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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr McEWEN (Indi) .- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) objects to his State having more representation on the Australian Wheat Board on the grounds of economy. That is the most incredible statement I have ever heard. The board will deal not only with the destiny of 60,000 or 70,000 farmers but also with a wheat crop valued at not less than £50,000,000 this year. The representatives of the growers have customarily been paid, I think, £500 a year, plus travelling expenses.

Mr Lemmon - Travelling expenses amount to £1,000 a year each.

Mr McEWEN - Whatever the expenses amount to, I think the pay is £500 a year. The board has to deal with, a crop worth £50,000,000. Yet the argument is advanced that the country cannot aff ord -one more board member because he would cost an additional £500 a year. No more amazing objection could ever bc raised to such a reasonable proposal as is contained in the amendment. Coming from a Western Australian" it is even more, astounding, because if there is one State that needs development and expansion it is Western Australia, and to the wheat industry it must look for that development and expansion. Yet, when confronted with a proposal by the .Government that Western Australia, which grows about one-fifth of the total Australian wheat production, is to have no more representation than .Queensland, which grows about one two-hundredth, the honorable member for Forrest protests against more representation for his State on the paltry ground of economy. All I can say is that the honorable gentleman Ls desperate for excuses when he has to fall back on that one.

Mr Lemmon - Wait till I tell my fellow farmers about' it. I shall be back here with a bigger majority than before.

Mr McEWEN - Let the honorable gentleman tell them the best he can. I tell him and his farmer constituents that the destiny of the Western Australian wheat industry is involved in this bill which is brought before the Parliament in an absolutely purposeless manner, because it has been already decided, as . the Minister has said, not -by the elected representatives of the Australian people o.r the wheatgrowers, but by a political body, the Australian Agricultural Council, which, by process of bargaining, has decided on a certain draft bill. That bill is accepted by the Minister and is taken to the Labour caucus, and it, acting blindly and bound as it is always bound, says, "Eight, we take the bill, the whole bill, and nothing but the bill ". The result is that the wheat-growers of Australia are to be shackled for not less than five years to a measure of which apparently not one comma can be altered. If ever a reasonable proposal was made it is the proposal, on which we are about to vote, that the representation of the "Western Australian wheat-growers shall be increased by one in order to give them the same representation as is to be given to the Victorian wheat-growers, and thus possibly lessen the disadvantages that they suffer in the disparity of distance from the centre of government and in the management of their affairs. I regret that the Minister is adamant in his refusal to accept the amendment, and that the representatives of the wheat-growers are so blind in their obedience.

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