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Wednesday, 21 October 1931

Mr GABB (Angas) .- I protest that at twenty minutes to eleven o'clock I am forced to discuss a bill which was placed in my hands only at four o'clock this afternoon, and which, because of the important matters which the House has since been considering, I have not yet had an opportunity to study. Only ten minutes ago I was handed another bill which has to be read in conjunction with that now before the House. Obviously, I have not had time even to peruse it. I protest that we should be asked to deal with legislation in this manner. The bill before us seeks to undo legislation which was passed through Parliament hastily some time ago. When legislation is dealt with in this hasty manner, errors and loopholes are likely to be found in it.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The reason for the haste is that this season's wheat is already being delivered.

Mr GABB - I know that that is so; the first load of wheat of this season's crop in South Australia was delivered last week. Nevertheless, it is a good rule to make haste slowly. Generally, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) makes a good speech; but not even he was able to do justice to this measure. Indeed, there has not yet been a really good speech made on it. Probably that is because no one understands its provisions; I admit that I do not understand them. It is true that I have had the bill in my possession for several hours, but when it was handed to me another important measure, to which both the Prime Minister and the Deputy

Leader of the Opposition spoke, was before the House, and I felt that it was my duty to hear what they had to say. Consequently, this bill, with its 24 clauses, is in the nature of an unknown quantity. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Gibbons) doubt whether this legislation will prevent dishonest persons from robbing the Government. I notice that for certain offences there are penalties as high as £500, but iu the short time at my disposal I have not seen any clause which would prevent u man who still has last season's wheat in his possession from selling it and receiving a bounty of 6d. a bushel for it. Despite what the Minister has said, there is still a fair amount of wheat held on the farms. About three weeks ago I travelled with a man who told me that he still held 1,200 bags of last year's wheat. Generally, I like to study a bill in a quiet place, when my mind is clear, but that has not been possible in this instance. Consequently, I do not understand the bill. Nevertheless I cannot oppose it, because I know of the need of the farmers, and I see in this measure an attempt to meet that need. I recognize that I have a duty to perform, not only to the wheat-growers in my electorate, but also to others there and the people of Australia as a whole. Lt is proposed to use borrowed money for the purposes of this bill, and it appears that that money is being dealt with lightly, in the manner that we dealt with the war gratuity some years ago. Some day the chickens will come home to roost. Even if this bill is designed to help the wheat-growers in their time of need, there is no excuse for dealing with it hastily. Should it bc found that unscrupulous persons have taken, advantage of loop-holes in this legislation, I shall accept no responsibility for what has happened, because, as I have said, I have not had a fair opportunity to study the measure.

I desire now to refer to one or two matters mentioned by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley). The attitude taken up by the honorable member, and it is assumed by many metropolitan members, not only in the

Labour party, but also on this side of the chamber, is that the farmer is on velvet. I might perhaps claim that the farmer is the backbone of the country, but I do not do so. What I wish to say is that it is foolish to set one section of the community against the other when their interests are mutual. According to the honorable member for South Sydney, country members are not satisfied with this bill. The peculiar attitude of the honorable member for Echuca, who described it as " tripe ", and then proceeded to urge its early passage, may have justified the . criticism of the honorable member for South Sydney, but my attitude towards it is that I should like to see it improved. Although it does not provide for a pool, if there are provisions in it which will afford opportunities for rake-offs, it will have a damning effect on any future efforts to establish a compulsory pool. I hope, therefore, that every care will be taken in the administration of the measure. Another thing that makes me uneasy is the statement of the honorable member for Echuca that the bill is not in accordance with the decisions of the recent conference. [Quorum formed.]

The honorable member for South Sydney said that no man on the land need starve.


Mr GABB - I have previously read to the House reports showing that not seven months ago farmers on the west coast of South Australia were living on wheat, fried iu fat or boiled. Some of them lived on it until they became ill. They did not actually starve, but they came very close to starvation. I can take the honorable member to some parts of South Australia and introduce him to farmers who have lived for several months on pollard and rabbits.

Mr Frost - I can introduce the honorable member to timber workers who have difficulty in getting even pollard and rabbits.

Mr GABB - I regret it, but their desperate position cannot be relieved by penalizing the farmer. According to the Murray Pioneer of the 25th September, 1931, Mr. Wilkinson, a South Australian farmer at Murtho Park, which is near the Victorian border, said -

Wheat from the 1931 crop, all f.a.q., sold through the South Australian wheat pool, realized up to date Is. 2d. a bushel after allowing for transport charges. Cornsacks in 1912 cost 6s. a dozen ; last year they cost 9s.6d. a dozen.

The newspaper comment was as follows : -

Last season Mr. Wilkinson sold 1,000 bags of f.a.q. wheat for £183. The superphosphate used to help to grow this crop cost £96.

If the honorable member knows anything about the amount of labour required to put in a crop which yields J.,000 bags, in the country where Mr. Wilkinson is farming, he will see that the farmer gets very little return for his labour, without taking into consideration the cost of bags or making any allowance for wear and tear, or interest on the capital cost of the land. He will see that the farmer is not having so good a time as he seems to think he is having.

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I said that the farmer had a better chance than the man in the city.

Mr GABB - I hope that no one will set up the city against the country, or the country against the city. But if the farmer has to go off the land because his return for his crops does not equal the cost of production, the position of the city dwellers will be aggravated. The interests of the farmers, and of those who live in metropolitan areas, are mutual, and I, therefore, deplore any attempt to set up the city versus the country or the country versus the city.

Mr Killen - A number of farmers have been driven off their holdings.

Mr GABB - I agree with the honorable member that quite a number, in fact, too large a number, of men have been driven off the land. It is utterly impossible for honorable members to discuss intelligently a bill of this kind introduced in this House at such short notice.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

Progress reported.

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