, as there should be a good outlet there. If those, countries desire inferior butter, let them have it, but it should be clearly marked as being inferior. We should, however, endeavour to send the best butter possible to all markets.
.- There cannot be two opinions that Australia’s prosperity depends, to a great extent, on her exportable surpluses, and on good markets, and good prices being found for those surpluses. Good markets and good prices are not - being found at present for those commodities which Australia produces in abundance. The reason for that should be apparent to every honorable senator. There has been a world war -ra war which has impoverished victor and vanquished alike. It is largely because of the war that difficulties beset the primary producers in this and every country which was engaged in that war.
– We were always in trouble with our butter.
– In Great Britain to-day there is as big an army of unemployed as has ever existed in the history of that country. When that state of affairs exists, the consumption of commodities decreases considerably. The great army of unemployed in Britain is due to her trade having been seriously affected by the war. The whole of Europe is impoverished. The other nations of Europe cannot buy from Britain because Britain cannot sell to them. Hence we have armies of unemployed, among not only the victorious, but also the vanquished nations. The impoverishment of Europe seriously affects every primary producer in Australia. Europe’s prosperity means Australia’s prosperity. The stabilization. of the butter industry will not solve this problem. The stabilization of credit will do more to assist Australia than anything else. Not until the restoration of credit will the outlook improve to any extent. Not until then will the vast army of unemployed find employment - and until they find employment there will not be a much better market for our commodities. According to a report of a meeting of those interested in this industry, negotiations were carried on with the Prime Minister with a view to the stabilization of the butter industry. Apparently, there were conferences, but those who were carrying on the negotiations with the Prime Minister were disappointed. They anticipated something different from the bill now before us. According to the press reports, they were not only disappointed, but they said that the bill that we now have before us was hardly recognizable as omboying the propositions that they had placed before’ the Government. One who had attended the meeting to which I have referred, said that he had listened to the speeches which up to that time had been delivered on the bill in another place, and, that all that the producers had obtained was sympathy. He added that they would probably have to be satisfied with that. Those interested in the industry are not en thusiastic about this bill. Indeed, according to the newspaper reports, they would not shed many tears over its diefeat. However, the Minister in charge of it takes a somewhat optimistic view of the effects that will, follow the passing of the measure. He said that it was a step in the right direction. In what direction is it a right step ? If we strip the bill of the board which it creates, it becomes worthless. By what means is that board to be created? It is to be elected, in the manner prescribed in the bill. Seeing that we have passed a measure providing for compulsory voting in connexion with future federal elections, I asked the Minister whether that principle will apply to the elections to create the board. It should ‘be tried. It is important to the dairying industry that every vote shall be recorded, either for or against the proposal. If, when the poll is taken, there is a majority of one in f favour of it, the board ‘ will be created. Similarly, if there is a majority of one against the creation of the board, it will not be created, and the act will not operate. The states which are most interested in this measure are Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. To a limited extent, South Australia is interested also, but neither Western Australia nor Tasmania is, in this connexion, worth much consideration, as they are not butter exporters to any great extent.
– They are- not butter exporters.
– As this bill is to deal with the export of buttery it does not greatly affect them.. It has been stated that this measure has little or nothing to do with the control of butter for home consumption, but with that view I do not agree. When this board1 is created, certain expenses will be incurred. Those expenses will be met by those engaged in the industry. There is nothing in the bill to show what levy will be imposed upon each pound of butter produced. The dairymen will not whole-heartedly consent to the imposition of a tax of Id. per lb. upon every 1 lb. of butter they produce for export unless they are satisfied that they are going to get it back with something added. It is anticipated that the dairy farmers will get considerably more than the levy which they will have to pay. In what way will they get it? The Minister baa supplied the answer. He said to-day that the export trade was not conducted on what he would call business lines, and that it should bewholly and solely controlled by the executive of the board, which would regulate the supplies. To use his own language, instead of glutting the market, the board will feed it. In other words, the board will only export at what it considers the psychological moment, that is to say, when the London price is high. If it be true that Australian prices are regulated by London parity, then it follows that if prices are high in London, prices will also be high in Australia. If the butter producers are not likely to reap an advantage in this way, why has the Government introduced the bill?
– To “ rig “ the market.
– I do not say that, because the Government will have little or nothing to do with the business. The business will be handed over entirely to a board. I thought that this Government stood for individual liberty, for private enterprise, and freedom of trade. Apparently, that policy is to be thrown overboard now and for ever. If one may judge by this bill, the Government does not stand for individual liberty or freedom of trade. It stands for compulsion and coercion.
– Good unionistic principles. The honorable senator knows that, surely.
