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Wednesday, 30 November 1938


Mr CURTIN (Fremantle) (3:52 AM) . - The work which the Minister for Commerce says that this committee will have to do does not appear to bear any relation to stabilization. He proposes to increase the membership of the Advisory Committee from three to five, and he says that the function of the committee is to ascertain the price of wheat, f.o.b. Williamstown. In that case, this body should be called the Wheat Price Ascertainment Committee, rather than the Wheat Stabilization Advisory Committee. It seems to me that it will do more than ascertain the price.


Sir Earle Page - It will declare the amount of the tax. That arises from the price of wheat.


Mr CURTIN - Therefore, the price of wheat, f.o.b. Williamstown, becomes, in fact, the determining factor in fixing the rate of tax. That is very important, and it is desirable that there should be absolute accuracy. I have no doubt that the departmental officers will do their work well, andI have the utmost confidence in their probity, but I think that there ought to be among the five one representative of the consumers - one representative of those who will have to pay the tax. That would be a guarantee to the consumers that their interests were being watched to some infinitesimal degree, at any rate. I am prepared to accept the substitution of "five" for " three ", if the Minister will add after the word " five " the words, " one of whom shall be a representative of the consumers ".


Sir Earle Page - How would such a representative be chosen?


Mr CURTIN - That is for the Governor-General in Council to do. It is not stipulated in the clause that departmental officers or commercial men shall be appointed to the committee; it is merely proposed to stipulate that five persons shall be appointed. The idea, of course, is that the five most suitable men will be appointed. This is one of those extraordinary measures in which it is proposed to impose an unspecified amount of tax, which will vary, not as the result of the decisions of this Parliament, but as the result of the decision of the tribunal which it is proposed to set up.


Mr Anthony - But the price of bread will not vary.


Mr CURTIN - We have argued that before, but the honorable member will agree that the immediate effect of an increase of the tax will be an increase of the price of bread.


Mr Paterson - The price of flour, and therefore of bread, will remain constant. It is only the rate of tax that will vary, and that variation will be in accordance with any variation of the export price of wheat.







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