Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 25 Jul 1928

Vol. 10 No. 28


Report Stage passed without amendment.
Question proposed "That the Bill be received for final consideration and do now pass."

In the debate yesterday certain criticisms were made in regard to my action in respect of this Bill. It was suggested quite nicely —at all events that was what I read into the suggestions that came from certain quarters—that I was perhaps willing to wound but afraid to strike. It was asked why I had not criticised this measure when the original contract was entered into. I think the answer to that is this: there was no formal occasion ever afforded to this House—I admit of course that I could have raised the question perhaps on the Appropriation Bill or on the Central Fund Bill, or that I might have raised it by way of putting down a motion for a discussion on it. I am simply relying on my memory when I say that I think this is the first legislative Act brought before the Oireachtas in relation to this transaction. As the matter had not been brought definitely before us, I did not feel that it was one of my duties to raise the question as it might have appeared somewhat aggressive to do so. The Minister rather suggested that one has no alternative to his policy. Up to a certain point I agree with him, because I agree a great deal with his policy. All these questions are a matter of degree. I should like for a moment to draw attention to certain definite constructive features in his policy of which I am apprehensive. His policy undoubtedly, so far as milk is concerned, would naturally form a precedent for other forms of farm produce and would establish a co-operative monopoly and would entrench that monopoly by law. Well, I am all in favour of the co-operative movement, but not of a co-operative monopoly entrenched by law. A co-operative monopoly could be made perfectly effective if the farmers of the country themselves were all loyal cooperators, because they control the raw material of the business. If they could be got to be loyal to their societies there would be no necessity for any sort of penal legislation to support them. That is why I view somewhat with alarm the introduction of this provision, what I might call an economic boycott—that is to say, that if the farmer does not do certain things in relation to the society his milk is to be refused by the creameries, and to a large extent he will be ostracised so far as his business is concerned. I think that is a dangerous provision, and I hope it will not form part of our final co-operative code. In the same way I view with alarm the power which is now taken, and which of course will be capable of extension, of definitely preventing any form of competition, joint stock or individual co-operation, with the farmers in their business.

I have always been an active cooperator and thoroughly in favour of farmers doing their own business, but I always went into the movement on the understanding and belief that the co-operative organisation was a voluntary organisation and that it should rely as I believe it does in Denmark—I am open to correction on this—on the good-will, understanding and loyal co-operation on the part of the farmers themselves, and that no advanced form of coercion—this again is a matter of degree—such as is implicit in this Act would be necessary to secure the utmost benefit from co-operation. These are my opinions, and they do seem to be fundamentally at variance with a certain policy in this Bill which may or may not be extended. I am very glad to hear that the Minister intends, when this Co-operative Act is through, to make as clear a cut as he can between the Department and the co-operative societies and to place the organised farmers on their own, devolving on them very considerable powers. Without having examined the matter very closely, I should like to see them formulating measures which would come in a very developed form before Parliament for sanction to give them—perhaps this has not been very fully considered—enabling measures to put up almost legislation themselves for their own business, which would, of course, be subject to ratification by the Oireachtas. I think it is very necessary if this co-operative movement in the future is to be divorced from and independent of State control, that the I.A.O.S. should be independent of State pressure. That rests with the farmers themselves, but the unfortunate thing is that this Organisation Society is, owing to lack of support from the farmers' dependent on Government grants. I should prefer to see the I.A.O.S. independent, so as not to be amenable to any form of Government pressure, and that it could speak unfettered by any obligations to the Government on the part of organised farmers.

