9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General if he will have inquiries made to discover the reason for a very serious delay in the delivery of an important telegram forwarded to Adelaide from this city ? It took sixteen and a half hours from the time of its dispatch to its delivery. I hand the honorable gentleman the papers necessary to have an inquiry made.
– I shall beglad to meet the honorable member’s wishes.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, in connexion with the federal grant for the supply of wire netting to settlers, repayments will be allocated for further purchases, ox, is any other method of assisting purchasers proposed?
– I am considering sympathetically the question raised by the honorable member, and also by other honorable members and honorable senators of this Parliament. I hopeina short time that some conclusion on the subject will be arrived at.
– I ask the Treasurer when the supplementary estimates for works for the Post and Telegraph department will be brought down.
– They will be brought down before the House rises, probably next Tuesday.
– I ask the Treasurer when he intends to table the Superannuation Bill ? Honorable members would like to have an opportunity to consider it.
– The Superannuation Bill will be tabled in due course, and honorable members will have plenty of time to discuss it.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has yet received a report from the Customs officer who investigated the industrial position at Port Kembla?
– No, not yet.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1.Sixteen.
Nine are held in abeyance at the request of taxpayers;
One has lapsedbecause the company did not desire to proceed;
One has been settled by a decision of the High Court in another case;
Three have been determined wholly or largely in favour of the taxpayer on consideration of additional information produced, or after consultation with the Crown Law authorities.
The remaining two cases are in course of preparation for transmission to the court.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. Yes.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
ask asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
If such rights are sold -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The right to advertise in the Sydney and Mel bourne directories has been disposed of. Tenders were publicly invited in the usual manner. 3. (a) £10,852 per annum; Mr. E. H. O’Brien, Union House, George-street, Sydney.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Ex-Soldier Mental Cases
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will forthwith lay upon the table of the House Determination No. 48 of 1924 made by the Public Service Arbitrator in the case of the Postal Sorters’ Union of Australia ?
– Action has been taken to lay this determination on the table of the House to-day.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– It is the practice of the Department to send a grader to Newcastle at least once a week immediately the butter export season opens inNew South Wales. Usually the season opens about the 1st November, but this year the season is approximately a month earlier, and the grader will as usual visit Newcastle at least once a week immediately the season opens.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) asked whether the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Western Australian Government, with regard to the care of the mentally afflicted soldiers in Western Australia had yet been completed; and, if so, when would the construction of the proposed new home be commenced. I wish to inform him that to-day a telegram has been received from the Western Australian Government, stating that the Premier desires the agreement altered in several directions. We have now wired to Western Australia for particulars of the desired alterations.No action has yet been taken to commence the new home.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Lease of Land to Mosman Golf Club
– On Tuesday last I promised the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) that inquiries would be made in regard to an apparent discrepancy in the term of the lease to the Mosman Golf Club of land at Middle Head, New South Wales. I find on investigation that the particulars given by me in the House on the 3rd September, in reply to a question asked on the subject by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) are correct in every respect. In the gazettal of the lease a clerical error was made, the period being shown as two years instead of 21. This matter had already been brought under notice, and steps had been taken to adjust the notification. The correction will appear in this week’s Commonwealth Gazette.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (‘Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 48 of1924- Postal Sorters’ Union of. Australia.
No. 49 of 1924- Telephone Officers’ Association .
No. 51 of 1924- Legal Professional Officers’ Association.
No. 52 of 1924- Professional Officers’ Association.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Toowong, Queensland.
It is proposed to erect a telephone exchange building at Toowong, Queensland, on a site which has been acquired at the corner of Church-street and Kensingtonterrace, and to install therein an automatic telephone switching system having an initial equipment of 2,000 subscribers’ lines, and an ultimate capacity of 4,000 lines. It is also ‘intended to install heating, ventilating, dehumidifying, compressed air cleaning, vacuum cleaning, and air-washing plant. The Toowong area is at present served by a manual non-multiple magneto switchboard, which, because of building limitations, cannot be extended to give service beyond July, 1927. It is therefore necessary to erect a new building, and to install therein a modern telephone exchange plant, which will render a more efficient service to existing and prospective subscribers in that area. The annual revenue, based on the actual or estimated number of subscribers’ lines connected on the undermentioned dates, is as follows: -
The proposed building will be a singlestory structure of simple design. . The estimated cost of the scheme, excluding the cost of the site - £920 - is as under -
In accordance with the requirements of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act, I lay on the table the plans of the proposed building.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to ratify an agreeement made by the Governments of the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales and Queensland for the construction of a standard-gauge railway between South Brisbane, in Queensland, and Kyogle, in New South Wales. Proposals for the unification of the gauges of the Australian railways have occupied the attention of this Parliament and the people for a very long time. Owing to the gradual development of the states and the fact that all had sovereign powers, and that in the early days they had very little intercommunication, each adopted its own railway system without much consideration of the possibility that some day all the railways throughout Australia would be linked up in one great system. No attention was paid to the value of uniformity of gauge with a view to future developments, and the result is that to-day the Commonwealth is, in respect of railway communication, divided into so many compartments. In Victoria and South Australia the gauge is 5 ft. 3 in., in New South Wales 4 ft. 8½ in., and in Western Australia and Queensland 3 ft. 6 in. Proposals for the adoption of a uniform gauge assumed a practical aspect in May, 1920, when a conference was held between the then Prime Minister and the Premiers of the states for the purpose of initiating some action which would lead to the adoption of a standard gauge and a basis of gradual conversion. No decision having been arrived at, a further conference was held in July of the same year, when it was resolved that a commission should be appointed to investigate the problem and advise as to the standardization and unification of railway gauges. The conference resolved that the Commonwealth and the states should agree to abide by the decision of that tribunal, and that the Commonwealth should bear one-fifth of the total cost of any scheme adopted, the remaining four-fifths to be shared upon a per capita basis by the five states concerned. The two experts who formed the commission were brought from America and Great Britain, andin September, 1921, they submitted a unanimous recommendation that 4 ft.8½ in. should be the standard gauge for Australia. They estimated that the general conversion of all existing lines to that gauge would cost £57,200,000, and that the provision of gauge lines linking the capital cities and the conversion of the broad gauge lines of Victoria and South Australia would cost £21,600,000. The latter scheme was recommended by the commission and strongly advocated by the Commonwealth Government of that time. The commission’s report was considered at conferences between Commonwealth and State Ministers in November, 1921, and January, 1922. A discussion took place regarding the possibility of adopting an alternative to conversion, but the commission had reported quite definitely that the laying of a third rail or any other mechanical device would not be efficient, and that expenditure upon any expedient of that kind as a means of avoiding the cost of conversion would be unwarranted. Eventually the conference agreed that the adoption of a uniform gauge was essential to the development and safety of the Commonwealth, and unanimously accepted the recommendation that 4 ft. 8½ in. should be the national gauge. That decision represented a considerable advance, because hitherto it had been impossible to secure agreement between the states as to what should be the standard gauge. It was hoped that the conference’s adoption of the commission’s report had settled the point for all time, but no results flowed from the decision, because no agreement could be arrived at as to how and when the work of conversion should be undertaken. That was the state of affairs when the present Government came into office. It regarded a uniform gauge as vitally necessary, and was of opinion that a start must be made to bring about a gradual conversion to the standard gauge, but having regard to the burden of debt which the great war had placed on the shoulders of the Australian people, it was thought that the time was not opportune for heavy expenditure upon conversions which would merely increase the capital and interest charges upon existing systems. The Government, therefore, decided that immediate action should be confined to the building of lines on the standard gauge, which would develop new country, dovetail into the general system of conversion recommended by the commission, and have a prospect of earning interest within a reasonable time. The section which was selected as the first to receive such attention was that between Kyogle and South Brisbane. There appears to be an impression in some quarters that the Kyogle to South Brisbane project is a conception of the present Government, and that the commission only contemplated the conversion of existing lines, and not the building of new ones. I wish to dissipate that idea. The Kyogle to South Brisbane railway was the subject of one of the recommendations of the commission. It formed part of the estimate of £21,600,000 and was, in fact, the section which the commission advised should be first put in hand.
– Even before the conversion of the Port Augusta to Adelaide section 1
– Yes. The Government also placed before the Premiers’ Conference a proposal for the construction of a line from a point in New South Wales, to connect with the east-west transcontinental railway at Port Augusta. Such a line would open up new country. and give a through connexion from. Brisbane to Kalgoorlie, and eventually - when the Kalgoorlie to Perth section was converted to the standard gauge - to the western coast. At the same time, the Government proposed to put before the conference a further recommendation of the commission, that a new line should be built linking Port Augusta with Adelaide. These proposals would, we thought, be a very definite step towards the gradual conversion of the Australian railways to a standard gauge, and, at the same time, open up new territories, instead of merely adding to the capital and interest charges upon lines already constructed, and operating in areas that were more or less developed. The proposal to connect Port Augusta and Hay had to be abandoned because the then Premier of South Australia said that he would not permit one yard of line to be put down in the territory of that State.
– Was that Sir Henry Barwell?
– Yes. At the conference in 1923 no finality could be reached. The States of Queensland and New South Wales were in favour of the proposals, and Western Australia was inclined to be favorable to them, but Victoria and South Australia refused to have anything, to do with them. It then became necessary to consider what action should be f-aken. The authorities of South Australia and Victoria are entitled to hold their own views in connexion with the unification scheme, but we cannot allow a great scheme for the eventual conversion of the railways of Australia to the standard gauge to be held up because proposals for giving effect to it are thought not to be in the interest of certain states. The subject has to be regarded from a national point of view. The Commonwealth Government, accordingly, negotiated with the Governments of New South Wales and Queeusland with a view to carrying out the proposal that had been put forward, the building of a line from Kyogle to Brisbane. I have yet to learn that there is any serious opposition to this work, but there is the fear in some parts of Australia that, when it has- been completed, the line from Hay to Port Augusta will be built, and that the southern parts of Australia will then be disconnected from the standard gauge transcontinental line, to their disadvantage. The opposition to the Kyogle-Brisbane proposal is due, not to any demerit of the proposal, but because of certain other proposals that are linked with it. Negotiations, which went on for some time, with the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, were conducted on the understanding that a railway of standard gauge should he laid between Kyogle and South Brisbane, and that the existing line between Grafton and Kyogle should be re-graded and re-laid to bring it up to the prescribed standard. Finally, the agreement was arrived at which ie embodied in the schedule to the bill now before the House. The three governments concerned have undertaken to submit this agreement to their respective Parliaments, and endeavour to have it ratified as soon as possible without alteration. I understand that the necessary measure was introduced into the Queensland Parliament yesterday, and that a similar bill will in the near future be placed before the Parliament of New South Wales. The estimated cost of the line is £3,500,000. Under the agreement the Commonwealth is to pay onefifth of the cost, plus the sums which Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia would have contributed if they had joined in the scheme, and New South Wales and Queensland are to pay towards four-fifths of the cost in the proportions in which their populations compare with the total population of the mainland. The Commonwealth will pay the interest on the amount for which it is responsible, and New South Wales and Queensland will pay interest on their shares.
– What is the Commonwealth’s total liability?
– About £1,963,000. Its one-fifth share of the cost will be £700,000, and it will pay on behalf of Victoria £819,000, of South Australia £267,000, and of Western Australia £177,000. The basis on which the Commonwealth is undertaking this obligation for three of the states is that if at any future date they should agree to participate in the general scheme for the conversion of the railways of Australia to the standard gauge, they will then meet this obligation themselves. I am certain that at some future time all the states will have to take part in such a scheme, but it is impossible to wait for a general agreement before proceeding with the undertaking. The earnings of the railway in excess of the working expenses will be used to defray the interest on the capital invested. The first charge will be for interest on the amount representing the sum which the States of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia . would have had to meet had they been parties to the arrangement. Then interest on the amount contributed by New South Wales and Queensland will be paid, and finally interest on the direct contribution of the Commonwealth. The length of lino to bo built in Queensland is 70 miles, and in New South Wales 27 miles. The expenditure will be approximately £1,657,000 in New South Wales, and £1,843,000 in Queensland. The country through which the line will pass is well watered, and should be capable of very considerable development. It is mountainous in parts, and the work presents considerable engineering difficulties, which accounts for its high cost per mile. But in addition to the 97 miles of new line to be built, 85 miles of existing line between North Grafton and Kyogle, now laid with 60-lb. rails and with little ballasting, is to be re-graded, re-ballasted, and laid with 80-lb. rails. That is included in the total cost. The New South Wales North Coast line stops at South Grafton, and so far no bridge has been constructed over the Clarence there. It was not contemplated by the royal commission that the building of that bridge would be a charge on the unification system, and the Commonwealth Government took the view that as the New South Wales Government would inevitably have to build it to continue its own railway line, it should bear the cost of it. After considerable discussion the New South Wales Government accepted that view, and has undertaken to have the bridge ready by the time this line is constructed. The necessity for commencing the unification of our railway system appears to me too obvious to need stressing. The Australian states are at present in separate compartments when railway traffic has to be handled. If one state is unable to cope with its traffic for the time being, it is impossible for any other state to make rolling-stock temporarily available to it, although such a course would be very desirable. Then, of course, it must be apparent that our railway systems would be of very much greater service to us in drought periods if they were uniform. In the 1920 drought we had an experience of the difficulties which a break in the railway gauge causes. In that year there was a serious drought in New South Wales, and an abundance of fodder in Victoria, and strenuous efforts were made to bring live stock into Victoria from New South Wales, and to send fodder from Victoria into New South Wales. But owing to the break of gauge at Albury the congestion in railway traffic became so acute that at one time over 800 trucks of fodder were approaching or waiting at the border. Instead of the transhipment of fodder and live stock taking only a few days it occupied weeks in some cases, which meant that the fodder sent into New South Wales cost the already hardpressed graziers a great deal more than would have been the case had there been no break of gauge. It has been stated that the losses incurred in one serious drought would amount to a sum more than sufficient to cover the cost of the conversion of our whole railway system. Personally, I think that that somewhat overstates the case, but there can be no doubt that the losses incurred by droughts could be greatly minimized by a uniform railway gauge. It is also important that we should unify and standardize our railways for defence purposes.It is not necessary for me to enlarge upon that aspect of the subject. The construction of a line from Kyogle to South Brisbane would shorten the distance of the railway journey from Sydney to Brisbane by about 100 miles, and would reduce the travelling time by about seven hours. On the present route trains go to a point on the New England range as high as 4,500 feet. Considerable economies could be effected in the working of the traffic, and reductions could be made in freight charges and passenger fares if the necessity for that heavy haulage were removed. It cannot be doubted that the construction of this line would lead to a large increase in the present traffic in fruit, vegetables, and perishable goods from Victoria and New South “Wales to Queensland, for the goods could be put in coldstorage trucks at the Murray, and left in them until they reached their destination. A working survey of the route has been completed from South Brisbane to the New South Wales border, and the survey is now being put in hand on the New South Wales side. Immediately the necessary legislation has been passed by the three Parliaments concerned a railway council of representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland will be established, and will assume general control and supervision of the work. I am confident that if we take this first step towards the unification of our railway gauges the people will realize that we are serious, and a move for general unification will soon follow. The Government made representations to the Premiers’ Conference last year that as the unification of our railway system was inevitable a railway council of representatives of the Commonwealth Government and all the State Governments should be formed immediately to consider all proposals for the extension of railway lines in the Commonwealth, with a view to ensuring that the permanent way, tunnels, bridges, and so on, of such lines as might be involved in a general conversion scheme should be such as to minimize the subsequent general conversion costs. The unification of our railway gauges cannot be deferred forever. Other countries have had to face this problem and so have we. The United States of America once had thirteen different railway systems, and I do not think that any one looking back to-day would adverselycriticize those responsible for the unification of them. The longer we delay unification the greater will be the cost. If honorable members care to look into the history of this matter they will find that the estimated cost of conversion is now ten times the original estimate.
– Will this agreement oblige the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland to complete the general scheme? For instance, if an agreement can be made between the Commonwealth Government and the South Australian Government, for the building of a 4ft. 8½ in. line from Adelaide to Port Augusta, will the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland be compelled to participate in the cost of the scheme?
– Unfortunately there is no general scheme, but the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland have agreed to a basis for a general scheme of conversion, and if the next step in the general conversion should be the building of a line from Port Augusta to Adelaide the Governments of those States will participate in it on the basis set out in this agreement.
– And would the Government of South Australia then contribute to the cost of this scheme ?
– -It would have to do so before any agreement would be made with it for the construction of a line in its territory.
Debate (on motion by Mr. E. Riley) adjourned.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is primarily for the purpose of giving effect to the Government’s proposals to raise the general income taxation exemption from. £200 to £300. As this exemption diminishes by £1 for every £3 by which the income exceeds £300, the proposal will benefit all persons in receipt of net incomes up to £1,200, or 96 per cent, of the total number of taxpayers. A further object of the bill is to give effect to the proposals of the Government to exempt from income taxation the profits derived from gold-mining operations in Australia, and to repeal those provisions of the principal act that relate to taxes on lotteries, thus permitting the State of Tasmania to re-impose and collect for its own benefit the tax previously collected by the Commonwealth. The opportunity is also taken in the bill to amend certain machinery clauses with a view to making the law more effective and to carry out more fully the intention of Parliament. It is a billthat can best be discussed in committee, and although it appears to be a very formidable document, it does not contain many vital principles. Clause 2 restores the powers conferred upon the Commissioner of Taxation by the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-21, re-asserts the rights, privileges, liabilities, and obligations of taxpayers, and restores the revenue under that act in respect of all assessments for tax for the financial years prior to the financial year 1921-22. This is necessary because in 1922 all the previous acts were repealed. The first part of clause 4 gives effect to the expressed intention of Parliament last year to make the option given to the holders of live stock, once it had been exercised, irrevocable. It was thought that the words used on the previous occasion did that, but it is now clear that they did not. The clause will place the matter beyond doubt. Clause 4 also deals with the taxation of bonus shares distributed out of current profits, and ensures that effect shall be given to the intention of Parliament. It sets out more fully than was done in the original act the methods by which non-taxable bonus shares can be distributed. Clause 5 deals with section 17 of the principal act, and is inserted for the purpose of excluding from the operation of that section practically all transactions except those agreed to on a “ walk-in walk-out “ basis. It was found that under the original act breeding stock could be sold, and not brought to account for the purpose of assessing income taxation. Section 21 of the 1922 act, which consolidated the taxation laws of this country, dealt with the distributed profits of companies. The object was to prevent the evasion of taxation by shareholders, and the formation of holding companies for the sole purpose of defeating the taxation laws. Provisions to carry out this intention are included in paragraphs 2a and 2b of clause 6. I shall explain these provisions more fully when the bill is in committee. Clause 7 deals with depreciation. Its object is to allow the obsolescence of machinery to be taken into account in assessing income taxation. The final clauses are machinery clauses fixing the exact time when the amendments proposed by this bill are to come into operation.
