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Friday, 19 July 1946

Mr CLARK (Darling) .- Members of the Australian Country party are adopting an unreal attitude. Because of constitutional limitations, this stabilization scheme will not be administered wholly by the Commonwealth. The scheme can be operated only by co-operation between theCommonwealth and the States. Before this legislation was drafted, extensive negotiations took place between the Commonwealth and State authorities. The Commonwealth, naturally, has endeavoured to obtain from the States the widest possible powers for. this purpose, but the States are determined to retain certain powers relating to the production and marketing of wheat.- Therefore, in order that this scheme may operate, the Commonwealth and the States were obliged to accept the stabilization board. If honorable members will examine the clause, they will see that the board shall consist of -

(a)   a Chairman, an executive member and one other member each of whom shall be appointed by, and shall hold -office during the pleasure of, the Minister; and

(b)   one member appointed by the Minister to represent each State after nomination by the appropriate Minister of State of that State.

Each State insisted uponhaving the right to appoint a member of the board, so that it might retain certain powers over the production and marketing of wheat. In order to stabilize the wheat industry, the Commonwealth had to agree to the proposal. If the Commonwealth had wider constitutional powers, it could create one board to undertake the whole of the administration, and, in my opinion, the work would then be carried out more efficiently than it can be under the present arrangement. However, the Commonwealth must make this legislation comply with the Constitution and meet the requirements of the States.

The Minister has given an undertaking to appoint an authority to ascertain the costs of production in the wheat industry. The Gepp Commission conducted a similar inquiry in 1934. One feature of its report which impressed me was the disparity between the prices at which wheat could be grown profitably. Some farmers could grow wheat profitably at 2s. a bushel, whilst others could not produce it profitably at Ss. or 10s. a bushel. It is most difficult to determine what is a profitable price. All that any commission can do is to arrive at a fair average price. Because of drought conditions and adverse economic circumstances, wheatgrowers in some districts need a much higher price than wheat-growers in other districts where seasonal and economic conditions are more reliable. These factors were taken into consideration by the Government, which has provided a reasonable price for wheat. We should not endeavour, in any way, to chase tha inflationary (prices that are operating abroad to-day. The outstanding feature of Australian administration is its stability. In other parts of the world prices are either out of hand or getting out of hand. ]f the price of wheat were fixed having regard to these inflationary tendencies overseas, the prices of meat, butter and clothing, the cost of housing, and wage rates would all have to be reviewed, and it might happen that, although the wheat-growers, under such circumstances, received twice as much for their wheat, they would be worse off than under the stabilization plan which the Government is now proposing. As the Minister has indicated that he is prepared to arrange for an inquiry into wheat production costs, I cannot see any reason for accepting the amendment. This scheme has had to be devised because pf the constitutional relations between the Commonwealth and ' the States. The Commonwealth has had to meet the requirements of the States, which are being given a measure of control over wheat produced within their boundaries.

The board will be representative of all the States. I consider that the clause should be agreed to without further debate.

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