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Friday, 6 March 1942

Mr BRENNAN (Batman) .- 1 speak, not as the representative of the. wheat-growers of Batman, who are not, even along the flats of the Merri Creek, very numerous and are not influential at election times ; but, as I did on another occasion, when we were talking about apples and pears, on behalf of those who are extensive users of a product which originates in the wheat seed. I refer, as honorable gentlemen of outstanding acumen will readily understand, to bread. I was struck by what one honorable gentleman opposite said this afternoon about the dangers of limiting the wheat crop. I think that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said something about it, but the matter had been dealt with by another member at an earlier stage. It was one of those who speak from the wheat corner.

Mr Pollard - It was the honorable member for Bendigo.

Mr BRENNAN - Yes, the honorable gentleman from the golden city of Bendigo, from which I came originally. But, of course, he has only recently " blown in " there. All he runs is a little cabbage patch in the irrigation area. However much he knows about military matters, he knows little about wheat. The subject of the limitation of the wheat crop is very important. I hesitate to disagree with my expert friend, the honorable member for "Wimmera. (Mr. "Wilson), because I regard him as being the last word on wheat. I do not say that I shepherd him with the same assiduity as is displayed by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard). I have not constituted myself as a godfather to him. I do not conduct him to the right side of the House on crucial voting occasions, nor do I hail him as a saviour when a discussion on wheat is foreshadowed by the militant honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick). But I have great respect for him, and his knowledge of wheat. .1 do not agree with him when he suggests that, having regard to the present critical state of the war, and the necessity for providing man-power for active belligerent operations, it is therefore desirable to release men who are engaged in the production of wheat for active belligerent operations. "While rather accentuating the existence of a critical stage of the war, the honorable gentleman does not take the long view in regard to the possible consequences of war. One of those consequences, and, indeed, one of the problems of war, is the feeding of the civilian population. That may very well become critical and difficult. The bread supply of the people, as the foundation of feeding them, may become critically important. It is not only that our shipping may be hampered, or that we may have a large acces sion of troops in this country; there is also the fact that, at a critical stage, active belligerent operations may engross the labour of our manhood. Taken with the subsidiary facts of an increased population and the possible claim of an invading army, these developments may render the feeding of our people a real problem, involving difficulties of transport and the growth of foodstuffs. We cannot fail to keep that constantly in mind. War* are fought not for soldiers by soldiers, but by soldiers for the civil population ; and, unhappily, in modern warfare they are largely fought by the civil population itself. That being so, I should like to think that the people were proceeding with their normal activities for as long and as thoroughly as they can, but, especially, in the production of foodstuffs. I believe generally in maintaining the morale of the people by displaying an apparent unconcern of the enemy. You. do not want to be constantly preaching jeremiads about impending disasters. If politicians go out of their way to preach to the people about horrors to come, and seek to depress them - and it is greatly to the credit of the people that they decline to be depressed - the people may very well turn round after being hectored and lectured by politicians and say, " Well, we think it is about time that we started hectoring and lecturing you, and that you gave us a let-up ". When we view the history of this dreadful calamity we cannot help feeling that the politicians and the military alike have not made very accurate forecasts and have not been proven true prophets of developments which now lie before us in all their sad wreckage as a chapter in our history. Consequently, I suggest that we should not preach these jeremiads, but should encourage the people to live their normal lives. We should encourage the farmer to plant all the wheat he can; we may want it. We may find ourselves short of bread, meat, and vegetables.. Already we hear that supplies of some of these things are short, and have to be distributed in homeopathic doses, even in this wonderful country which has so far been removed, but is no longer, from the scene of active belligerent operations. I believe that some honorable members have grave doubts about the policy of restricting the production of wheat, for many reasons, but principally for the reason that at a critical time and in the most difficult circumstances we may very well want more wheat and more bread than providence has seen, fit to send to us in any particular year. It is well said that we may have a drought in addition to other scourges; and I am quite sure that we deserve some punishment for our sins.

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