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Friday, 29 March 1946

Mr CHIFLEY - As the honorable member knows, - the provision of wheat " for' stock feed proved of great benefit to the primary producer. Having regard to the necessity to meet demands for human consumption in the event of another drought, it was my duty, in conjunction with the Minister, to ensure that a proper reserve was kept, and that an excessive quantity of wheat was not distributed as stock feed. I accept my share of .responsibility for the . arrangement made. As T pointed out last night I am not conversant with the distribution of wheat for the manufacture of dog biscuits. I * shall obtain the information sought by the honorable member and make it available to him as soon as possible.'

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - I. desire to ask of the Prime Minister a question founded upon the reported statement made at Parkes yesterday by the Attorney-General, when, in an address to wheat-growers, he said that, during the war, primary producers had been able to reduce their indebtedness by £60,000,000. Will the Prime Minister have a table prepared showing, as an offset to this, the amount by which the properties of primary producers have depreciated during the same period, because maintenance work could not be done? Will he indicate, the amount by which the properties have deteriorated, because of the. inability of owners to cope with' noxious weeds, and animal pests ? Will he also indicate the amount by which primary producers would have been able to reduce their indebtedness - I refer particularly to wheat-growers - if the Wheat Board had been able to sell at world prices wheat surplus to Australia's human requirements? Figures have been cited within the last two days by representatives of primary producers, showing that the present method of disposing of wheat from No. 7 pool alone -has cost the growers £10,000,000.

Mr CHIFLEY - If the honorable member will put tha question on the notice-paper, I shall endeavour to have the information obtained for him. The amount of £60,000,000 by which primary producers are said to have reduced their indebtedness is a rough approximation only, and refers to the. position as it existed nearly three years ago. The figure was arrived at by making an analysis of overdrafts, &c, but no attempt was made to obtain absolute accuracy. However, if the amount was roughly correct then, it is certain the figure would be considerably greater now. As for the deterioration of farming properties, honorable members will recall that legislation was passed some time ago making provision for depreciation of that kind, and for" deferred maintenance charges. This applied to primary producers and to manufacturers also. In time, the returns submitted to the Commissioner of Taxation under this heading ought to indicate the primary producers' own ideas of the amount of deferred maintenance costs, but at this stage it might not be possible to arrive at even an estimate.

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