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Thursday, 4 May 1939

Mr WILSON (Wimmera) .- I support the remarks of the mover of this motion, and in doing so desire to impress upon Parliament the need for taking action to place the wheat industry on a proper basis. It may be that I shall repeat statements made on previous occasions, but it seems necessary, in order to achieve any reform, to repeat one's arguments over and over again. Among other things, the Royal Commission on the Wheat Industry was able to show that in Australia the wheat industry provided employment, directly and indirectly, for more than 1,000,000 persons. I have said before that the condition of the wheat industry might be regarded as the prosperity barometer of Australia as a whole. When the wheat-growers are prosperous, all other sections of the community are prosperous also.

I desire to pay tribute to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for stating that the wheat industry was one of those matters which his Government proposed to look into very carefully, with a view to putting it on a proper basis. That promise has been much appreciated by the growers, and we look forward now to the translation of those words into action. If the Prime Minister will do that, then I shall admit that he is greater than any who have gone before him.

I have noticed that with every dose of protection to secondary industries in Australia there has been a shrinking of overseas markets for our primary products, particularly for wheat. We look to this Government to do something to re-open the markets that have been closed to us in that way. If the problem is tackled in a resolute way, it should be possible of solution. I also appreciate the remarks of the Prime Minister in regard to the policy of his Government for establishing Australia as a Pacific power, and for the promotion of friendly relations with all other Pacific powers. I realize that we have almost at our doors an enormous potential market for our wheat and wool.

I hope that the Government will do what it can - and it can do a lot if it has the will - to re-open this market, which was largely closed to us by government action.

Some time ago, I submitted a proposition to the late Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that we might facilitate the development of markets for primary products by making credits available to potential purchasers, particularly of our wheat. The Government, after consideration, decided that it could do nothing in that respect. I do not regard the proposal as a solution of the problem, but merely as a palliative. Nevertheless, I still think that my suggestion is worthy of consideration. We observe that the same thing is being done by the United States of America and by Great. Britain in an endeavour to find markets for manu- factured goods. Loans or credits have been made available to countries, some of which were formerly enemy countries, for the purchase of armaments and manufactured articles. I believe that we have almost reached the position where it would be in our interests, and would make for the development of Australia, if arrangements were made for carrying on trade by barter.

Another method by which our overseas trade might be assisted would be by the freeing of exchange. With the exchange pegged as it is to-day, some potential purchasers of our primary products are unable to buy because they cannot obtain command of the necessary funds. I admit that I have not examined this matter fully, but, at first glance, it appears to me that the freeing of the exchange would be of great benefit to the exporting industries of Australia, and to the wheat industry in particular.

I understand that a conference is sitting in Canberra at the present time to consider matters pertaining to the wheat industry, particularly the proposed storage of wheat supplies for use during war. I have noticed that it has been the policy of governments in the past, when problems affecting the wheat industry are under consideration, to consult with those interests that prey on the farmers, such as marketing agencies, &c, rather than with the growers themselves. I should prefer the Government to consult more frequently with the representatives of growers' organizations. The growers are now fully organized throughout Australia, and they intend to make their weight felt at the next Federal elections. Unless something definite and practical is done to assist the industry, the Government is certainly going to suffer at the next elections. However, I look to the Government, on the strength of the recent statement of the Prime Minister, to do what is right and fair by the industry.

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