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Wednesday, 30 November 1938

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) . - I support the amendment, because I believe that the only equitable way to assist the growers is to take the money out of Consolidated Revenue. The Government proposes to place the burden on those least able to bear it. The great bulk of the community, for whom bread is a staple food, cannot switch over to some other article of diet, and so they must pay -this tax. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that there was a world surplus of wheat of 1,000,000,000 bushels. I do not know whether that figure is correct. It may be more, but whatever it is, the surplus is due, not to the fact that we are producing too much, but to the fact that, because of the low purchasing power of the people, we are consuming too little. It is an economic waste to place this burden on the people merely to enable us to go on producing something that is not wanted. We are taxing the people to pay for a surplus that nobody wants. There must be some kind of economic management of production to avoid situations of this kind. In the final analysis, bounties and similar forms of 'assistance merely provide enough to enable the farmer to go on paying interest to the banks, and the farmer has his nose to the grindstone all the time. Very often the money goes to people other than farmers. The honorable member for

Gippsland said that the income of the worker was governed by the index figures relating to the cost of living. We all know that, in fact, wages determinations habitually lag a long way behind prices. However, even if wages were adjusted immediately in conformity with price variations, what about the hundreds of thousands of persons who do not receive award wages? What about the thousands, even in my own electorate, who are on relief work, or who are employed in rural industries for which there is no award in operation? At the present time, rural workers in New South Wales and Victoria are not protected by any award. After all, it is only in a comparatively few industries that wages and conditions are regulated, and only a few of those who eat bread, and who- will pay the tax, are protected by arbitration courts.

When this scheme was first mooted, the people were told by the press that, as an essential condition, the price of bread would be fixed. If I remember rightly, it was even stated by members of the Government in this House, in answer to questions, that one of the contingent features of the scheme was the fixation of the price of bread. Now we find that not one State government has announced its willingness to fix the price of bread. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) said that the Government of NewSouth Wales was talking about fixing commodity prices. It is talking about having an inquiry into prices to see if it is necessary to bring in price-fixing legislation, but the actual fixation of prices is something that may take place in the sweet bye-and-bye, or it may never take place at all. In my opinion, it will never be done, because the profiteers are friends of the Government, and contribute to the party funds. This proposal of the Government, in the absence of the fixation of bread prices, is iniquitous.

The scheme provides for the payment of 4s. 8d. a bushel f.o.r., or 5s. 2d. f.o.b. at ports. At the conference of representatives of the farmers on the 25th August, it was decided to ask for a guarantee of only 4s. a bushel, but they are now being offered an additional 8d. It takes 48 bushels of wheat to produce a ton of flour, and they also produce 880 lb. of bran and pollard. The offal from the wheat returns enough to pay the miller for the cost of gristing, plus his profit. The value of the offal from 48 bushels of wheat, at present prices, is £2 10s. The miller gets a rake-off from the poor poultry-farmer and the dairyman, who must pay the highest prices for bran and pollard.Under the wheat pool schemes of Labour governments, the millers received only £1 7s. for the offal which they are now selling at £2 10s., and they did well at that price. It is generally recognized that the price of wheat should be in ratio to the price of flour, which is at present at £12 8s. a ton,the cost of gristing and the miller's profit being obtained, as I have said, from the returns from the offal. A ton of flour will make 1,333 loaves of bread which, at 6d. a loaf, is equal to a return of £33 16s. 6d. for a ton of flour, Thus, the worker pays £33 16s. 6d. for the flour when he eats it in the form of bread, although the price of the flour itself is only £12 8s. The workers should get their bread at 4d. a loaf, at which every one concerned would be able to secure a reasonable profit. At present there is a difference of £21 8s. 6d., which the profiteers cut up among themselves. On the 32,000,000 bushels of wheat converted into flour, this tax, amounting to about 2s. 7½d. a bushel at present prices, is estimated to yield approximately £4,200,000.

Sitting suspended from 11.45 p.m. until 12.15 a.m.(Thursday).

Thursday, 1 December 1938

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