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Friday, 11 September 1942

Mr LANGTRY (Riverina) .- I am amazed to hear the objections that honorable members opposite have raised to the scheme propounded by the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully). When the previous scheme was announced, I condemned it roundly, and I have no reason to alter my original views upon it. At that time, I asked the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) to explain what the position would be in the event of the harvest exceeding 140,000,000 bushels, but I did not receive a satisfactory reply. About a week later The Temora Independent published the following report: -

Delegates to the annual meeting of the Temora District Council of the Farmers and Settlers' Association in Temora on Thursday decided to urge upon the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) the member for Riverina, Mr. J. I. Langtry, at the annual conference of thu Farmers and Settlers' in Sydney, the need for amending the Wheat Stabilization Scheme to place it on a bushel quota basis as against the acreage basis as at present provided for. This decision followed a detailed explanation of the scheme by the General President of the Farmers and Settlers, Mr. Kendall, who had travelled 110 miles, from his home at Holbrook, to address the meeting. He expressed himself in favour of the bushel quota basis as supported by most farmers. " You have to fight for what you believe right, and fight for all you arc worth said Mr. Kendall.

Other points stressed during the address were: The scheme provided for an expenditure of £20,750,000 on a crop of 140,000,000 bushels which would return 3s. lOd. per bushel at ports.

At the first opportunity, I repeated my question to the then Minister for Commerce, but the reply was still unsatisfactory. Honorable members opposite should have declared at that juncture their views regarding the correctness of his statement; they should not have waited till fifteen months later, when the crop had been harvested and sold. The position was never clarified. When the present Minister for Commerce assumed control of the department, he promised to give effect to the promises made by the previous government, and he has honoured that undertaking in the spirit and in the letter.

On the 16th July, 1941, the right honorable member for Cowper wrote to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) as follows: -

When the marketable crop exceeds 140,000.000 bushels for example it reaches 200,000j000 bushels, I would state that it has been recommended to me by accredited representatives oi wheat-growers' organizations from all States that the Commonwealth Governments liability should be limited to a sum between £26,000,000 and £27,000,000. In this event the guaranteed price to growers would be reduced proportionately as the marketable crop exceeds 140,000,000 bushels. You will appreciate that the Government's liability must be limited to a known amount.

In May, 1941, the need for the formulation of a definite policy became so evident that a meeting of representatives of the whole wheat-growing industry was called in Melbourne. The growers' representatives in attendance included Messrs. Maycock, Marshman, Watson, Teasdale, Cullen, Kendall, Stott, Collins, Tilt, Darling, Field and Diver. I have also a letter which was written by the secretary of the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) .to the secretary of the Wheat Stabilization Committee at West Wyalong. This district, which is some distance to the north of Berrigan, Finley and Wagga and south of Parkes and Forbes, lies in the heart of the wheat-belt of New South Wales. The editor of the. Wyalong Advocate, commenting on this letter, stated that contradictory reports made it difficult to judge who was right and who was wrong, but that the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) was definitely right. That will clear up any misunderstanding. The right honorable member for Cowper, after declining to explain the scheme to the House, supplied the information to outside organizations. That was wrong. Parliament should be the first to be informed of such decisions. The position was never satisfactorily clarified as to what would have happened if the crop had been 53,000,000 bushels instead of 153,000,000 bushels.

I compliment the Minister for Commerce for his promptitude in making payments to wheat-growers. Honorable members opposite who have accused the Government of repudiation are obviously misinformed. Every grower who has putwheat into the pool has been paid for it, a.nd there has been no confiscation.

The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asserted that the priceto be paid for wheat placed in the new Bool is not adequate. Naturally, I should like the price to be 10s. a bushel, but that is patently impracticable. However, the price that the Government has offered is the highest that has been guaranteed to the growers since 1920-21. I remind the

House that it was the Storey Labour Government in New South Wales which, in 1920-21, offered to the growers a guaranteed price. I shall analyse the prices that have been paid for wheat placed in the several pools. Wheat was virtually confiscated for the No. 1 pool. On the outbreak of war, 18,000,000 bushels was seized by the previous Government. If the Government commandeers a commodity, the price should cover at least the cost of production, but the growers whose wheat was seized were paid ls. lid. a bushel. For wheat placed in the No. 2 pool, 2s. lOd. a bushel was paid ; but the pool has not yet been wound up. It is a regular "Kathleen Mavourneen". It may be for years, or it may be forever. AH the wheat in No. 3 pool was below f.a.q. No. 4 pool growers were paid 3s. 2d;. a bushel. For wheat placed in No. 5 pool, growers have received interim pay- ments totalling 2s. 4d. a bushel. Whether they will receive a final payment, nobody can tell at this stage. I commend the scheme that has been formulated by the Minister for Commerce, which will return to 75 per cent.. of the growers 4s. net at sidings, which is equal to 4s. 6d. a bushel spread over two, three or four years.

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