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Friday, 19 July 1946

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) . - We need only focus the spotlight on the feature of the hill now under discussion to gauge its .meaning. If we examine it closely, we gain a clear conception of what is proposed. I protest against its unfairness. I was highly delighted by the reference of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) to Mr. Cullen. '

A remark by the Minister for Commerce ant'. Agriculture (Mr. Scully) seemed to imply that I had attacked Mr. Cullen in this Parliament. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What I said was that >many supporters of the bill are on the pay-roll of the Government. That is a fact. Mr. Cullen has. been a personal friend of mine for about 25 years, and I regard him as a man of high integrity. Although he has spoken in favour of the bill in my electorate, surely honorable members must realize that I am sufficiently broad-minded to admit that he has the right to express his opinion! I have the greatest regard for him, and deny that I referred to him in any way in the statement that I made. Clause 21 provides that the Wheat Stabilization Board shall be appointed by the Minister. It must be noted that the board will have full power to curtail production, should it appear likely that a call will be made on the treasury for funds to maintain the guaranteed price of wheat. The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) has said that we are working in the dark. He may be in the dark. If he is, I shall endeavour to enlighten him. I can state facts and figures, but cannot give to honorable members opposite the faculty of comprehension. The honorable member for Forrest has said, that each State will be allotted a certain acreage, and must therefore have representation on the board. I agree with that. But such representation will have to he approved by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. If the men nominated by the States were appointed, my objection to the clause would disappear. That the Minister will have the right to approve of State nominees, is unjust. Surely wheat is the property of the man who produces it! The wheat-growers are striving for a fair stabilization scheme, and the stabilization board must be composed of men who .really represent the industry. The history of government interference with the control of production in this industry is well known. Such interference has had disastrous effects on the industry. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has said that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has filled the role of a fairy godfather to the wheat-growers. Even children know that there are good and bad fairies ; they learn that at- school, and from their bed- time stories. If the Minister is to be a fairy godfather, then every wheat-grower in the Commonwealth will be a Father Christmas. The amendment is most opportune. The honorable member for Forrest has admitted that some means must be devised for ascertaining the. cost of production, and has suggested that it might be similar to the means adopted for fixing the basic wage. I agree with him in that respect. I am willing to accept any reasonable proposition. If from a basic wage of £6 a week the Government were to subtract £2 a week for payment into a fund to maintain the wage scale, what an outcry there would be ! The Government would never attempt such a thing. Yet it proposes' to deduct 33 per cent, of the receipts from sales of wheat, in order to maintain the price which it intends to guarantee to the growers. It is evident from the wording of this clause that control will rest with the Minister, not with the growers. An attempt has been made to make the growers believe that they will control the stabilization scheme, but it is clear now that they will have no effective say in it? direction.

Mr Pollard - That is not true.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - It is true. The members of the stabilization board are to be appointed by the Minister, and to hold office at his pleasure.

Mr Sheehan - Does the clause provide that the Minister may not appoint a producer to that board?

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - No, but it does not provide that he shall do so. The bill should contain something definite on this point.

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