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Friday, 2 December 1938

Mr BEASLEY (WEST SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That remark emphasizes the wisdom of asking for further information on the point.

The CHAIRMAN - Order ! I remind the honorable member for West Sydney that he is not entitled to discuss all the matters dealt with in the bill that has now become an act.

Mr Curtin - I rise to a point of order. With all respect, I submit that the Wheat Industry Assistance Bill 1938 has not yet become an act. It cannot do so until after it has received the Royal assent, which cannot occur until after this amendment has been disposed of by honorable members. I submit that the honorable member for West Sydney is perfectly entitled to discuss the methods by which relief may be granted to distressed farmers in accordance with the provisions of clause 7 of the bill as amended by the Senate. I suggest, sir. that you cannot rule the honorable member out of order because you suspect him of playing " Tiggy ".

The CHAIRMAN - The honorable member forWest Sydney was discussing a principle of allocation already determined by honorable members. The bill having passed both Houses of the Parliament has become an act.

Mr Archie Cameron - I rise to order. With respect I submit, sir, that the Wheat Industry Assistance Bill 1938 has not become an act in that it has not received the assent of the GovernorGeneral. That being so, honorable members are entitled to discuss the Senate amendment, which relates to "any amount paid to a State". The concluding words of the amendment refer to "relief to distressed wheat-growers in that State in accordance with such method of distribution as is decided by the Minister afteradvice from the State Minister". I am sorry to have to admit that the amendment opens up a very wide field for discussion. There is no reason, necessarily, why Queensland should come into it at all, for the amendment does not refer to any one State. It covers all of the States.

The CHAIRMAN - I now admit that the Chair was wrong in referring to the bill as having become an act, inasmuch as, although it has passed both Houses of the Parliament it has not yet received theRoyal assent. The Chair is of the opinion, however, that the discussion of the amendment must be limited to matters affecting the distribution of certain moneys as between certainStates in respect of marginal areas andso on.

Mr.Scullin. - I submit that the honorable member for West Sydney is in order in discussing the methods to be adopted in the distribution of this money which is intended for the relief of distressed wheat-growers.

Mr Archie Cameron - I suggest, Mr. Chairman, on the point, raised by the right honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). that the amendment of the Senate deals definitely with the manner in which the amount of £500.000 is to be distributedamong the States. All of the Stares may be involved in this matter; it is definitely not confined to any one State.

Mr BEASLEY - I am concerned about the manner in which the amount at issue is to be distributed, and the circumstances of the farmers which may be taken into consideration in determining the distribution. It is possible that adverse seasonal conditions experienced over a large portion of the Commonwealth may make it impossible for the question of the repatriation of growers from marginal areas to be dealt with. In my opinion we are not getting down to the root cause of the great problem which confronts the wheat industry. This is perhaps a fitting time to consider what is being done in other countries for the assistance of the industry. In yesterday morning's newspapers, the following appeared : -

The. Premier of Manitoba. Mr. John Bracken, giving evidence before the royal commission, which is inquiring into relation? between the Dominion Government and the Provinces, demandeda national policy regarding whathe described as the increasingly grave world wheat situation.

He asked how Canada could continue to find market for two-thirds of her wheat in face of steadily shrinking world markets. If Canada had known of this situation . 30 years ago he said, she would not have developed had her present wheat acreage. If the present situation was not remedied 250,000 farmers might cease to grow wheat and seek the dole. if the world would not take the wheat being grown, he added. Canada should seek a planned arrangement with Australia, the Argentine, and the United States of America for limited production.

That statement, which comes at a very appropriate time, causes me to think very seriously over this question of marginal areas and the difficulties of the wheat production generally. Iam stressing this point not because I wish to indulge in any form of propaganda - I beg of honorable members to think otherwise - but because I believe that we should do everything possible to get down to the root causes that have brought, about such an unsatisfactory state of affairs in the wheat industry. Unfortunately, in this country we have distress in more than one section of the community. As a matter of fact, very few of our people at the moment are not suffering distress in some way or another, though its degree varies according to the circumstances. Any interference with the price of staple products is capable of intensifying distress more perhaps than anything else, and, therefore, it seems that by this proposal we are merely to ask the people already suffering from distress to help others whose position in some instances is no better than theirs. Nobody denies that there is grave distress among the wheat-growers, but there are other sections of the community suffering equally as much. I should like a candid statement from the Government as to what is the difference between distress caused by seasonal conditions and distress caused by attempting to produce wheat in marginal areas. It seems to me that of the two the question of marginal areas is of major importance. I say that for this reason : We may patch up the situation this year, but with the trend of world events, with all the changes that are, taking place in the internal . economy of various countries through their increasing desire to become self-sufficient, the time must eventually arrive when the position of the wheat-growers will become considerably worse than it is to-day. Therefore, our whole efforts should be directed towards transferring farmers from marginal areas to others more suitable for. the production of wheat. I am informed by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) that an endeavour is being made in Queensland to extend its wheatgrowing areas. If that be so, it certainly gives rise to the fear that in the future the difficulties of the wheat Industry may become even greater than they are to-day. What does the Government propose to do in regard to this matter % Every year since I have been a member of this Parliament the plight of the wheat-growers has been made the subject of long discussions. I realize that the growers have a just claim on the sympathy of this Parliament; I know that bad conditions prevail in the industry; but I am not at all satisfied that the proposal now before us is areal attempt to solve the problem. It seems to be merely a temporary expedient. Therefore, I should like to have from the Govermnent some statement of what is in its mind regarding the difference between the problem presented by distress occasioned by seasonal conditions and the problem of production in marginal areas.

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