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Wednesday, 17 July 1946

The number of primary producers with actual incomes in excess of £250 per annum has increased between the financial years 1939-40 and 1943-44 from 53,400 to 117,500, or approximately 120 per cent.

It appears that the Opposition is interested only in the returns of the big producers, and I desire to submit figures correctly compiled by probably the largest primary producer, if not the largest, in South Australia. The correctness of these figures I am prepared to accept. They cover a period from the 1922-23 to the 1942-43 harvests - that is, 21 years - and show that had the firm received 5s. 2d. a bushel - the guaranteed floor price, equal to 4s. 6id. a. bushel at its - railway . sidings - its return would have been £17,353 17s. 3d., less the amount the firm would have contributed to the fund, £2,615 5s. 5d. This proves that the firm would "have benefited by £14,738 lis. lOd. over the period of 21 years. I say unhesitatingly that to the operators of this firm and all others similarly placed this would have meant the difference between, on the one hand, fear of the loss of the farm and a general closure, and on the other hand, prosperity and contentment. With the consent of honorable members, I shall incorporate in Hansard the following schedule : -


It has never generally been admitted that South Australian producers have been placed in the unenviable position of hav ing to accept, year in and year out, 3d. a bushel less for their wheat than growers in New South WaleS and Victoria receive.

I point out, in reference to the schedule of the producer in South Australia, that Mr. Chapman has costed 16 of the 21 years, and the average cost per bushel has been 4s. 0¼d. and the average price, including bounties, has been 4s. 0¾d. The old bogy of the purchasing value of money has been raised against the plan. It is a remarkable fact that in. those sixteen years of costing, the average per acre for three years, well spaced, . was 12 bushels. Thus, the 1922-23 season averaged 12.06 bushels per acre, and the cost to produce was 4s. 9.22d. a bushel. The 1926-27 season averaged 12 bushels, and the cost of production was os. 2.64d. a bushel. The 1944-45 season averaged 12 bushels, and the cost was 4s. 7.8d. a bushel. This conveys to me that with modern methods and reduced interest charges, with price control and .even higher labour costs, the firm can produce a bushel of wheat in the 1.944-45 season at a cost slightly lower than twenty years ago.

Some farmers resent the 1945-46 crop being incorporated in the plan. An; investigation of this aspect from a taxation point of view is interesting, particularly in the light of the figures that I have read to-night. These show that primary producers' incomes of -£1,000 a year have increased between the years 1939-40 and 1943-44 by" 350 per cent. Admittedly, all were not wheat-growers. However, assuming that a wheat-grower has an assessable . income of £1,000 from all sources of farm revenue, that he produces 5,000 bushels of wheat and receives ls. a bushel more by the exclusion of the 1945-46 crop, he will then have raised his assessable income to £1,250. That increase will raise his assessable tax by approximately £125 - a gift to the Treasury of 6d. a bushel. If the money is placed in the 50 per cent, retention fund, he is actually contributing only 6d. a bushel to ensure a guaranteed minimum price of os. 2d. f.o.r. bagged basis for five years, with the right of review in three years, and with no downward alteration of the 5s. 2d. in the review.

Wheat merchants are said to be desperately anxious to re-enter the field of competition. On whose behalf are they so genuinely interested? Is it for themselves, after having had their "activities suppressed for some years, or is it with a desire to assist the primary producers? 1 am most definitely of the opinion that their interest is purely selfish. When one takes into consideration their huge office rents, staff salaries, telegram costs, rents for the stacking sites, and their equipment - and naturally they would have to buy much new equipment for the season - can the Opposition explain how the merchants would operate fairly to the producers and at the same time not compensate themselves for the huge extra overhead, working expenses, and purchase of material ? This amendment is merely a political move by the Opposition to help the merchants so that they will have the right to operate for this season. Then, should the Government be defeated - that is . not likely to occur - the Opposition will again allow the merchants to take command of the wheat industry. Chaos would then prevail! Insolvencies would again mount up. During seven years in South Australia when the anti-Labour Government was in power, we had 2,060 farm insolvencies in that State alone.

I- can imagine how happy the merchants such as Bunge .(Australia) Proprietary Limited and Louis Dreyfus and Company would be to take command of the grain industry in the Commonwealth to-day. However, I am perfectly satisfied that this Government will still be in office after the general elections.

This measure will give to the exserviceman the opportunity to enter into the wheat-growing industry -with a definite basis of security. He will know his guaranteed minimum price. He will no longer be the political tool of politicians and governments. He will rest with a sense of security, and a knowledge that his only danger will be from drought.

I am confident that farmers will not overlook the fact that the Chifley Government had made this plan available to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation for the future security of the wheat industry. No previous government ever made the same sane, practical attempt.

The support of the wheat-growers will ensure the return of the present Government.

Every effort will be made to reduce the costs of production in the wheat industry. The Parliament has a duty to the industry, and the nation itself, to pass this legislation to provide for guaranteed prices to the wheat-growers in. the future. The long-term wheat stabilization plan not only gives security to the farmer with regard to his financial future, hut also will help to stabilize land values, and thus obviate inflationary trends such as those which occurred after he last war, when some farmers unfortunately paid up to £30 an acre for land on which to grow wheat. Under this plan, that will never occur. At the same time, an economic depression will never again affect land values. The scheme will have a stabilizing influence on the economic security of the man on the land, and from that point of view, the bill should be passed.

I commend the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture for the outstanding interest that he has shown in and the kindly consideration that he has extended to the producers since he has been in office. I express to him my personal- appreciation, and gratitude, because whenever I have approached him on behalf of the producers, he has given ro the proposal a sympathetic hearing ;ind consideration. I support the bill.

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