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Friday, 16 July 1920

With reference to the letter presented by you from Messrs. W. Cowell, J. Hardie, H. C. and A. E. Girdham, J. Girdham and E. Byrnes, mail contractors in the Forbes district, N.S.W., in which they asked that this Department grant them assistance in the matter of the purchase of fodder, I beg to inform you that inquiry has been made, and the following is an extract from a report submitted by the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, viz.: -

The contractors in question have already , been granted drought concessions for the period, 1st January, 1919, to 31st December, 1919, and since this application was made all of them, except Mr. Byrnes, have received fodder from the Rural Industries Board on extended terms, which should be sufficient to meet their requirements. Mr. Byrnes states that he received fodder from the Rural Industries Board for his farm horses, but did not ask for sufficient for his coach horses.

Rains averaging from 2 to 3 inches have fallen throughout this district, and grass is growing rapidly, though it will be a month or six weeks before it will be sufficiently long for big stock.

2.   I may add that the question of affording further assistance to mail contractors in drought-stricken districts is now receiving attention, and should it be decided to grant such assistance, consideration will be given to the claims of the contractors referred to above.

Yours faithfully,

The Department is still giving that matter consideration. The Minister states that as 2 or 3 inches of rain have fallen grass is growing rapidly in the district, and consequently there is no occasion for him to grant the contractors further assistance. I was in that district on Tuesday last, and although grass is growing, the growth is so slow that it will be a long time before there is sufficient for horses to live on. Moreover, if the PostmasterGeneral knows anything about the carrying of mails in country districts, he knows that these services cannot be conducted with grass-fed horses. The fact that the contractors have received fodder from the Rural Industries Board on extended terms is something for which they have not to thank the Federal Government. Although the assistance was granted on extended terms, the fact remains that the fodder must be paid for at the rate of £16 or £17 per ton. I hope that the Department will soon arrive at a decision to grant the mail contractors in the drought-stricken areas an allowance sufficient to recompense them for the losses they have incurred during the last twelve months. The losses sustained by the producers in connexion: with the overseas sales of wheat, wool, and other commodities have been exhaustively dealt with by honorable members on both sides of the House, who all are agreed that Australia has been robbed of hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of products through the incompetency of the present Government, and particularly of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).

The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) stated that, when listening to the speeches made by honorable members on this side, one would think that we must not be judged by our speeches, as our real policy was to be learnt by consulting the official documents and pamphlets published by the Labour organizations outside. When asked to what publications he was referring, the Minister quoted the Brisbane Worker. That paper is not published by the Australian Labour party ? Then he mentioned the publications which emanate from the Worker office. That office, like every other printing office, publishes books and pamphlets by contract. The only real and official document which can be connected with the Labour movement is the platform issued by the Australian Labour party, a copy of which I now hold. The Minister for Works and Railways asked about the articles on Soviet Russia. It is well known that the Australian Labour parry does not stand for the principles embodied in Soviet Russia. We do not advocate the Soviet system here. We say emphatically that as we in Australia have adult suffrage, every man and woman is able through the ballot-box to control Parliament; thus the people themselves have power to make or mar Australia, and we ask for nothing more. The Minister knows that we do not stand for a Soviet Russia, and when he said that the official publications of the Labour party differed from the speeches of members of the party he was well aware that our speeches and our publications were one and the same.

I propose to quote the whole of the Country policy of the Labour party in order to have it recorded in Hansard, where the electors of Australia may see it. This is our Country policy -

The Australian Labour movement is based upon the recognition of the truth that practically all wealth comes primarily from the land. This accounts for Labour's desire to promote closer settlement and the rigid distinction it draws between the genuine land user and the land trafficker. Labour's objective, " the securing to producers of the full results of their labour," clearly states our attitude towards the important question of a just distribution of wealth.

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