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Australian Meat Agreement

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 4 May 1949

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asked the Minister of Food whether he will give the details of the agreement reached between him and the Australian Government for supplies of meat to this country on a long-term basis.

As already announced, the details of this agreement are now being worked out, but I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of the joint Statement issued by Mr. Chifley and myself on 27th April, and will place a copy in the Library.

Is it not a fact that if we had had this or a similar agreement in the past, and a proper Empire food policy, our housewives would not today be in their present position? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that he will by bulk purchase and similar agreements, buy as much meat and other food from the British Commonwealth and Empire, both in the short-term and long-term, as he possibly can?

In answer to the first part of the supplementary question, if this arrangement or a similar one had been entered into 15 years ago it would now be bearing fruit. I wish it had. The reply to the second part of the question is, "Yes, Sir."

Could not the right hon. Gentleman have found a simple way out by buying feedingstuffs last year?

The right hon. Gentleman knows, because I have already given him the figures, that we did buy five times the amount of feedingstuffs last year that we did in 1945.

Will the right hon. Gentleman publish the documents in the OFFICIAL REPORT SO that we may have them permanently recorded, instead of merely putting them in the Library?

The Report of the joint Statement between myself and the Prime Minister of Australia?

Does this 15 years' agreement that the Minister contemplates, mean, that meat rationing is to continue for 15 years in this country?

No, Sir. The purpose of these agreements is to increase the supply of meat by giving Commonwealth producers an assurance of a market in this country that they have never had before.

With whom was the right hon. Gentleman associated 15 years ago?

I think the best thing I can say to that is, that I am very glad that I was not associated with the persons responsible for His Majesty's Government at that time.

Following is the Statement:

  • 1. During the course of his present visit to London, Mr. Chifley has been able to discuss with Mr. Strachey plans for the increase of meat supplies to the United Kingdom from Australia.
  • 2. Extensive preparatory work has been done in Australia. Plans have been worked out and the necessary capital expenditure approved by the Commonwealth Government for increased cattle production in the Wyndham area of the State of Western Australia. Projects for the expansion of production in big areas in Northern Australia—involving road making, stock route improvement, schemes for water conservation and the like—are also being investigated. Schemes for development in other parts of Australia are to be considered. It is recognised that these developments will require substantial supplies of materials, particularly steel products, and road making equipment beyond those available in Australia itself.
  • 3. In view of the importance to the United Kingdom of increased meat supplies from Australia the Government of the United Kingdom has urged the Commonwealth Government to promote development schemes designed substantially to raise exports to the United Kingdom to an agreed level within an agreed period.
  • 4. The Government of the United Kingdom has declared its willingness, in return for an undertaking on the part of the Australian Government to promote development schemes which offer a good prospect of increased supplies of the agreed magnitude, to enter into arrangements that will guarantee a market at reasonable prices in the United Kingdom for the whole of the exportable surplus of meat from Australia up to a specified ceiling period of 15 years. The Government of the United Kingdom is also prepared to set limits upon the fluctuation of prices during a period of seven years, as in the case of the contracts for butter and cheese with Australia.
  • 5. Negotiations for a formal agreement in pursuance of the foregoing will be undertaken as soon as possible.