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Wednesday, 30 November 1938


Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) (Minister for Commerce) (3:31 AM) . - It is hard to understand upon what argument the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) expects support for his amendment. He has told us that the Government of New Zealand does certain things in connexion with primary production. That Government has fixed the price of wheat for a number of years. The guaranteed price of 5s. 8d. a bushel was in operation before the present Government assumed office. The stabilization scheme of that dominion is based upon a long-range programme, and the legislation is not subject to alteration year by year. If the committee accepts the amendment the Commonwealth Government will 'be guilty of a breach of faith with the State governments. The various State governments have consented to make a grant of £200,000 to the Government of Victoria out of the amount of £500,000 to be made available for the relief of necessitous farmers; but do honorable members imagine that that course would have been takenif this had not been regarded as a long-range plan? Victoria is one of the soundest wheatgrowing States of Australia, but it happens that this year it has struck a very bad season. The other wheat-growing States have come to its assistance, knowing that, in accordance with the permanent scheme that has been arranged, their turn will come later. The proposition of the Leader of the Opposition cuts right across the agreement that the Commonwealth Government has made with the State governments. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) suggests, by interjection, that this proposal amounts to a parasitical attack upon the whole community.


Mr James - At any rate it provides for a definite tax upon the poor.


Sir EARLE PAGE - Does the honorable member realize that all the State governments, Labour or otherwise, have endorsed the scheme? It has been suggested that there may be a " rake-off" for some one in the adjustment of the relative prices of wheat, flour and bread. My reply is that such a rake-off is only likely to be prevented if a plan of a permanent character is adopted. Under such a plan it should he easy to determine the relative prices of wheat, flour and bread so as to prevent profiteering, and that relationship will persist. The price of flour in relation to the price of bread will be carefully considered, and it may be taken for granted that it will be fixed at a figure which can be thoroughly justified. Only by the adoption of a permanent plan can a definite alignment of prices be secured. Actual experience will soon enable the authorities to form an accurate judgment on this subject. If the problem is attacked in any other way profiteering is almost bound to occur. I therefore appeal to the committee to vote against the amendment.







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