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Wednesday, 17 July 1946

Mr SCULLY (Gwydir) (Minister for Commerce and Agriculture) . - in reply - I have listened with great interest to the speeches delivered on this important bill by members from both sides of the House. I wish to compliment some of the younger members, ' especially the newer members representing country constituencies on the Government side of the House, for their notable contributions to the debate and the manner in which they have effectively refuted the arguments of those who opposed the bill. I have been somewhat puzzled by the varying opinions expressed by the opponents of this plan. As the debate progressed it became increasingly evident that many honorable members opposite know very little about wheat production or the stabilization plan outlined in the measure. Generally speaking, however, the tone of the debate has been on a high level. Amongst the opponents of the measure the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) made the most notable contribution to the debate. He displayed practical knowledge of the subject. Although his ideas onwhat constitutes a real stabilization scheme for the wheat industry are diametrically opposed to my own, his approach to the subject was marked by fairness and logic. I also express my appreciation of the manner in which the Leader of the. Opposition (Mr. Menzies) discussed the bill. His attitude was in marked contrast to that of. the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen), whose extravagant statements seemed to echothe stated views of his party prior to the last general elections. It will be recalled that at that time the Labour Government had offered the wheat-growers under the quota "plan a price of 4s. a bushel at country sidings, whereupon the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden), in a memorable speech at Toowoomba, extravagantly promised the growers a price of 4s. Sd. a bushel for all wheat produced. This extravagant promise, however, was quickly repudiated by the Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Menzies), and the clash between the two parties then in Opposition gave rise to an intense press controversy. The Leader of the Australian Country party made other extravagant promises which were repudiated by the Leader of the Liberal party. As a matter of fact," we do not know to-day whether the Australian Country party has any concrete ideas on stabilization or whether, if it has, it would put them into- effect. At the last general elections, however, the wheat-growers showed that they were satisfied with the treatment received from the Government and returned it to office. They were -obviously tired of the promises made and reiterated by the Australian Country party which were not honoured when that party shared the reins of office with the United Australia party at a time when the industry was in the direst need of practical assistance. The Leader of the Opposition is a most astute barrister, one of the highest legal authorities in Australia and one of. the ablest debaters in this House, but he was at a loss to advance any satisfactory reason for opposition to the bill. He did, however, seize upon it as an opportunity to get in some advance opposition to the Government's referendum proposals. He took from- my secondreading speech the statement that there was a promise of co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth oh this wheat stabilization plan, and said that he did not doubt that at all, but that the same principle could be carried into effect through all sections of primary pro~duction and that, therefore, there was no need for an affirmative vote from the people on the marketing proposals that will be put before them when the referendum is taken on election day. I remind him and other honorable gentleman that at the Constitution Convention the Premiers of the States unanimously agreed to transfer to the Commonwealth certain powers, and that, although the democratically elected lower houses passed legislation- to give effect to their pledge, some of the conservative upper houses either rejected it or so drastically altered it as to destroy its worth. The same fate may await this plan in the legislative councils of the States. It is incumbent on every man who has the welfare of the wheat industry at heart to do everything humanly possible to ensure that the upper houses shall not bc a stumbling block to effect being given to the desire of the wheat industry for effective stabilization. I do not claim that everything in this plan is perfect, but it is an attempt to solve a most serious problem, and it has the backing of the overwhelming majority- of" the wheat-growers of Australia and their organizations.

Mr Archie Cameron - Put that to the test of the vote. .

Mr SCULLY - That means a poll of wheat-growers.

Mr Archie Cameron - Hear, hear!