I would like to say on this occasion something which I might have had the opportunity of saying if I had moved my amendments to this Bill. As I have said before, while I agree with the scheme, generally speaking, there are a few matters I referred to yesterday to which I think it is only right I should reply. Unlike Senator Sir John Keane, I am not a cooperator, and I never was and I do not think I ever will be one. It was said that the co-operative movement had swallowed one after the other the proprietary creameries. I wish to say that the Minister is misinformed. That is not so. There were and are still proprietary creameries which have not been taken over and which are doing very well, notwithstanding inducements that have been held out to them. They have not responded to the blandishments of the Minister to sell. I would like to revert to the matter of the manufacture of casein by the Tipperary creamery, and I would throw out a suggestion to the Minister. If I may revert for a moment to the history of the transactions of the Condensed Milk Company, that company went into liquidation and the co-operative authorities attempted to secure its being carried on, but they could not secure the necessary financial support. On the suggestion of President Cosgrave, a number of those engaged in the dairying industry—I have heard the group referred to as energetic idiots—took over the Condensed Milk Company. Amongst the assets which they then acquired was the award in respect of the compensation paid for the Tipperary creamery owned by the Condensed Milk Company and which had been destroyed in the troubles of 1922. With the amount of that award a creamery was erected.

You then had the position that you had two creameries in Tipperary—a successful co-operative creamery and another newly-established creamery which has since been acquired with other creameries by the Disposals Board. At that stage the co-operative creamery and the Disposals Board had negotiations, and I think they were very near agreement, for the acquisition of the new creamery by the co-operative creamery. That would be a satisfactory solution, but the negotiations, I am informed, broke down on a relatively small matter—I think it was as regards interest on the amount due being fixed at 5½ per cent. Surely, so that this scheme might be launched amicably, it would be well to consider the suggestion I am about to make. I know the Minister and I know some of those prominently connected with the creamery in Tipperary, and they are bonny fighters, and let me say that I am making this suggestion without any consultation with the Tipperary people, and I do not know whether the suggestion would be welcome to them or not: It is that some Senator in whom we all have confidence and in whose ability we all take a considerable amount of pride, such as Senator Brown, who is innocent of the tricks of the Disposals Board or the co-operative creameries, might arbitrate in the matter, and if I might add another suggestion, it is that a person who is not innocent of the tricks might be brought in in an advisory capacity. I hope the Minister will consider that suggestion, as I would be sorry to see a sever fight between a successful co-operative creamery and the Disposals Board.

With regard to what Senator Sir John Keane said, I did not suggest or mean to suggest that his attitude was that of a man willing to wound but afraid to strike. I did not mean to suggest that good, bad or indifferent.

I accept that.

What I did mean was that Senator Sir John Keane favoured the objects but did not approve of the methods. That is what I complain of. He is in favour of the objects, he admits, but that he does not approve of the methods, because I must assume that any competent man who has any alternative methods——

I do not accept that I said I approve of all the methods. I approve of some of them.

I have never been told of the alternative methods. I agree entirely with Senator Sir John Keane that it would be very much better for the farmers if they could do this for themselves and that no private individuals or limited companies should carry out a scheme such as this. That would be more satisfactory. They might not do it as quickly, and they might not do it in such a uniform way, but it would be a sounder transaction in every way morally and materially if carried out by the farmers themselves. I absolutely agree with Senator Sir John Keane in that. I agree with Senator Dowdall that while there are obvious advantages from the point of view of expedition and efficiency of an abstract kind in doing this through the State, on the other hand, there are other moral and intellectual advantages to come from this. We have to make up our minds about it. Are the farmers going to do this for themselves? Senator Sir John Keane will have to admit they are not. We would have to wait for years and years. They have had thirty years' experience of the co-operative movement in this country, although the co-operative movement in this country has not had all the advantages it possessed in other countries. So far as the Government in this country was concerned the co-operative movement for farmers was at a discount. Go back to the situation you had three years ago with a big efficient proprietary industry on the one side and a big co-operative one on the other side. What was the process? You had a big trade war going on for four or five years. Who was going to win? Nobody knew. The only thing certain was that both sides would lose heavily and someone would be bankrupt. That is absolutely certain and you must accept that as a fundamental.

