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Wednesday, 30 November 1938


Mr GREEN - That is a long story, and I suggest that the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) should peruse the vast amount of literature available in the Library on this subject. I may mention, however, that the main basis of the rehabilitation of the wheat industry in the United States of America in the past was the processing tax, which involved the payment by the millers of higher prices for wheat. The great trouble to-day is that there is far too great a discrepancy between the price of wheat and the price of bread. Even under this scheme if the farmer get 2s. 4d. a bushel- for his wheat he gets only the equivalent of Id. for the wheat used in a 2-lb. loaf of bread, and if wheat rose to 4s. Sd. a bushel, which seems an enormous price to most people, he would only get 2d. for the wheat in a 2-lb. loaf. Under this scheme, of course, he will receive on the average a bounty of only from one-third to one-quarter of the homeconsumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel. This is a very paltry return when we consider the services rendered to the country by the Australian wheat-growers. For instance, if the production of wheat in Australia were reduced, as has been threatened, to home-consumption needs alone, the community would have to pay much more than 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat and, in addition, the poultry industry and kindred industries, which depend oh the offal of wheat for their existence, would be wiped out. The Australian wheat-farmer to-day is being asked to make tremendous sacrifices in order that the price of bread may he kept at a reasonably low figure. It is difficult to reconcile this treatment of the wheatgrowers with the protectionist policy of this country, to which I have always subscribed, which enables secondary industries to secure reasonable profits, and enables the workers engaged in them to enJoy better conditions than are enjoyed by workmen in other lands. I cannot understand how the people who are aware of the position can be so selfish as to demand its continuance. No supporter of the Labour party can be consistent with the principles of his party and permit this state of affairs to continue. Let us take the price of wheat in Sydney, and see how the flour-millers profit by it. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of yesterday's date, the price of wheat in Sydney is 2s. 6d. a bushel. For that wheat the grower receives only 2s. or less. It takes 48 bushels of wheat to grist a ton of flour. The cost to the miller of 48 bushels is £6. Flour is sold at £7 10s. a ton so that the miller receives £1 103. for gristing. A fair estimate of the cost of gristing would be ls. a bushel. From that 48 bushels he receives, in addition to the flour, 14 bushels of offal, that is to say, bran and pollard, from the sale of which he makes as much as he secures for gristing. It will thus be seen that the miller, who buys his wheat- from the men who are the real pioneers of this country, receives an undue margin of profit. Everybody who touches the wheat gets a rake-off. For instance, the servants of the State railways which are utilized for the carriage of wheat to the centres of distribution are paid fair living wages established by the courts of this country, those engaged in the handling of wheat have their wages fixed by the courts and, as I have said, the millers receive a very handsome profit for processing the .wheat. The only ones robbed are the general consumers at one end, and the wheat producers at the other. Until the wheat industry is properly stabilized it cannot for a moment be suggested that this important question has been dealt with finally.

Let me deal briefly with the position that existed during the years when the compulsory wheat pool was in operation. During the pool years 1918, 1917 and 1918 the price of wheat in Adelaide was fixed over the whole period at 4s. 9d. a bushel. During the same period the price of bread was 4d. a 2-lb. loaf. From 48 bushels of wheat the miller obtains 2,000 lb. of flour, 432 lb. of bran, and 432 lb. of pollard. During the years 1916, 1917 and 1918, when the wheat pool was in operation. th6 price of wheat was 4s. 9

The Labour party has always stood for a compulsory pool, and it had a great battle on this very question long before the constitutionality of a wheat pool was challenged. In the pool years we were told by the present Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) that pools were undesirable. At that time the right honorable gentleman had at the back of him big interests which were grasping to control the Federal Parliament. To-day, however, the story we are told is that a compulsory pool would be desirable, but that neither the Commonwealth nor the States could put such a pool into operation. If that be so, we should go out and say to the people, "We are in a jamb; we are controlled in this country, and will continue to bc controlled, by big interests unless we are clothed with the necessary power to deal adequately with this matter ". If we cannot secure the necessary power the sooner we hand the control of .this country over to a Fascist dictatorship, the better. The only way by which the difficulties of the wheat industry can be adequately met is by the establishment of a compulsory wheat pool. It is Labour's objective to eliminate the wheat speculator and to guarantee to the growers an average price each year, based on equity. We should seek the co-operation of :the States in the fixation of prices for flour and bread. We should do everything possible to avoid the necessity for makeshift measures of the kind now before us in order to place this important industry on a proper footing.' The price of wheat in New Zealand to-day is 5s. 9d. a bushel - that price has been fixed by the Dominion Government - and, although the price of flour is £13 7s.' 6d. a ton, the price of a 2-lb. loaf is 5½d. over the counter and 6d. delivered. Incidentally, bread is being sold at that price in the suburbs of Melbourne to-day, with wheat at 2s. free at sidings. I trust that the time is near when at long last the position of the wheat-growers of Australia will be stabilized and that the men who supply the nation's food will get a square deal.







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