Mr SCULLY - I am absolutely opposed to that. It is a clever dodge to sidetrack and destroy the wheat stabilization plan. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who favour - a poll of the wheat-growers, believe in the open market. They believe in the old order that enabled the international wheat speculators to batten and fatten on the wheat-growers for years. It is peculiar that, whereas the Leader of the Opposition demands a poll of the wheat-growers on this plan, the honorable member "for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who opened the debate on behalf of the Australian Country party, did not mention a poll. Nor did any subsequent speaker on behalf of the Australian Country party. That in itself should show the wheat-growers that if they were left to tho tender mercies of the Opposition, they would have ho plan at all for the stabilization of their industry. Such a variety of opinions about the wheat.growing industry exists opposite, and so diametrically opposed arc. the policies of the two sections of the Opposition on the matter of wheat that any plan that their joint efforts brought before the Parliament would fail because it would not have the confidence of the growers. I repeat that this plan has the endorsement of the great majority of the individual wheat-growers and their organizations.

Mr Anthony - How can the Minister say that without the evidence of n noli? ' ifr. SCULLY. - I have more evidence than any other person in Australia could have of the support of the wheat-growers for this plan. I met representatives of their organizations in Sydney in December.


Mr SCULLY - The delegation that met me contained the representatives of organizations that have members throughout the Wimmera. On behalf of the Government, I submitted certain proposals to the conference. I take leave to point out at this stage that the conference was organized, not by me, but by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. When I submitted the Government's proposals, they asked, "May we take these proposals away and discuss them in camera Y" I said, "Yes, go and discuss them for as long as you like, and, when you have come to a decision, whatever it is, notify me and I will meet you again ". Among those present were the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) rand officials of the Australian Wheat . Growers Federation. Other wheat-growers who are not representative members of the federation, were also present. Later they came back to the conference room and the chairman of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, Mr. H. T. Chapman, of South Australia, submitted to me certain proposals. I said, "All right, these proposals are not identical with the proposals that I submitted to you. Are these proposals unanimously endorsed by your wheat-growers' conference? " Mr. Chapman said, "Yes" All the others were there including Mr. Nock and Mr. Roberton and all acquiesced. Not one man expressed an adverse opinion. I asked that at that juncture no publicity be given to the proposals, because I had to submit them to the Cabinet. I took the plan proposed by. the Australian Wheat Growers Federation to the Cabinet for consideration. My job was not easy, but subsequently the whole plan was agreed to. That is the plan set out in this bill. Of course, the honorable member for Indi sneered, as did the honorable member for Wimmera to a lesser degree, that the only persons who agreed to the plan are on the pay-roll of the Government. Since E have been a member of Parliament in both' the State and the Commonwealth, I I do. not think I have heard a more despicable reference than that to worthy men. After all, who are these men who are supposed to be on the pay-roll of the Government? One is Mr. Cullen, the executive member of the Wheat Stabilization Board, and, T think, a prominent member of the Country party in Victoria. He was appointed to his position by my predecessor, a member of the Country party. When I became Minister I had enough decency not to interfere with appointments to official positions made by him. I do not believe in victimization. The men concerned have done great work over the years. I have never asked them to express opinions contrary to their own. I have never asked a member of the Australian Wheat Board to express opinions contrary to his own. Members of the Australian Wheat Board are the elect of the wheat-growers of Australia, not the elect of the big business men who speculate in wheat. They were appointed by the self-styled friends of the Australian wheat-growers of Australia, the members of a party that is a country party in name only and is really the champion of vested interests. When E took office there were only two representatives of the wheat-growers on the Australian Wheat Board, whereas to-day, with the exception of Mr. Gatehouse, who is the millers' representative on the board, and who was appointed by the previous Government, all the members df th6 board are practical farmers from the different States. They have given valuable service on behalf of the wheatgrowers and the general community. Yet the honorable member for Indi implied that I had control over them and that I had perpetrated a gold-brick deceit. "Mr. McEwen.- That is quite true.

Mr SCULLY - That is a miserable reflection on men who have served Australia well. The regulations that govern the operations of the Australian Wheat Board are the regulations that, were introduced by the previous Government.

Mr McEwen - The Minister has had Mr. Cullen touring the country for years at the expense of the Government expounding his policy.

Mr SCULLY - If the honorable member says that I ever directed Mr. Cullen to go anywhere or to make any statement, it is a miserable lie.

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