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Friday, 6 March 1942
Page: 292

Mr RANKIN (Bendigo) . - I support the remarks of the honorable members for Swan (Mr. Marwick), Grey (Mr. Badman), and Forrest (Mr. Prowse), on the restriction of wheat production. I believe that the Government was wrongly advised when it decided to restrict wheat-growing. It is obvious that there will be a natural restriction of production as the result of the diversion of man-power from our primary industries to the armed forces and the munitions industries. On many big wheat, farms prior to the war there would be a farmer, two or three of his sons and a couple of hired men to do the work; today, possibly, there will be only the farmer, one son, and perhaps a man who is too old to do hard work. Australia has already been bombed, and those great wheat-stacks in Western Australia might easily be destroyed by incendiary bombs. It must be obvious to every one that when this war is over, millions of people in Europe and Asia will be starving. It is essential that we should maintain our wheat-growing industry, instead of taking people away from the country and crowding them into the cities. There is another aspect to consider: The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), who has posed in the past as a champion of the wheatgrower, has said of other honorable members of the Country party that they came here and, instead of looking after the interests of their constituents, they took the 30 pieces of silver. I tell him that there are many people in the country who looked upon him a little time ago as a champion of the wheat-growers, but who are now wondering who got the 30 pieces of silver. No doubt his recent trip toWestern Australia was a very pleasant jaunt, but I doubt whether it was of any use to the wheat-growers, and it is my belief that the Minister for Agriculture in the Government of Western Australia is now in Canberra trying to repair the damage done by the honorable member forWimmera when he was in the West.

Yesterday, I asked a series of questions of the Minister for Commerce. This is the first -

Is it a fact that a Minister has adversely criticized certain members of the Wheat Board on the ground that they did not represent the wheat-growers?

The answer which I received to that question was, "No".

Mr Scully - Was he a. Minister at that time?

Mr RANKIN - I cannot argue the point as to whether he was a Minister then or not.

Mr Scully - The honorable member asked a direct question, and he received a direct reply.

Mr RANKIN -Here is another question that I asked -

Does the Minister for Commerce adhere to his statement that the growers should be allowed to elect their own representative?

To this question I received the following reply : -

Yes, when this is practicable.

I asked a third question in the following terms: -

If so, will he state when he proposesto have a growers' representative appointed?

The reply which I received to that question is as follows : -

Appointments of additional grower representatives have beenmade to the Australian Wheat Board.

The fact is that they were not made as the result of a poll ofwheat-growers, and I have heard the Minister himself say that that was the only fair way in which to do it. One man was appointed, it is true, and everybody knows that the appointment was for services rendered. The final question was as follows: -

Will these appointments be made as a reward for services rendered to the Government, or will the representative be elected by a poll of wheat-growers?

To this question the following answer was supplied : -

Any further appointments, or the reconstitution of the board, will be made in accordance with the regulations, namely, by the Minister for Commerce, who will make appointmentsin such a manner as to ensure that the board will function in the best interests of the industry.

That represents a complete somersault by the Minister for Commerce. Before he became a member of the Government, he said that the growers should appoint their own representative to the board; now his attitude is that he will appoint only such persons as are in agreement with him. A few months ago, the Minister for Commerce fought very bitterly for the right of the big wheat-growers of New South Wales to grow as much wheat as they liked.

Mr Pollard - He did the very opposite.

Mr RANKIN - He did what I have said, and I heard Sir Earle Page reply to him.

Mr Scully - The honorable member did not hear me make a statement of the kind which he has attributed to me.

Mr RANKIN - It is recorded in Hansard. The honorable member for Wimmera wrote to Mr. Powell, in Western Australia, asking him to help to knock out the wheat stabilization scheme, and Mr. Powell was foolish enough to publish the letter in the newspapers. Now these same people are prepared to turn a complete somersault, and refuse to consider the needs of the wheat farmer, but any workman in a munitions factory must be allowed to bump up his wages as much as he likes.

Mr Wilson - That statement is an absolute misrepresentation.

Mr RANKIN - I have the paper in which the letter was published.

Mr Wilson - Well, produce it.

Mr RANKIN - I can do so. The Government should think very seriously before taking any step that would put the wheat-growing industry back for ten years.

Some time ago, an Inventions Board was appointed by the Defence Department to consider such inventions as the Pomeroy explosive bullet, the Stevenson flash arrestor, and other devices of the kind. Its purpose was to test out inventions that might be of use to the army.

It turned out that the board proved to be a definite block to the acceptance of useful inventions. Eoi instance, the Stevenson flash arrestor is something for which we in the army have been looking for years. It is an excellent device, but it was before the board for 22 months, although very favorable reports had been made concerning it. It had survived such a test as the firing of 120,000 rounds through it with perfect success, yet it has not been put into production. I believe that the Government has appointed a new board, and some of the members are excellent men. The trouble is, however, that there is a staff of only two attached to the board, and consequently the board has great difficulty in implementing its decisions. I hope that what I have said in this regard will be brought before the Minister for the Army, and that he will give it earnest consideration.

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