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Wednesday, 25 March 1942


Mr McLEOD (Wannon) .- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony). It is possible that the food position may be acute before twelve months have passed. We are concentrating at the present time on the production of armaments, but we should not for that reason neglect the production of food. Evidence appears to be accumulating that we shall face a shortage of food before the war is over, and this would be just as serious as a shortage of military equipment. Several factors are contributing to this state of affairs. In the past, we always had too much food, but it should not be forgotten that food stocks can quickly disappear. Every State has been suffering, to a greater or lesser degree, from drought, and there is a shortage of labour everywhere. Under the system of voluntary enlistment many thousands of countrymen entered the forces. They were of a good type, and were eagerly seized upon. As a result, there is an acute shortage of labour on many farms. Another factor making for reduced food production is the shortage of superphosphate. It may be that supplies will be entirely cut off. It is also possible that the food which we have at present stored may be destroyed by enemy action. Much of it, is stored at terminal ports. It is possible to increase largely the production of armaments in three months, but no such sudden increase can be effected in the production of food. If you plant potatoes you must wait the normal time for the crop to grow. The special needs of the forces of our Allies in this country should be considered, and if extra supplies of pork, for instance, are required, at least nine months' notice should be given to the producers. In Victoria, the effects of the shortage of man-power and superphosphate are already serious. In some instances, potatoes have not been dug, and we know that potatoes are urgently needed. As the honorable member for Richmond pointed out, many of the man-power officers are not practical men. They are soldiers, and they naturally think that the best way a man can serve his country is by going into the Army. I know one man with a disabled arm, whose only son was calledup for service, leaving him with a farm of nearly 2,000 acres to work on his own. The man-power officer who sent that son into the Army had obviously no sense of values, because the young man would undoubtedly serve his country better by staying on the farm. Unless action be taken immediately to meet the position, there will undoubtedly be a food shortage, but I feel sure that the Government will do what is necessary.







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