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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr McEWEN (Indi) .- It seems incredible to me that the Minister (Mr; Scully) should submit this amendment almost as an afterthought, because it is the. fundamental feature of the whole bill. I can only assume that the words contained in the amendment were omitted by a- typographical error or by some curious oversight. The amendment cannot be explained as an afterthought resulting from a change of policy. Clause 10 is the operative clause of this bill. It sets out the powers of the board. All the other clauses are machinery. But clause 10 provides for the establishment of the Australian Wheat Board to act for the wheat-growers in the realization of their product. In. this country, we have been accustomed to a way of life under which, within the law, a man can offer his services or engage in production and be free to sell his product or services. For reasons with which we all are familiar, we know that general conditions require that those engaged in certain industries shall be bound together collectively to dispose of their product, as men bind themselves together in unions for the purpose of disposing of their labour. The bill proposes that wheat-growers shall be bound together to dispose of the product of their labour. The essence of the whole arrangement is that the man's own labour, whether it be eight hours' work a day or be converted into bushels of wheat, is his to dispose of as he chooses. It is merely a matter of economic necessity that all political parties in this Parliament have agreed that, the time has come to regulate and organize the disposal of wheat. The amendment which the Minister has moved is designed to provide that the product of the wheat-growers shall be in every respect subject to the direction of the Minister of the day. In short, it represents a complete form of socialization of industry. The effect of the amendment will be that when a wheat-grower produces his grain, it shall immediately become the property of a government authority; and as soon as it becomes the property of that government authority, the wheat may not be sold, disposed of or handled in any way except with the approval of the Minister. In Soviet Russia, there is nothing more authoritarian than that. I am completely averse to the principle inherent in the amendment, and the condition of affairs that it is designed to establish. I point out to the House, the wheat-growers and the even-wider audience that is interested, that this proposal reveals the basic political attitude of the Government towards the property of individuals. This approach is completely revolutionary. When men have their labour to sell, the law permits them to bind themselves together in their trade unions and even wider associations, but at least it does provide that an impartial tribunal - the

Conciliation and Arbitration Court - shall adjudicate on the terms and conditions upon which their product shall be sold. In this instance, the Minister will be the only adjudicator. Stalin thought of nothing more autocratic than that.

When we compare the proposal with the publically propounded policy of the Labour party, we find either the essence of contradiction or the essence of hypocrisy. The Labour party propounded the principle of marketing boards upon which there should be a majority of producers. Very well! The Australian Wheat Board will have a majority of producers. In its written and spoken policy, the Labour party always advocates grower-controlled boards, but the amendment is a complete abrogation of that policy. This is a proposal to establish a sham board behind which tha Minister will exercise al) authority over the wheat-growing industry and the wheat which is the property of the growers. Is a man to be free to grow wheat ? No ! He must apply to the stabilization board for a licence. Are there any grower representatives on the stabilization board ? There are not. The members of the stabilization board will be appointed by the Minister. He may dismiss them, so they will give effect to his will. No person may grow wheat unless he has the permission of the Minister. Having grown the wheat, is it his property the moment it is placed in a bag or a bin ? It is not ! It is only his property so long as he intends to use it on his own farm. That quantity represents only a minute portion of his crop. The moment it has been converted into merchandise and an edible product it i-= to pass from his ownership into the ownership of the Australian Wheat Board - this glorious board, with a majority of growers who will have no authority whatever if the amendment be agreed to, but who, in every respect, as the clause carefully provides at great length, are to be subject to the Minister, even in regard to the purchase of cornsacks.

Mr Rosevear - The phrase, " in every respect" is not- used. The honorable gentleman does not seem to understand English.

Mr McEWEN - The board is to be subject to any direction of the Minister.

Mr Rosevear - It is provided that the board " may " do certain things.

Mr McEWEN - The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Rosevear) is an astute parliamentarian. He says that the clause provides that the board " may '" do certain things. The board " may " sell wheat, but no other authority may sell it.

Mr Rosevear - Exactly.

Mr McEWEN - Then the board must sell Wheat. But is the board to be free to sell wheat? No; it may sell wheat only subject to any direction given to it by the Minister. The principle which the Government desires to embody in this legislation is in its essence the most revolutionary that I have known to be proposed in this Parliament. If it were applied to the products of every other Australian citizen, whether labour or commodities, it would write " finis " to our free Australia, for we should have introduced the complete socialist state. I know what the result of the vote will be, because honorable gentlemen opposite are controlled by the iron-bound caucus. Every one of them is pledged, before even he goes before the electors as a candidate, to abide by the decision of his party in respect of matters that will come before the Parliament. He signs that pledge when he signs his' nomination form. It seems inevitable that this principle will be written into this legislation. I can only hope that the revulsion of the Australian people to the menace that is inherent in this measure will have such repercussions at the forthcoming elections as will cause a change of government.

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