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Friday, 19 July 1946

Mr FADDEN (Darling DownsLeader of the Australian Country party) . - I support the amendment. The honorable member for Indi has given ample reasons why there is no need for a wheat industry stabilization board, which he proposes to replace with a primary industries costs commission, which shall-

(a)   investigate the costs of production and other relevant factors necessary to determine the minimum price per bushel bagged at growers' sidings to be guaranteed to the wheat industry; and

(b)   make an annual recommendation to the Government of such price.

As the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) stated, there are boards and commissions which perform functions similar to those that the proposed wheatauthority should exercise. For example, the Tariff Board is the statutory authority to investigate costs in secondary industries which require, consistent with the national fiscal policy, certain protection, subsidy or guidance. Indeed, the Tariff Board, in addition to investigating secondary industries, extends its inquiries to certain primary industries, notably cotton. Recently, it thoroughly investigated thecotton industry in order to provide for the Government a scientific basis for the granting of financial assistance. The sugar industry, which is periodically investigated, is the most stabilized industry in Australia. The home-consumption price of sugar is based upon the cost of production under "White Australia conditions and standards. Those conditions are determined by an authority which examines all the ramifications of the industry, and its conclusions form the basis of any assistance granted to it, consistent with fiscal policy.

The amendment proposes the creation of a similar authority to investigate costs of production and conditions in the wheat industry. Honorable members should realize that those costs will not be static, but will vary from day to day in accordance with national and international fluctuations of price. The increases of the cost of production over the years, as shown by the Commonwealth Statistician, emphasize the need for the appointment of a permanent board to examine conditions in the wheat industry, so that the growers may receive fair treatment. Compared with employees in secondary industries, primary producers do not get an adequate return for their labour. For instance, dairy-farmers, who supplied butter factories in New South "Wales in 1944, received for 1 lb. of butter-fat 25 per cent. more than they were paid in 1941. Yet, during that period, the prices of manufactured goods which the dairyfarmers required increased by more than 175 per cent. Therefore, those dairyfarmers had to pay more for their requirements out of a relatively lower income. The same story can be told regarding the maldistribution of the Australian national income between city-dwellers and industrialists, and primary producers. That disparity will not be adjusted by subsidies or artificially fixed, prices in the hope of meeting the changing internal and external conditions. All those factors should be taken into consideration. The great wheat-growing industry has not been thoroughly investigated for a long time. Some years ago, the Gepp Commission made some attempt to compute the costs of production, but its report is now out of date.

The amendment is consistent with the policy of the Australian Countryparty. An investigating authority should be appointed to determine an equitable basis for the fixation of the home-consumption price of wheat, and conditions in the industry. Indeed, the Government should set up a statutory body similar to theTariff Board to give to the primary industries the careful consideration that the board gives to secondary industries.

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