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Wednesday, 19 May 1920

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - I understand that the honorable member is merely reading extracts from some report or document.

Mr HILL - I could tell my own tale, but so that there can be no dispute, and in order to reach finality, I am quoting as nearly as possible from the minutes of the Australian Wheat Board, from which the Prime Minister also quoted, and which cannot be said to be wrong. I may add that I have also taken the precaution to advise all the gentlemen whose names I am using that it was my intention to do so.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Is this Wheat Board a public body?

Mr HILL - I do not know what the Minister may call it, but I presume that what the Prime Minister can read I can read.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I quite agree with that, but I doubt whether this procedure is wise on the part of either the honorable member or the Prime Minister.

Mr HILL - As the Prime Minister quoted from the minutes of the Australian Wheat Board, I have no option but to do the same. I might make a statement, and then the Prime Minister might pick out certain minutes which would make my case appear absurd. The statement issued to the press by the Prime Minister is one of the most ingenious I have ever read. I doubt whether the honorable gentleman saw the statement before it was issued to the press; I am inclined to think that two other gentlemen drew it up, and made it public. With the multiplicity of duties he has to perform, it is almost impossible for the Prime Minister to go into all these matters. I have already said that the Prime Minister cabled to London with a view to ascertaining, if possible, the London parity. I heard Senator Russell say, at a meeting of the Chamber of Agriculture at Bendigo, that there was no such thing as London parity. But when it suited the Prime Minister he tried to establish London parity, although the Wheat Board was of opinion that at that time it would be difficult ' to establish. Evidently he did establish it to his own satisfaction. The Australian Wheat Board re-assembled on 29th January, when neither the Prime Minister nor Senator Russell was present,both being engaged at a Cabinet meeting. It is only fair to say that the meeting was hurriedly convened because the delegates from the various States, who had been in Melbourne from the 9th to the 29th January, were in a hurry to return to their homes. They decided to take the matter into their own hand's, to buy the wheat, and fix the price, regardless of whether or not the Prime Minister consented. At that meeting Mr. Oman said -

I have been trying to find out what the London parity is. I have ascertained certain values in other countries. Further, to these quotations in London you have to add £50,000,000, and divide it by 240,000,000 bushels of wheat, which is 4s. 2d. above the quotation in London. I have ascertained that the present price of wheat in the following countries is -

Pacific Coast, 9s.5d., plus 23 per cent. exchange.

Argentine, 9s., f.o.b., plus 13 per cent. exchange.

Chicago, 9s. 6d., rail.

Atlantic Coast, 10s., f.o.b., plus 23 per cent. exchange.

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