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Friday, 11 September 1942

Mr BADMAN (GREY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) .- I agree with the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) that the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) has done this House and the Government a distinct service to-day. He has also done the wheat-farmers a distinct service; because, for the first time, we have been able to obtain from the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) a statement of his intentions in regard to the surplus of 13,000,000 bushels, namely, that the amount of the realization will be paid for it after the disposal of the 140,000,000 bushels. This result would not have been achieved but for the insistence by honorable members who sit on the side of the House and the representatives of the wheat-growers. Two or three months ago, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) made a motion in order to bring to the notice of the Minister the urgent need for attention to the matter. The reply then given by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) was nothing but a quibble. He based his decision in regard to the 13,000,000 bushels on a cleverly worded motion which tricked the wheat-growers when it was placed before them in Melbourne. They did not intend to surrender their rights in respect of that 13,000,000 bushels. Yet the Minister seized the opportunity to assert that the farmers were prepared to give the whole of their wheat for £26,833,000; and in consequence he arranged for the payment of 3s. 6.1d. a bushel on the whole of the crop. Surely the honorable gentleman knew that that was not right ! Surely he could have told this House and, th rough it, the farmers, that they were entitled to realization after the other had been sold, and that the £26,833,000 was to be used in payment for only the 140,000,000 bushels! Instead of doing that, he tried to belittle a scheme that had been put into operation after years of struggle in this House to stabilize the wheat industry The scheme put forward by the Minister to-day, although giving to the farmer a better price generally than he received under . the last scheme, is not a stabilization scheme but is discriminatory, and unjust in its operation. The Minister and Government members generally must know that they cannot discriminate between the growers of a given commodity. Butter that is of first grade is paid for at the one price throughout Australia. A farmer who produces 1,000 lb. of butter does not get 1s. 6d. per lb. for 500 lb. and 9d. per lb. for the remainder, but an equitable price for the lot; and one dairy-farmer does not get a better price than does another who produces butter of equal quality. Nor should one wheat-farmer receive for his wheat a better price than is paid to another farmer who has grown wheat of the same quality. I should like the Minister to say whether the first 3,000 bushels, for which payment will be at the rate of 4s. a bushel, will participate in any increase when realizationhas been made. For example, if all the wheat be sold at 5s. a bushel, will there be an additional payment of 3s. a bushel in respect of that on which only 2s. a bushel had been paid, and only an additional1s. a bushel in respect of that on which 4s. a bushel had been paid; or will the Minister further discriminate by making an additional payment of 2s. a bushel in all cases? The farmer who says that this is an excellent scheme overlooks the fact that the cost of wheat-growing is far higher to-day than it was in 1939-40, when the stabilization scheme was brought forward by a former Government. Since 1933, when the Gepp report was made, costs have risen by approximately 9d. a bushel. The following table sets out the position in respect of costs and returns on the basis of an average yield of twelve bushels to the acre -


The Ministerhas contended that the statements of the honorable member for Barker are not in accordance with fact. Has the honorable gentleman thoroughly investigated the statistical position under the scheme? I challenge him to prove that in New South Wales, in particular, more than 51 per cent. of the farmers will benefit from it, and that in Australia 70 . per cent. will benefit. We are prepared to give the scheme a chance to prove itself. We hope that before next year the Minister and the Government will have realized the gravity of the position, due to the lack of superphosphate, shortage of man-power, and the small acreages sown; that it will reconsider the scheme, and decide to grant the all-round price of 4s. a bushel for which the Wheatgrowers Federation has asked. Surely the farmer, as well as any other section of the community, is entitled to a war loading !

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