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Wednesday, 6 May 1942

Mr MARWICK (Swan) .- I desire to bring to the notice of the Minister for Commerce a matter of great importance to primary producers in Western Australia, namely, the manner in which wheat acreages are being restricted under this season's licensing plan, which provides for a reduction of 33 per cent. below last year's sowings. I have had placed before me particulars of a farm of 6,421 acres, of which 6,000 acres has been cleared. The owner is licensed this year to sow 471 acres of wheat for grain, and 57 acres for hay and other purposes, a total of 528 acres. Last year, the area permitted to be sown to wheat was, approximately, 780 acres, so that the 471 acres permitted this year represents a reduction of 43 per cent., not 33 per cent. as it is supposed to be. Most farmers in Western Australia are in debt to financial institutions and to machinery merchants, and if they are not to be allowed to grow what hay they want to, they will have no chance of meeting their obligations. I have in mind one farmer who has a mortgage of £8,700 and who is this year licensed to grow 200 acres of wheat. He has been in the habit for years of growing 180 acres of hay, but under this year's licence he is restricted to 30 acres. It is clearly stipulated that the licensee shall not sow a greater area to wheat than the number of acres indicated in the licence. Production costs have increased a. great deal since the outbreak of war, as the following table shows: -


Farmers will not be able to continue in production if further restrictions are to be imposed upon them, particularly in regard to the growing of hay. Men have told me that if the acreage under hay is to be restricted they will walk off their farms. Most of them have the very greatest difficulty in carrying on at present, because of high production costs and low prices. I urge the Minister for Commerce to use his influence with his colleagues in the Ministry to have brought in some form of moratorium for the protection of primary producers who are suffering grave hardship because of the restriction of acreage to be sown in wheat, and because of the pegging of prices. I have read statements by the Minister for Commerce himself in which he appealed to farmers to grow more wheat for hay, particularly in drought areas. Now the quantity of hay produced is to be severely restricted unless, at the last moment, the Wheat Board or the State Government instructs the farmers to cut more wheat for hay. That was what happened during the drought of two years ago, when the State Government threatened to cut the wheat for hay if the farmers did not do it. Then, those who did cut for hay were left lamenting. In my opinion, if the necessary labour can be obtained, farmers should be encouraged to cut as much wheat for hay as possible. There is an urgent need to produce a greatly increased quantity of meat in Western Australia. Farmers should be allowed to sow whatever acreage they want to sow so that the wheat may he fed to pigs and sheep. There is no comparison between the wheatlands of Western Australia and those of the eastern States. The farmers in the west have not been able to pay off the debts incurred in the clearing and fencing of the land, and most of them have a high interest bill to meet every half-year. They can meet their bills only if they are allowed to grow hay for stock and for sale.

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