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Wednesday, 30 November 1938

Mr ROSEVEAR (Dalley) (2:56 AM) . - As I understand the amendment, its purpose is not to destroy the bill, but to provide for a review of it in the light of experience that we shall gain in the twelve months in which it operates. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) said that this was not a bounty. The honorable member may call it what he likes, but I submit that the difference between the price that the wheat-growers now receive for their wheat, and that which they will receive when this legislation is passed constitutes a bounty. It does not matter by what name it is known, it is none the less a bounty.

Mr Paterson - In that case every tariff imposed for the protection of a secondary industry is a bounty to it.

Mr ROSEVEAR - We are discussing not that point, but whether or not the assistance which is to be given to the wheat industry is a bounty. I submit that it is.

The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully) has pointed out the violent price fluctuations that occur in the wheat market.

Mr Paterson - There is provision to meet those fluctuations.

Mr ROSEVEAR - That is just the point. The honorable member for

Gwydir pointed out that the price went to bedrock in some years and rose violently in others. The honorable member for Gippsland says that the bill contains provision to meet those violent fluctuations, but the. danger against which we want safeguards is contained in the fact that inevitably, as the result of the imposition of the flour tax, there will be a rise of the price of flour and of bread.

Mr Paterson - That will be as the result of action by the State governments.

Mr.ROSEVEAR. - Or inaction. The tax on flour will inevitably be passed on to bread, and, accordingly, bread will be the real source from which this bounty will be paid. The honorable member for Gippsland said that, if the price of wheat rose, the excise would fall and that, accordingly, there would be a fall of bread prices, but he cannot guarantee that that will be so, because this bill does not propose to deal with that aspect.

Mr Paterson - It cannot.

Mr.ROSEVEAR.- Of course it cannot. That is why we wish to have the opportunity to review this legislation at the expiry of twelve months. According to the reasoning of the honorable member for Gippsland, it is the intention of the bill that, if the price of wheat rises, the amount of the excise taxation extracted from the people shall be reduced. If, after twelve months, we could show that the price of bread, which had originally risen as the result of the imposition of this tux, had not fallen, although the price of wheat had risen, I think that the honorable member would admit that, from the point of view of those who will actually pay this bounty through the bread tax, this bill had been a failure. If we could show that the price of wheat had risen and the effect of the reduction of the tax on the price of bread had not resulted in reduced prices, we should then have to find other means to raise the tax necessary to provide relief for the wheat-growers. The honorable gentleman says that the whole basis of this bill is to provide stability for the wheat industry. He says that it can be changed at any time, but once it was placed on the statute-book it would ruin the stability of the Government itself, if that section of the Government, represented by the United Australia party, tried to obtain the support of the honorable gentleman's party to have the law altered. If, at the end of twelve months, it can be shown either that as the result of inactivity or unwillingness of the State governments to control the price of bread, or that, in spite of the fact that the price of wheat had risen, the price of bread had not fallen correspondingly, better means of raising the money for the purposes of this legislation will have to be devised. It is of no use to say that we can control the price of bread. We know that we cannot, and it is doubtful whether the States can or are willing to do so. We are moving in a hopeless direction when we chase prices instead of dealing with the fundamental troubles which beset the farmers. As long as we chase prices we can get no nearer a solution of the problem-

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The Chair is unable to see in what way the honorable member is dealing with the subject before the Chair.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I was intending to point out to the Chair the relationship between what I am saying and the amendment.

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable gentleman must do it briefly.

Mr ROSEVEAR - I was pointing out that 1 believe that we can show within twelve months the failure of this bill. I believe that within that space of time we can show the utter hopelessness of legislating in the direction of chasing prices. We have no control over the prices of that portion of the wheat which we export. Its sale and prices depend on international demand and competition. The price that can be demanded for commodities in Australia depends on the purchasing power of the people. That is a thing which this legislation cannot control. Since we can control by legislation neither the demand for wheat, the price of wheat in Australia or the price overseas, any legislation directed towards a permanent solution of the problems of the primary producers will fail, probably within less than twelve months, unless Parliament gets down to the fundamental difficulty of the farmers' costs, the enormously high cost of land and the enormous interest charges. In the present circumstances there must be a failure. I do not want that failure to be long and costly, because I realize that the workers who eat the bread will have to pay for the mistake. If, as the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett) has said, this odious legislation is to be inflicted on the people, let it be inflicted for as short a space of time as possible. In the light of experience we shall be able to realize the impossibility of dealing with the farmers' problems by chasing prices, and we shall have to devise some other means or abandon the project altogether.

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