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Thursday, 18 July 1946

Mr McLEOD (Wannon) .- Honorable members opposite are persist ent in their effort to destroy the wheat stabilization plan. The Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. McEwen) is of the opinion that the present high wheat prices will continue indefinitely. In an interesting article headed "Doubts of World Wheat Future ", which was published in the Melbourne Herald of to-day's date, the following pertinent statement appeared : -

Australia House Commerce Department officials are interested in the Ottawa report of Canada and Britain signing a four-year wheat agreement within a fortnight, and the proposed different prices for the first two years and the second two years. According to the Daily Telegraph's special correspondent in Ottawa, the guaranteed price for the first two years will be £14 9s. a' ton, and for the second two years a minimum negotiable price of £11 13s. _4d. a ton.

On the price ruling it would be about £18 a ton. The article goes on -

Annual shipments are expected to reach four million tons.

Both the Australian Government and wheat producers - but. to a much lesser extent flour millers- - are pressing for an international wheat agreement, fearing that the present, world shortage will be followed by a glut and a catastrophic drop in wheat prices.

I warn the wheat-growers not to be deluded by the arguments of the Opposition, but to adhere to this scheme as their only hope. The report proceeds -

Australia readily admits the need to ensure wheat imports for the next two years, and if possible, for longer, by separate long range contracts between importers and exporting countries. It feels, however, that the basis for an international wheat agreement should he soundly laid as soon (is possible.

Bountiful harvests in Canada, America. Australia and the Argentine in addition to the recovery in the European wheatlands may easily lead to a situation where the economic effects of lew prices will be just as harmful as the effects of a wheat shortage-

That is very important for the wheatgrowers -

Some Australian wheat experts-

They are possibly the friends of the Opposition, the wheat merchants, who pose as experts - fear a glut within two years unless international action is taken-- T

That is happening, too -

Australian wheat at present is pouring into India- .

We know that is true - but future Indian imports will be smaller because of the recovery in the Far-Eastern rice areas.

Countries, which at present are a good market for Australia, may be practically valueless in a few years.

Australia is shipping no wheat to Britain now. but is anxious to resume AngloAustralian trading as soon as possible without prejudicing plans for trading on an international basis and assurances against gluts-

That is very important -

Although the world wheat balance-sheet for 1 945-46 snowed a deficit of six million tons, the total estimated world wheat surplus for 1946-47 is in million tons. As the pre-war average end-of-the-season surplus was 1.1 million tons, elements of a world glut can already be seen within a year.

Australian commerce officials are- greatly pre-occupied over future wheat trading.

T impress upon honorable gentlemen opposite that this plan must be passed, not only by this Parliament but also by the State parliaments, and I urge them to use all their influence on their colleagues in the Legislative Councils in favour of the passage of the complementary State legislation because of the facts that are coming to notice. If honorable gentlemen opposite had their way, there would be no stabilization plan and within twelve or eighteen months of Unrra's disappearance from the market, the Australian wheat-farmers might have to accept 3s. a bushel for their grain. The Labour Government has guaranteed in that event to make up the difference between the market price and -5s. 2d. a bushel. That may commit it to the expenditure of many millions of pounds. Yet honorable gentlemen opposite are quibbling over the proposal that the Minister shall be entrusted with the final responsibility to Parliament for the direction and management of the plan. I. enjoin the farmers not to listen to their propaganda. I warn them, too, that reports indicate that within five years we may once again have a world wheat glut. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), himself a practical farmer, knows that the wheat industry can go from one extreme to the- other very quickly.

Mr Fuller - He said that last night.-

Mr McLEOD - Yes. I, too, as a farmer know that is so. The last harvest in western Victoria seemed doomed to failure, but rain in October saved the crop and, as the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. McDonald) knows, the district had a bountiful harvest with so much hay to spare that the farmers have stacks of it standing to-day. The threatened disaster was averted in one month. Instead of opposing this bill all honorable members opposite should be acclaiming it.

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