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Tuesday, 16 July 1946

Mr ARCHIE^ CAMERON (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Postmaster-General) - Then there is the position of the grower who will be taxed heavily to build up a fund which will be entirely in government hands and entirely at the government's disposal. That fund will not be an Australian fund ; it will be built up in London as the result of exports made to other parts of the world. Therefore, the Australian wheat-grower will be contributing 2s. 2d. a bushel to build up London funds, the utilization of which will be entirely at the discretion of the Commonwealth Government for the next five years, and beyond that time if the scheme is still in existence. That is a position we cannot tolerate with equanimity. There is the position, too, of the individual grower. Supposing after making two or three years' contributions a grower meets the Grim Reaper, or at best he retires from the wheat-growing industry. It has been argued that a grower should not be allowed to take his land out of wheat production. I shall be extremely surprised if the measures to be submitted to the State parliaments will contain any provision, even to compel a grower to sow his licenced acreage. Unless a grower is compelled to do that, one could not argue against him going out of the wheatgrowing industry altogether. If having contributed for several years and having built up certain funds some one in authority says to him, " Too bad old boy; you go out and get nothing " ; What is his position? We have not had any information from the Government on that point and I am afraid there will be many awkward questions coming from growers with respect to it. In regard to the question of the home consumption price I remind honorable members that it was laid down in the Gepp report, to which reference was made this afternoon; that on a'n average, the cost of producing' wheat was then 3s. 6d. a bushel f.o.r. ports. When one deals with the question of the cost of production, especially in a wide-spread industry such as the wheat industry, one can only hope at best to get a rough average. I say, however, that considering the general economic conditions which prevail in Australia, and the protection afforded to secondary industries, by bounties and tariffs, and so on, and the protection provided by Arbitration Court awards for the average working man, that the time has come when the growers of Australian wheat are entitled to the full average costs of production plus a margin of profit for that portion of the crop which is consumed within the Commonwealth. I believe that before very long the present

Government - or, maybe, its successorswill be obliged to formulate and introduce legislation making such a provision. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) raised the vexed question of the sale of wheat to other industries at a price below the market value. That cost will remain a burden upon the growers. It is bad business morally to expect growers of wheat, or of any other product, to make it available to any other industry at a price below the fair market price. I doubt very much whether the Government will succeed in pleading that case with the wheat-growers. It would be unprofitable to buy wheat at the present price of about 10s. a bushel, the highest that I remember, in order to produce eggs and pork; but that is no justification for the Government saying that those commodities must be produced and wheat-growers must supply wheat at half the market rate in order that they shall be produced. That kind of business and political morality will not go down with the wheatgrowers. The guaranteed price is to be 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. for a period of five years. The Minister has not told us how that figure was arrived at, or whether the Government consulted the stars, or pulled the figure out of a hat or whether it went back to the much abused Lyons Flour Tax Act and made the selection there. The Government has made no explanation as to how it arrived at that figure. As to the duration of the scheme, I believe that .a period of five years is too short. It would be better to remove wheat, if possible, from the arena of party politics. However, a period of ten, or even seven years, would be preferable. .

Mr Conelan - The honorable member will accept the five-year period.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - The Government, of course, has the numbers to force the bill through the Parliament; but I remind the honorable member that in the last Parliament, when the, numerical strengths of parties were different, the Government was most complacent ' and obliging. It was then prepared to give the Opposition almost anything. I am of .the opinion that after the next elections, should f«ie be so unkind as to return the present Government, its numerical strength will be sadly reduced and honorable members opposite will be in a much more accommodating frame of mind than we have found them to be in this Parliament.

T turn now to a matter which requires to be cleared up. I refer to the clause in the bill which deals with the premium which is to be paid for wheat of a special quality. The Minister, in his secondreading speech, di'd not explain the meaning of that clause. I was a grower of wheat for over twenty years, and I sold wheat to flour-millers at a premium of 3d. a bushel. But that is not the normal trade practice in. Australia. It is the normal trade practice in Canada and the United States of America. In those countries a grower is paid according to the quality of his wheat when it is delivered. Every good farmer would be perfectly happy to see instituted in Australia a system under which a grower was paid for his' wheat according to quality. The clause to which I refer hints at the institution of such a system, but does not say whether that system is to be carried out.

Mr Pollard - The greatest opponents of that system in the past, have been the wheat merchants.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I would be interested to hear my friend accuse me of being a supporter of the wheat merchants. The clause hints at a system under which wheat will be" paid for according to quality.

Mr Scully - That system has been followed for many years past.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I am not aware of it. -I ask any honorable member who is a wheat-grower to tell me what price he has received from the pool for wheat above fair average quality. I have received a premium, but not from the pool.

Mr Frost - Black-marketing !

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - An interjection of that kind from a Minister is a little bit " over the fence ". That is not a statement which should be made by a Minister. I have received from the firm of Pflaum Brothers, Birdwood, a premium of as much as 3d. a bushel above fair average quality for wheat of a higher quality. If this system is to bc introduced, jet it be .introduced as a system. To-day, it seems to depend on whether the Minister, or the Australian Wheat Board, thinks fit that it should be paid for a parcel of wheat. In the wheat trade a parcel is 500 tons. No grower will ever deliver' 500 tons. Does this mean that after the grower has passed in his wheat as fair average quality, a particular parcel can be got together by the board ? The Minister should clarify the clause.