– Under which clause is the time for the payment of the tax extended to 60 days?
– That is dealt with in clause 11. The honorable member for Perth raised this question last year when the amalgamation of the federal and state income tax offices was proposed. One assessment notice was then provided for, and it was pointed out that it might frequently happen, as in fact it did, that the two taxes, federal and state, would fall due at practicallythe same time. Under clause 11 of this bill, the time for the payment of the tax after receipt of notice of assessment will be extended from 30 to 60 days. This will provide that 60 days shall intervene between the dates on which the two taxes will become liable and must be paid.
Debate (on the motion of Mr. Scullin) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Deputy’s message) :
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to amend the Income Tax Collection Act 1923.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first time.
– (Cowper- Trea
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Income Tax Collection Act, passed in August of last year. Honorable members may remember that the introduction of that measure was necessary upon the amalgamation of the Commonwealth and state income tax staffs. Its object was to provide for compensation to officers for whom employment could not be found, by reason of the economies thus effected. During the discussion of the measure, I made the statement that as regards returned soldiers, temporarily employed at the time in the Commonwealth Taxation Office, an examination would be held to enable those who had not previously had an opportunity to do so, to sit for an examination, and if they passed it they were to be entitled to the same treatment as government servants permanently employed. During the consideration of the measure, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked me whether certain soldiers who had failed because or war disabilities would be given a similar right, andI told the honorable member that they would. Since that time I understand that only two returned soldiers temporarily employed, and coming within that category, have been retired. Both of these men went into other state employment However, because of economies which are anticipated by reason of the raising of the taxation exemption and the consequent smaller number of assessments that will have to be dealt with it is possible that further reductions in the staff will be made. It has. been found that the Public Service Board has not the power to hold a public service examination for any purpose other than that of qualifying for actual employment in the Public Service. The bill will give power to the Public Service Board to hold examinations for the express purpose of enabling these returned soldiers, temporarily employed, to sit for examination, and on passing the examination they will become entitled to compensation under the act. The bill also deals with the case of taxation officers whose employment may be terminated as a result of the further economies that it is expected will take place. It is proposed that they shall be brought under the compensation scheme. It is felt that they are in a special position by reason of the fact that they have been transferred to the State service. Because of the increase in the taxation exemption, and the economies likely to follow, the services of these officers may no longer be required. In such a case, their position will be practically on all fours with that of the officers who were retrenched last year, for whose compensation the act passed last year was introduced. The purposes of this bill is to include those officers amongst those entitled to compensation.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Anstey) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17th Septem ber (vide page 4412), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I have much pleasure in addressing myself to this bill, and in giving it my support, because, although it does not contain all that I desire, it is a step in the right direction. The question of the marketing of dairy produce is of vital importance to thousands of people engaged in the dairying industry throughout Australia.
– Order ! The honorable member will permit me. It is, unfortunately, becoming common to conduct loud conversations within the chamber. It will be my business in future to see that such conversations are conducted outside the chamber.
– Any measure having for its object the assistance of the dairying industry should receive the serious and favorable consideration of thisHouse. I hope that in the course of the debate the Government will receive suggestions as to the further steps which it should take to assist the industry. I am sorry that this bill is not sufficiently comprehensive. It does not deal with the whole of the problems confronting the dairying industry. It is necessary that the question of marketing, not only the onethird of the products of the industry that are exported, but also the twothirds of its products locally consumed should be dealt with. With a view to inducing the Government to reconsider the matter, I intend to move for the appointment of a tribunal, whose businessit will be to fully investigate the conditions of the industry and to fix a reasonable price for interstate trade.
– The honorable member would kill the industry.
– I disagree with the honorable member. I say that the dairy farmers of Australia have nothing to fear from an inquiry.
– They would have a great deal to fear from a tribunal that would fix prices.
– I disagree with the honorable gentleman, and in reply I say that only six weeks ago* representatives of the dairying industry throughout Australia were unanimous in requesting the establishment of a tribunal.
– A tribunal of inquiry?
– Yes, an inquiry into the conditions of the whole industry, and to decide what would be a fair return to the dairy farmers. The dairy farmers of Australia have no desire to obtain anything to which they are not entitled They are prepared to put all their cards on the table. The Arbitration Court holds its proceedings in public, and the Tariff Board will do so> in future, in pursuance of a decision arrived at in this chamber a couple of nights ago. People object to concessions obtained in a back-door way, and without knowing the facts are ready to suspect that they are not justified, but the dairy farmers are prepared to put their case publicly before a tribunal, because they know that they have a very good one. It must be admitted that many things in connexion with the dairying industry require to be considered. I have evidence to show that the dairy farmers will have no difficulty in proving that they are deserving of a better return for their labour, and that many of them are not now receiving a living wage. The request for a tribunal was made to the Prime Minister by the dairymen of Australia.
– Not in the way in which the honorable member has put it.
– Yes, absolutely. I have before me the request as originally submitted to the Prime Minister. It was in these terms -
That the Federal Government be asked to take urgent steps to introduce a bill to create a hoard for the purpose of controlling the interstate and overseas marketing of dairy, produce. That such bill provide for the election of a board to control interstate and overseas trade in dairy products.
The Prime Minister, in reply, pointed out that -
In view of the Prime Minister’s statement, the proposals originally outlined were reconsidered by the representatives of the dairymen, and it was decided to make provision for a comprehensive scheme so as to meet his objections. He suggested to them that, in order to im- prove the conditions of the industry, they should consider the appointment of a tribunal, consisting of representatives of the producers and consumers, with an independent chairman.
– That statement is not quite correct. I said that the Government would not even consider the scheme unless the dairymen did something of that sort. I would not even consider whether the Government would be prepared to participate in it.
– The proposal provided for the appointment of a federal board to control the export of butter, in order that control should be exercised over the sale of Australian dairy products in Great Britain; for state boards under the control of the state governments; and for the appointment of a tribunal to fix the basic price of dairy products for the interstate trade. The Government has not seen fit to favorably consider the industry as a whole. It is regrettable that a bill such as this, its object being to Assist the dairymen, will not benefit them to ally extent for the next two years.
– That is not so, because, when the bill is passed, they will get an immediate benefit.
– I am not discussing this subject without knowing something about it. The New Zealand act was passed in 1923, and it has not yet commenced to function properly. A board has been appointed, and it is still carrying out its investigations and preliminary organization. Honorable members know that the operations of the wealthy speculative agencies in London cannot be upset in a week, a month, or a year.
– The New Zealand act will not operate until October of this year.
– The Prime Minister stated that the bill, when passed, would give some immediate benefit to the dairy farmers, who are to-day struggling on less than a living wage.
– The New Zealand act does not operate until next month.
– It was passed in 1923, and investigations concerning the dairying industry in that country are still being made. My point is that the dairy farmer cannot expect anything tangible from the proposed federal board for at least two years. One of the representatives at the Interstate Dairy Conference, when considering the Prime Minister’s suggestions, definitely stated that the object of the conference in April last was to fix the price on the cost of production. The dairy farmer has nothing to fear from the investigations of a tribunal. They themselves have asked for the scheme, and the Government has turned it down. I have obtained figures from the Queensland Co-operative Dairy Company at Boonah, probably the largest company in Queensland, to support my contention that the average dairyman is struggling to eke out an existence. In the year 1921 the average return worked out at approximately £4 10s. per week. In 1923 the average return worked out at less than £2 10s. per week. In 1921, 9,312,000 lb. of butter was made; and in 1923, 4,692,000 lb. 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 £23311s. ; and in 1923, £123 6s.11d. The average quantity of butter produced from each supplier’s cream was 3,271 lb. ; and in 1923, 2,055 lb. The average number of suppliers in 1921 was 2,807; and in 1923. 2,283. Those figures show that the gross return to each farmer in 1921 was £4 10s. per week, out of which he had to pay the cost of production; and in 1923 it was only £2 10s. per week. These figures relate to farmers in some of the richest dairy land in Queensland, and figures for drier areas, such as central Queensland, would be even more unfavorable. I wish to quote from report No. 3, 1917-8, of the Interstate Commission on Farm Products, including milk, butter, cheese, condensed milk, and bacon. Any one who says that the dairy farmers fear the investigations of a tribunal should read this report, because it clearly indicates that they have a good case for better conditions. All they ask for is the same consideration as that given to the manufacturers under the Tariff Board, whose investigations will be made openly. They want the same consideration as that received by the workman under the Arbitration Court, which varies wages according to the cost of living. A well-balanced national scheme for stabilizing Australian industries must provide for all sections of the community. It is of no use having a tribunal to fix the wages of the worker and a customs tariff to protect the manufacturer, when the dairyman, who with his wife and children work for less than a living wage, is left unprotected. The dairy farmers ask for this tribunal so that the conditions of the industry may be investigated, and to ascertain the cost of production, with a view to convincing the public of the justice of their cause. The report of the Interstate Commission contains very convincing statements in regard to the conditions of the dairy farmers. It reads -
It is stated that at no period since dairying was established has the production of butter given a return of 9d. per hour for the labour required to produce it, taken over a period of three consecutive years, and that during recent years the number of farms that were formerly used as dairy farms which are now used for other purposes is astonishing. The cause of this process of elimination is put down to the general better condition in other callings in most of which1s. to 2s. per hour is assured without risk and with no Sunday labour.
That report should be sufficient to convince the honorable member for Richmond that the dairy farmers have nothing to fear from an investigation by a tribunal.
– He did not say that they had anything to fear.
– He said that an investigation by a tribunal would ruin the industry.
– He feared the hand of the tribunal.
– The tribunal, if appointed, would be properly constituted, consisting of representatives of the consumers and the producers, and an independent chairman appointed by the GovernorGeneral in Council. Judge Rolin also reported on the dairying industry. He said -
The labour on such a farm (an average farm in northern New South Wales) would be that of two adult men working ten hours a day on the six days and six hours on Sunday in each week ; and two women workingsix hours a day for seven days in the week. Calculating the men’s wages at £3 17s. per week, and the women’s wages at £2 per week, the labour cost would be £608 per annum, leaving to the farmer (over and above the £3 17s. per week) a further £80 per annum, or 2.2d. per lb. of butter produced. To reduce the price of butter 2.2d. per lb. would leave the farmer no more than £3 17s. per week as a return for his work, and this for a working week of 66 hours. But the declared living wage in the state is now £4 5s. a week for men; and this alone means for the two men another £40 a year; while the declared living wage for women is 39s., to be increased by a new declaration by the Board of Trade almost immediately. The result is that the present price of butter is sufficient only to return to the workers in the industry no more than the bare living wage, if any allowance at all is made for overtime. I cannot regard this as undue or excessive return.
He pointed out that it was clear from his investigations that the dairy farmer was not getting a fair return for his labour. Continuing hie report he said that the number of persons engaged in dairying in New South Wales has declined by 6,405. Judge Rolin said -
Those are startling figures, and point to the fact which to those who closely study dairying matters from the national aspect has been apparent for some time, that the dairying industry, great though its potentialities are, and large as is the amount of money yearly distributed amongst the dairy farmers, is declining. Somestrong action to turn the tide is a matter of urgency - the whole subject is complex and difficult to cope with. Undoubtedly, numbers of those engaged in primary production (dairy section) are leaving that work for other avenues of employment which hold out greater inducements. The dairying districts are being denuded of their population, which is migrating to the cities. In the past, the producer has had to provide a cheap pound of butter for the consumer - when the price increased, there has been an outcry - there has been a cry raised about child slavery on the dairy farms, but those responsible never suggested that they and other consumers pay more for milk, butter, and cheese in order to permit of the dairy farmer employing adult labour at current rates of wages. The dairy farmer thinks that he has been exploited, and is discontented. That a considerable number is getting out of the industry is evident from the figures just given. The great question is how to better the conditions for the dairymen, not only financially,but socially. Of all the dairy problems to be solved, thisis the most urgent, and transcends all others in national importance.
Judge Rolin there dealt with the dairying industry in New South Wales, and pointed out that the number of persons engaged in the industry there had declined by 6,405. Honorable members know that men have had to leave their dairy farms to seek other employment, and have thereby added to the number of unemployed.
– Those conditions have obtained for 30 years past.
– There was no adult suffrage for 30 years, and would the honorable member say that because of that fact it should never have been introduced ? If the Labour party had taken that attitude, the Arbitration Court and wages boards would never have been in existence. We stand for adequate, reasonable protection, the new protection policy of the Labour party for the secondary industries of Australia. This party has a broad vision, and would benefit every deserving section of the community. I am now putting up a plea for the dairy farmer, who is to-day unable to make a living wage, and I am surprised that heated opposition to it should come from the supporters of the Government.
– God save us from our friends, if the honorable member is one.
– I do not pose as a friend of those who exploit the farmers; but my actions speak more eloquently than the honorable member’s words, and I, as a representative of a great many dairy farmers, am entitled to state my views.
Mr.Lister. - Some of us were dairying before the honorable member was born.
– The honorable member does not seem to have any better knowledge of or greater interest in the dairying industry on that account, and I have never known him to fight for it. I would welcome any measure that would control the marketing of exportbutter, but the Government has not been sincere in regard to this matter, and for that I blame the Country party. Members of that party have always talked a great deal about the dairy farmer, and what they would do for him if they had the opportunity. Today, they are represented in the composite Ministry, and they must accept a full share of the blame for the Government’s sins of omission and commission. They cannot say, as they did during the last election, “Do not blame us for the Government’s actions; we are as much opposed to the Government as is the Labour party.” To-day, the members of the Country party are in the Ministerial boat with the Nationalists. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) said on the hustings that the Country party stood for -
The encouragement of all industries essential to national development by the formulation of comprehensive plans to secure the ready mobilization of our resources, the elimination of waste in primary and secondary production, the proper valuation of skill in workmanship, and the encouragement of industrial standardization.
That sentiment sounded well, but it has yielded nothing concrete to the men to protect whom members of the Country party said they had entered this House. It is no wonder that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) said, in a statement published recently -
The desperate plight of primary producers engaged in many branches of primary production is such that they are asking, in increasing numbers, if they could be in a worse position under Labour rule.
The honorable member withdrew from the Ministry. Did he take that step because Ministers refused to do anything for the people whom the honorable member for Wimmera and other members of the party were sent into this Parliament to represent? If that was his reason, it explains why the honorable member said in a speech published in this morning’s Age -
Nothing has been gained through the composite Ministry that could not have been gained had the Country party remained as a solid corner party.
The honorable member has been in the Ministry; he knows how it has failed, and he would not have resigned without good cause.
– And after he resigned, one of his pals “ ratted “ on him.
– Yes, by taking the job that he had surrendered. The honorable member for Wimmera continued -
They would refuse to support Dr. Page in any conspiracy. Let him take the independent course, and he would have the rank and file behind him to a man.
