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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr ABBOTT - lt was just about that time. That is a perfect example of what ministerial control of the board may lead to. As it is proposed to be amended the clause will read : - " The board may, subject to any directions of the Minister," do certain things. What a perfect piece of camouflage that is! The public will not know that it is the Minister who is directing the board. The Minister may be able to make the board pliable by holding over the heads of its member's the threat of removal from the board. I ask honorable members to note that no provision is made for triennial elections of members. Once elected, members remain on the board, unless it suits the Minister to get rid of a man who is not pliable and replace him with someone more to his liking. The scheme has all the elements of a perfect dictatorship, because the Minister will be able to direct the board to carry .out his own wishes' notwithstanding that the carrying out of them may result in a dead loss to the producers. When the Minister replied to my charges about the allocation of wheat to manufacturers of dog biscuits he said -

It is not the Australian Wheat Board which determines the allocation of wheat for stock feed or sectional stock feed users. This is done by a committee consisting of representatives of my department, including the DirectorGeneral of Agriculture, the State committees, and the Wheat Board. In New South Wales, the Director of Agriculture, Mr. McDonald, was, during the period mentioned, chairman of the Wheat Allocation Committee; Decisions by this committee are implemented by the Australian Wheat Board.

That is the board that previously said that wheat was not to be allocated for the manufacture of dog biscuits, but the Minister overrode the board and, in his explanation to the House, he misled it as to what had taken place.

Mr Scully - The honorable member is stating an untruth when he says that I misled the House. He is totally ignorant of the facts.

Mr ABBOTT - If the Minister will listen, he will probably find that his memory is astray. The Minister went on to say -

Wheat has been used in Australia for the manufacture of dog biscuits for a great number of years. In view of the urgent demand for wheat for export, a survey was made of all the ways in which wheat was being used, as it was considered that some saving could be made in the amount of wheat being released for various purposes, including the manufacture Of -dog biscuits. This inquiry, which was of a searching character, naturally made dog biscuit manufacturers and dog owners' organizations nome what apprehensive about future supplies. They called on me, and requested that the matter of supplies be reviewed as speedily as possible.

But what the Minister did not tell the Souse was that earlier instructions had been clearly given by the Australian Wheat Board through the Wheat Allocation Committee that wheat was not to be used for the manufacture of dog biscuits. What the Minister did was to condone the black marketing operations of the dog biscuit manufacturers and mill owners, who were illegally allocating grain for gristing into flour for the manufacture of dog biscuits. Within three weeks the Minister smashed the decision of the Wheat Board and the Wheat Allocation Committee. If those directions represent the kind of directions that he will give to the new board, .the farmers must unanimously protest at the polls in order to ensure that they shall have democratic control of the product of their own industry through their own wheat hoard, which shall not he subject to directions from the Minister.

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