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Friday, 7 May 1920

Mr PROWSE (Swan) . -This matter has not been sprung upon the House. In February last, I came across from Western Australia to attend a conference of representatives of wheatgrowers of all the States, which endeavoured to outline a future policy for the Australian wheat-growers. The policy which we drew up was afterwards presented to the Prime Minister, who commended us for what we had done ; but we desired to have a voluntary compulsory Pool. As, apparently, that clear definition is rather vague to some honor able members, let me explain that, by a referendum of the wheat-growers of Australia, which the Prime Minister promised to assist in obtaining, it was desired to know whether they wished the continuance of the Wheat Pool in a compulsory form, or its abandonment altogether. It is known that a guarantee has been named for next year's wheat; but, as it is also suggested that the Pool should be abandoned this year, the position would be that we would have a gurantee with an abandoned Pool - that is to say, no machinery to control it. If, as a result of the referendum, with! which the Prime Minister is sympathetic, the growers agree to the continuance of the Pool, it is only reasonable that it should continue in order to carry on the principle. The conception of the Pool, in the first instance, and under war conditions, was a most excellent idea. I believe that all the wheat-growers, as well as the other people of Australia, recognised that it was necessary; in fact, that it was the only possible method to adopt. Of course, we have been rather unfortunate in the management of the Pool. As a big grower of wheat, I have had occasion to follow its operations, and the least I can say is that the management of the Pool has been most unfortunate. Nearly all the middlemen who had been in control of wheat in pre-war days were given the agency in London to manage at that end and advise us at this end. Similar control was given here. It was a case of " setting the geese to watch the oats." When we approached the Prime Minister asking him to continue the Pool in a compulsory form, he said -

The stone which the builders rejected Is become the head of the corner.

Our objection was not to the principle of the Pool, but to its management. Any good thing may 'be mismanaged. It took a tremendous lot of agitation from the farmers of Australia to get representation on the Board. Since there has been representation of the farmers on that Board, everything connected with it has been infinitely more satisfactory.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) was not responsible for the non-representation of farmers.

Mr PROWSE - Since the right honorable gentleman mentions that matter,

I must say that it was most difficult to shift the Prime Minister so as to obtain representation. '

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