I ask the Treasurer to take an independent course in regard to this bill, andto agree to make provision f or atribunal to investigate the whole dairyingindustry, and get down to fundamentals, and give the dairy farmers a fair return for their produce sold on the Australian market, by the elimination of all waste and the speculative element. We want the people to know what is wrong with the industry, and discover a remedy. An industry, which in 1923 was worth to Australia £19,038,000 is entitled to more consideration than the Government has given to it. It is increasing so rapidlythat it bids fair to become, with proper care, the second or third greatest industry in Australia. The annual value of the wheat crop is £28,000,000, and of the wool clip, £56,000,000. The Prime Minister said that the stabilization of the local market was not a matter of federal concern, and must be left to the states. I object to the Commonwealth Government playing battledore and shuttlecock with the dairying industry. The Prime Minister endeavours to throw the responsibility upon the states, when he knows that interstate trade can only be controlled by the Commonwealth. He is merely endeavouring to throw dust in the eyes of the dairymen who have appealed to him to do something to save them from ruin. It is absurd to say that the farmers in the different states can form pools with the present cut-throat interstate competition and a dissenting minority. They have tried that expedient without any continuous good results. Endeavours were made to better the conditions in Victoria, but after months of labour on the part of the dairymen, the organization was crippled by the actions of a 5 per cent, minority which remained aloof, and in New South Wales the pool broke down because 10 per cent, of the dairymen would not co-operate. In Queensland organized marketing was successfully maintained for fifteen months, but owing to interstate freetrade, and agents and speculators flooding the Queensland market with purchases from the other states, the pool was rendered abortive. On previous occasions I have quoted the opinion of the Queensland Solicitor-General that the Commonwealth Parliament has power to legislate for the adoption of a stabilization, scheme such as was placedbeforethe Prime Minister byrepresentativesofthe dairying indus- tryinallstatesandforwhichIprovideinthe amendment I am about to move. TheGovernment has not produced any legal opinion in support of its contention that this Parliament has not that power. Certainly, it would be necessary for the State Parliaments to introduce legislation in sympathy with that proposed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and the Governments of Tasmania and Queensland have already expressed their willingness to submit such proposals to their respective Parliaments. The Labour Premier of Queensland urged all the other states to adopt the stabilization scheme. I appeal to honorable members on both sides of the House to view this matter impartially, and not to be influenced by party considerations. I ask them to vote to refer the bill back to the Government, with an instruction to make provision for the appointment of a tribunal to determine, upon the basis of the cost of production, adequate prices for butter sold in Australia, to investigate all the conditions in the industry, and to recommend a remedy for the existing depression. Any’ suggestion that the bill would be lost by the carrying of such an amendment would be mere balderdash, because the Government could send the bill back to the Solicitor-General to-night and a re-drafted measure could be introduced to-morrow. Instead of dealing with only the one-third of the butter production which is exported, we should deal with the industry as a whole, and evolve a scheme that will assist it in the local market as well as abroad. The Labour party, which stands for a fair deal for all sections of the community, will see that the dairy farmers, as well as workers in secondary industries, receive justice. I move -
That all the words after “ be “ be omitted, with a view to inserting the following : - “ referred back to the Government, with a view to inserting the following provisions; and having the bill re-introduced within a week -
for the purpose of ensuring to the dairy producers in Australia a reasonable return for their produce there shall be appointed a Dairy Produce Tribunal, to be comprised of three members - one representative of the producers, to be nominated by the federal board; one representative of the consumers, to be appointed by the Governor in Council; and a president, to be mutually agreed upon by producers and consumers respectively, failing which agreement the GovernorGeneral in Council shall appoint the president;
the said tribunal shall have full power to inquire into the whole dairying industry, the cause of depression, the export trade, the local market, recommend a solution of the difficulties, fix the basic price of dairy produce for interstate trade based on the cost of production;
the proceedings of the said tribunal shall be open to the public.
– I have no hesitation in declaring the amendment to be entirely outside the scope of the bill. Any amendment to a bill must be within the order of leave, and in conformity with the title of the measure which the House has resolved to consider, It must be relevant to the bill, and contain nothing foreign to it. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia contains much that is foreign to the measure now before the House. It also offends against the established practice that no amendment moved at the second-reading stage can anticipate the provisions of the bill as referred to the committee of the whole, or the amendments that may be made thereto by the committee. Therefore, I declare the amendment inadmissible.
– The remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia regarding the dairying industry, and his statements about the solicitude of various Governments and tribunals for those engaged in it will offend the common sense of dairymen throughout the Commonwealth, as much as the amendment he submitted offended against the good sense and practice of this House.
– The Treasurer does not represent butter producers.
– I probably represent more dairymen than does any other honorable member in this chamber, and if there is anything of which they have cause to complain it is that in the past, because they were producing a commodity which is of daily use in every household, they were subjected to exploitation by Governments and tribunals in a way never experienced by any other section of the community. I shall show that the industry was so treated, especially by Labour Governments in times of stress, without warrant, and in opposition to the considered opinion of independent men such as Mr. Justice Rolin, and that efforts have been made by Governments to destroy any chance Australian producers might have had to benefit by a good local market. Honorable members opposite profess in one breath to be desirous that something shall be done quickly to help the dairying industry, and in the next breath they put forward a proposal for the appointment of a tribunal of investigation which could only result in delaying any measure of relief for three or four years. The bill now before the House represents the most important advance made in the development of the butter industry since refrigeration was commercialized. Prior to that time the price of butter fluctuated during the year between 3d. and 2s. 6d. per lb. I well remember an old lady who acquired a competence because for many years she had sold butter at all seasons to a regular set of customers for a fixed price of ls. per lb. In that way she was assured of a reasonable return, whereas many of those who depended on the prices in the ordinary market, which fluctuated to such a degree, and were specially low when the season was good, were reduced to beggary. In the summer and spring there was a big production of butter and no means of holding it. It had to be thrown on the market at once, and the glut forced down the price. The conditions of the industry were almost indescribable. In the winter reverse conditions obtained. Very little butter was produced, and the price soared to such a height that many people could not afford to purchase the article. The economic benefit of the adoption of refrigeration, under which the export trade was regulated, was almost instantaneous. Between 1S90 and 1910 the dairy production practically doubled. There were 972,325 cows in Australia in 1890, and in 1910 the herds had increased to 2,064,599. A corresponding increase took place in the number of men employed in the industry, and the value of the production rose from £9,768,200 in 1890 to £17,387,000 in 1910. During the same period the output of butter increased from 62,122,000 lb. to 192,626,909 lb. During the next decade, however, the industry received a severe check. With the war came a mania for the appointment of tribunals for the fixing of prices. The various state Labour Governments tried either to seize the butter or to fix the price at which it should be sold. In June, 1915, Mr. Hall, AttorneyGeneral in the Holman Labour Go vernment in New South Wales, fixed the price of butter at ls. 2½d. a lb. It being an unfavorable season, the price of fodder had risen to about £20 per ton, and was almost unprocurable even at that figure. It cost the dairyman 4s. or 5s. a lb. to produce butter, and yet, under the rule of the Labour Government in that state, the price was kept at ls. 2d. a lb. The dairy farmers refused to produce at that price, saying that they could not carry on, and they began to sell their cows for meat. The Holman Government then bought 20,000 tons of butter outside Australia in order to keep down the price, but the imported article was so rancid that it was necessary to send it out of the country in order to dispose of it. The Labour Government in Queensland, when butter was selling in Victoria at 228s. a cwt., took butter from the producers in Queensland at 196s. a cwt., and later fixed the price at 140s., when the export price was i70s. That was during the war period ; but after the war, when one would expect the dairymen to receive reasonable treatment, a similar procedure was adopted, which occasioned losses to the dairy factories estimated at £500,000. In Queensland, in 1921, when the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) was a member of the Queensland Parliament, the Labour Government appointed a tribunal, which fixed the price at 40s. or 50s. a cwt. below the figure that should have been received, and was being received in the other states, and in the export market.
– Having ruled an amendment relating to tribunals to be out of order, I cannot allow a discussion on the awards of tribunals.
– I merely desire to show that, up to 1910, dairy production had practically doubled, but in the following decade, when price-fixing obtained, dairymen were entirely discouraged. The result was stagnation of the industry. It seems to me that the industry is again approaching the condition, as regards overseas markets, which it was in in the local market before refrigeration was adopted. Australia’s best market for the disposal of its export surplus is in Great Britain, and, just as we used to have an overproduction of butter and low prices in summer, and consequent disturbance of our prices in the local market before refrigeration, we appear to be making the mistake of placing practically the whole of our surplus butter on the English market in five or six months of the year. The bill aims at bringing about an improvement in the export of the surplus production that is comparable with the improved conditions in the local market rendered possible by the introduction of the system of refrigeration. Denmark has thoroughly organized its export trade, and it sells approximately the same quantity of butter in each month of the year. Australia, however, disposes of from 70,000 to 120,000 cwt. per month during one half of the year, and only from 1,400 to 30,000 cwt. per month during the other six months. If Australia is to obtain the best results for its butter producers, it will be necessary to adopt the lines ‘ followed by Denmark of feeding the market with regular supplies. Already steps have been taken to improve the prices obtained in England. Unfortunately, owing to the lack of standardization, the price to the Australian producers has been something like 10s. a cwt. less than that received by the dairymen of New Zealand, but in August last our export butter was standardized. I have no doubt that the “Kangaroo” brand of butter will lift the. Australian product to a point at which it will equal the New Zealand article in reputation ; as far as quality is concerned it has always been as good as the butter from the sister dominion. It is essential to Australia to have a surplus production of all food-stuffs. The producers can regulate the acreage they cultivate, but they cannot control the seasons, and, unless there is an attempt to secure a production in excess of the local demand, there will be a shortage in bad seasons. This will mean famine prices and big fluctuations in the cost of living”, which bear particularly hard on the man drawing a weekly wage. It is therefore essential, in the interests of the wage-earner in every calling, that there should be steady prices for food-stuffs. The way to ensure such a condition is to produce more than Australia requires for home consumption. When there is a surplus the producer must be encouraged to look for outlets beyond the home market. To Dr. Earle Page. encourage him to do that we should bring about a condition in the overseas market, which will enable him to make the most profitable use of that market. That is the aim of this bill.
– Is it possible to control the British markets?
– It is possible to control the output from Australia in such a way that our producers will receive the best possible prices. It is necessary to prevent the butter from falling into the hands of the speculators when it should be held by the producers themselves in their own interests. For that reason a measure of this kind is urgently required. It is especially . necessary since New Zealand exports to Great Britain in the same season as Australia butter of a similar quality to our own. If the New Zealand Export Control Board works in conjunction with the Australian board, we shall be able to control largely the distribution of the butter that now goes to the British market during six or seven months of the year. We shall then be sure that the price we get is the best possible price for the time being. The passing of this bill will mark the most important advance in the dairying industry since the general acceptance, 30 years ago, of the refrigerating process.
– It is purely an experiment, and we do not know how it will end.
– It is an experiment on sound lines. It is folly for the producers of New South Wales, Victoria, and the other states to compete with each other on the British market, for the result must inevitably be a lower price for their commodities. The whole of- Australia’s production should be marketed on a national scale. Not only is the Government prepared to establish this proposed export control board, but it is also willing to give the producers financial assistance to enable them to hold their butter until it can be marketed to the best advantage.
– Is there not a danger that the butter may deteriorate if it is held too long?
– Seeing that butter is ready for export at slightly different periods in the various states, there is not much danger of deterioration if it is held under proper conditions. No butter need be held for many months. The operation of this measure must be beneficial to the consumers of Australia, as well as to the producers, for the producers purchase the goods that the consumers manufacture. A good market for the producers means more money for them to spend; that means more constant work for the secondary producers, and so a general improvement in the social conditions of the country. We have had one experience of what can be done by marketing butter on a national scale. In 1920-21 Messrs. Sinclair and Osborne, who were closely associated with butter production in Australia, went to England, and were able to make an agreement with the British Ministry for Food, under which the British Government purchased the total production of Australian butter in that year for 238s. per cwt. Mr. Osborne suggested that the price should not be definitely fixed, but should be regulated by the price of Danish butter. The British Government agreed to that, but by some oversight the point was overlooked and omitted when the agreement was drawn up. Subsequently the price of Danish butter increased to 300s. per cwt., and, although the British Government was not obliged under the terms of the agreement to pay more than the agreed 238s. per cwt. for Australian butter, it voluntarily agreed to increase the price to 275s. per cwt. That increase meant that the value of the butter production for that year was £1,400,000 more than would have been the case had the price remained at 238s. per cwt., and that extra amount was paid by the British Government. That action by the British Government showed its willingness to do the fair thing by the Australian producers. It is just as well that we should be reminded of this, seeing that so many hard words have been said about the payment of a. certain amount to the British Government for ex-enemy ships which had earned for us a handsome profit ; and that the Central Wool Committee has been so severely criticized for having shared with the British Government certain additional profits which were paid to it as the result of an agreement with the Government. The British Government’s action in paying this extra price to the Australian butter producers was the more creditable for the reason that it was making a huge loss over the transaction, on account of its method of rationing supplies.
– And it was not a Labour Government that did that.
– No ; it was a Government which was prepared to give us a preference on our dried fruits and other commodities that the primary producer grows and we export. The wisdom of enabling our producers to speak Avith a united voice cannot be’ gainsaid. The export control board will do a great deal for our butter producers. Its operations will be reflected immediately in Australia. I have no doubt that its appointment will mark the beginning of a new era of prosperity and comfort for our dairy producers, and so lead to an enhancement of our national prosperity.
– I welcome the introduction of the bill, but I consider that its success or otherwise will depend upon the personnel of the board. There can be no doubt that we need a better method of marketing our surplus production overseas. At present, a very large quantity of Australian and !New Zealand butter is marketed in London in January, February, and March, with the result that there is a temporary glut, and so a reduction in price. The board will justify its appointment if it is able to spread the marketing of our export butter over the first five months of the year, and prevent all the butter from being marketed in the first three months of the year as hitherto. The Prime Minister, in moving the second reading of the bill, suggested that we could market our butter in England throughout the whole twelve months of the year. Seeing- that Queensland markets its surplus butter a little later than the southern states, it may be possible for us to market our butter overseas over a good part of the year, but I do not think that we shall be wise to fly in the face of natural conditions, and attempt to market much of our butter in England in the periods which are favorable to the production of European butter, for it stands to reason that butter which is produced so much nearer to Great Britain than our own can be marketed more favorably in the seasons of its production than can ours, which has to be transhipped such a long distance. It would be better for us to market our summerproduction in England during the European winter when the European producers are not able to produce under a? favorable conditions as in their summer, and the best that we could reasonably be expected to do, would be to ensure that Australian supplies would be always obtainable by those who insist on having our national brand. The Treasurer stated a few moments ago that it was to the advantage of local consumers that there should be an exportable surplus of butter. That is a fact which merits emphasis. If the dairymen only aimed at producing sufficient butter to supply the home market, and a bad season occurred, the local price of butter would inevitably increase. It is therefore advantageous to the local consumers that there should be an exportable surplus, and that being so, they should be prepared to do something to make the export trade profitable. Although I believe that the enactment of this bill will lead to an improvement in the export parity price of butter, I do not think we can expect miracles to happen in a short time. We shall not see the full benefits of the operation of the bill immediately. In my opinion, it is too late to take polls of the producers to determine whether the scheme shall be adopted this export season. Had the proposal been agreed to in May or June, when it was first brought forward, the wishes of the producers could have been ascertained; but if we wait now for the taking of polls, this export season will be half over before anything can be done. I hope that the Government will accept an amendment to defer the taking of polls for at least two seasons. The scheme will then have been in operation long enough for the producers to say definitely whether they desire its continuance or not. I suggest that the number of board members should be increased from ten to twelve. Although the ten provided for in the bill are enough for certain purposes, I think the addition of two more representatives is necessary to give complete representation to all branches of the industry. The member for East Sydney (Mr. West) suggested the other day, by interjection, that there was no need for what he described as a representative of Tooleystreet, on the board.
– That was a wrong description.
– I do not agree that it is necessary for such a representative to be on the board, for it should be a producers’ board. Clause 17 reads -
The board may accept control of any dairy produce .placed under its control for the purposes of this act.
That seems to me to suggest that the board may not have complete control of all our dairy produce, and if that is so, the clause heeds amending. Although the appointment of the board indicates an honest attempt to improve the conditions under which our- dairy produce is marketed overseas, an important factor in the industry has not been taken into consideration. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) pointed out that while this bill would assist in the oversea marketing of butter, its only effect on the local market would be the indirect one that must follow an improvement in oversea prices. I contend that in a protectionist country it is illogical and unjust that any section of the community that has to pay protectionist prices for everything it uses should be compelled, or even expected, to supply its produce to the local consumers at export parity rates. By “ export parity rates “ I mean freetrade rates less immense deductions incidental to export. The honorable member for Capricornia suggested by way of a remedy, that the board should be clothed with interstate powers. I assure the honorable member that I am so very anxious to do justice to the dairymen that I am quite prepared to forget the considerations of party, but I wish to point out to him that the cure he suggests is not a cure. To use the words of the honorable member himself, Ave must deal with this question from the Australian stand-point. I wish to show that the honorable member’s proposal would give a direct and almost immediate benefit to one state, but would have practically no effect on the other five states. Assuming that the suggestion could be constitutionally acted upon, and there are very grave doubts about that-
– Will the honorable member quote his authority i
– I could quote the authority of the Solicitor-General; but, waiving that point, and assuming that such action would be constitutional, and that the federal Government granted pricefixing powers to the proposed Control Board in the State of Queensland, which has the necessary legislation on its statutebook, to take advantage of the interstate control, it could impose higher prices than the export parity rates, and would not need to fear importations from other states. The proposal would suit Queensland, but would be of almost negligible advantage to the other states, for the simple reason that, although it would then be impossible for one state to send butter to another state at a price lower than that fixed under such interstate powers, prices within each state would not be fixed. In order to make the proposal workable it would be necessary for every state to pass similar legislation. The history of all endeavours to get uniform legislation through the various State Parliaments has been a history of failures.
– Queensland has led the way in this matter.
– Although Queensland may have led the way, I am pointing out that it would be a miracle if all the other states followed Queensland’s lead and passed similar legislation. In the matter ofunifying the railway gauges, co-ordinating taxation machinery, or establishing wheat pools, it has been found extremely difficult to bring the states into line. Therefore, while the proposal would be of some value to Queensland, it cannot be regarded as a means of benefiting the dairymen of Australia generally.
– Representatives of the dairymen of Australia endorsed the scheme.
