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Wednesday, 30 November 1938

Mr WARD (East Sydney) (3:37 AM) . - The Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) has carefully avoided making any statement in reply to our assertions that the price of bread will be increased when this scheme comes into operation. Numerous speeches have been made on this subject but no effective reply has been made to our contention that antiLabour governments will neglect to take adequate steps to protect the working class community in respect of the price of bread.

Sir Earle Page - Does the honorable gentleman realize that three Labour governments are involved in the scheme?

Mr WARD - I suggest that the Minister for Commerce should make a direct reply to our criticism, and tell us exactly what the State governments intend to do to protect the poorer sections of the community from undue exploitation. We have had some experience in matters of this kind. When the present Minister for Works (Mr. Thorby) was Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales he declined to lift one finger to protect the consumers of that State when we brought under his notice the fact that certain bakers, who were selling bread at a reasonable price, had been placed on the " black list " and refused supplies of flour by the millers. I predict that if this plan comes into operation the workers will be exploited to a greater degree than ever. The Minister for Commerce has not said explicitly that he approves of the imposition of a permanent bread tax, but we fear that he does approve of it. All that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) asks in his amendment is that the scheme shall be reviewed after twelve months experience of it, so that we may ascertain exactly what effect its operation has on the interests of the working people. The Minister for Works has himself said on many occasions that the adoption of this scheme will not result in an increased price for 'bread. My reply to him is that his record as Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales does not justify us putting much reliance upon his statement. I was engaged in the baking industry in the days when the honorable gentleman asked to be furnished with definite instances in which flour supplies had been refused to bakers who were prepared to pay cash for it. Supplies were refused, as he very well knows. On three occasions the honorable gentleman failed to keep an appointment with us because he knew very well that we had specific information to submit to him on which he would be obliged to take action. In these circumstances it is not likely that we shall place too much reliance upon his assurance that the consumers will not be exploited under this scheme. We desire that effective action shall be taken at once to protect the interests of the working people, and that no risk shall be incurred that they will be obliged to pay more for bread than they have hitherto paid for it.

Question put -

That the words proposed to be added (Mr.

Curtin's amendment) be so added.

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