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Wednesday, 30 November 1938

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! The honorable member is entering into a general debate on the bill. He must confine his remarks .to the clause under discussion. ,

Sir HENRY GULLETT - Something has been said about the burden of the secondary industries upon the primary industries, but those of us who stand for secondary industries have never come down with a proposal to tax the wheatgrowers or the primary producers of this country to bring about the export of great quantities of secondary production. We could pay our debt overseas with boots just as with wheat, if a bounty were paid on boots. With flour, beer, whisky, or anything else, for that matter, the same could be done, but we have never done anything like that. What is so odious about the Government's -proposal is that the bread-eaters are to be taxed for the benefit of the export side of the wheat industry. It is entirely despicable and indefensible. I beg the committee, if it feels that it must pass the bill, to get over a present difficulty, to urge the Government to take this opportunity to limit its operation to one year only in order that in twelve months stock may be taken of the position.

Mr. WILSON(Wimmera) [2.13 a.m. - I oppose the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) for various reasons. I think that many of the assertions of the honorable gentleman are based on a misunderstanding of facts, particularly his references to certain conferences which were held, at which decisions were arrived at in connexion with the legislation now before us. I happened to be at a pre-sessional conference in Sydney the day before the Premiers met there and arrived at their decision regarding the assistance to the wheat industry. Also at the meeting was, I think, the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock), who can bear out what I say. It was a meeting of the Australian Wheat-growers' Federation, which represents all of the wheat-growers' organizations in Australia. At that conference I moved a motion calling upon the Federal Government to take the initiative and to introduce legislation that would provide a bounty for a number of years to establish a homeconsumption price of 4s. 8d. a bushel. The motion was carried unanimously. But that was not the beginning of the negotiations. The wheat-growers' organizations have been striving for many years to obtain such a scheme as that embodied in this bill. The assumption of the Leader of the Opposition that the wheatgrowers do not desire this scheme is not correct. I resent the remarks of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who referred to this bill as an atrocity. If he did not use that word, he used another to the same effect. Yet the honorable gentleman was mainly responsible for a trade-diversion policy which involved the wool and wheatgrowers of Australia in a loss of £10,000,000. Prior to the introduction of that policy, Australia was developing a valuable wheat market in the East. That has now been lost and I doubt if it will ever be recovered. The honorable member made no apology to the wool and wheat-growers for his muddling of his so-called trade-diversion policy, and he, left the Government to retire as best it could from a most embarrassing situation. The method proposed in this bill to finance this scheme is orthodox and reasonable. I can see no other way to obtain the money required to provide the proposed home-consumption price for wheat. I hope the amendment will be rejected.

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