I challenge Senator Sir John Keane or any other Senator who knows the conditions to say that I am wrong when I repeat that there was no chance whatever that during the next 25 years the farmers would do this for themselves. There was no sign that they would do so. If they were not going to do it, somebody had to do it, if the objects were essential, and everyone agrees upon that. The farmers would not do it, somebody had to do it, and the only body that could do it was the Department of Agriculture; and if the Department of Agriculture was coerced into doing it, then we must accept not only the advantages but the disadvantages of State action. Anyway, having made up our minds to do it there would be no excuse whatever for stopping in the middle of it and for failing to be logical and to take whatever steps were necessary to put it through.

When you have a co-operative monopoly, I do not know what is going to happen. You have almost a co-operative monopoly in Denmark built up in a different way. You will have one here, in production, especially in the production of milk products. I suppose then we will have to wait and see what eventually we will have. I am hopeful that we can benefit by the experience of other countries. They have had State action in other countries before and we know that it failed in the long run. I do not believe it was State action of the same kind as we will have here. What is intended here is to hand over an industry, not to the State, but to an organised body and it is rather a different experiment to the experiments tried in other countries. It is not State action pure and simple as we understand it. I do not say that we would be entirely able to disengage ourselves from this co-operative organisation even when we have put the last brick on the edifice; but we will do our very best and I am anxious, when this thing is settled, to be able to say to the dairy farmers: "You can make a success or a failure of this as you wish." I do believe there will be enough competition from Canada, New Zealand and other countries to see to it that this organisation is kept on its mettle, and I do believe that there is enough initiative and enterprise in the country to solve the difficulties that I have mentioned and that are bound to arise.

Special problems will arise because there is a co-operative monopoly. When these problems do arise I believe there will be an efficient organisation in the country to meet them. Even though they may be new problems and problems that do not arise in other countries and in other circumstances, nevertheless, you will have sufficient individualism in the co-operative movement here, and sufficient enterprise and imagination, to meet them as they should be met by new methods.

There is no use in anybody saying to me afterwards "I told you so." We are going to make twenty and thirty and forty mistakes in this job. That is perfectly certain. There is no managing director of a company in Europe nobody in charge of a big business, who does not make various mistakes every year in the course of transactions. There is no millionaire, for that matter, who does not lose 30 per cent., at least very big amounts, through mistakes. There is no use in saying afterwards "It was all roses in the beginning, but now the difficulties are appearing." I know that difficulties will get worse every year and that mistakes will be made. There will be difficulties that we will find it troublesome to solve, but in the long run I believe we will settle them. I make no excuse for mistakes being made in the future. The Department and the co-operative movement will make mistakes, but in the long run if we succeed in establishing a co-operative organisation having full control of the dairying in this country, we will have done more to organise the farmers and give them control of their industry than by any other steps we could take.

No matter what it costs I am convinced that in the long run it will cost less than the inefficiency, the precarious, disorganised competition that has been going on for the last five or six years. The worst of it is that you will have nothing to compare it with. It will be easy to point out mistakes and we will not be able to compare the circumstances that would have existed if we had not entered on this scheme. In that way we are at a big disadvantage because we cannot compare what it is with the idea of what should be. Take casein for instance. I do not know the first thing about casein. I do not know whether it is good or bad business. I do not know whether there is more money in casein than in condensed milk. I have not the faintest idea because I am not an expert. All that is another man's job and very few people know about it.

