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Friday, 6 March 1942

Mr BREEN (Calare) .- It. appears to me that the representatives, of wheat-growing areas in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia approach the problem of storing wheat in a way entirely different from that in which representatives of wheat-growing areas in New South Wales approach it. Whether the former honorable gentlemen view the problem in its true perspective, I cannot say. I realize that it presents varying aspects in the different States. 'Consequently, different solutions must be sought. The bulk system of handling and storing wheat may have proved successful in. Western Australia. South Australia and Victoria; but when that system was tried in New South Wales in the 1939-40 record season, it proved a failure. In. the 1916-17 season, Professor Lefroy, a British Government expert, visited New South Wales and thoroughly investigated various methods of preserving large quantities of wheat which had been purchased by the British Government. He found that certain sites in New South Wales lent themselves to the preservation and handling of wheat in bags. The temperature of the wheat did not rise very considerably when it, was parcelled in 3-bushel bags, and certain mechanical principles were applied, in order to ventilate the stacks. At Goulburn, and Springhill, near Orange, wheat was kept for a period of nearly two years, when, in respect of deterioration due to weevils, it was found to be not only as good as when it was placed in the stacks, but also 12% per cent, heavier. Similar results were obtained in respect of the last harvest at Springhill. Only within the last month, the last of that wheat was shipped to New Zealand. At that centre, 1 saw in the stack some wheat which was received from a certain place in New South "Wales from which most of the wheat offering was refused because the inspectors reported that the area was infested with weevils. However, a certain number of bags of wheat from that area were stacked before action to reject the wheat was taken. When that stack was finally pulled down for shipment, the only bags affected by weevils were those which had been received from that area. Thi 3 showed that the weevil -was effectively isolated under this system of storage. It is well known that, in wheat which is allowed to stand for three months in big concrete silos in New South Wales, infection by weevil tends to spread, with the result that wheat loses its milling value to a considerable degree. That is the general experience in silos, even when the wheat is turned over. On the other band, I repeat no deterioration takes place when wheat is stored in small parcels in bags.

Various proposals have been made for the reduction of acreage and production generally. No such measures need be taken because, owing to the shortage of labour in the industry resulting from -.all-ups for military service, production will automatically decrease. Consequently, no action need be taken by the Government directly to decrease production. I have received many letters during the last few months from wheat-farmers, pointing out that, owing to the shortage of labour, they will not be able to put in full crops, and that in instances where a full crop might be put in, it will be impossible to harvest all of it. Consequently, if the industry is not interfered with and the farmer is left to his own resources, production will automatically decrease. Therefore, I strongly urge the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) not to lay down any arbitrary rule in relation to the management of the industry in any State.

In spite of the fact that Western Australia has a fairly large surplus of wheat, no one can say, in view of the uncertainty of military developments within the next twelve months, whether a surplus of even 50,000,000 or 60,000,000 bushels now in storage in any part of the country will be sufficient to meet future needs. It is quite possible that, in the event of certain military developments, sufficient wheat may not be available even in wheatgrowing areas to supply local needs. That applies to not only Western Australia, but also the other States. Instead of discouraging the production of foodstuffs, the Government should encourage primary producers to increase production, even where a surplus seems certain. I again emphasize that, due to the shortage of labour, production of wheat will automatically decrease.

I am much concerned about the position that might arise if it became necessary for us suddenly to transfer heavy industries from the coast to inland towns. Apparently, we have learned nothing, in this respect, from the experiences of England and Russia. We have concentrated our industries and not spread them. Now that we realize that it may become necessary, almost overnight, to remove heavy industries from vulnerable coastal areas to less accessible inland localities, we find that the foundations upon which heavy industries must be built are not available in such areas. The technical advisers of the Government tell us that as it would take a considerable time to provide the groundwork in inland towns for heavy industries, it is not worth while, at this stage, to pursue the matter further. When n technical adviser visits an inland district to ascertain its potentialities as a location for heavy industries, his first inquiry is as to water supplies. It has been the practice in this country for every inland town to make its own arrangements for water for town, irrigation or power purposes. We have not learned the rudiments of national economy in this respect. Apart from one or two localities in New South Wales, water storage facilities are not available in country towns for the purposes of heavy industries. Certainly, hydro-electric power could not be easily or quickly provided. Such works of the kind as have been contemplated from time to time have been placed low on the priority list by the Loan Council, and practically nothing has been done to push ahead with the schemes. Now we are faced with labour shortages and a lack of the necessary materials for building reservoirs and providing reticulation. If, however, we throw up our hands in despair because the necessary foundational work has not been done to meet the contingency, the result will be deplorable. When the Americans came to Australia they found that very little had been done to provide adequate aerodromes and the like from which to operate air services; but they did not allow that fact to deter them from energetic action. The obstacle, in their view, was not insuperable, and they at once set to work to overcome it. We should similarly face the situation that now confronts us in regard to the possibility of our having to transfer heavy industries to localities where they would not be so subject to attack from warships or bombers. T hope to enlarge upon these remarks when an opportunity is provided for us, in the near future, to discuss matters relating to the defence of this country and the development of certain necessary essential industries inland.

A certain volume of correspondence has reached me lately from persons who are anxious to assist to work the mineral resources of this country in order to meet vital war needs. Because of our failure to develop our base-metal resources in a systematic way, many of our known mineral fields have not been brought into economic production. The people who have written to me on this subject are not actuated by ulterior motives. Their desire is to assist in the development of mineral resources so that both war and developmental needs may be met either from new fields or from fields which have hitherto not been economically workable because of the low prices ruling for base metals. [Extension of time granted.] Numbers of prospectors have expressed a desire to seek out new fields or to assist in the reopening of old mines. The Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley) has endeavoured to meet the situation by establishing a Minerals Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. J. M. Newman. That gentleman may be a competent technical adviser, but I question whether the machinery that is being established will be adequate to meet, the needs that I have in mind. It is necessary, in these days, to develop fields which may have proved unpayable in days gone by, or to seek out new deposits. The men to do this are prospectors and miners who, for one reason and another, are not engaged in war industries, and who have the time and ability requisite for the purpose. I suggest that the Government should make arrangements for the payment of an allowance to these men comparable with the basic wage, so that they may go out into likely localities for prospecting purposes. Mineral fields do not, a3 a rule, occur in town areas, otherwise those towns would be mining towns and, possibly, because of the trend of mining affairs in recent years, almost abandoned mining towns. It would be a great thing for this country if new mineral fields could be discovered or old workings revived in order to supply minerals which formerly could be obtained elsewhere more economically, but which now are not available. I have in mind minerals that are required in more or less small parcels for alloy purposes and the like. I strongly suggest to the Government that it should allocate for disbursement to prospectors a part of the amount of £500,000 which has been earmarked for mineral development in order that these men may be encouraged to meet a need that is to-day so urgent.

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