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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - If we agree to this amendment, sales of that description may take place. On two occasions recently, the honorable member for Indi has asked for information about certain alleged sales of wheat by the Government to the Dominion of New Zealand at concession prices. I should like to know whether those sales have taken place, and whether the allegations made by the honorable member for Indi are correct or false. If they are not wholly correct, will the Minister inform me in what respects they are incorrect? If this amendment be incorporated in the clause, the Minister will have power to dictate the policy of the Australian Wheat Board, and grower-control will be only a mirage. Under this clause, the Minister will be able to give directions for the purchase or acquisition of any wheat or wheat products, cornsacks, or jute or jute products. " Jute or jute products " is not limited to cornsacks for the wheat industry. The expression includes all the sacks which will be needed for the sugar industry, oats, barley, maize, potatoes, onions, bran and wool.

Mr Pollard - There would not be much wrong with that, if it were a fact.

Mr ARCHIE CAMERON - That is not the point. If the honorable member for

Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) contends that the position should be as stated, let the Government say so, and we shall know where we stand. But if that is not the intention of the Government, why does the Minister seek to incorporate this blanket power in the bill? Paragraph c of sub-clause 1 provides that the board may - grist or arrange for the gristing of any wheat and sell or otherwise dispose of the products of the gristing.

If the Minister decides to exercise that power, he may direct the Australian Wheat Board to take over the gristing of all flour for human consumption in Australia, and for overseassale. If that be the intention of the Government, let the Minister say so, and we shall fight this proposal as a matter of policy. Too much power is placed in the Minister's hands. Growercontrol is one thing, but when growercontrol is subject to the dictation of the Minister, it is another matter. It is all very well for honorable gentlemen opposite to wax eloquent and declare that the Minister is responsible to the Parliament. During thelast threeyears we have had some excellent examples of the kind of responsibility that we may expect. The decision will be made, not by the. Parliament,. butby the Parliamentary Labour party. Under the wheat assistance measures of 1936 the taxpayers were required to pay a particularly high price for flour in order that money could be provided to assist the wheat industry; but in this instance, the wheat-growers themselves are to be taxed as much as 2s. 2d. a bushel on export wheat in order to accumulate a fund to be used at some future timeand under entirely different conditions. In the first case the wheatgrowers were receiving some benefit from the taxpayers, but in this case the taxpayers are the wheat-growers. This fund will be accumulated, but it will remain in control of the government. When the time comes for the distribution of this money many wheat-growers who contributed to the fund may have ceased active connexion with the industry, and the distribution will be determined by a wheat board which will be subject to dictation by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. I consider that the proposal of the Minister is dangerous. If it is not dangerous, why was it omitted from, the original draft? As the provision appeared in the National Security Regulations, we are entitled to he given the reasons which prompted, the Parliamentary draftsman to leave it out of the clause of the bill, and also the reasons which subsequently caused him to change his mind.

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