– That does not necessarily prove that it has no flaws. I am endeavouring to direct attention to one of its flaws. I agree with the honorable member for Capricornia to the extent that I believe that the dairyman is one of the hardest-worked and lowest-paid members of the community. Ibelieve that no other commodity is as cheap as butter, if we measure its value by the labour employed in its production. The butter industry is not so healthy as some people imagine. Only to-day some figures came under my notice showing that one of the largest butter factories in Victoria, that operated by the Colac Dairying Company, produced 43 more tons of butter this year than last year, but received £32,000 less for it. While the honorable member for Capricornia andI may thoroughly agree that the dairyman is paid the wages of a serf, it does not follow that every honorable member is convinced of that fact. I shall, therefore, spend a few minutes in showing how poor is the remuneration of the dairyman. To do that I shall be compelled to repeat figures that I have previously quoted in this House. Some years ago, when giving sworn evidence before the Interstate Commission on the cost of producing butter, I was able to show that if a returned soldier took up dairy land, and milked as many cows as one man could humanly be expected to milk - I placed the number at eighteen - after paying 5 per cent, on the value of the land, and interest and depreciation on the stock and plant, he could not hope, with average cows, and with butter fat at the same price as during the past twelve months, to get more than 5d. an hour for his labour. That conclusion may seem incredible, but it is true. Some honorable members may say that the difficulties of such a man are due to his land being valued at too high a figure. I want to show to those honorable members that even if the dairyman owned his farm, cows, and plant, and had not to pay one penny for overhead expenses, the total returns possible to him, on the basis of 130 lb. of butter fat per cow, the Australian average, and allowing1d. per gallon as the feeding value of skim milk, which is a generous allowance, would be only £189 per annum. That shows that dairy farming conducted on average lines, with average Australian cows, and with butter fat at 1s. 5d. per lb., cannot be regarded as other than a sweated industry. The amount of £189 per annum, or £3 12s. 8d. per week, is considerably less than the wages paid to the can washer in the butter factory to which the man sends his cream. Having dealt with the position of the returned soldier, who has to meet certain liabilities, and having disposed of the suggestion that his difficulties are entirely attributable to dear land, by showing that he could not make a fortune even if he owned his farm, I shall now deal with a further suggestion, that his difficulties are solely due to his milking inferior cows. We have been told that the dairying industry could be made profitable if dairymen had a better class of stock and employed improved feeding methods. I am one of those who strongly believe that much can be done in that direction, but I do not believe that the dairying industry can be made attractive to-day at present prices, even if conducted in the most efficient manner possible. To prove that I shall quote some figures, which were also given in sworn evidence, relating to a, farm on which, by nine years of culling and testing, and by breeding with milk-record stock, the production had been raised to about twice the Australian average - 650 gallons of milk, 250 lb. of butter fat, on 300 lb. of commercial cream. If 5 per cent, was allowed for interest on land, if depreciation was allowed’ on stock and plant, and a comparatively small amount for hand feeding - all feed being grown on the farm was charged for at the cost of production only - the whole of the profits, with butter fat at ls. 5d. a lb., amounted to ls. 4d. an hour for those engaged on the farm. That wage, also, was lower than the rate paid to the humblest operative in the butter factory, and yet it was all that was obtainable, in addition to interest and overhead charges, by the man who ran the farm on. those efficient lines. It was, moreover, a good farm, that was particularly suited to dairying. I have statements of the cost of production on several Gippsland farms. A large number of these statements was handed to me, but I rejected many of them because, in my opinion, the land values adopted were somewhat high. I have a statement relating to a farm on which the quantity of butter fat produced per cow was about equal to the Australian average; another on which the quantity was considerably higher than the average; and a third on which the yield was splendid. On the first farm the amount received for cream was £289 ; for pigs and calves, £81 ; and from the increase of stock, £6, making the total receipts £376. There had to be set against that interest on land, depreciation of plant and cows, maintenance and renewal of plant, cost of feed, cost of outside labour, rates and taxes, and various other necessary charges amounting to £335., The result was that the excess of revenue . over expenditure was only £41. Two people were employed, and between them that sum had to be divided.
– What was the size of the herd?
– It consisted of 31 cows, so that the two persons employee* had to milk on the average fifteen and a half cows each per day. The cost of producing butter, without allowing anything for wages, was about ls. 3d. per lb. Thai explains why butter can.be sold at the low prices ruling to-day. If the two persona employed had received wages at the rate of £3 a week, the cost of production would have been 2s. 9d. per lb. I have figures of the revenue and expenditure on a farm from which the yield was better than the Australian average. It amounted to about 152 lb. of butter fat per cow. The number of cows was 65. The amount set down as the value of the land is £4,000, which is by no meansan excessive value for a farm carrying 65 cows. It works out at about £60 worth of land per cow. It is generally considered in the Western District that the value of land required for a dairy farm is from £100 to £120 per cow. After meeting the ordinary overhead expenses, interest on capital, depreciation, cost of feed, &c., the costs came to £662, against total receipts of £873. The receipts were for cream, pigs, and calves, and increase in stock. The balance’ of revenue over expenditure was £211. Four people, all members of the- same family, were employed. The farm, considering that it was carrying 65 cows, was net overstaffed. These four people dividing the £211 between them, would receive in wages about £1 per week. I have here one more statement referring to a farm where the butter-fat average per cow is nearly 200 lb., as against the Australian average of 130 lb. There are 35 cows milked on this farm and the returns from all sources amount to £675. Deducting charges for interest on land and stock, depreciation, and the ordinary overhead charges, amounting to £586, there is left £89 to be divided between three people. It is shown in all the instances to which I have referred that these people are living not on returns from their labour, but on the interest of their land. In the cases I have quoted the people own their farm’s, and there is set down in the overhead charges a reasonable amount for interest on the value of the land. These people are really making interest on their money, and practically nothing else. It appears to me in connexion with the dairying industry that it is possible to make wages and not interest, or to make interest and not wages, but it is practically impossible to make both. I think the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) quoted a statement by Judge Rolin, of New South Wales. Without repeating what the honorable member said, I should like to say that Judge Rolin was appointed in New South Wales, I think, in 1920, as a royal commission to inquire into the cost of producing butter. He adopted original methods of his own for the conduct of his inquiry. He went round the farms and took with him an accountant thoroughly conversant with the best way in which to set ,out expenses and receipts in a business-like way, and to show the actual profits made. After making inquiry into the rent paid for farms, and ascertaining the actual amount of cream delivered to the butter factories, the conclusion he came to was that it was necessary for the producer to receive 2s. 3d. per lb. for butter if the farmer was to receive £3 18s. per week, and each of bis efficient hands was to receive £2 per week as wages. He concluded that these wages could not be paid at a lower price for butter than 2s. 3d. per lb. I quote these figures to show that this industry absolutely rests on the basis of unpaid family labour. If it is to be contended that because there are more consumers than producers in the world, the producers of butter must sell their produce at export parity rates for local sales, thai means the perpetuation, so far as they are concerned, of a condition of serfdom. I believe that we cannot improve the position of these men very much until we get away from export parity rates for local sales. I do not wish to make use of the returned soldier argument unnecessarily, but I say that there is a large number of ex-soldiers in my electorate, and speaking as one who has some knowledge of the dairying industy, I say that I do not believe it will be possible for these men to meet their liabilities unless some special effort is made to obtain a better local price than the net overseas price obtained for butter. I believe that can be done in a way that would be absolutely just to the consumer. It can be done without price fixation and without compulsion . It can be done without interference with the industry in any shape or form. It can be done by the simple expedient of paying a bounty on export collected from the trade itself and not from the Treasury, a bounty sufficient to cover the deductions, or part of the deductions, incidental to export, in order that the local market may no longer be depressed by those charges. There are some who have criticized the proposition I put up in this House a few weeks ago, and dealt, with it most unfairly. It has been said that my proposal means charging the local consumer more than the British buyer. That is absolute nonsense. It means nothing of the kind. Under my proposal the Australian consumer could always depend upon buying supplies of fresh butter at less than it would be worth in the open markets of the world. To put it in another way, he could depend on buying it at less than the price at which it could be imported from New Zealand, the sister dominion close to us, which is a large producer of butter. There are none so blind as those who will not see, and there are none so dense as those who will not understand. I believe that it is quite possible to induce consumers who may have some prejudice against the proposal to admit that it is at least just. I should like to put before honorable members what I conceive to be the difference between an industry which rests on an export parity foundation for the price of its products, and one which rests upon an import parity for its price. To many people these are merely academic terms. I wish to put before honorable members the enormous difference in commercial advantage between the industry which is able to enjoy import parity prices - and that is the position in which most of the secondary industries find themselves - and an industry which is compelled, not merely to face the fierce competition of overseas, countries paying much lower rates of wages than are paid here, but to deduct from the price of its product the huge costs incidental to exportation. For the purpose of comparison, I should like to contrast two industries, one resting upon the one base for its price of its product, and the other on the other base to which I have referred. I take a woollen mill and a butter factory. We have not yet a sufficient number of woollen mills in Australia to produce all the woollen goods required to clothe our people. There is room for many more. The Australian woollen mill, as compared with the butter factory, is in the fortunate position that it has to compete only with importation, and has not to face competition overseas. The cloth which is imported into this country to make up the shortage due to tho insufficiency of the output of the Australian mills leaves London at the world’s price. There is added to that price, freight and marine insurance, which increases it considerably. Then the tariff puts it up higher still. The Australian woollen mill is in the fortunate position of having to compete, not against the world’s price, but against that price after there has been added to it freight and marine insurance, and, lastly, the tariff duties. I ask honorable members to visualize a ladder, the middle rung of which is painted a different colour from the others, and represents the world’s price. Then the woollen mill is in the happy position of being two rungs higher on the ladder. It is above the middle rung, which is the world’s price, by two rungs, representing the cost of freight and other charges, and the increase in price due to the tariff. Now let us examine the position of the butter factory. We sell a great deal of our butter overseas, because wo produce more than we consume. During the greater part of the yeal”, when we are exporting butter, we receive, not the world’s price, but the world’s price less certain deductions for freight and marine insurance, less a considerable reduction for loss on exchange, and less a further deduction for the inevitable deterioration which takes place as the result of two months’ storage on board ship. On the ladder of which I have spoken, where the middle rung represents the world’s price, the Australian butter producer is three rungs below the middle rung because he get’s the world’s price, less freight and insurance, less loss on exchange, and less deterioration. In this protected country, it is expected, even by those who believe in the highest of all protection, that the man who produces butter should sell it locally at a price three rungs down the ladder below the rung representing the world’s price. It is demanded, in fact, that the producer of butter should lose not merely on what he exports, but also on what he sells locally. He has to lose cost of transportation on butter that is not transported; he has to suffer loss due to exchange on butter that never conies into contact with- the exchange position, and he has also to suffer a loss in price of about Id. per lb. for two months’ deterioration on butter that is eaten absolutely fresh from the factory. This is most illogical, and it is absolutely indefensible. In order to show how unreasonable the export parity price really is in a protectionist country, I would point out that, if for some reason or another freights go up an additional halfpenny, immediately the Australian consumer buys his butter for a halfpenny per lb. less. If the loss on exchange becomes aggravated to the extent of id. per lb., if instead of its being Jd. per lb. it is 1½d. per lb., the Australian consumer immediately buys his butter at f d. per lb. less. ‘
– The worse the producer’s, position in London, the worse his position here.
– That is so.
– Is that really so?
– It is really so in this sense: The consumer does not take any steps to ensure that upon the butter he buys the producer must suffer the loss of these deductions, but that is, nevertheless, the inevitable effect of a marketing system under which the local price is affected by the export parity. The export parity rate is not the world’s rate. It is world’s rate, less the deductions which are incidental to export, and by just so much as these incidental charges are inflated the local selling price of the article is decreased.
– The more the producers are exploited by the shipper and the speculator, the less they get locally for their butter.
– As the honorable member has said, the more the producers are exploited by the shipper, and by losses due to exchange, the cheaper will butter be locally.
– Who fixes the London parity ?
– No one fixes it. It is simply the effect of the law of supply and demand. Assuming that fresh butter were to-day worth ls. lOd. per lb. in London, the best butter which could be sent from Australia would, owing to deterioration in transhipment, bring perhaps ls. 9d. per lb., because it would be two months on the voyage, and the net value on the wharf here would be about ls. 6d., and the Australian consumer gets the benefit of the difference between the ls. lOd. and the ls. 6d. Whether or not that would be considered a fair proposition in a country in which there were no fiscal barriers, and in which the people had to engage in strenuous competition with each other from scratch, there is no doubt that it is absolutely indefensible in a country where other industries are protected from overseas competition from countries in which labour is paid a lower rate than in Australia. This bill will, I hope, do much good so far as the export trade in butter is concerned; but if we examine this measure as an instrument for the immediate relief of the dairymen, we must conclude that it is somewhat anaemic. In the committee stage I propose to move an amendment which, if accepted by the Government will, I hope, infuse into the bill some of the full-blooded virility of the right honorable gentleman who introduced it. I propose to amend clause 20 by inserting between paragraphs d and e the following new paragraph : - ‘ ‘ The payment of such export bounty as may be prescribed in the Dairy Produce Export Charges Act 1924.” I gather that the amount of such bounty should be set out, not in this bill, but in the other bill, and hope the Ministry will accept the principle that a bounty taken from the industry itself should be paid on the export of butter. I am informed that this procedure will overcome the constitutional difficulty that exists respecting a bill brought forward as this one was, after a. message from the Governor-General. We hear a great deal about the necessity for protecting secondary industries from overseas competition. Without discussing the question of freetrade or protection, I would point out that an Australian industry which cannot yet supply the whole of our needs, the shortage of which must be made up by importation, has even without the tariff, a distinct advantage over an industry that has to export. The industry that exports obtains world prices, with a big deduction for freight and other charges; it does not obtain the net world price. But the industry competing in Australia against overseas competition, even without the protection of the tariff, has the advantage of having to com pete with prices raised by freights. I am endeavouring to press home to honorable members iu what an extremely disadvantageous position, as far as price is concerned, is the industry that exports, and more especially when the price obtained overseas is reflected on the local market. I do not say that the disadvantage would be so great if the price in Australia to some extent was in excess of the depressed export price. I want to emphasize one or two arguments in favour of my proposal. The first is that, even if, say, Id. per lb. were imposed as a levy on the whole of the butter production, providing a bounty of about 2£d. per lb. on the butter exported, the consumer would still be able to buy local butter at 1½d. per lb. less than the London price for fresh butter. Then, again, he would be able to buy it at Id. per lb. less than the price at which New Zealand butter could be sold here. Stated another way : the consumer would still be able to buy butter at less than the price at which he would now have to purchase it if there were no surplus. If we had only enough butter to supply our local needs, rates would go up to import parity level without any attempt to govern prices by legislation. Under my proposal, the consumer would still be able to buy butter at less than import parity. There are some people who think that those of us who represent country electorates do not need to fear for the consumer. I suggest that there is no honorable member, in this House who does not represent more consumers than producers, though “I admit that the ratio varies considerably. Some four and a half years ago I stood as a Country party candidate for the Senate, and I addressed, at North Melbourne, a large gathering of labour men. When I had finished my address one or two questions were goodnaturedly put to me respecting the price of butter. It was fairly high at that time. When I pointed out to them the position of the producer, and said that I did not believe that they would want to buy butter at ls. 3d. per lb. if they knew that at that price it could be produced only by unpaid family labour, these working-men cheered me.
– But they did not vote for you.
– That may be. Mrs. Glencross, of this city, has made herself somewhat famous as the advocate of the Housewives Association. She has taken steps to show her disapproval of the high prices of bread and other commodities. This lady was a member of the High Cost of Living Commission recently appointed by the Victorian Government, and she had an opportunity of investigating the position of the dairy farmers. The following paragraph appeared in the Sun News Pictorial, of the 30th July, 1924 :-
The one bright spot in the housewife’s lot as detailed by Hrs. Glencross, seemed to be that for the past few months she had been getting butter far too cheaply when the cost of production was considered. She pitied the dairy farmers.
If the Government were to accept my proposal and give relief on the lines I have suggested, no protest about the slightly increased cost of butter would be made, 1 feel sure, by this lady. This proposal has been accepted by the butter industry generally, with unanimity absolutely unprecedented in the history of stabilization schemes. If carried into effect, it would give almost immediate relief without involving price fixation. There would be no compulsion. No shackles would be placed on the industry, and local trade could carry on absolutely free and unfettered. It does not aim at two prices with an artificial gap between. Every other attempt that has been made to stabilize butter has aimed at one price for local sales, and another for export. This proposal, if carried, would raise the export parity rate by means of a self-inflicted levy on the industry of an amount sufficient to cover, or partly cover, exporting expense. Theresult would be that, instead of having two prices, there would simply be a uniform price on the wharf and for local consumption. It would be absolutely fair to the consumer, because he would be still able to buy butter at less than world’s rates. I commend the proposal to the Government and to honorable member’s generally. I am reminded of the cynical remark attributed to Napoleon, “ that God is on ‘ the side of the big battalions.” If this proposal is to be judged by honorable members solely from the stand-point that there are more consumers than producers in their electorates, it seems to me that there will be reason for such cynicism. I commend the bill for what is in . it. Mv criticism is levelled at what is omitted from it.
I hope that the omission will be rectified in the committee stage. I trust that the Government will accept the amendment that I shall endeavour to insert in t.ne bill at that stage.
.- I was pleased indeed that you, Mr. Speaker,- ruled out of order the extraordinary amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde).