Then again, the condensed milk business is a very difficult proposition. It is difficult to make money out of it and there will not be very much profit out of condensed milk though we have reduced the overhead charges by a very big amount. It is a business that is a long way off success yet. In one or two years' time perhaps somebody will say "You are not making much money out of the condensed milk." That may be all true, but when we have put this policy through and handed over the condensed milk factories—and they are amongst the most efficient in Europe—to the farmers, who will be fully organised, they can burn the factories or they can scrap the factories if they wish. They can develop the casein business and make other milk products—anything at all they like— but in the meantime until that is done we are not going to allow any one individual joint stock company or co-operative society to cut across the whole policy, to jump the position by bringing in an outside firm with outside capital to start proprietary interests inside the circle. The farmers can sell their birthright when they have got it. The farmers are going to get the industry when it is properly organised. They can change it and do what they like with it. That is, perhaps, overstating it. It may be when we reconsider the question that there will have to be some control, but until our policy is carried out and they are handed over the machinery as a going and efficient concern, until they get an opportunity of considering what they ought to do, whether it be the manufacture of casein or condensed milk, we are not going to allow the position to be be-devilled by an outside firm coming in with private capital to establish new factories which will create a new problem but yet a problem which will be quite analogous to the problem that we set out ourselves to solve.

My suggestion had more to deal with the acquisition of redundant factories.

I quite understand that. For all I know people may come along in two years' time and say "there is nothing in this condensed milk." There may be no money in it; on the other hand, there may be a fortune in it. There may not. There are other firms all over the world making good money out of condensed milk. I do not know whether that may be so here. It is not my business. I bought a big condensed milk institution with five or six factories. I am going to transfer that to the farmers. It is their business to see whether it is going to be made a paying proposition or not. It is their business to say whether they will go on with the manufacture of condensed milk or to say whether cheese-making or casein may be a better proposition for them. I am making this point that, if we stop this other firm from making casein now, whether casein is a better proposition than condensed milk, we are absolutely right.

I have sufficient faith in the farmers of the country that if they get this factory, and if they find that it will pay them better later on to make casein than to make condensed milk, that they will do the one that is the better business proposition. I do not believe that that firm came in here in the interests of the farmers. I do not even believe that that firm came in here to make money. Every Senator here knows how shy foreign capital is. Every Senator here knows what a difficulty you have to persuade people into believing that this is a good country in which to invest their money. The Government has to give foreign capitalists all sorts of concessions, some of them wrong concessions, in order to bring them in to invest their money here. But here was a firm that we never heard of until we bought the Condensed Milk Company. Six months after that this firm came in, and came in in spite of information direct from me that we did not want them, that it was against the Government's wishes, and in spite of the fact that I told them that if they insisted on coming in I would introduce legislation to stop their operations. In spite of that they came in all the same. Is not that a significant fact when you relate it to the timidity of foreign capital in coming in? I am quite satisfied that there were ulterior motives there, and I told them that.

I do not believe that firm had any ulterior motives.

Business is business. That firm is a good firm, but business is business, and they do not do anything for sentimental reasons. I think that firm came here as the spearhead of the movement in other countries which strongly objects to any experiment in the way of handing over the milk business and milk products to co-operative societies—to the producers. What we are going to do now under this Bill is going to have reactions elsewhere. I believe there are elsewhere big firms on the Continent and in England who are opposed to the co-operative movement and would be glad to see it fail, and I believe this firm is the spear-head of that opposition to the co-operative movement. I do not know whether it is good or bad business to make casein. If in two year's time the farmers want to make casein we want to give them the opportunity of doing it. There is this question of the Tipperary creamery and of my opposition to it. I have too much to do besides fighting the Tipperary creamery. I do not want to fight with them. I am so busy that I would not think it worth my while to fight with them. I do not want them to take over our creamery. We think it is a pity that they will not take it. They have a magnificent institution and they have twenty-five thousand gallons of milk, but they have not nearly enough premises to handle that milk. Senator Dowdall knows that this creamery in our hands is one of the finest creameries in Ireland. This co-operative creamery will have to spend thousands of pounds to make their own creamery half as good as our creamery in Tipperary. Very well. There are seventeen thousand gallons of milk going into our creamery, and soon there will be 20,000. We will hand this creamery over to another society if they do not want it. All that we are asking them to do under this Bill is to pay for the milk that they are getting.

Question: "That this Bill be received for final consideration and do now pass"—put and agreed to.