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Friday, 7 May 1920

Mr ANSTEY (Bourke) .- It has been suggested that, as I know nothing about wheat, I might say a few words on the present occasion, and as I have not heard any of the arguments used during the debate, therefore I am quite unbiased. But one or two thoughts have occurred to me, and it seems desirable that I should give expression to them. I notice from the daily press that in the United States of America there is an anticipated shortage of wheat of anything from 400,000,000 to 700,000,000 bushels, and in Europe a shortage of about 300,000,000 bushels. Apparently, too, the area under cultivation throughout the world has declined by about 12,000,000 acres, and we have been informed that if the season here does not turn out satisfactorily we shall soon be paying about £1 per bushel for our wheat, and.1s. per 2-lb. loaf of bread. Looked at in this light, the prospects for the farming community generally are, to say the least, brilliant. Evidently our farmers feel that they have some grounds for complaint in connexion with the wheat deal referred to in this debate. They believe that they did not getenough for their produce. If they think that, they should, of course, complain, because, after all, that is the general principle upon which life turns. The Government, on the contrary, declare that they have done their very best, and the other day the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) said that the Government had done all that could be expected of them. I am not out to placate the farmers. There are very few in my constituency. It has been said that the Government got the highest price possible in connexion with a particular wheat deal, but there are one or two facts which may come out now that the war is over. Whenever during the war I endeavoured to make any statement as to what I thought was going on, I exposed myself to the risk of six months' imprisonment. Happily, I avoided that disagreeable experience, because I carefully abstained from saying what was in my mind. Nevertheless, it is a fact that certain operations of the British Government during the war will come to light some day, and then, perhaps, we shall have an opportunity of saying some of the things that might have been said with advantage during the war. It is a fact that the British Government, all through the war did find ships to take our men away. And it is a fact that they were not able to take much of our wheat. We were then a militant nation; we were taking our part in the war. We were sacrificing our blood in the fight for all those principles of Democracy and liberty about which we have talked and thought so much of late years. Great Britain during the war could get wheat out of the Argentine, but the Argentine would not sell unless she could get the gold. England had no. gold to export, and if she had, there was the submarine menace.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - You did not get much when you were in England.

Mr ANSTEY - I enjoyed all the good things of life whilst there. I had the best time of my life, but I am not going to tell anybody about it. While I was here I was a Democrat, but when away I was a patriot. Self-preservation demanded that I should show my patriotism as did other men, and if I had been a better patriot I would probably have received more money. The British Government would not send ships to Australia to take our wheat away, but they sent vessels to the Argentine, although that country would not supply wheat unless it was paid for in gold. Great Britain could not send gold out of the United Kingdom because of the submarine menace. How were they to get Argentine wheat to supply Great Britain? It is easily explained. In the dead of night vessels of war visited Melbourne and Sydney and lifted Australian gold which they carried to Buenos Ayres, where it was used for purchasing wheat grown in the Argentine. That was the method adopted to purchase that wheat. Our wheat was lying rotting, but Australian gold was being used to purchase wheat at two and a half dollars a bushel, while some of our wheat was being sold at 5s. or 5s. 6d. I was absolutely prohibited from making such statements during the war period, and if I had made them, although they are true, I would have been prosecuted. In any case, we are now permitted to express those, truths which we were not permitted to express during the war. As to the farmers, what else can they do but support the Government ? If they do not get something to-day they may get it to-morrow, and so they will continue their support.

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