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Wednesday, 30 November 1938

Mr PATERSON (Gippsland) (2:47 AM) . - If this amendment were carried, it would mean the virtual destruction of the great effort that has been made by the seven Australian governments to find a permanent solution of the provision of a home-consumption price for wheat. Some remarkable arguments have been advanced by honorable gentlemen opposite in support of the amendment. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully), for example, put forward as his plea the fact that there are fluctuations of the price of wheat from one season to another, as if they were not already provided for in the bill. The excise will vary in accordance with variations of the price of wheat. Indeed, if wheat should rise beyond a certain level, the legislation will begin to operate in the opposite direction to the benefit of the consumer, and the- price of bread will fall.

Mr Rosevear - Why is that not contained in the bill? That is the point at issue.

Mr PATERSON - It cannot be put in the bill. It is a matter for the States, and they have taken the responsibility to fix the price of flour. They cannot take that responsibility without also assuming the responsibility to protect the consumer with reference to the price of bread.

The assistance which will be given to the wheat industry under this legislation has been referred to repeatedly as a bounty, but it is nothing of the kind; it is the provision of a home-consumption price. The only part of this measure which deals with a bounty is that which refers to the £500,000, which will be paid to men who are in a difficult position owing to the absence of a c'rop. That part applies only for one year. The per manent part of the bill deals with the home-consumption price, not with a bounty. Now, sir, we have a homeconsumption price for sugar that is the subject of an agreement for five years. The price does not vary from year to year. We" have also duties imposed in order to give stability and protection to the secondary industries. These duties are not imposed for a year; they last for many years. There is a degree of .permanence about them in the same way as there is a degree of permanence about the homeconsumption price of sugar. There would be no stability, no continuity, nothing of real value to the wheat industry, if this measure were limited to one year. If. as the years go on, circumstances should prove that there i3 something wrong with the plan the Parliament will have opportunity to amend it. I appeal to honorable members not to endanger the plan at its very birth by limiting its life to one year.

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