– Why was the honorable member pleased ¥
– Because the amendment, if agreed to, would delay for two or three years the assistance to be given to the dairying industry by this bill. I shall do all I possibly san to give the dairy producers the utmost assistance at the earliest possible moment. In supporting the bill, I desire to offer my congratulations to the right honorable the Prime Minister for having, so soon, after the completion of the protracted negotiations with the representatives of the Australian Dairy Council, submitted to the House so constructive a measure. Dairying is a national industry. In 1922, the value of the dairy produets of Australia was £29,674,415. The total number of dairy cattle in Australia was 2,416,809, producing 085,309,582 gallons of milk, 234,975,009 lb. of butter, 23,710.539 lb. of cheese, and 51,460,739 lb. of condensed milk. The value of the factories and plant engaged in this production is well over £2,500,000. The industry is a great aid to closer settlement. It is the return, however small, from dairying that makes it possible for many families newly settled on the land to carry on until their crops are marketed. I believe that dairying is the keystone of the agricultural industry, and it is of such outstanding importance that it would be nothing short of a national calamity if it could not be so re-organized and directed as to enable it to be carried on with profit, both to the producer and the Commonwealth. I am sure the Government proposals will commend themselves to honorable members, for they will eliminate guess-work from the industry, and enable it to be developed on a sound and economic basis. In the past, we have been more or less satisfied to drift along. Organization and control, together with regular supplies of a uniform article, have been the chief factors in the wonderful success that has attended the efforts of the dairymen in New Zealand and Denmark, and the problems that we have to solve are efficient production and orderly marketing. I recently read in the Queensland press a report of an address delivered to the representatives of the dairy and cheese factories at Brisbane, by the late Commonwealth Dairy Expert, Mr. O’Callagan. He had just returned from an extended tour of the United Kingdom, Europe, and America. He pointed out that our industry was far behind that of New Zealand and Denmark in production and marketing. In England to-day our butter loses its identity. It is never retailed as Australian butter, but is purchased in bulk by blenders, who mix it principally with Argentine and Siberian butter, and sell it, under their own brand, through oldestablished houses or to multiple shopkeepers in London and the south of England. Our greatest handicaps in establishing, a reputation for Australian butter are too many brands, lack of uniformity in the article produced, and irregularity of supplies. These have made it possible for blenders to use our butter for blending a uniform article of distinct type for which they have created a demand and which they supply to the trade all the year round. Through the lack of control, too much second-class butter finds its way into the British market and destroys the possibility of establishing a reputation for the Australian product. I recently read a report that Australian butter was very popular in Dublin, but unfortunately an inferior consignment was sent to that city, with the result that Irish importers absolutely turned down Australian and New Zealand butter, and Denmark, owing to its national brand, the “Lur,” and its uniformly manufactured article, secured the entire business. Only after persistent and very special effort were we able to re-establish our good name in Dublin. The success of this measure depends very largely on the constitution and personnel of the boards. Too much care cannot be exercised in the choice of the personnel, but the representation of all interests should help to create confidence, without which success cannot he achieved. The board will have a lot of spade-work to do. It must ensure that we maintain the national brand - probably the “Kangaroo,” that has been recently adopted - and that we develop a uniform method of manufacture and so control the export trade as to make certain that regular supplies will be available. If the board will do that, it will help materially to stabilize this important industry and enable it to be carried on profitably. The local price of butter is always affected by the export parity. If we can stabilize the export price, it must have the effect of enabling us to maintain the local price at a remunerative level. There are many other details that will require the very earliest attention of the board before our butter can reach that satisfactory level that its competitors in the British market have reached. It has come under my notice that frequently our packages are often broken in transport, and are only roughly patched up before sale. In that way the price realized on the whole consignment is seriously affected. Excess water is another matter that needs attention. In the cables some little time ago I read that, owing to excess water, principally in butter from Victoria, all Australian butter was under a cloud. Sir Thomas Clement estimated that the loss to Australia this year because of the lowering effect of excess water on prices would be about £50,000. Before - stabilization of the export .market can be established, it will be necessary to be able to prevent the buying public from getting the article, or a satisfactory substitute, from any other source. Our butter reaches the British market at the same time as that of New Zealand. If we can arrange with New Zealand an understanding in regard to marketing it will materially help early stabilization. The seeking for success by individual generals nearly caused the Allies to lose the war. By mutual understanding and co-operation with our sister dominion we shall much earlier bring about stabilization of the British market, to our mutual benefit. The Danish Government some years ago constituted a board or committee somewhat similar to that proposed by this bill. It is representative of the various dairying interests, and meets in Copenhagen to regulate prices. Through various agencies it is regularly informed of all matters affecting the butter market, such as the stocks on hand and the quantities in transit. Upon the basis of that information the committee fixes an average price for Danish butter for the ensuing week, always with a view to clearing the Danish butter with the least possible delay. The Government of Denmark has adopted a national brand - the “ Lur “ - and requires every factory to be constructed and equipped on certain approved lines. These factories must produce butter of an approved . quality before they are allowed to use the national brand. A factory not fulfilling the conditions is taken under the control of the Government until both it and its produce have reached the approved standard. I hope the proposed board will early take whatever steps are necessary ito, ensure to the dairying industry in Australia a high standard of production of uniform quality. Our future prosperity and national safety depend upon the successful marketing of our primary products overseas, and I feel sure that this bill will go a long way to help in that direction. I commend the Government for taking the very practical step of communicating with the states to urge their co-operation in assembling a conference of dairy experts to advise as to the best action to be taken to accelerate the improvement of our dairy herds and raise the general standard of efficiency in the industry. I should like to draw attention to the average production of milk and butter per cow in Australia, New Zealand, and Denmark -
Those statistics are convincing evidence that there is much to be done to improve the standard of our Herds. Dairy farming is a national industry; it produces new wealth, and must be developed on sound lines if it is to be carried on successfully. In Denmark he2-d testing is undertaken by societies, which are designated “ Danish milk recording societies.” The first of these bodies was instituted in 1895. When the society had been working for a year it was found that the best of the controlled cows produced one pound of butter at a cost of 6d., and the poorest cows at a cost of 2s. 8d. To encourage herd testing the Government offered grants over a number of years for com- petition under certain fixed conditions. By this means the production has been increased by 50 per cent. In America the great increase and prosperity of the dairying industry is attributed to herd testing and the elimination of the unprofitable cow. The animal that can produce enough to pay for her upkeep and yield a satisfactory profit is the only one that should be kept if this great industry is to be conducted successfully. The first herd testing association in America was started at the Michigan Agricultural College only ten years ago. In the first year of its existence the average production in milk was 5,354 pounds, last year the average had increased to 6,637 pounds. New Zealand has also very systematically and effectively undertaken a system of improving her herds and increasing the butter production. There, too, herd testing organizations have been formed. The rules laid down aim at making it possible to establish a reputation fri stock by the testing of selected cows and at the same time preventing the passing on of “ culls.” So successful has New Zealand’s effort been that she has earned the reputation of being ‘ ‘ the dairy farm of the Empire.” In the United Kingdom the movement has penetrated into almost every county of England and Wales. In Australia the State Governments have not been thorough or systematic in dealing with this question. It must be clear that dairymen utilizing dairy cows with a production of 120 lb. of butter fat per annum cannot successfully compete with dairymen whose herds yield 200 to 300 lb. of butter fat per cow. Herd testing and the culling out of unprofitable cows will take the element of chance out of dairying, and will enable the farmer to reduce the cost of production and help him to conduct his industry with profit to himself and the Commonwealth. I hope that the Government will see that the producers from each state are invited to send a representative to the conference of experts, and that a definite and uniform system of herd testing will be the outcome of its deliberations.
The most economical way to build up our herds to a more profitable level is to use bulls of a high production pedigree. It is financially impossible for the farmer unaided to make such provision. At present he is making a gallant effort to recover after a succession of disastrous droughts, and his resources are taxed to the limit. I was pleased to hear the Prime
Minister state recently in this House that the Government, desiring to improve the national efficiency, is willing to help the states if they are prepared to tackle seriously the problem of improving our herds by the importation of stud stock. That will enable the struggling settler to increase the general efficiency and production of his herd. I hope that. that proposal, together with the important subject of national insurance against drought, will early have the attention of our Governments. When we gain a footing in the markets of the Old World we must take every precaution to entrench ourselves and maintain regular supplies. That is imperative for the effective stabilization of the industry. If we fail to do that, and lose the markets at any stage of our development through lack of supplies, or inferior’ quality due to drought or other causes, we shall have greater difficulty in recovering them. It is financially impossible for the individual farmer at the present time to make adequate provision for the conservation of fodder. As the widespread effects of drought include trade depression and increased unemployment, it is the duty of the Commonwealth and the states to stand behind a broad national scheme of fodder conservation. I hope the bill will have! an early and safe passage, for I feel sure that it will bring happier and more prosperous days to a very industrious section of our primary producers.
– I realize that there are goodwill and sincerity behind the bill, and a desire to be of service to a class whose members, every one will agree, are among the most, if not the most, hard-working in the community. At the same time it appears to me that certain general principles have been overlooked. This measure proposes the establishment of an export trust. Membership of the trust and dealings through it are to be made compulsory by law, and its operations are to be supported by public funds; at least, if as I understand to* be the case, 80 per cent, of the f.o.b. value of the butter is to be advanced by the Commonwealth, that is so. Now, every proposal for a monopoly - whether government, semibureaucratic, or private - requires the most careful examination. The aim here is to compel the exporters to place their butter under the control of a board, which will be mainly representative of the producers of the commodity.
– Of the butter factories, not of the men on the land.
– I regard the butter factories as representing the men on the land, for they are mostly co-operative concerns. The board is to control the export of butter and cheese, and it is to do so under a provision which empowers the Minister to issue licences fer export. Thus there is to be legislative recognition of the principle that a Minister may issue export licences in order to enable a particular industry to obtain a greater reward than would otherwise be obtainable by it. Having heard the informative speech of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), and the remarks of other honorable members, it appears to me that there are substantially two objects in view. It is desired, first, to secure that the butter exported shall be of a high standard, and, secondly, to regulate in a manner better than possible at the present time, the marketing of Australian butter overseas. The bill is concerned, first, with the quality, condition, grade, and, I presume, the stamping of butter intended for export. Those are most important matters. No goods should be exported from this country as of a high standard of quality, unless they are what they are represented as being. That>, however, could be secured without setting up a board of the nature proposed. What is desired is done now in relation to fruit and certain other commodities; there is no need for the Government to make advances to the dairying industry in order to improve the quality and grading of butter. The Commonwealth, by means of legislation, and, possibly, regulations under existing acts, c)ould prohibit the export of butter, as of any other goods, that is not up to the proper standard. There is nothing in the bill which makes the issue of the licence to export conditional only on the quality of the goods to be exported. The issue or the licence is left, entirely to the discretion .of the Minister. The individual who is refused an export licence has no redress for that refusal; he simply has to accept the ipse dixit of the Minister, who may say to one, “ I allow you to export,” and to another, “I do not allow you.” That is what may possibly happen under the bill as it stands. I have no objection, in any case where it is shown that the general interests of Australia are being adversely affected by reason of the export of inferior goods; to the enforcement of stringent requirements as to the quality of all goods exported, or to the introduction of a system of issuing licences for the export of goods of a certain standard; but it is surely important that the issue of licences should have relation only to quality. Under this bill; however, it is not provided that the issue of the licences shall have regard only to quality. They will be granted according to the view which the Minister takes of the local requirements and the overseas possibilities. The Minister in power at any particular time might take the view that it is desirable to reduce the export of butter because of ite high price locally. Accordingly, he might refuse licences to export until the local price had been reduced. Do* the dairy producers of Australia really wish to place themselves in that position ? A Minister might say, “ In my opinion, the price of butter in Australia is too high, and I am going to keep more butter -in the country in order to bring the local price down. Therefore I shall not for the present issue more export licences.” Under the bill the Minister is allowed to do that. The measure seeks to introduce a system for the regulation of prices by the manage-: ment of the export trade. I suggest to the dairymen that they are running very grave risks by asking for legislation of this character. A Minister might compel one person to sell all his butter in Australia, and he might permit another to sell all his output abroad. The second object of the bill is to secure the better marketing of our butter, by setting up a single agency which will regulate the placing of it on the market. It appears to be plain from what those who have a first-hand knowledge of the industry have said, that matters are now very unsatisfactory in this respect. Even the slightest and most superficial examination of the facts would show that those interested require a great deal more organization than they now have in their marketing arrangements. I have heard it said that some 90 per cent, or more of the butter producers of Australia are behind the scheme for single control, and I do not understand why, if 90 per cent of the butter producers are sufficiently intelligent to see that the establishment of a single agency is required, they do not set up such an agency on their own account. Why do they not form a company and do for themselves what requires to be done ? Why do they ask the Government to do for them something which, if they appreciate the position, and have the energy, they can do for themselves ? Nobody has explained why this cooperation should be brought about by compulsory legislation, which will interfere with individual liberty.
– The dairymen have already had a try in the home market.
– In most industries, if 90 per cent, of those interested are determined upon a certain course, they are able to command the market, provided they stick together. If they will not voluntarily act co-operatively, it is their own fault if they suffer from the lack of co-operation. This habit of rushing to the Government for support is to be deplored. .It appears to be assumed nowadays that if any industry, owing to market conditions, such as the collapse of the German, mark, finds itself in a diffi-cult position for a season or two, it is the business of some government - and, in the first place, it is to the Commonwealth Government that the appeal for assistance is made - to help it out of its dilemma. That is a very dangerous proposition to accept. The Commonwealth will have a big interest in this matter, if it is to advance 80 per cent, of the value of the produce, and it will naturally desire a certain amount of control. If the Government finds this money it will be entitled, on ordinary principles, to call the tune. I hope that the butter producers are not asking for this advance, and that it will not be made. Either it is an advance’ that is commercially justifiable, or it is not. If it is, the advance can be obtained outside in the ordinary money market. If, on the other hand, it is not commercially justifiable, how can the Government justify making it? If the Government finds that the board is allowing too much butter to be exported, and that the price in Australia is, as people may think, very high, the butter producers will realize the dangers of legislation of this type. We have heard a great deal about export parity and import parity. All exporting industries where the exportation is at all substantial are in exactly the same position as that outlined by the honorable member for Gippsland in regard to the dairying industry.
– And they are all primary industries.
– Not all.
– Practically all.
– I am dealing with the principle. The arguments of the honorable member for Gippsland apply to all exporting industries, where the exportation is substantial. If there is one rule for butter, ought not there to be the same rule for all other commodities?
– The potato-growers are in a bad way at the present time.
– Where are we to draw the line? I have a real sympathy for the producers of butter, but I fear that a step is to be taken which may be the beginning of a very dangerous course. The same arguments apply obviously to wheat, and yet think of what would he involved if similar principles were applied, and everybody who wanted to export wheat had to secure a licence from the Government! Bureaucratic control will be bad enough in regard to butter, although I realize that it will be alleviated by the circumstances that this commodity is mainly handled in factories. The same argument as is being applied to the exportation of butter will apply not only to all primary production, but also to secondary products which are exported. There is a duty of 2d. per lb. on butter, but as the butter producers have completely captured the home market, that duty is inoperative. This industry has outgrown the need for protection in normal times, and I submit that every industry which has an export surplus may find itself in the same position ,ag the butter industry. If our manufacturing industries increase, as I hope they will - a few of them already produce more than is necessary to supply the home market - they may apply to the Government for the application to them of legislation of this description, with the object first of increasing the price of their products in Australia to give a better reward to the workers in the industry ; and secondly, of taking advantage of the markets in other parts of the world in a more scientific and skilled fashion. I am dubious about the wisdom of basing legislation on these principles, and while I recognize the sincerity of the arguments advanced in favour of it, 1 must confess that they have not been strong enough to convince me that I ought to support the bill. The honorable member for Gippsland, in the course of his argument, said that if freights on butter from Australia to London increased 1½d. per lb., there would be an immediate decrease in the local, price, but that would not follow unless the producers of Australian butter were prepared to accept - and had to accept - less for it in London. Let me illustrate my point. Suppose that only six countries supplied London with butter, and that the freight from each country increased by ltd. per lb. at the same time, and suppose that in the Parliament of each of those six countries there was a member for Gippsland, and each member for Gippsland used the arguments which the honorable member for Gippsland used this afternoon, all that they could really prove would be that there had been an increase in freight, which would increase the London price, and, accordingly, the local price. The argument of my honorable friend does not appear to me to be sound. For the reasons that I have given, I must oppose the bill, though I regret having to do so.
Honorable members opposite seem to be in the position of punters who have put all their money on one horse, the nomination of which has proved to be informal. The amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) having been ruled out of order, it appears that honorable members opposite have nothing more to say on the matter.
– Do not make a mistake. A great deal more will be said on this bill before it is through.
– it must not be said by interjection.
– There is great need that something should be done to assist our butter producers. I do not agree with the contention of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) that it is not the duty of the Government to assist our dairymen. I consider that if the Government does not do something to develop a market for our butter producers, it will fail in its duty, and will deserve condemnation. At the same time we must recognize the truth of the Prime Minister’s statement that this is experimental legislation, and simply destructive criticism of it has no merit, in view of the imperative need that something should be done to stabilize the butter industry. Scientific marketing is an urgent requirement, but scientific marketing does not end with putting a product on the market ; it must be controlled from the time it leaves the producer until it reaches the consumer. A great deal has been said to the detriment of the middlemen, but not all the middlemen are antagonistic to the producers. Some of them are our best friends. I do not agree with the price-fixation proposal made by the honorable member for Capricornia, though it, of course, suite honorable members opposite, for it would be a step nearer to the realization of that plank on their party platform which reads, “ nationalization of the means of production.” Possibly the honorable member does not remember that the producers of this country had such a painful experience of price fixing not more than five or six years ago that they do not desire a repetition of it. At all events, honorable members who represent them will be very chary about supporting any legislation which tends to price fixation. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) pointed out how adversely the local market may be affected by an increase in freight charges, and the truth of his contention cannot be denied. The attitude of the Labour party to the producers was shown very clearly the other clay in the Victorian Parliament when the rise in the price of wheat was under discussion. Members said, “Why should we pay more for our wheat because the price has increased on the other side of the world ? “ That is the reverse side of the pricefixation picture. Price fixation, as recommended by honorable members opposite, is doomed to failure. I differ from the view of the honorable member for Gippsland that the proposed export control board is not large enough. It is too cumbersome, if anything, although I must admit that I cannot see how the number of members can very well be reduced, for we must give the co-operative representatives the greater voting power. It seems to be somewhat unfair that South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, which export only small quantities of butter, should have equal representation with New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria. In 192.1.-2 and 1922-3, 67,838 tons of butter -were produced in N/ew South Wales, although that two-year period included one bad season, and 22,015 tons were exported. The production in Victoria for the two years was 74,704 tons, and the export 39,124 tons. Both seasons were good in Victoria. Queensland produced 51,199 tons, and exported 23,582 tons. Queensland, like New South Wales, experienced one bad season in the period. The total production for the two years from those three states was 193,741 tons, and the total export 84,721 tons. Comparative figures for South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia are - South Australia - Production, .13,042 tons; export, 3,161 tons. Tasmania - Production, 5,905 tons; export,’ 853 tons. Western Australia - Production, 2.422 tons; export, 11 tons. Total production, 21,369 tons; total export, 3,755 tons. It will be seen, therefore, that there was a very big difference between the amount exported from New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland and that exported from Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia. It is impossible to frame foolproof legislation, and we must trust to the Government to exercise some sanity in appointing representatives to bodies like this. Two nominations have to be made, and, as the proprietary factories are almost entirely confined to Victoria, and will have the right to nominate two representatives, we . may be reasonably sure that the representatives of the chief exporting states will be able to control the board. Although it may be argued that the control of the export butter should be entirely in the hands of the producers, I think the Government acted wisely in stipulating that the sellers should have one representative on the board. When that proposal was announced by the Prime Minister, the honorable member for East Sydney interjected to the effect that such a representative would only look after the interests of Tooley-street ; but the honorable member is not always accurate in his judgment. A selling agent who is thoroughly conversant with the conditions under which butter is marketed would assist and strengthen the board. The proprietary “ factories are almost entirely confined to Victoria.
