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Thursday, 11 April 1946

Mr SPEAKER - Is the motion supported ?

Five honorable members having risen in support, of the motion,

Mr RANKIN - I submit this motion in view of the position of the wheatgrowers of Australia, particularly those of northern Victoria, western and southern Riverina, South Australia and portions of Western Australia. Those are the area's that have suffered most severely from the effects of drought. The wheat-growers in them have had an extremely hard time during the last seven years, and have been treated very unjustly by this Commonwealth , Government, which gave effect to a policy under which cheap stock food was supplied to stockowners, dairymen, poultrymen and various other sections of primary industry

Mr Pollard - Including wheatgrowers.

Mr RANKIN - Including wheatgrowers who also have stock. With that I find no fault. I believe it to have been a statesmanlike policy, and absolutely essential, not only to our existence, but also to the existence of British people and our allies, that we should produce to our utmost capacity. The Government saw fit to supply cheap stock food at concessional prices to the extent of 52,000,000 bushels from No. 7 pool and 34,700,000 bushels from No. 6 pool. I offer no objection to that. I have, however, a very serious quarrel with the Government when the wheat-growers are expected to carry the whole of the burden. In response to representations on the subject, the Government, I understand, has decided to make a concession to the value of £3,500,000 to the growers; but, according to its own figures, it has taken about £10,000,000 from the wheat-growers, so that it might supply wheat for various purposes at concession prices. Most other industries have been subsidized during the war in one way or another. The wheat farmers have suffered the effects of serious and prolonged droughts, not only in marginal areas, but also in good wheat country with an average rainfall of18 inches. On some of this country the farmers have been able to cut hay only twice in seven years. During that period, they have had two complete crop failures and three partial failures. Even this year, although the Australian wheat crop is about normal, at a figure of 142,910,000 bushels, the crop in the areas to which I have referred has been almost a complete failure. On good land which had been fallowed for two years, crops ranged from two to three bags an acre, and, in odd cases, to as much as five bags. Therefore, it is obvious that the farmers need assistance. From No. 7 pool 3,400,000 bushels was taken for breakfast foods, and 37,200,000 bushels for manufacturing flour for local use. The price paid for wheat for breakfast foods was 4s. 3d. a bushel, for flour for local consumption, 5s. 2d. a bushel, and for stock feed, 3s. 6d. a bushel. At that time, Great Britain was prepared to pay 6s. lid. a bushel f.o.b. for all wheat available.

Mr Scully - That statement is incorrect.

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