Diary of a Labour Man 1917 - 1945

1933   /1934



The Metropolitan Milk Board was set up in February 1933 to provide a structure to the milk industry. It stabilised prices and gave security to producers. Insistence on contracts between producer and retailer gave the producer a continuous market and a definite income all the year round, making planning projects possible.

The Board claimed that its policy of restricting licences greatly increased the commercial value not only of dairies, but also of vending businesses. Licences gave vendors greater security and the market value of the goodwill of milk rounds substantially increased. 1

When the Continuance Bill was discussed in 1935 no radical changes were made, but efforts were made to present the Board with a more workable and easily interpreted Act. 2

T H Wilson was the first Chairman of the Board and continued until his resignation after some dissension in the Board, in March 1937.

John Curtin served on the Board as a consumers' representative from its formation until his resignation in December 1934 to enter federal parliament. He served as one of the two consumers' representatives.

It is difficult to assess Curtin's contribution as there are no minutes of meetings and T H Wilson, the chairman of the Board, was the only spokesman in newspaper accounts.

Although it is not known how often the Board met, it is likely that members met frequently, and in the early establishment phase of the Board, they certainly met on a daily basis. Judging from newspaper accounts of the Board's activities, they were very busy and even had to relocate to larger premises on one occasion because the amount of work associated with administering the Metropolitan Milk Act.

Information about the Milk Board and Curtin's involvement has been gleaned from records held in the State Records Office of Western Australia.
Metropolitan Milk Board, Newspaper Clippings, Series 1122. Item 1 ( 1 Jan 1932 - 30 Jun 1935) and Item 2 (1 Jul 1935 - 31 Dec 1938).

West Australian 16 Feb 1933. p. 3 Metropolitan Milk Board appointed. No names given
West Australian 18 Feb 1933. p. 3

Initial meeting held on 17 Feb 1933.

Members of Board:
T H Wilson, Chairman
J Curtin and F E Gibson, Consumers representatives
A Groves and C R Opitz, Producers representatives

Called together for the first time yesterday (17 Feb 1933) by Minister for Agriculture P D Ferguson.

“The Minister gave a brief sketch of the problems of whole milk supply and distribution and outlined the history of previous efforts to stabilize prices and control supplies.”

The Board would meet again in the morning (18 Feb 1933).

Currently meeting in the offices of the Department of Agriculture but an endeavour being made to secure centrally situated offices for permanent accommodation.
Daily News 18 Feb 1933. p. 4

Board to meet again on Tuesday and “get down to formal activities and securing suitable offices, obtaining secretarial assistance and generally surveying” the big task.

Today’s meeting fixed milk prices at 1/1 a gallon at Depot.
Primary Producer 20 March 1933.
p. 9

Regulations under the Whole Milk Act gazetted. Secretary appointed, W E Stannard.

Address of Board: Room 2, Western Australian Bank Chambers, William Street, Perth.
Daily News 4 May 1933. p.15 Offices of Board located on 1st Floor, Alliance Buildings, 96 St Georges Terrace, Perth, Hours for the receipt of money, Monday-Friday 9.30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

West Australian
5 May 1933. p.16

Amount of work involved in administering the Metropolitan Milk Act necessitated finding larger office accommodation.

Ongoing articles and letters criticising Board for (among other things):
Duplication of work
Unnecessary restrictions
Too stringent regulations
Initiating contracts
The Board’s legality and its power to prosecute were questioned, complaints were received from vendors, and dairymen sent deputations to the Minister. The Board was involved in litigation as prosecutions against the act gained momentum.

Daily News 2 Nov 1933. p. 65

“Readers state their views:

‘Milk and Books’
What is the object of the Metropolitan Whole Milk Board in commanding some storekeepers to discontinue their lending libraries. It is said that books carry germs, but then so does every person who goes into a store, yes, millions of them.

To me, it seems grossly unfair, and rather ridiculous. Moreover, the board leaves itself wide open to criticism by allowing lending libraries to operate in some instances, and condemning them in others.

Yours etc.

Suburban Storekeeper, Perth.”
Government Gazette 3 Nov 1933. p. 68 Metropolitan Whole Milk Act proclaimed and signed by P Collier, Premier on 1 November 1933.
West Australian 23 Nov 1933. p. 71 Whole Milk Board doing “very good work.”

West Australian 6 Dec 1933.
p. 76

Minister for Agriculture (Harold Millington) defends Board.
Daily News 19 Jan 1934. p. 85 Pen pictures of leading people. No. 6, Mr T H Wilson (Chairman of the Board).
West Australian 28 June 1934.
p. 145

“The last meeting of the members of the Metropolitan Whole Milk Board appointed to administer the Act took place yesterday. The personnel of the Board which will act from mid-July has not yet been officially announced.”

Those attending yesterday’s meeting were:
T H Wilson, Chairman
J Curtin and F E Gibson, Consumers representatives
A Groves and C R Opitz, Producers representatives
W E Stannard, the secretary.

“As a mark of appreciation the chairman was presented with a framed photograph of the board, and a similar presentation was made to Mr Groves, the retiring producers’ representative.”
West Australian 30 June 1934. p. 147

Mr J Curtin and Mr F E Gibson were re-appointed by the Executive Council as consumers’ representatives on the Whole Milk Board.

The personnel of the Board to carry on the work of the Board for the year commencing tomorrow.

Whole Milk Act, regulations gazetted.
West Australian 15 Dec 1934.
p. 198
“Mr J Curtin MHR resigned his post as one of the consumers’ representatives on the Metropolitan Whole Milk Board just before his election to Federal Parliament. The Government has since appointed Mr T G Davies to the vacancy.”


1. State Records Office of Western Australia: Metropolitan Milk Board, Newspaper Clippings, Series 1122. Item 2, Newpaper Clippings, 1 Jul 1935 - 31 Dec 1938 (page 26, West Australian 26 Sept 1935)

2. State Records Office of Western Australia: Metropolitan Milk Board, Newspaper Clippings, Series 1122. Item 2, Newpaper Clippings, 1 Jul 1935 - 31 Dec 1938 (page 33, West Australian, 24 Oct 1935.)