– There are some in Tasmania and New South Wales.
– I do not say that there are no proprietary factories outside Victoria, but the number in Victoria predominates to such an extent that the others need not be taken into consideration. Some co-operative factories in Victoria prefer to market their produce through the selling agents. One of the largest co-operative companies in New South Wales does not sell through the co-operative selling agencies. Although all the Queensland factories are co-operative factories, a large percentage of the butter produced there is exported through the agency of proprietary firms. The opinions that I have expressed about the agents in the butter trade apply also to those engaged in the other primary producing industries. The men connected with the Australian wool-selling firms have a practical knowledge of the wool industry, and honestly endeavour to market the wool to the best advantage of the grower. I admit that some men engaged in the trade exploit the grower, but I should be sorry to think that they are more than a very small minority. I am quite sure that the board will be strengthened by the inclusion of the member proposed by the Government. The men elected by the producers to such boards are often without experience in marketing produce overseas. I intend, when the bill is in committee, to move an amendment to set out the constitution of the committee. As there will be a board of ten, six of whom will represent co-operative factories, it will be quite possible, unless some restrictions are placed on the personnel of the committee, for it to consist entirely of representatives of the co-operative factories. My amendment will be that the committee shall consist of four members, in addition to the chairman, two of whom shall represent the co-operative companies, one the proprietary members of the board, and the other the selling agents. The co-operative companies will then have three representatives on the committee, for there is not the slightest) doubt that, with six representatives out of ten members on the board, they will elect one of their number as chairman. Even if the chairman is not a representative of the factories, he will at least have their absolute confidence. A committee constituted as I suggest will give the control to the co-operative factories, but will not leave the other branches of the industry unrepresented. The honor- able member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) spoke as if it would be a simple matter to get uniform legislation in the states for the control of this industry. He has evidently not had as much experience as I of such matters. The Australian Meat Council has had in some states the unanimous support of all the producers’ organizations. It has a most capable chairman, and has used all the arts of publicity, but up to the present time it has induced only one state parliament to pass the necessary legislation. The parliament that put through the required bill was the Labour parliament of Queensland. While members of that parliament unanimously supported the bill, and passed it in half an hour, the Labour party in New South Wales is strenuously opposing the proposal for a similar bill. The scheme suggested by the Government is more likely than any other that has been put forward to benefit the industry. The honorable member for Capricornia said that the dairy farmers were unanimous, but unfortunately for them they are not the whole population of this country. When questions relating to the dairying industry come before Parliament, other interests than dairying have to be considered. The question of protection enters into the consideration of this matter. There is an import duty of 2d. per lb. on butter. It is generally, but not always, inoperative. The voluntary stabilization scheme put up the price of butter for home consumption last year, and made the local market the best in the world for New Zealand butter, which was imported in spite of the duty. The only thing that prevented the market from being flooded was the difficulty of distribution. Thus we saw the anomaly, because the price was artificially fixed at a high level, of Australian butter being placed in cold storage for export, while New Zealand butter was put on the local market. In another instance, when the export price was lower than the local price, butter was sold for export and put on board ship at Brisbane, but was taken off at Sydney and sold at a profit to a Sydney buyer, who disposed of it in the Sydneymarket. Many difficulties are encountered in attempting to fix prices artificially. It is not such a simple matter as the honorable member for Capricornia would lead us to believe. The condition of all our “primary industries, with the exception of those that produce wool, mutton, lamb, and wheat, is most unsatisfactory. I am optimistic enough to hope that when the bill emerges from the committee stage it will represent a genuine attempt to improve the condition of the industry. The honorable member for ‘Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) spoke of the cost of producing butter. During the war the Queensland Government appointed a commission to inquire into that matter, and it reported that it cost 5s. to produce 1 lb. of butter. I do not agree that the case is as black as the honorable member for Gippsland paints it. We could all make out a good case for particular industries. With a pencil and paper I could show that it is impossible to produce a bushel of wheat at anything like the price at which it is sold. No primary industry can pay, and certainly no mau in the dairying industry can make 1 lb. of butter for less than 5s., if the basic wage fixed by the Arbitration Court is paid to rural workers, and extra rates for overtime.
Sitting suspended- from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
.- I join with the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) and other honorable members who have said that they wish to help the dairy farmer in every possible way. There is no member of this House, and no one in the community, who knows anything of the difficulties with which the dairy farmers have to contend who will not be prepared to make any reasonable sacrifice to help them. I have had actual experience amongst dairymen, and I have myself been a dairy farmer. I know something about many phases of his work. During the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia, one of the jobs I was called upon to tackle was to endeavour to settle a milk strike amongst the producers. In trying to obtain all the evidence I could to guide me in my inquiry, I visited a great many dairies, although I knew pretty well the conditions of the industry. One mau whose dairy farm I visited made me feel rather miserable. I got to his place about half-past 3 on Sunday afternoon, and I found himself, and his wife, and a girl and boy - who were not very old - engaged in milking. Because of the restrictions imposed owing to the outbreak of rinderpest, this man had to have his cows yarded in a very small yard, and was obliged to hand-feed them. His cows were not very good, nor was his pasture. I said to him, “ You are working very hard. Yours is very difficult work.” He said, “Yes.” I then said, “ You must be doing pretty well,” and his answer was, “ To tell you the truth, I have been here twelve years, and I am just a little worse off than I was when I came here. During the whole twelve years I have had but one week’s holiday. I had a nervous breakdown, and I was ordered by the doctor to go to Bunbury for a week’s holiday. I was so used to getting up early in the morning that I could not sleep at Bunbury, and had not much of a holiday. With the exception of that week, I have never had a day’s holiday. I have worked week days and Sundays, Christmas Day, and other days exactly as you see me doing to-day. My wife has also worked whenever she has been fit to do so; and now the children are helping as they are getting along in years. The net result is that I am a little worse off than when I began here twelve years ago.. On account of the rinderpest restrictions, I have to hand-feed my stock, dry cows as well as milking cows, and my returns for milk are just £4 per week less than the cost of fodder.” Honorable members will understand that I have seen at least one side of the dairying industry, and I say that we can all applaud the Government for making some attempt to assist the struggling dairy farmer. Honorable members would, I am sure, be prepared to applaud any Government that would do anything to assist the dairy farmer who has to work under ‘such irksome conditions. What we have to decide is whether this bill will in any way assist the dairy farmer. If it will, I am sure we are all for it. But I think, somehow or other, that the Government has started at the wrong end. The question is not one of finding markets for dairy products at all. It is more a question of enabling the dairyman to produce at prices which will enable him to compete on the world’s markets. He should, of course, be given every facility for getting his product to market, and for selling it under the best conditions. The difficulty with the dairy farmer here is that many years of high prices for butter induced men to go into the industry under conditions of over capitalization, not only as regards land, but as regards all the equipment of a dairy. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) knows all about the matter, and he will agree with me when I say that many dairymen are trying to produce butter from unprofitable cows. In 1919 and 1920, the prices ruling for butter were very high, and men were induced to go into the industry under conditions under which it could not be made a successful business. Unprofitable cows represent a very serious menace to the success of the <1 airy farmer. When we remember that the Australian, average is from 130 lb. to 154 lb. of butter per cow, we can realize that under ordinary conditions the dairy farmer must find it very difficult to make his business pay. The Federal Government is the National Government of Australia; and, whilst I hold that it should not interfere too much in state matters, T hold just as strongly that it should assist the State Governments in every possible way. We should establish a system of dairy inspection and test. I believe that every cow and every dairy should be tested and inspected. We cannot tell a man that he must not continue to milk certain cows, but there is no reason why we should not say to him, “ Your cows are unprofitable. They give far below the paying average quantity of butter-fat. The best thing you can do is to get better cows, and we shall give you every facility to obtain them.”
– The honorable member is aware that the Government has communicated with all the State Governments, and has offered to assist them in any scheme that can be devised to improve the basis of the dairying industry.
– That is so, and in my view the Commonwealth Government has done wonderful work in that direction, and if the State Governments will accept its offer, there will be more done for the dairying industry than can be expected from this bill. One of the things which should be done at once is to establish a system of examination and test by experts. We should not say to a dairyman, “ Your cows are no good, you must get rid of them.” We should encourage them. We should say, “We know the difficulties under which you are working, but, whilst your cows are eating a lot of fodder, they are not giving an adequate return. We will be behind you, and will assist you financially to improve your herds.” The State Governments should encourage the establishment of stud herds, and might render much help in that way. Another feature of the industry is that many of the people engaged in it are quite unsuitable for the work. I have some of them in my own electorate, and I know . that there are a great many people engaged in the industry who are not fitted in any way to carry it on. They were induced to go into it, as I have said, because the high prices ruling for butter for several years led them to believe that a good business is to be made out of it. If we consider the prices which during the last ten years have ruled in England and in Australia, we shall find that, on the whole, they have been good, and the price ruling for butter is not the cause of the difficulties of those now engaged in the industry. In 1914, the average price throughout the year for high-class butter, the choicest we produce, was 108s. per cwt. in Australia, and 185s. in England. In 1915, it was 137s. in Australia and 131s. in England. The price has varied in different years, and in some years has bea lower in England than in Australia. In 1916, it was 137s. in Australia, and 153s. in England. In 1917, it was 153s, in Australia, and 198s. in England. In 1918, the price was 156s. 6d. in Australia, and 252s. in England. The exporter in that year was on a very favorable wicket indeed, but we have to remember that he was working under war conditions, and the cost of freight was enormous. In 1919 the price was 180s. in Australia, and 248s. in England. Then I come to the peak year 1920, when the prices ruling induced so many persons to take up the industry, and under unfavorable conditions, chiefly due to overcapitalization. Thirty pounds and £35 per head were paid for cows, and £25 was considered a very reasonable figure. The price of land was increased by 50 per cent., and a great many were induced to go into the industry on unsuitable land and under conditions that were quite unsuited for success in dairying with normal prices. In 1920 the price of butter in Australia was 232s., and in England 272s. In 1921 the price was 201s. in Australia and 285s. in England. In 1922 the price was 178s. 4d. in Australia and 175s. in England. In 1923 it was 210s. 8d. in Australia and 185s. in England. The figures I have given are New South Wales figures, but with cost of transport they would not vary more than about 2s. or 3s. in any of the other states. Last year the Australian people paid infinitely more for their butter than the people of England had to pay in that year. For the eight months of the present year which have gone by the price of butter in Australia has averaged 167s. 6d. per cwt. The price of butter appreciated from 108s. 4d. in 1914 to 210s. 8d. last year. It will be seen, therefore, that the present difficulties of the industry are not due to the low price now ruling for butter. I do not say that butter cannot be marketed under better conditions than it is at present. Many savings might be effected in that direction. I do say that we must discover some means of producing butter on a better basis. We must have better cows. We must reduce the over-capitalization of land used -for dairy farming, and we must give the dairy farmer better and cheaper facilities for production, otherwise the industry will be ruined. Another great difficulty is t&at many people have gone in for dairying who are not suited to it. No one will deny that there is a number of men engaged in the industry to-day who are quite unsuited for it. It demands such patience and intense application that a man requires to have special qualifications to engage in the industry successfully. There are men at present engaged in it who would never make a success of it no matter how favorable the seasons were. To make a success of dairying a man must be in love with the job, and it is difficult to find men in love with dairying who have been at it for very long. During the rinderpest outbreak I found that some people almost cried when they learned that their cows were to he taken from them. Such people will make a success of dairying, because they are fond of the animals and do not mind the long hours of work. As the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) has said, under the very best conditions dairying is an irksome, unthankful, and difficult job, and those engaged in it should be far better paid than they are. I can give some little experience of over-capitalization of land in this industry. Many of our dairying areas have become, through a system of speculative booming, completely overcapitalized, and however hard the dairyman may work, however suitable his herd may be, or however great his own knowledge and application may be, his case is hopeless unless a remarkably inflated market assists him out of his morass of debt. I am sorry that many of the dairy farmers in financial difficulty through over-capitalization are returned soldiers. I visited one of the best dairying areas in Australia in the year when peak butter prices were ruling. The season was good, and the cattle appeared to be generally of exceptional quality. I naturally concluded that the producers must be making good profits. Imagine my surprise when attending a large sale of dairy cattle to find that many dairymen were selling their stock to meet their obligations. I conversed with several of them, and asked why this stock was being sold, and I was.’ told that many of the dairymen were up against it. I learned, also, that the grass lands in that district, 400 miles from the capital, had been sold at from £60 to £80’ an acre. I found that that was the ruling price, although it was altogether exorbitant. My experience has satisfied me that to work successfully a dairy farm one must milk at least a herd of 30 cows. To keep that quantity of cows in milk requires a herd of at least 50 head, and even then it is difficult to keep 30 cows in milk. To feed 50 head requires 100 acres of the very best land. The very best pasture land of Australia will barely maintain one cow to 2 acres. It usually takes 3 acres to pasture one cow. Itwould cost £6,000 to purchase 100 acres of land at the minimum price ruling in the district to which I have referred, and adding £2,000 for stock and plant, it would require a capital of £8,000 to keep a herd of 30 cows in milk.
– Dairy farming cannot be carried on successfully on such highpriced land.
– I am giving honorable members the result of my experience in that district. It is a remarkably good herd that will return 6 lb. of butter fat a cow weekly. Only small herds specially selected and well fed can do this. The average return throughout Australia is under 3½ lb. a head, so that by taking 6 lb. of butter fat a head I am making a liberal estimate. On these figures the average quantity of butter fat produced from a herd of 30 cows would not be above 180 lb. per week. The interest bill at 7 per cent, would be £11 per week, and this would work out under the most favorable conditions at1s. 2½d. for every 1 lb. of butter produced.
– I presume that the honorable member is about to connect his arguments with the bill.
– Yes . I am showing that the bill is not what is wanted. The difficulties under which the dairymen are suffering are not so much the conditions of marketing asthey are the disability of over-capitalization and other troubles. In such cases as these there appears to be no cure except land deflation, which must set in sooner or later, or until the British butter market improves or the people of Australia are compelled to pay higher prices for this commodity. Even so, I fail to see how a working man with a family could pay very much more for butter than he pays at present. The dairyman would be greatly assisted if the quality of butter could be improved and standardized. I have with me the balancesheet of a factory that makes one of the highest grades of butter, and it has done much more for the settlers than have other factories, because its conditions of marketing and the quality of its butter are better. Last year it returned 1s. 9½d. per lb. for all butter fat, this being a very good price. Under the bill it is proposed to appoint a board to take full control of all butter for export. I take it that the board, if appointed, will determine what butter is to be exported and what is to be kept for local consumption. It is a big power to place in the hands of a board, but I should offer no objection to it if, in consequence of the board’s operations, a better price for butter would be obtained. But I have my doubts about this. I shall give honorable members an illustration of what has happened in the last few years. About five years ago the Overseas Selling Federation, composed of some of the biggest co-operative selling associations in Australia, was established for the purpose of eliminating the middleman and the speculator, preventing f.o.b. selling, and generally making things better at least at the selling end for the dairymen. The Commonwealth Government granted £75,000 to this federation to enable it to finance its operations, yet we find that it has not fulfilled the purpose for which it was originally established. I do not say that the federation has failed, but other big producing co-operative associations do not send their butter to it at all. There must be a reason for this, although I have not yet ascertained it. Every man sells his butter in the market which he thinks best. The North Coast Selling Company, the biggest creamery in the world, and very well managed too, has never sent a. box of butter to the federation. That creamery sends its butter to brokers or agents. In the western district, another large and well managed co-operative society does the same thing. The Queensland producers make their butter almost entirely under the co-operative system. The Overseas Selling Federation was established to eliminate the broker and the private salesmen. In Queensland last year, twice as much butter was sent by the co-operative societies to selling agents in London, or was sold f.o.b., Brisbane, than was sent to the federation. We should be very careful before we appoint a board of control
– Was not that situation caused through the inadequate guarantee provisions ?
