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Thursday, 18 July 1946


Mr McEWEN (Indi) .- I admit the force of some of the arguments advanced against the .amendment by the Minister. My sole desire was that the representatives of the growers should be able to function most effectively in the interests of the growers themselves, and to be entitled to indicate from time to time the progress made in the realization of the pools. It is true that a member of the board may, through inexperience, unwittingly reveal some information which might prejudice the board in its competitive marketing operations vis-a-vis some foreign country. I am accordingly willing to alter the wording of my amendment to provide that the board shall make reasonable -reports to wheat-growers relative to the progress of marketing operations. That would remove responsibility from the individual board member and place it upon the board as a whole. The suggestion of the Minister that discretion in this matter should be left to the chairman violates the principle of grower representation. It is futile to have what purports to be a grower-controlled board if in the charter of that body there are incorporated conditions which preventthe board from functioning properly, either in its corporate entity or through its individual members. Behind the facade of a grower-controlled board is the provision that the Minister, or his spokesman,' the chairman of the board, who shall be appointed by and. shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister, shall be the authority on every issue of any consequence, because the suggestion of the Minister is that only he or the chairman shall release information about the realizations of various pools. That principle is applied throughout the bill. That makes the board a hollow sham. The phrase " grower-controlled " rolls easily off the tongue of honorable gentlemen opposite; but how can the board be grower-controlled- w"hen its operations are subject to ministerial direction. The existing board has not, and the proposed board will not have, power over two matters of the greatest consequence to the growers, namely, the price of their grain and their entitlement to grow wheat. The Minister, as the representative of the Government, will determine both the price of wheat and the number of acres that may be sown by individual growers. The alleged grower-controlled board will have no say on either matter.


Mr Fuller - The non-Labour Government did not give the growers control ' of the board that it set up.


Mr McEWEN - Neither did we have this autocratic background which con verts the board into nothing but a pa'per sham. I do not .want to become heated.


Mr Scully - The honorable member is heated when he makes statements that are not correct. He knows quite well that the background of the proposed board is no' different from that of the board which was constituted by the Government qf which he was a member. To imply that it is different is merely propaganda!


Mr McEWEN - The comparison that the Minister seeks to make is not valid because the Australian Wheat .Board that was set up by the Government with which I was associated dealt with', the. marketing pf wheat for which there was no prospect of shipping and' for the sale and financing of which the Treasury accepted 100 per cent, responsibility. That is the kind of board that was first set up, as the Minister well knows. That board rightly acted in an. advisory capacity. In the then circumstances no treasury could dissociate itself from control of the board's affairs. Now the circumstances are completely different. I do not want the growers' to be' led into thinking that they can compare the circumstances of those days with those not only of to-day but also of the next five years, the minimum period in which this legislation is to .operate. The Commonwealth Treasury- will incur no financial liability in respect of the wheat, the sale of which will be managed by the Australian Wheat Board under this legislation. The new board is to handle the property of free men. The majority of its members are to be elected by free men. All I ask in the amendment is that their representatives shall be free individually to report to them. The

Minister has said that one of them might, through inexperience or inadvertence, make a mistake and release information that he should not release. I accept that as a possibility. So I meet the Minister by saying that the board itself in its corporate discretion shall be free to report to the wheat-growers on the progress of marketing operations. If the Minister will accept that I shall ask leave to withdraw the amendment and substitute in favour one that had that as its purpose.







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