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Wednesday, 25 March 1942

Mr SCULLY (Gwydir) (Minister for Commerce) . - I assurethe honorable members for Swan (Mr. Marwick) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that there has never been any proposal for the nationalization of the bulk- hand ling system in the wheat industry of the Commonwealth.. I admit that, as both of those honorable members have said, the bulk-handling system in Western Australia has a lot to recommend it. Storage is another matter. They will agree, I know, that the bulk-handling system was installed in Western Australia for the express purpose of handling current crops. The two systems that are being requisitioned - in New South Wales and Victoria - which are the most efficient, I suppose, in Australia - are absolutely the property of the respective States; they are State-controlled and no one doubts the efficiency of either of them. For the safe working and definite control of the wheat that has to be stored for an indefinite period, it is intended, in the farmers' own interests, to requisition the existing bulkhandling installations in Australia. In Western Australia particularly, there is a serious infestation of weevil in different areas. The Australian Wheat Board is continuously handling that wheat in order at least to militate against infestation, and it wishes to be in a position to do what it considers necessary - to increase facilities in one area, and perhaps spend £50,000 or £100,000 on additional storage in another area. Not in any respect will there be interference with existing assets. It is not proposed that the men who are controlling this particular utility shall be removed; they will be directly in control of it, but will work under the supervision of the Australian Wheat Board. We arc confronted with an unparalleled situation. In Western Australia there is a carry-over of over 40,000,000 bushels, and an estimated crop of 20,000,000 bushels. How the situation can be coped with is agitating the mind, not only of the Government, but also of the Australian Wheat Board. The matter has been discussed at length. Similar conditions exist in New South Wales and Victoria. Silos will have to be emptied, and additional temporary storage will have to be constructed. The wheatgrowers representatives on the Australian Wheat Board concur in my idea. We shall requisition those particular facilities, at least until the position is eased and perhaps for the duration of the war. Honorable members may rest assured that neither the Government nor the Australian Wheat Board has any intention in the nature of nationalization. We are as jealous of the rights of the growers, and as much prepared to safeguard them, as are the honorable members who have raised this matter. Those rights will not be injured or impaired in any degree. What is proposed is the only possible means of securing harmonious working in the present unprecedented position in regard to wheat.

Mr Marwick - What about the barley growers?

Mr SCULLY - I admit that all that the honorable member has said in regard to the barley-growers is correct. What he has mentioned in connexion with details of payments is news to me. I shall immediately take the matter upwith the Barley Board. The money was made available months ago, and the men should have received the initial payment - which, to my mind, was too small. In whatever way we look at the matter, the Commonwealth will be faced with a substantial loss. However, the honorable member may rest assured that I shall do everything possible to relieve the situation.I concur in what he has said.

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