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Friday, 19 July 1946

Mr RANKIN (Bendigo) .- I move -

That all the words after "That" be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - "the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide -

(a)   that the 1945-46 crop bc excluded;

(b)   that a ten-year period be substituted for the five-year period envisaged in the Bill;

(c)   that the Board shall keep a register of growers each year showing the respective amounts diverted to the Stabilization Fund which in the absence of such a fund would have been payable to each grower as his entitlement under the realization of the Pool concerned; and

(d)   that an actuarially sound .scheme be adopted designed to permit an equitable distribution of his share to each participating grower, his executors and/or assigns in the event of certain contingencies, inter alia, death, termination of the scheme and/or excessive credits in the Fund."

I take that action because I believe that in fairness to the wheat-growers the 1945-46 wheat harvest should be excluded from the wheat pool. The farmers in "the last seven or eight years have fought against droughts, war, lack of labour and lack of fertilizers, and are in such a position that it is absolutely essential that they receive the full return for their 1945-46 harvest. This amendment must be adopted if the wheat-growers are to be rehabilitated, and the industry is to be made -prosperous .and take its proper place in our national economy. I do not propose to deal- with that aspect at length, because honorable member's debated it extensively on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill.

Regarding the proposed ten-year plan, we know that the world demand for wheat at present greatly exceeds the supply, and that large numbers of men who were diverted from wheat-growing to the armed forces and to produce arms and munitions will not return to the industry for some years. In the circumstances, the Government's five-year plan is a mere pretence at effecting stabilization, because the wheatgrowers will be deprived of the full return from the sale of their crops for that, period. The money will be paid into the stabilization fund, but wheatgrowers will have no certainty that they will receive from the fund payments equivalent to the real value of their crop. For that reason, I propose that the board shall keep a register of all wheat-growers and a record of the amount which is paid annually into the fund. Some growers advocate the adoption of an insurance scheme for ten years, but I admit that they could not expect to obtain the return of the total premiums which they pay into the fund. An insurance company is not a benevolent institution. If a person pays premiums on a policy for a number of years, he is entitled at' any time to receive its surrender value. I suggest that wheat-growers who contributed to the stabilization fund and later retire from the industry should receive the equivalent of the surrender value of their interest in it. For example, a man might decide to sell his property because of the continuance of drought conditions, or because his sons, who had been assisting him, had left the parental homestead and established their own. farms. As the result of the lack of assistance, the father may not be able to continue to grow wheat, and might decide to convert his holding into a grazing property. In three or four years, he might have paid into the stabilization fund a considerable sum of money. Surely he is entitled to participate in any distributions from the. pool? Serious anomalies may occur here. A man might begin to grow wheat after the fund has been in existence for three years. About that time, the industry might suffer the effects of a serious decline of prices, and the newcomer will be entitled to participate in distributions from the fund. In my opinion he is not entitled to that assistance. If a farmer who has contributed to the fund for several years dies, surely his widow is entitled to his equity in the fund 1 His equity was created by his labour, and the sale of his wheat. The proceeds from the realization of his crop were paid into the fund. I should like to know what policy the Government will adopt towards this fund if, at the expiration of five years, there is such opposition to the plan that the Government decides to abandon it. What will be done with the money in the fund ? Will the Government do as it has done with other trust funds, namely, pay the money into Consolidated Revenue and expend it on one of its own pet schemes that has no relation to the wheat-growing industry? My amendment is perfectly fair, and the wheat-growers expect the Government to adopt it. I fear that the Government has already definitely decided to reject the first two proposals, but it should have no objection to keeping a register of growers and safeguarding the interests of those growers who contribute to the fund. If the Government rejects the whole amendment, it will fall down on its job very badly, and forfeit the little remaining faith that the wheatgrowers have' in it.

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