– We, on this side of the chamber, believe in inducing, by moral suasion, men to join our respective organizations, which now exercise power and influence in the community. The Government, we have been told, stands for private enterprise, and until “recently we were led to believe that it stood for liberty of action and freedom of trade. No longer can it make this claim, because clause 16 of the bill reads as follows : -
Any person who
exports dairy produce from the Commonwealth” in contravention of any proclamation under this act; or
being the holder of a licence under the last preceding section contravenes or fails to comply with any term or condition under which the licence was granted, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penally : One hundred pounds.
It follows, then, that, if this bill becomes law, no factory, no person, and no firm in Australia interested or engaged in the butter industry, so far as the export trade is concerned, may carry on trade in the old way. A man may have built up a big business overseas; he may have established a good connexion : his goodwill may be worth a considerable amount of money. This will no longer remain to him. It will be handed over to a board, and he will have to obtain the approval of the board before he can export a pound of butter, or else be liable to a fine of £100. This is a new way of doing business from the point of view of this Government. I do not know how the men engaged in the industry will view the bill.
– The producers will have a vote, and be able to say whether or not they approve of the bill.
– The Minister told us that when he was in London he noticed that various methods were adopted for the disposal of Australian butter in. England. I think he said that there were approximately 453 different brands. That proves nothing.
– It is disastrous to the Australian trade.
– The same remark could be applied to the trade in Australia. Many people prefer a distinctive brand, because they know the district in which that butter is produced. Our butter is exported in 56-lb. boxes. When it reaches London it is sold to blenders, who mix it with butters from other countries and sell it in rolls under certain. distinctive names. Many of these large firms have established a big trade for their particular brands of butter. If the board is to undertake control of our export trade, in what way will it, with the aid of the London agency to be created later, compete against the London houses referred to? In whatway will the board ensure the exportation of a better article? At present there is an embargo on the export of butter of inferior quality. All butter has to undergo’ supervision and pass a test. There is nothing in the bill to say that the board shall be clothed with power to see that in future butter exported shall be of a certain standard. It is true that the dairymen of Australia have had a bad time. Those engaged in the industry work excessively long hours for unsatisfactory returns. There is as much sweating on the land to-day, in some spheres of primary production, as there was in the secondary industries prior to the passing of factories and arbitration laws. The share-farming system, to which Senator Grant referred, has been responsible for a certain amount of this sweating. In some districts there is keen competition between families for land to be worked on the sharesystem. The whole of the members of a family join in the working of such a farm. If they were engaged in another occupation, their returns would be much better. In my opinion, it is not so much the low price of butter that is affecting the man on the land to-day, as the high price which he has to pay for land. Land is valued according to what it can produce. In the dried fruits industry also, difficulty has been experienced because of the high prices that have been paid for the land.
– This bill will still further increase the price of land.
– If the price of butter is increased, it will be only a matter of time when the price of land also will rise, How, then, will the man on the land derive any advantage from the measure? I want it to be understood that we on this side are keenly interested in the welfare of the primary producer,- and want him to get a fair return for his labour. Whilst this measure may give him temporary relief, no one can say that it is a solution of the difficulties with which he is confronted. If the exportation of butter were undertaken by the Government, in conjunction and co-operation with the Government in Great Britain, the producers and consumers would be brought closer together, and much expense would be eliminated. A better price could then be obtained, and the consumers would be more satisfied. The difficulties are not insurmountable. It is a matter that the Government should undertake. It is well to understand that this is a distinct departure from the policy that the Government placed before the people when it was seeking their support at the last elections. Whether it will meet with the approval of those for whom it is intended, only the future can disclose. Those who require something practical to be done are not satisfied with it. On the other hand, the Government believes that it is astep in the right direction, and will be of advantage to. those who are seeking assistance. Now that the Government has adopted this policy, we do not know where it will stop. Apparently, any section of the community that for the moment is in financial difficulty can get the ear of the Government, which puts its conscience in its pocket and says, “We will get over the difficulty by creating a board.” We shall have a further opportunity to discuss the matter when the Government brings down the supplementary measure.
– The speeches to which we have listened have been varied in character, and some of them so contradictory that I am unable to decide in which way certain honorable senators will vote. I still believe, however, that the majority will support the bill. I realize that its success will depend upon those who administer it. If the board gives close personal attention ‘ to its work, I believe we shall get over many of the difficulties to which I referredwhen introducing the bill. We do not anticipate that we shall be able to accomplish everything, but we do say that the producers are entitled to receive the protection that they seek. It would be impossible to consult personally every primary producer, but the Government has obtained the views of the organizations that represent them. The questions that have been raised during the debate I shall answer in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea - Ordinances of 1924 -
No. 32-Supply . (No. 2) 1924-26.
No. 33- Transfer of Land Control (No. 2).
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Wilson) read a Bret time.
– I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I do not think it will be necessary to ask honorable senators to sit on Tuesday. The progress that we are making is such that I think we can dispense with Tuesday as a sitting day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1924/19240925_senate_9_109/>.