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Wednesday, 30 November 1938

Mr McCALL (Martin) (2:32 AM) .I support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin). I can see no objection to having this legislation reviewed in twelve months' time. The important factor is that the price of wheat fluctuates greatly. It has been said that the wheat industry should be placed on the same footing as other industries in which a home-consumption price has been fixed, for instance, for butter and for sugar, but there is not the same violent fluctuation of price for those commodities. A duty devolves upon the States to ensure that the price of bread is not increased, and if we agree to this amendment, it will provide means by which the Commonwealth Parliament may exercise a measure of control over the States in this respect. " The most objectionable feature of the Government's proposal is that it will probably increase the price of bread. The various State governments have said that they will take steps to ensure that that does not occur, but the assurances have not been given in unequivocal terms. The Premier of New South

Wales, Mr. Stevens, at the conference held in Canberra on the 29th August, said -

Some of us may go so far as to fix the price of bread also; but such action would be ancillary, and might follow as a matter of individual State policy.

Thus there is no definite assurance from the Premier of New South Wales that the price of bread will, in fact, be fixed. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Butler, stated at the conference: -

If there is any odium attached to this action, the States and not the Commonwealth will have to bear it. The second important feature of this scheme is that it aims to do something of a permanent' nature to ensure th at the price of wheat shall be stabilized, for when wheat prices rise above a certain level the consumers will not be asked to pay an increased price for bread. The effect of fixing the price of wheat at 4s. 8d. at country sidings would be to increase the price of bread by½d. a loaf in South Australia. That would not be placing an undue burden on the consumers.

I understand that, at a later stage, he said that action would be taken to prevent an increase of the price of bread, but we are entitled to ask for something definite. This is a matter of great importance to those on low incomes, and on sustenance. There is an obligation on this Parliament to safeguard their interests, and this can be done by accepting the amendment. It will simply mean that the matter will be reviewed in twelve months' time. If circumstances warrant it, the tax can be renewed; if not, it will be abolished. There is nothing unfair in that.

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