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Wednesday, 14 July 1920

Mr J B CATTS (COOK, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What has the honorable member done to get rid of the War Precautions Act. and restore the power of- this Parliament? Nothing whatsoever.

Another plank of the Country party's so-called, platform was economy. What have the so-called Country members done to effect economy ?

The third plank of the so-called Conn? try party's policy pledged them to vote in the interests of the primary producers; The primary producers have been the victims of such colossal robbery as is. without precedent in history, but the Country party has sat silent.

One indictment, of this censure' motion challenges the Government for not having made any definite binding, contracts in regard to the overseas sales of primary products. I defy any honorable member of the so-called Country party to say that he has ever seen one of those contracts. These gentlemen-, sit facing me,, but there is no answer to my charge*. Not one honorable member has even asked to see them. The interest of honorable members opposite- in the- primary producers is not sufficient to induce them to demand the production of the contracts in this House, although the Prime Minister admitted, on the 13th May, that Australian wool had been sold to the Imperial authorities for use overseas, not only by Great Britain, but by foreign Powers, at one-third of the market value.

The Prime Minister knows that onethird of the market value was, because he was in Great Britain for two years, and knew the ruling prices for various products. On the Prime Minister's own showing, this country has been robbed of £320,000,000 in connexion with the sale of wool alone. The same sort of thing has happened in regard to sales of wheat, metals, butter, &c. The primary producers, being unable to obtain any information in regard to the sales of butter overseas, have been compelled to subscribe money to send private representatives to Great Britain in order to try to find out the true position of affairs, although they are supposed to have in this Parliament a party officially representing them, which could demand on the floor of this House that the information be made available to honorable members and to the whole of the people. That party has not done so.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - To what information does the honorable member refer?

Mr J H CATTS - I am referring to detailed information regarding the sales of Australian products, including the contracts which were the instruments of such sales. Those contracts have been asked for from this side of the House, but we are impotent to force the Government to produce them, because we number only twenty-five in a House of seventy-five ; but the members of the Country party know that, if they joined us in this demand, the Government would be compelled to produce the information.

Although this motion of censure challenges the Government on this issue of vital concern to the primary producers, it will be seen when the division bells ring and the numbers go up that, with probably one or two exceptions, the so-called representative of the primary producers votes to shield the Government in this robbery of the primary producers.

In 1914, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) described the party opposite, in a signed . statement issued to the general public, and I propose to read some extracts from it: -

Mr. JosephCook and his party pose as the friends of the "poor farmers." They bid "the man on the land" beware of the Labour party, and to trust the so-called Liberal party, to defend him against all his enemies. In view of the record of the Fusion and the great interests who support it, it is the most impudent attempt to fool the people ever attempted.

Who are the enemies of the farmers ? The land monopolists, the middleman, commission agent, and the trusts.

Land monopoly has been, and is still, the greatest curse of Australia. The holders of great estates have compelled farmers to pay exorbitant prices for land, or have forced him on to the poorer lands away from rail and market. Middlemen and commission agents fleece the producer. He is at their mercy. They control the channels through which alone the farmer can sell his produce. And the great combinations of capitalists who form trusts, rings, and monopolies fleece the farmer, both when he buys his machinery and goods' he needs and when he sells his produce. These are the enemies of the farmer. And they are all behind Mr. Cook and his party; yet Mr. Cook has the audacity to declare that his party is the friend of the farmer. . . .

How can a party supported by trusts, middlemen, and monopolists, and financed by these very people, be expected to protect the farmer from the people who fleece him?

The trusts and the great landlords are all behind Mr. Cook. (Signed) W. M. Hughes,

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