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Wednesday, 17 July 1946


Mr BARNARD (BASS, TASMANIA) - To what causes does the honorable member attribute that decline?


Mr RANKIN - .There are many causes, but the greatest is that the Government decided to place secondary industries' under the cost-plus system and to produce . food cheaply for industrialists at the expense of primary industries.


Mr Barnard - The honorable membeknows perfectly well that it was due to the war.


Mr RANKIN - The war definitely had a tremendous effect. But, although many men who had been engaged in primary industries took part in the conflict, the number was not sufficient to cause the change that has occurred.Honorable members opposite claim that under this Labour Government primary producers have been successful and prosperous. What are" the facts? The total area under all" crops in 1938-39 was 23,500,000 acres. In 1942-43 the area was 17,400,000 ; in 1943-44, 15,900,000 acres; and in 1944-45, 17,400,000, a drop of more than 6,000,000 acres during the regime of the present Government. The area under wheat in 1938-39 was 14,300,000 acres; in 1942-43, 9,200,000 acres; in 1943-44, 7,800,000 acres, and in 1944-45 only 8,400,000* acres, despite the increase of price and the promises of the Government. The area under barley was reduced by more than 100,000 acres ; and under maize, by approximately 80,000 acres.


Mr Pollard - It was a government supported by the honorable member which first placed restrictions on acreage.


Mr RANKIN - Whatever restrictions were then imposed, they were increased by the present Government, whose army of inspectors has driven men out of primary industries and forced them into secondary industries. The Government believed that they would be misled into voting for it. Unquestionably the wheat industry has had the worst deal that has been given to any industry in Australia. Practically all secondary industries were placed on a cost-plus basis. The dairying industry received some assistance from the Government, even though it was robbed of more than £2,000,000 which the Government received by way of subsidy from the United Kingdom Government.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable gentleman must deal with the wheat industry.


Mr RANKIN - With due respect to you, sir, I wish to compare the wheat industry with other Australian industries, with a view to justifying a demand that justice shall be done to the wheatgrowers.


Mr SPEAKER - The purpose of this bill is to stabilize the wheat industry.


Mr RANKIN - That is perfectly correct. But I claim that I am entitled to state the position of other primary and secondary industries, and to urge the Government to mete out to the wheat industry treatment similar to that accorded to those other industries. In fairness, you must concede that I am justified, particularly as the Government has withdrawn 52,000,000 bushels of wheat from No. 7 pool for use as stock feed, not at its own expense or the expense ofthe community . as a whole, but solely at the expense of the wheat-growers.


Mr Pollard - That is not true.


Mr RANKIN - I am giving to the House information that was supplied by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture to the manager of the Commonwealth Bank, Sydney, when arrangements were being made for an advance to the wheat-growers.


Mr Pollard - That is not true, either.


Mr RANKIN - It is true. I can produce the document, signed by the Assistant Secretary to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.


Mr Pollard - What is the date of it?


Mr RANKIN - I am not worrying about the date.


Mr Pollard - The honorable member is dodging the issue.


Mr RANKIN - I am not.


Mr Pollard - The date is very relevant.


Mr RANKIN - If the honorable member is anxious to have the date, I shall endeavour to give it. The Minister cannot deny that the figures were supplied over the signature of the Assistant Secretary to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. The Government withdrew 52,000,000 bushels of wheat from No. 7 pool, and gave it to producers of butter, eggs, meat, &c.


Mr Pollard - A proportion of it was given to many wheat-growers.


Mr RANKIN - I admit that. It is one of the few statesmanlike actions of the Minister, and I thoroughly agree with it. But I object to one section of the community being expected to carry the whole of the burden. Butter, eggs, meat and wool should be produced cheaply in time of war, not only for our own needs, but also to help Great Britain and our allies. . I thoroughly agree with the provision of cheap stock feed, but I definitely contend that the wheat industry should not have been expected to carry the whole of the burden.


Mr Pollard - Payment for wheat from No. 7 pool is at the rate of 6s. 51/2d. a bushel.


Mr RANKIN - The wheat-growers were not given a fair deal. The honorable member for Ballarat knows something about potatoes, but nothing about wheat.


Mr Pollard - I know that a government supported by the honorable member was responsible for potato-growers being paid 25s. a ton.


Mr RANKIN - The honorable member for Ballarat attended a meeting at which action was taken which upset the pig market. Exporters of pig meats, aided and abetted by the honorable member, who I believe was Assistant Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at one time, were responsible for some of the worst examples of black-marketing that could be conceived.


Mr Pollard - That is not true.


Mr RANKIN - They were also aided and abetted by persons who at one time were employed by certain very large exporting firms. I have no doubt that those persons will receive a pat on the back for the very good work that they did for these big firms, when the Government decides to relinquish control and they return to their former employment.


Mr Pollard - That is a lying statement.


Mr RANKIN - It is not a lying statement ; it is the truth, and the honorable member knows it.


Mr Pollard - It is a lie.


Mr RANKIN - That interjection is characteristic of the honorable member. You, Mr. Speaker, and the House know that the wheat-growers have not had a fair deal. Various industries have been bolstered up during the war at the expense of the wheat industry, and the wheat-growers made no fuss over that. However, now that the war is over, they expect theGovernment to give them a fair deal. If they are given an opportunity they will very soon rehabilitate themselves, and will not ask for help from this or any other government. In particular, they demand that the 1945- 46 crop shall not be included in the stabilization scheme. It was a small crop, of which about 50 per cent, will be exported, and the Government proposes to take from the growers a large proportion of the return which they should receive on exported wheat, and to use it for the benefit of its stabilization plan, although individual growers may never participate in the benefit of the plan. A farmer may sell his property, perhaps for health reasons, or he may hand it over to his son on his return from the war. If, for any reason, he leaves the industry he will not be recouped for any of the money he put into the pool. If the plan is applied to the 1945-46 crop the direct financial loss to growers will be as follows : -

 

The big growers in the Riverina, in the north-west and north-east of Victoria, and in SouthAustralia and Western Australia, who produce up to 10,000 bushels of wheat, will be deprived of more than £500 under the Government's plan, and that at a time when they are in urgent need of the money. With it they could repair fences and buildings and buy new machinery. During the war it was practically impossible to obtain wire. Posts, which used to cost £4 10s. a hundred, are now £12 10s., and machinery has been practically unprocurable. A harvester which would have cost £80 before 1939 now costs £200. In spite of the Government subsidy the cost of fertilizer has increased by 25 per cent., whilst its quality has deteriorated. Instead of taking from the farmers their just returns, the Government should encourage them to produce more, because never at any time was the need for production greater in the interest of Australia and of the Empire, and of the starving peoples of the world. The wheat-growers have struggled through years of drought and semidrought, and have carried on while their sons were away serving in the armed forces. They have put up with shortage of labour, shortage of fertilizers and shortage of machinery; yet the Government is now proposing to take from them the reward of their industry. The wheatgrowing industry is the second largest in Australia, and the economic welfare of the nation is bound up with it. It will be greatly to the discredit of the Government if it refuses to give to the growers a fair. deal.







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