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Wednesday, 30 November 1938


Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) (2:38 AM) . - It seems to me that the amendments puts the whole scheme on its merits. The supporters of the Government say that the scheme will assist the industry, without inflicting hardship on the consumers. Those who support the amendment believe that there is a danger that the scheme, in its present form, will bear with undue severity upon the poorer sections of the community. The amendment provides an opportunity for testing those points of view. I should think that the Government ought to be willing to accept the amendment, instead of trying to force its proposals through by weight of numbers. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) pointed out, we are all anxious to help the wheat-growers.

We appreciate the value of the wheatindustry to the country, but we also realize our responsibilities to the large body of consumers, not only in the metropolitan areas, but throughout the country also. The purpose of the amendment is to provide an opportunity to study the general reaction to this legislation. That cannot be determined until the scheme has been actually in operation. There is a wide divergence of opinion regarding the powers of the States, and certainly regarding their desire, to fix prices. This Parliament is the pivot of the whole scheme. It is the taxing authority, and it has the power to force the States into line, as was pointed out by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Blackburn). The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Jennings) represents an electorate with a large consuming public, and he is not unmindful of their interests. The same ought to apply to the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Holt)-


Mr Holt - I want to see justice done to the primary producers.


Mr BEASLEY - So do we all, but that should not blind us to the necessity for doing justice to the workers. I am sure that the honorable member for Fawkner desires that even-handed justice should be meted out both to the consumers and to the producers. We are prepared to give the producers what is proposed, and all we ask is that the scheme be limited to a period of twelve months in order to ensure that the workers are not exploited.


Mr Holt - Parliament may amend the legislation at any time.


Mr BEASLEY - Then what is the objection to the amendment? The future in regard to this industry is very uncertain, which makes it all the more desirable that Parliament should keep the matter under its control. The suggestion of the honorable member forRiverina (Mr. Nock) that the limiting of the scheme to a period of twelve months might cause hesitancy and uncertainty in the minds' of the growers is not borne out by experience. The question of assistance to the wheat-growers has been discussed every year for the last ten years. This amendment does not ask a great deal even of honorable members who are enthusiastic about the bill in its present shape. It merely asks for time to test the arguments that have been forcibly expressed on both sides of the committee. One side says that the measure will place upon the people a burden which should not be placed on them, whereas the other side denies it. A review of the legisla-. tion would show which side "was right. Representatives of electorates which contain those on whom the bread tax will fall most heavily should accept with enthusiasm the proposal made by the Leader of the Opposition.







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