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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Mr SCULLY (Gwydir) .- I support the motion, and I congratulate the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McHugh) on the excellence of his maiden speech in this House, which I regard as a fine endorsement of the foresight of those who returned him as their representative in this Parliament. During the course of this debate I have not heard from honorable members opposite one practical suggestion for the betterment of the plight of the wheatgrowers. What is urgently needed in the government of this country is a definite policy. We, in the Labour movement, have a definite policy which we submit from time to time to the electors of Australia. We stand for the compulsory pooling of wheat and the cooperation of wheat-growers throughout Australia, working in conjunction with the governments of the Commonwealth and the States, to ensure the orderly marketing of their product. One of the great curses of the wheat industry at present is its exploitation by huge vested interests that come between the producer and the consumer. If we had an orderly marketing scheme and a compulsory pool, such as the Labour party has advocated for so long, the wheat industry would be able to speak with one voice. We do not fear the activities of the legitimate purchasers of wheat in Australia, the millers, but only those of the big speculating companies, whose ramifications extend to all parts of the world. In times of low prices, we have seen them buy on a low market, and sell for almost double the price the producer received. If a compulsory pool were in operation to ensure orderly marketing, the growers would receive the true value of their product. I quite realize that some arrangements would have to be made for the handling of surplus production, and I am aware that any such scheme would require considerable financial backing. No matter what the surplus is, exporters are always prepared to purchase the whole of the output at a price, and in the past, they have always been able to fix their own price. The whole of the surplus wheat in Australia could be sold to-morrow, at a price. The buyer takes no risk because he knows the trend of the world's markets. Under an orderly marketing scheme, wheat could be marketed to the best advantage. The establishment of a home-consumption price, which the Labour party advocates, would ensure to the grower a return of approximately 4s. a bushel. In order to maintain that price it would be necessary, we admit, to peg production. We view with alarm the position of the small wheat-growers throughout Australia. In my own electorate are large wheat-growers producing perhaps 100,000 bushels, and adjacent to them are small farmers who produce only 10,000 bushels. In the measure passed during the last sittings of this Parliament provision was made for a home-consumption price which gave to the grower a bounty of about 5d. a bushel. In my opinion a grower with a production of 100,000 bushels is not morally entitled to this bounty. Being wealthy, almost beyond the dreams of avarice, he is able to mechanize his industry. The passing of the horse and the advent of the tractor and the installation of modern machinery, have made it possible for the wealthy farmer to produce much more cheaply, grow larger quantities and work his farm with, a minimum of labour. The small wheat-grower is unable to take advantage of the advance in production methods. Is it right that the consuming public should be taxed to pay to wealthy people every year an increasing amount of money to which they are not morally entitled, while at the same time no measures are taken to protect to a greater degree the small farmers who are rearing families of sturdy Australians and contributing to the economic security of Australia ? We should do everything possible, by the introduction of appropriate legislation, to promote the breaking up of large estates owned by huge monopolies. The land occupied by the man who is producing over 100,000 bushels of wheat could probably be profitably farmed by ten men rearing ten sturdy Australian families. The Commonwealth Parliament should view with alarm the inroads which these huge land monopolies have made in the wheat industry. At all costs we should endeavour to peg production and see that government bounties are not exploited by the wealthy. I suggest that the payment of bounties to individual wheatgrowers should be restricted to the first 6,000 or 7,000 bushels. Every year millions of pounds go into the pockets of affluent wheat-growers, and the international speculators to whom I have referred. This is a curse with which Australia will have to deal ere long. The honorable member for Wakefield spoke of the trying conditions to which wheat-growers in his electorate are, subject. In the Gwydir electorate probably more wheat is grown than in any other electorate in the Commonwealth.

Mr Badman - I challenge that statement.

Mr SCULLY - As in other parts of Australia, there are thousands of wheatgrowers in the district of Gwydir .who grow wheat at a loss. Many of them are in the clutches of vested interests, or the private banks, and are being exploited in a way which is not in keeping with Australian ideals. The Labour party advocates the financing of the wheatgrowers through the Commonwealth Bank at minimum rates of interest. One honorable member referred to the proposed legislation to establish a mortgage bank. I shall not discuss that subject now, except to say that that proposal is merely a delusion and a snare. It contains nothing to commend it to the practical man on the land.

Mr SPEAKER -The honorable member has exhausted his time.

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