Mr Scully - The honorable member just does not understand the position with respect to the payment of a premium.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - I admit freely that there are many things in the measure which I cannot understand ; and there will be a lot of people in Australia who will be in the same position as myself in that respect. I assure the Minister that at the committee stage, when we are dealing with the measure clause by clause and line by line, he will be given full opportunity to explain many things.

The last point with which I wish to deal is the future of the industry. That is one of the most, interesting aspects about the industry, and one on which the Government has been singularly silent up to date. After the war of 1914-1S great changes took place in the wheat industry throughout the world. We saw the disappearance from world trade of Russia,one of the great producers of wheat which has only once intruded upon th market in the last twenty years, namely, iri 1923. After the conclusion of World War II. we see other great changes taking place in the wheat industry due to the victory of that power. The whole of the wheatlands of Germany, Poland, Hungary, Roumania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia have passed under the control of Russia. In the division of Germany between the Allies the wheat and rye growing areas have passed under Russian control, but the great majority of the people who have to eat that wheat 'and rye has passed under the control of the United States of America, Great Britain and France. To-day, there is no traffic on the river Danube, which is one of the great wheat arteries of the world. The wheat produced in Roumania, Bulgaria. Hungary, and a part of Yugoslavia used to be taken upstream to Germany and Austria ; but owing to Russian action that traffic has ceased completely. To-day,- the Danube is a closed river. In view of the policy carried out by Russia in the past, what is to be the future of the wheat industry of Europe, and the availability of European-grown wheat to those parts of Europe which stand outside the Russiancontrolled zone? If Russia carries out the policy which it followed after World War I. that wheat will be denied to the rest of Europe. . This will throw upon the other wheat-growing countries of the world a much greater effort to supply wheat, but I suspect that in that instance, as in all other instances, world wheat policy will be dictated by the Russian Foreign Office. In a time of plenty, surplus wheat from Poland, the Balkans and Germany will be thrown on the European market in order to create unrest among the peasants, whereas when wheat is scarce grain from the Russiancontrolled areas will be denied, except at high prices, to the workers in the big cities of Europe in order to cause dissatisfaction. To-day in Europe exist some of the most explosive factors which could be introduced into any international situation. It should pay honorable members, especially those representing wheat areas, to investigate that phase of the subject.

The next thing I have to deal with is the influence of mechanization on wheat production, not only in the Balkans, Germany and Poland, but throughout the world. After the 1914-18 war we did not have anything like the degree of mechanization that we have to-day. Yet we saw the building up of wheat supplies. The degree of mechanization in Russia is extensive, but not so great as in the United States of America and Canada. But Argentina is well behind. The May issue of Broomhill' s Com Magazine shows that Argentina wheat acreage is down because Argentina does not have the machinery with which to sow to its full capacity. The journal also sets out the position in Europe. In Greece ,the bread allowance for an adult male has been reduced to 9 oz. a day, and in Vienna the position is worse, because in May, the allowance was reduced to 24 oz. a week. In other words, three-quarters of a 2-lb'. loaf has to last an .adult male a week. Honorable members will see that .there is every justification, with the hunger that

Europeans are suffering, for increased wheat acreages and no justification for limitation of acreages in any wheatproducing country. It would be un-Christian uncharitable and unthinkable to restrict production of any commodity wanted for human consumption. The enigma is what will be the policy of the Soviet. It controls at least 30 per cent, of the world's "wheat outside its own borders, 12£" per cent, of the world's maize in Yugoslavia, Rumania and Bulgaria, where maize is grown to a much greater extent than wheat, and 90 per cent, of the world's rye. Its stranglehold, if it cares to use it, on the grain supplies of the world is serious. I am not going to prophesy how long the . crisis will last. I do not know the factors that will go towards determining wheat supplies and consumption, but I do know that the degree of mechanization is much greater than it was after the pre- vious world war, fertilizers are better understood, wheat varieties have improved, and larger and faster ships can take more wheat more rapidly from where it is grown to where it is needed for human consumption. The trend, in my opinion, will be towards a quicker recovery in Europe, than is perhaps allowed for in certain quarters here. I have an abiding faith in the peasants of Europe to stand up to hard . conditions and get the crops in when the onus is placed upon them. But I do not know by what number of thousands the wheateating peoples of Europe have been re- duced as the result of war and the famine that is stalking through different parts of Europe. That is an important factor. I am not attempting to deal with Asia. That is another story. Tt ha3 to do with rice. This bill deals with wheat. I do not know the damage that may have been done to land, plant and stock. I doubt whether any man in Australia has the correct picture of those factors. So I say we can go on with this measure only from year to year. In my opinion, there will be no great danger of wheat prices falling below perhaps 6s. a bushel until we have visible world supplies of not less than 600,000,000 bushels iii store. So far as our local economy is concerned, I do not know what will be the trend of costs of production, but I am fairly confident that costs will increase as the- result of policies enforced and the inflationary system in being to-day. Therefore, however payable prices may be to-day or may have been before the war, the Australian wheat-growing community has to look forward to higher costs of production and higher prices to meet those costs in the years not very far ahead.

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