– No. This federation was financed by the Federal Government to the extent of £75,000, so it had sufficient capital to enable it to operate successfully. The board proposed under the bill would be very similar in its functions to the Overseas Selling Federation, which failed to accomplish what it originally set out to do. It had five years to justify its establishment. Last year the big cooperative selling concerns in most cases did not send butter to the federation, and one affiliated concern sent to it half its butter and the other half to selling agents. It seems to me that the difficulty is not in the selling of the butter, but in its production. I do not favour the bill in its present form, “although I would support any scheme proposed by the Government to assist the struggling dairymen, even if it meant ruin to proprietary and cooperative concerns and even to myself. The board if appointed will be a big spending academic department. A lot has been said about the New Zealand act, which has not operated except in one direction - a good one at that. New Zealand has not the regular steamship service that we have. We have a weekly service, and can ship butter away every week or as we like. The shipping service from New Zealand is irregular, and sometimes three boats loaded with butter leave for Europe at the same time. The board appointed by the Dominion Government did good work by distributing the shipment so that big quantities of butter would not be placed upon the London market simultaneously. The Australian Selling Federation ought to have adopted the same policy. New Zealand sells 50 per cent, of its output on an f.o.b. basis. In other words, the London buyers purchase the butter in New Zealand and ship it at their own risk, and the producers have found that policy profitable. The price of butter in Melbourne decreased Jd. per lb. this week, yet London buyers paid 173s. per cwt. on the spot for the same quality of butter. The factory that sold to them received, in cash, 6s. per cwt. more than present shipments are expected to realize on the London market, and has not the responsibility of financing the consignment to England. I mention these facts to show that there are two sides to this problem and we must be very careful. The bill will give to the board too much power, and it should not be put into operation until at least 50 per cent, of the butter producers have voted for it. When a poll was taken in New Zealand upon a similar proposal, not 30 per cent, of the producers voted. They knew nothing about the scheme, and did not bother to vote. It will be embarrassing to the Government if after the scheme proposed in the bill has been in operation for some time a majority of the farmers are found to be opposed to it. I am confident that the final result of this measure will be the creation of a big government department, the cost of which will be an additional burden upon the unfortunate dairy farmers.
.- I support the second reading of the bill, but when the measure reaches committee I shall propose certain amendments. I have been associated with the dairying industry for over twenty years. I have owned herds and milked my own cows. I am a director of a butter factory and I have had experience of good and bad seasons, drought, hand-feeding, and the various diseases that attack cattle herds. There fore, I may fairly claim to speak with authority upon any legislative proposal relating to the dairying industry. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) advised the producers to organize themselves co-operatively for the marketing of their produce. I have firsthand knowledge of endeavours to organize the primary producers, and I assure the honorable member that it would be a, very much easier task to get all the. lawyers of Australia into one concern, notwithstanding that conflict between themselves is the breath of life to them. For many years past we have done everything in our power to organize our forces in the manner suggested by the Prime Minister and other speakers. Quite recently ^11 but 5 per cent, of the butter producers in Victoria were banded together, but the competition of the minority destroyed our organization . IT Queensland the dairy farmers were unanimous, but their co-operative efforts were destroyed by the opposition from the state of New South Wales, where the industry was not organized. For years I have tried to unite the dairy farmers in all the states, but without success. The assistance for which they are now asking is no more than I shall seek for all primary industries while I remain in Parliament. Recent precedents have been established. The wine industry is in such an unstable condition that the Government has come to its assistance. Whether or not the scheme which was recently assented to by this House will prove effective time alone will show, but if necessary it can be amended. Again, Parliament gave a bounty upon the export of meat, and it was of great assistance to those engaged in the cattle industry on the north-west coast, and in the Northern Territory and northern Queensland. At the present time, prime meat is realizing 4$d. per lb. in the Smithfield market, in London, and the cost of getting it there is 2£d. per lb. . Only a fortnight ago prime young heifers were sold, 450 lb. weight, dressed body beef, at the Metropolitan Meat Market, at 25s. per 100 lb., equal to 3d. per lb., out of which freight and other expenses had to be paid. Yet the carcasses were retailed at from 4d. to ls. 4d. per lb. Because of ignorance on the part of the public, the primary producer is wrongly accused of being respondsible for the high price of meat in the butcher’s shop. Similarly, a high’ retail price for butter does not necessarily mean that the dairymen are prospering. The assistance which we are seeking lor the dairying industry is similar to that recommended by the Tariff Board for the broom corn industry. The growers of that commodity are selling for £25 per ton what cost them at least £40 to produce, and yet the prices of brooms in the shops have not been reduced. Similar conditions obtain in the tobacco industry; I know of nine growers in the north-eastern district who in the course of a year produced 4 tons 3 cwt, of tobacco leaf, for which they received £900. That sum was the total income for full-time labour of nine individuals over years, a statement for which I can produce proof ! We are confronted with the striking fact that while the primary producer is struggling for a mere existence, combines are more active in Australia than they have been at any other time in its history. We are compelled to ask for assistance for the rural interests because of the artificial burdens that are placed upon them. There is a high protective tariff which increases the price of the implements of production. The Arbitration Court has increased wages. I do not object to either the tariff or the Arbitration Court, because they are part of the adopted policy of the country, and it is one for the Parliament to amend if the people so desire, but the increased costs which they have caused are augmented by high rates for transportation by sea and rail. When one takes into account all the increased artificial costs that have been placed upon the primary producers during the last eight or nine years, and particularly recently, it is easy to understand why half the population of Victoria and. New South Wales is in Melbourne and Sydney. The basic wage for city workers is from £4 12s. to £5 per week. Even a young fellow driving a baker’s cart receives £5 per week. In these circumstances, men cannot be blamed for drifting from the country to the city, but it is the bounden duty of this Parliament to take all reasonable steps to prevent that unwholesome trend. Some honorable members have stressed the importance of improving the dairy herds. The surest method of encouraging such improvement is to make the industry worth while. I know .of scores of men who bought the very best of dairy cattle, fed and cared for them well, and organized every branch of their farm, and yet were forced by low prices to sell out. Those engaged in the industry are now endeavouring to better their position, and I congratulate the Government on having proposed in this bill an instalment of the greater measure of assistance which the producers expect from Parliament. If the legislature is prepared to foster urban interests by protective tariffs, wages boards, and arbitration courts, it must extend the same consideration to the men in the country. When that is done, prosperity may follow. The need for closer settlement is recognized by all honorable members; it is not a party question, and I agree with honorable members opposite that we must first provide land for our own people and be careful about the class of men whom we establish in rural pursuits. We must populate our vacant spaces or some other nation will, but we can never expect to settle people on the land if the rewards of their industry are to be so poor as those that have been disclosed in the dairying, broom corn, and tobacco industries. We are only hypocrites if we. advise men to go upon the land before we make the conditions much better than they are to-day. The alternative is to remove some of those artificial burdens which have made the lot of the primary producer so much harder than it used to be, or grant the producers assistance in the direction we ask. Closer settlement is probably the most important subject which this Parliament could discuss, for we have an imperative duty to populate our rural areas. I appeal to honorable members to disregard party considerations and take up this big problem in a national spirit. Vast areas are being ravaged by the rabbit pest, and thousands of people are rushing to the cities, and we can well imagine what the result will be unless the population is decentralized. I do not contend that th present bill will cure all the troubles that beset the dairying industry, but I suggest that the measure should be tried for a year or two, after which it can be improved, if necessary, in the light of experience, or it can be repealed. If the plan proves advantageous the principle can be extended to other industries. The speculator has played too prominent a part in the disposal of all primary products. The market manipulator has done untold damage to the dairying and other industries. Through his operations on the other side of the world the dairymen of Australia have lost millions of pounds. The proposal outlined in the bill is a step in the right direction, and should have a beneficial effect on the export tirade. During the wharf labourers’ strike the price of butter fell to 138s. a cwt. at the end of March, and by the 16th of May it had risen to 160s. per cwt. A co-operative firm in Great Britain held 180,000 cases of Australian buller, and if it had not had sufficient financial strength to retain the produce until the price rose 12s. a cwt., which it did immediately afterwards, the loss to the producers would have amounted to £24,000. I am convinced that a body of shrewd men could render the dairymen of Australia a great service. In Denmark this industry is perfectly organized. One brand of butter only is marketed, and the industry is under complete control. The commodity is sold through accredited agents, and the Government of Denmark, which is entirely sympathetic towards the dairy farmers, has assisted them at all times. In Australia, however, we have had several hundred brands of butter, and we have been selling through a multiplicity of agents, blenders, speculators, &c. When Senator Greene was Minister for Trade and Customs, he endeavoured to introduce a scheme somewhat on the lines of the present bill. In explaining his proposals for the co-operative control of the industry, he stated -
Dairy farming ranks very high amongst our primary industries. The annual value of our dairy products consumed locally, plus the value of those exported, exceeds £20,000,000 per annum, but, although the total value of dairy produce in this country runs into such a large figure, the fact that there are 42,000 registered dairies is eloquent testimony to the number of people that this industry employs, and also to the fact that the average earnings of the average dairyman do not amount to more than a bare living.
Allowing for such premises amongst the 42,000 registered dairies as are factories and town distributing centres only, it would seem that the average gross earnings of each primary producer in the dairying industry do not amount to more than about £530 a year; and these are gross earnings. Out of this has to be found interest on capital invested in land, or if the dairyman be a tenant, his rent, interest on stock and plant, maintenance of his property, depreciation of stock and plant,’ and also wages. . . .
The normal production of butter in Australia annually is about 84,825 tons, or 190,000,000 lbs.
Our average exports amount to something between one-fourth and one-third of this huge total, but it is, nevertheless, the price which we obtain for the smaller quantity that practically determines the price that the producers obtain for the whole. It is this fact which is of such great importance in considering any scheme for the regulation of the future export trade of Australia.
If we can increase the sale value of our butter in London by Id. a lb., as the added price is reflected in our market throughout the year, it means an increased amount received by our producers on butter alone of £790,000. If we can increase the price by 2d. a lb., it means £1,580,000 more in the pockets of the dairy farmers. And that is not all the story, because, as has already been pointed out, there is a balance always existing between the price received for the various kinds of dairy produce, and, generally speaking, if it were possible to put 2d. a lb. on to the pre-war normal average price, that 2d. a lb. would be reflected, not merely in the butter market of Australia throughout the year, but it would also be reflected in the other 35 per cent, of the dairy products of Australia, and in reality 2d. a lb. more on butter would mean, in all probability, an added value to the dairy produce of Australia of well over £2,000,000.
The argument advanced by the exMinister. for Trade and Customs is on all fours with my contention. Danish dairymen have been receiving 4d. a lb. more for their butter than the producers of Australia have received for their best quality article, notwithstanding the fact that experts in this country assure us that the best Australian butter is superior to the Danish commodity, because of ite carrying qualities. A loss of 4d. a lb. on a gross return of £20,000,000 means an annual loss to the Commonwealth of £3,160,000. It would be well worth attempting to improve the present position of the industry, even if we could only make up a portion of the present loss. We have voluntarily standardized the butter industry of Australia, and have state butter advisory committees, and also a federal dairy advisory council, and it does not cost the Government one penny, as a levy is placed upon the export of butter to pay the expenses. The duty of the advisory council is to advise the dairy factories in every way possible, and to keep in touch With the federal and state ministers. By this means the quality of our butter has been enormously improved, as the vast majority of our factories are now pasteurizing their butter. Having standardized the industry and perfected the quality of our butter, to my mind, it is absolutely imperative to control its marketing.
The butter factories of Australia have attained a high standard of manufacture, and the great bulk of the butter produced to-day is superfine. Men qualified to express an opinion describe the Australian article as second to none, but it is essential to the success of the industry to have some control of the marketing of the produce. A good deal has been said in this debate concerning the cost of the proposed board. I was rather surprised at the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) taking exception to this cost, considering the great value of theindustry to the Commonwealth. The cost of the dairy committee in New Zealand is only £2,500 a year, the chairman receiving £500, and each of the other members £250 per annum.
– Does the honorable member expect to obtain good men at t hat salary?
– Men who could do this work and who would be ready and willing to act are present in the gallery tonight. They are bona fide producers, and I have no doubt that they would be prepared to give their services free of charge for a year or two in order to place the industry on a satisfactory footing. I regret that the bill does not go a great deal further than it does, and in committee I shall attempt to widen its scope. I hope that it will be made a measure that will serve the best interests, not only of the capital cities, but also of rural Australia generally.
.- My constituency is not closely concerned with cows, but the people I represent consume a considerable quantity of butter, and they want to know why they are compelled to pay 2s. a lb. for it when Providence has bountifully provided feed for the cattle from whose milk the butter is produced. If, as the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) has remarked, there are dairymen present in the gallery to-night, they will not be very favorably impressed by the gloomy speeches of honorable members associated with the Country party. I have relatives living on the north coast of New South Wales in a farming community who are much better off than I am. It is well known that people who live at Taree, on the Manning River, know very little about the miseries of farming, and some of them have paid as much as £100 an acre for their land. On the other hand, many people are trying to farm on land which is not fit for it. I have the best interests of the agricultural community at heart, and I sympathize with farmers who are on poor land, or have paid too much for their land, or are paying too high a rate of interest for money that has been advanced to them. When I was a boy in England, I was taught at school that people who emigrated to countries where land was cheap and interest was low would improve their position in life. The Labour party has done more than any other party to make land available cheaply. This bill was framed by a composite government, part of whose members are entirely opposed to everything in the nature of the socialization ofindustry, and the other part of members who do not care what happens to other sections of the community so long as they can get something that will benefit the farmers. It has been introduced to provide evidence that the Government has the interests of the farmers at heart. But the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) pointed out a few moments ago that the plight of the farmers has been steadily growing worse for the last eight or nine years. Let me remind him that that is just the time that the Labour party has been out of office. It is significant that since the National party has been in power the hardships of the farmers have continually increased. Surely nota member of this chamber believes that the Nationalist members of the Government really agree with the provisions of this bill. Their sole object in supporting it is to try to conciliate the members of the Country party, and influence them to ratify the famous pact, the object of which is the defeat of the Labour party at the next election. In my opinion, the measure is only likely to give the middlemen additional opportunities to fleece the farmers. The great mistake that the farmers are making today is that they will not trust the Labour party. They are more ready to trust the Sussex-street middlemen, who lose no opportunity of fleecing them, and who, after a few years in business, retire with their fortunes made. It cannot be denied that there are Sussex-street traders who have become almost millionaires. It is scandalous that local consumers of butter are obliged to pay anything from- 2s. to 3s. a lb. for it. Such high prices curtail consumption. If honorable members opposite really desire to encourage the dairying industry they should endeavour to make the local price of butter low enough for our industrial community to purchase it. That would develop the local market, which is more profitable to the producers than the export market, for the reason that returns are quicker. When trading on an oversea market the producers are obliged to work on advances from financial institutions, and that means extra expense. The proposal to appoint a representative of Tooley-street on the Export Control Board has nothing to commend it. Some of the smartest business men in the world operate there, and if any one of them is appointed to the board he will take good care that the interests of Tooleystreet are preserved. He will doubtless advise the export of so much butter from Australia that the local market will be starved. Honorable members will recollect that when the late Mr. Frank -Tudor was Minister for Trade and Customs - and he was one of the best Ministers the department has ever had - he was obliged to place an embargo on the export of butter, for the local market was starved, and prices were increased. There is no provision in this bill for that to be done if similar circumstances should arise again. It is strange that, although members of the Corner party express themselves as being delighted with this measure, every one of them who has spoken in this debate has suggested radical amendments. As a protectionist and a trade unionist I am quite prepared to do anything I can to develop the export trade, but I am not willing to do it at the expense of the Australian consumers, and this bill is nothing more nor less than an attempt to force up the local price of butter. I am told that although the Bank of England rate of interest for the last few years has been only 4 per cent, it is to be raised to 5 per cent. This will have a detrimental effect upon the London butter market, for the members of various Labour organizations in England have determined that if the rate of interest is increased they will immediately cease to purchase anything that can be classed as a luxury, and they will class butter as such. Unfortunately the prices at which primary produce is sold in this country are fixed in London. The price at which sugar shall be sold in Fiji and Java is> fixed in London every Monday morning. The Public Accounts Committee has documentary evidence that the price of every pound of sugar produced and consumed in Australia is fixed in London. What is wanted is a bill to prevent the fleecing of the producers by the rapacious middlemen. The Labour party has been endeavouring for many years to improve conditions for the man on the land. Many palatial buildings in the main streets of Melbourne and Sydney are occupied by stock and station agent3, whose estates, when they die, pay larger probate duties than the estates of any other persons in the community. They are more wealthy, as a class, than manufacturers, and their wealth is obtained from the farmers. Many men have failed because they have tried to make a living on land purchased at too high a price. One of my sons-in-law, who married one of the best girls in Australia, conceived a beautiful mental picture of cows grazing on a prosperous dairy farm. He made arrangements to purchase a farm, and gave up a good position in Sydney. Twelve months afterwards, I went to see him, and asked him where his cows were. He told me they had gone dry because the land, being near the coast, and salt, was unsuitable for dairying. He lost his cattle, and returned to Sydney. It is painful to listen to the tales of woe from the Country party representatives. We never heard such lamentations before there was a Country party in thisHouse. After listening to them, one is almost tempted to pass round the hat for a collection. I am afraid that the bill will injure the dairy farmers. I believe that the best way to assist the primary producers would be to put into practice the platform of the Labour party, which, for twenty-five or thirty years, I have been assisting to frame. It is necessary to socialize the means of production and distribution. A hybrid scheme such as that contained in the bill can do only harm. It will give representation to the co-operative companies, who are not dairy farmers, and will benefit thf middle men, who always get the largest share of the profits. The Government was very unwise in not continuing its shipping line, by which it could have kept control of Australian produce until it reached the English market. If we delivered our produce in our own ships, we could arrange for it to reach the London market at only favorable times. The private shipping companies have large interests in primary production in the Argentine and other cattle-raising countries, and, naturally, they give the first preference in freights to the products of those countries. The Australian producers are at their mercy, but if we had our own shipping line, we could compete with them on more favorable terms. Primary products oan be sold in overseas markets only if there is an immediate demand for them. Unlike bars of iron or motor cars, they perish if kept in stock. The Australian producers cannot expect much consideration when the marketing of their produce is left to people who have their own interests to serve. If the bill is rejected, the dairy farmers will lose nothing, hut if it is passed, they will, I fear, be injured. I shall not try to prevent the passing of the bill, but, at the next elections, I shall do my best to make the supporters of the Government ‘ ‘ carry the baby.” M’embers on this side of the House, who represent one section of the producers, have every sympathy for the producers on the land.
