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Friday, 6 March 1942
Page: 291

Mr PROWSE (Forrest) . - I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick). I regret that, in view of the approach of the growing season, we are not, now dealing with a measure providing for the operation of the wheat industry. In a sense we are sparring in the dark. We are anxious for a decision to be made on this matter, but the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) has done nothing more than make multifarious suggestions about the steps he should take. I remind the House, and particularly the Minister, that the wheat pool system was established on a Commonwealthwide basis, according to the provisions of our Constitution. This means that wheat-growers in all parts of Australia share alike in the proceeds of the scheme. One of the Minister's proposals, as I understand it, is to differentiate between States in the allocation of sowing licences. That would be unconstitutional. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) referred to the large stocks held in Western Australia and South Australia. Who is responsible for that ? The fact is that ordinary sales and despatches of wheat were effected in the eastern States, leaving the majority of the country's yield unshipped in Western Australia and South Australia.

Mr Scully - It was not possible to get the wheat from the western States.

Mr PROWSE - That should not give rise to discrimination against those States. The statements made by the honorable member for Wimmera lead me to think that he is prejudiced against the western States. He spoke of weevilinfested wheat. It is estimated by competent authorities that weevil-infested wheat in Western Australia represents only 4.4 per cent. of the total quantity in that State. It is grossly unfair to allege that Western Australian wheat is seriously affected by weevil. The Government was ill-advised to send a wheatgrower from one State to adjudicate on the position of the wheat industry in another State. It was not a fair action. There are men in Western Australia who have as sound a knowledge of the wheat industry as has anybody in the world and to send a Victorian to that State was to attempt to teach one's grandmother to suck eggs. I do not wish to belittle the honorable member for Wimmera, but I should like to know why he was selected by the Government. What are his high qualifications? He is about as well qualified as I am. I submit that no honorable member has contributed more to the wheat industry than. I have. I have been a wheat-grower for about 40 years.

It has been suggested that the goldmining industry in Western Australia, should' be curtailed, if not suspended, in order to release man-power. It might be wise to do so, but it would deal a terrific blow to Western. Australia. That State has three great key industries - the goldmining industry, the wheat industry and the wool industry. There are other minor, though not unimportant, industries such as dairying and fruit-growing. Therefore Western Australia would suffer very severely if both gold-mining and wheatgrowing were curtailed drastically. Whatever decision the Minister for Commerce may reach, I hope that he will endeavour to conform to i lie spirit of the Constitution so as not to discriminate unfairly against any one State. I regret that a decision has not been made already. This Parliament will not meet again until the 25th March, when sowing will be almost due to commerce. When the Minister for Commerce was a member of the Opposition, he was an enthusiastic advocate of grower representation on the Australian Wheat Board and the State wheat committees. He favoured the election of representatives by the growers themselves. 1 am sorry that he has not adhered to that principle in selecting the present members of the board and its subordinate bodies.

Mr Scully - Are not the men whom T appointed to the board representatives of the growers ?

Mr PROWSE - They were not elected by the growers.

Mr Scully - They are grower representatives; they were the heads of the wheat-growers' organizations in the various States.

Mr PROWSE - They may or may not be highly qualified men, but their appointment was on a par with the decision to send the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) to adjudicate on the wheat position in Western Australia. It would be much more satisfactory, as I have frequently heard the Minister declare, for the growers to have the privilege of electing their own representatives to the Australian Wheat Board. I cannot refrain from criticizing the honorable gentleman for neglecting to carry out his own suggestions when he has had the opportunity to do so. An equitable system of compensation should be introduced for farmers whose sowings are restricted.

As a matter of fact, I am doubtful whether we ought to restrict the production of foodstuffs in this country. It is distinctly possible that there will be a serious shortage of wheat soon, and that there will be a bigger demand than we can meet. Although the stocks of wheat in Western Australia total 50,000,000 bushels, every bushel of that quantity may be needed as well as every bushel that we can produce in the future, when we may suffer bad seasons. Armed forces from abroad are garrisoned in this country in order to defend us against our enemies, and they will require huge quantities of foodstuffs. Furthermore, our Allies overseas may find themselves in desperate need of wheat. Therefore, I question the wisdom of curtailing the production of foodstuffs at this time.

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