.- When the Prime Minister introduced this bill this afternoon, I felt that its provisions should warrant a speedy passage through this House. Many interesting speeches have been made on the measure, but I cannot help saying that I regard them almost as wasted effort, because no honorable member of this House needed convincing that the dairying industry is of great importance to Australia, or that it requires assistance. I expected that we would have been considering the bill in committee long before now. I have been puzzled by the unusual procedure of the Opposition. We are quite used to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) coming down with proposals intended to embarrass the Government. I can only account for the silence of honorable members opposite because they have been disappointed in their effort to have discussed an amendment intended to embarrass the supporters of the Government. I can well understand that the Prime Minister could not possibly accept the Queensland scheme as originally submitted, because it cuts clean across the Nationalist policy. I can also understand the objections which may be raised to the proposal made by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). The Government has had an opportunity to consider both sides of the question, and it has eventually decided that neither of the schemes to which I have referred will meet the needs of the industry. I look upon the proposal which has been introduced as one which can be supported almost unanimously by this House. Some suggestions might be made in committee for the improvement of the bill; but viewing it as a whole, I think it will give general satisfaction. I quite agreed with the Prime Minister when he said that there is great need for the organization of all primary industries in Australia. In this connexion, I am pleased to be able to say that Queensland, the state from which I come, has given the rest of the Commonwealth a very commendable lead. Through the Council of Agriculture, the organization of the fruit industry was undertaken, and after an extensive campaign the fruit-grower in Queensland is to-day entirely master of the marketing of his product. Then came the scheme dealing with the dairying industry. The conference, I must say, was fairly representative of the industry in Queensland.
– The honorable member will admit that the legislation introduced by the present Queensland Government is largely responsible for what he commends.
– I am quite prepared to agree with the honorable member that it was owing to the efforts of the Labour Government now ruling in Queensland that the farmer was so impressed with the necessity for organization. It stands to the credit of the Queensland Government, also, that for the first year it found £20,000 to meet the cost of organization, and a similar amount in the second year. I am prepared, further, to admit that the organization in Queensland at present is such that the farmer will eventually secure complete control through methods of co-operation. The various industries elect their representatives on the board of control, and it is the fault of those engaged in the industry concerned if their organization is not all that it should be. I should like to draw attention to the fact that Queensland leads in the matter of co-operation in the butter industry. I have figures here showing the number of co-operative and proprietary butter factories in the different states. In New South Wales, there are 106 co-operative, and 15 proprietary factories. In Victoria, there are 87 cooperative, and 66 proprietary factories; in Queensland, 43 co-operative, and 3 proprietary; in South Australia, 10 cooperative, and 33 proprietary; in Western Australia, 9 co-operative, and 1 proprietary; and in Tasmania, 15 cooperative, and 5 proprietary factories. These figures show that in Queensland we have endeavoured to do our duty to the primary industries, and the other states of the Commonwealth might well profit by the example that Queensland has set. I think that little fault can be found with this bill, with the exception, perhaps, of the second clause. I do not agree that a poll should be taken, as proposed, before the act is brought into operation. In view of the fact that we have endeavoured for so many years te market our butter through individual channels, we should, I think, be prepared to allow this scheme to continue in operation for two or three years before we ask the producers to pass any opinion on it. With this exception, I think I can support the bill almost as it stands. Queensland organizations have agreed to accept the bill now before the House; but they would like to have the suggested bounty scheme included, and operated at the discretion of the board. I urge upon honorable members the advisability of getting at once to the committee stage, where we can grapple with the details of the measure. Secondreading speeches may make good reading in *Hansard for the electors, but they do not deal with the business of the House in a practical way.
.- I have only a few remarks to make on this bill, which affects one of the most important industries in this . country.
Whilst the measure does nob go as far as I and some other honorable members on this side would like, it will be a step in the right direction, provided that the foundation is properly laid. If a wise choice is made in tlie election of the members of the board, and the foundation is well laid, I see no reason why the scheme, even though it might not be a great success at the outset, should not prove successful eventually. No one can deny that the time has arrived when the people must take control of the big industries, and more particularly of that with which this bill deals. We cannot allow our produce to continue to be marketed in a haphazard way, and all manner of brands to be put on our butter. If there is one way in which, more than in another, beneficial results may be expected to follow from this legislation, it will be through the board deciding upon an Australian brand, and the proper grading, careful packing, and exportation of butter. If we place our butter on the market in a careful way, have it properly tested, and branded with a uniform Australian brand, I see no reason why the dairymen of Australia should not be able to compete successfully with those of any other country in the world. Some people contend that Danish butter is the best in the world, but there are experts who believe that in many parts of Australia butter can be produced as good as that produced in any other part of the world. Much has been said about the trying conditions under which dairymen have to live. This is certainly true of those who have come into the industry since the enormous increase in land values. They must, necessarily, have found it very difficult to keep going. With the high price of land, high rates of interest, and high cost of dairy cows, a man going into the industry to-day finds it difficult to make it pay. He and his family have to work 365 days and nights in the year. No one, I am sure, begrudges any profit which the dairyman can make from his industry. Whatever he makes, he certainly earns it hard. I have taken a hand in the industry myself, and I know the conditions under which it is carried on. Those engaged in it must give up the social side of life, and must work every day in the week, including Sunday. A man may have a family of boys and girls growing up, and just about leaving school. He has the choice of taking up land at present high values, or coming into a city, where his boys and girls will be engaged in factory work. The natural life for the young man or young woman is the country life, and if the parents desire to keep their family around them, and in order to do so go into the industry on the share system, in view of the enormously high values of land they will, after a bad season or two, very likely find themselves practically bankrupt. If the head of the family, in these circumstances, chooses to engage in this industry, he will be assisting to maintain the population of the country, will be building up an important industry, and bringing up his family in a healthy atmosphere, and if we can give such a man assistance we should not hesitate to do so. Some of our returned soldiers have been induced to go into the dairying industry, but I want to say that no man can successfully carry on dairying operations, in view of the present high land values, unless he has a grown-up family to .assist him. If he has to engage four or five men or youths to assist him in milking he cannot make the industry, pay.
– It cannot be done.
– It cannot be done unless the dairyman can secure the land he requires at a reasonable rate. Unfortunately, we have to accept the position, so far as land values are concerned, as we find it, and every member of this House knows the value put upon land in Victoria to-day. A young man who has just taken a partner in life may think that if he goes into this industry he will be able to employ the necessary labour to enable him to carry it on, but within twelve months he will find himself below the poverty line. The industry is one in which every man and woman and child engaged must work very hard for very long hours and every day in the year. Many of the dairymen do not earn anything like a living wage. They are carrying on an industry of great value to this country, and for that reason are entitled to all the assistance that we can give them. The opinion is held by many that if the marketing and export of butter is placed under the control of a board, the consumers will be called upon to pay a considerably increased price for local supplies. No doubt the price would fluctuate, but in any case it would be a fine thing for the country generally. If the butter industry were stabilized the producer would then be able to estimate his annual return. The workers of Atistralia make no complaint about paying a reasonable price for necessaries of life, so long as they are given a fair wage. While our workmen and artisans are receiving a good wage they can afford to buy and consume the products of the men on the land. If wages were lowered the natural demand for commoditieswould decrease, to the detriment of Australian industries generally. Rather than allow the dairying industry to languish, the producer should be assisted. He and his family should not be compelled to work 365 days in the year to eke out an existence. What we complain about is that very often the man who is actually producing commodities does not receive a reasonable profit. The bill does not go far enough, although it is a step in the right direction, and will give relief to those who are sadly in need of it.
.- As the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) yesterday obtained the adjournment of the debate, I expected today to hear from him the Labour party’s views respecting the bill and the control of the export of butter. However, he delegated this duty to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde), an honorable member who has endeavoured to place himself in the limelight recently by asking a number of questions in this House respecting the dairying industry, and by moving the adjournment of the House to discuss that subject. When the Government, almost at the end of the session, brings down a measure to benefit the dairying industry, he moves a most futile amendment, which the Speaker for three different reasons has ruled out of order.
– The honorable member’s opinion does not amount to very much in this House.
– Possibly not; stilt I know something of the dairying industry, and no doubt some of the information which I shall impart will be of use to the honorable member if he listens attentively. The amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia, judged by its actual wording, was moved to kill the bill. He failed to do this, mainly because of his lack of knowledge.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to that amendment, it having been ruled out of order.
– Honorable members, by remaining silent while this subject is being discussed, are taking the attitude that they adopted in this chamber when the proposals of the Economic Conference were being discussed, which, if carried, would have been of considerable benefit to the primary producers of Australia. They are again caught in a cleft stick. Although they are trying to pander to country voters, yet the bulk of their representation is in the cities. They know that if they support a bill to assist the dairy producers it will be hard to explain their action to their constituents, especially the unthinking ones. The mere fact that honorable members opposite have been returned to this Parliament shows that their constituents are unthinking. The. Labour party is to-day in a peculiar position. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) said that he intended to support the second reading of the bill, but that, at the next elections, he would remember the attitude taken by the Government respecting the dairying industry. He also threatened to emasculate the bill in committee, and yet he supports its second reading ! He complained also’ of the gloom in this corner. It is not necessary for me to deal with the parlous condition of the dairying industry, because the honorable member for East Sydney has informed the House that his son-in-law went on the land, but was forced to give up his holding and return to the city. I make no excuse for the wretched condition of the industry, but I shall do all I can to improve it. The honorable member for East Sydney said that he wanted to help the export of butter, but he also approved of the action taken by Mr. Tudor, when Minister for Trade and Customs, in the Labour Government of 1915, in placing an embargo on exports. I referred to that subject in a previous speech. If the surplus production of Australia were not exported, prices here would be forced down and the producers would suffer a serious loss. The alleged friend of the producer, the honorable member for Capricornia, and also the honorable member for East Sydney, supported Mr. Tudor’ s action. In other words, these honorable members favour an embargo being placed on the export of butter with the distinct object of forcing down the local price of that commodity. They now state that they intend to support the bill, to help the export of butter. The two statements are inconsistent. For that reason, the same silence is observed as was maintained when the proposals of the Economic Conference were being discussed. I referred, on a previous occasion, to the action taken by the Labour Government respecting pricefixing. I do not wish to weary honorable members by dealing with it again. The New South Wales Government in 1915 reduced the price of butter ls. per lb. below the Queensland price, and thereupon the Labour Government in the northern state, led by the late Mr. Ryan, commandeered the Queensland supply at ls. 3d. per lb., and- sold it at a considerable increase, paying the profit into the Treasury, and thus deliberately robbing the producers.
– It is remarkable that that Labour Government was returned with increased majorities in country districts.
– The gerrymandering that took place prior to the last general election in Queensland was the biggest scandal in the political history of Australia. - Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER. - The honorable member is not in order.
– The Country party did not lose one seat in that election, but it was gerrymandered out of five seats which were abolished. Certain amendments to this bill will be moved in committee, and we shall then see how much weight can be attached to the statements of honorable members opposite that they are concerned with the welfare of the primary producer. I do not baulk at the fact that this scheme will involve an increase in the price of butter to the local consumer, because, as no complaint is made when prices are increased by the fiscal protection given to secondary industries, those engaged in primary production are surely entitled to assistance in other ways. The Prime Minister referred to the economic committee that will be - formed in Great Britain to control the marketing of dominion products, including Australian. butter and cheese, but no immediate benefits can be expected from that organization or from the interstate conference of dairy experts which is to be called to formulate a scheme for the betterment of the industry. Even if that conference assembles immediately, and its recommendations are put into operation without delay, considerable time must elapse before the industry can receive any help through that channel. The scheme contained in the bill has the same disadvantage, for even though it achieves all that we expect of it, it cannot give any immediate relief. The board cannot be constituted, and commence to function, for some weeks, and it will then have to make some reciprocal arrangement with the New Zealand board, and possibly with Denmark also. It .is of the utmost importance that whatever aid is given shall be given quickly; but, unfortunately, the provision for a poll of the producers must involve delay. The interstate conference of representatives of the dairying industry tried to evolve a scheme that would operate during the present export season, and it suggested that a ballot of the producers should be taken two years after the commencement of the board’s operations. If a poll is taken before the board has functioned , the producers will have no knowledge upon which to base an opinion, and in any case it seems ridiculous for this Parliament to pass a bill for the benefit of an industry, and then ask those engaged in it if they want such assistance. We cannot reasonably say to the people that the bill will not be put into operation unless at a poll they express themselves in favour of it. Therefore, in committee an amendment will be moved to provide that the bill shall be brought into operation forthwith. I notice that the poll is not to extend to all dairy farmers, but only to those who send milk and cream to the factories that manufacture for export. Some factories do not export any of their products. Many of them are able to supply only their own districts, and others do not send their products outside the states in which they operate. According to the bill as drafted, the farmers who send their cream to such factories will be denied the right to vote, and the process of deciding who are eligible and who are not will delay the taking of a poll, and defer the operation of the bill for a considerable time. In regard to the constitution of the board, it is proposed that the Government shall have two nominees upon it. I agree that, as the Government will be, because of the guarantee, financially interested in the operations of the board, it will be entitled to nominate one member, but I cannot understand how it can claim to nominate a second member on a board created ostensibly for the benefit of the producers. It is said that the second Government nominee will represent the sellers of dairy produce outside the Commonwealth. I see no reason for giving them such representation. Any candidate nominated by them can go to the poll in the ordinary way, and the Government would be unwise to render itself liable to the lobbying and log-rolling tha,t will inevitably result from an appointment such as is contemplated. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) suggested a much better distribution of the representation, namely, that the three main exporting states - Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria - should each have two cooperative, representatives instead of one, as proposed in the bill, thus increasing the membership of the board from ten to twelve. That would give more effective representation to the producers, and would remove the objection that the board will be controlled by the Government. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) drew attention to the fact that the licences to export are to be issued by the Minister. The interstate conference of dairymen definitely asked the Prime Minister to adopt the New Zealand provision, which gives complete control of the export trade to the board, and not to the Minister. I know that certain interests have been endeavouring to limit the application of this scheme to the London and European markets, but, if the board is to effectively control export, it must govern all dairy produce sent overseas. If South Africa, for instance, were excluded, it would be possible for a dishonest trader to export butter from Australia in a vessel calling at South Africa en route to Great Britain. The butter would be ostensibly sold to an agent in South Africa, who, without removing it from the ship, would reconsign it to Great Britain, and it would be beyond the control of the board when it reached the London market. That would happen if any country were exempt from the operations of the board.
– What about the Eastern trade ?
– I understand that the conditions there are peculiar, but, under the amendments suggested to the Prime Minister, if the board thought that the Eastern trade would be best left alone, it would take no action regarding it. But it would keep a hand on that trade to such an extent that, if anything were done contrary to its policy, it could step in and take control. The point I wish to stress is that under the bill the Government is to be the controlling body. If, however, the bill were framed on the lines of the New Zealand act, the board would have control of the export trade. It has been suggested to the Prime Minister that the control should be not in the hands of the Minister but of the board. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has given the reason why it would be dangerous to give the Minister control. I am glad to know that the Government does not now insist on one of its nominees being appointed chairman of the board, and that the chairman will be elected by the board itself. It is most important that the board should elect him, because, on occasions, he will exercise a second vote. The industry itself will finance the board, and the Government should be allowed to exert as little influence as possible over the operations of the board. Since the Government may possibly be called upon for a guarantee, it will be allowed representation, but I fail to understand why it should seek to obtain full control. It was mentioned by the) honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) that the scheme dealt only with one third of the butter output of Australia,but I draw attention to the fact that the scheme of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) would have an immediate beneficial effect in regard to the two-thirds of the output that is consumed in the Commonwealth.
– That is not a government proposal.
– No ; but it will come before honorable members as a scheme supplementary to the present proposal. Whether or not the Government will accept it, I am unable to say. I may mention that last week I held a series of meetings in the northern rivers district of New South Wales, which is a famous dairyingcentre. Practically all the residents are interested in one way or another in the butter industry. Naturally the meetings were largely attended. At each gathering the Paterson scheme was endorsed by a unanimous vote. I called for a show of hands, and in no case was any opposition indicated.
– Has not the Government rejected the Paterson scheme ?
– I do not know. I do not deny that, under it, the price of butter will be raised, but why should this House deny to the dairymen a benefit corresponding to that granted to the manufacturers of this country? To do so would be the acme of hypocrisy and humbug. I am glad to say that the dairymen in my electorate have unanimously favoured the Paterson scheme, and I intend to support it up to the hilt. When honorable members realize the immediate benefit it will confer on the industry they will feel compelled to support it. When the proposal is placed before them they will have an opportunity of showing the sincerity of the concern they frequently express for the welfare of the producers. With the principle of this bill I am heartily in accord, and therefore I shall support the second reading. I have foreshadowed certain amendments that I shall endeavour to have inserted. If the Government is given complete control I shall be sceptical as to the success of the measure. The amendments I have foreshadowed can be included without destroying the object of the bill. I trust that the Government will give careful consideration to the arguments that have been advanced from the legal point of view by the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), and from the common-sense point of view by other honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Parker Moloney) adjourned.
Bill returned from Senate without amendment.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240918_reps_9_109/>.