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Tuesday, 23 July 1946

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! That has no relation to the matter now under discussion.

Mr McEWEN - But there is a candid opinion held in regard to a levy on wheat-

Mr Scully - That was discussed fully when the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was before this chamber.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The Chair does not intend to allow this discussion to become another second-reading debate on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill already passed by the House. This measure is for a specific purpose.

Mr McEWEN - Thank you, Mr.

Speaker.You have rebuked the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) ; I suggest that you might now rebuke the Minister who has said that already there has been a discussion of wheat charges.

Mr SPEAKER - The Chair has not rebuked anybody. It has indicated that a general discussion of the wheat industry will not be permitted on this measure.

Mr McEWEN - Then I suggest that the Minister should have been rebuked.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! I ask the honorable member for Indi to proceed with his remarks on this measure.

Mr McEWEN - There couldnot have been a discussion of wheat charges when the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was before the House, because that measure made no provision for the imposition of a charge.

Mr Archie Cameron - This bill was not presented in conjunction with the measure already passed.

Mr McEWEN - No. It was presented at a later date, and has not yet been explained. Perhaps the Minister hoped that it would slip through without discussion. I am sorry to disillusion him on that point.

Mr Scully - This bill was presented before the second-reading speech of the

Leader of the Opposition (Mi Menzies) on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill.

Mr Menzies - Yes; but it was the immediately preceding business. The Minister presented this bill, and I ros*, at once to make my second-reading speech on the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill.

Mr McEWEN - It is quite clear that the Minister did introduce this measure without explaining it to the House. The task of explaining certain aspects of it, therefore, falls upon me. First, the bill provides for a levy on wheat in certain contingencies, for five years commencing with the 1945-46 crop, which already has been compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth under the National Security Regulations, and by virtue of the Commonwealth's constitutional authority. In respect of that crop, this legislation infringes the Constitution by providing that the terms of settlement shall involve, not the payment to growers of the full realization price of their- wheat, but the contribution of a substantial portion of that realization price to a so-called stabilization fund, from which payments may or may not be made to the growers concerned, or to other growers, at some undetermined date. It may easily happen that the levy imposed upon wheat-growers in respect of the 1945-46 crop will never he disbursed amongst wheat-growers at all, because this legislation provides for its own termination at the end of five years. As a layman, I shall not offer an opinion as to the legality of this proposal; but from the point of view of common equity, and what the Australian citizen understands to be his rights under the Constitution, I say that the position adopted by the Commonwealth Government is untenable. This action is. without precedent, and it will, itself, establish a precedent which will create tremendous doubts in the minds of Australian citizens. There is- no justification for the Government asking the Parliament to authorize the appropriation of a portion of the realization on wheat grown last year for the establishment of a stabilization fund for the future advantage of, at best, some wheat-growers. The Minister has said many times in this House that everything that is implicit in its wheat industry legislation has the endorsement of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. Challenging the honorable gentleman on that point, I shall quote from the official organ of the Australian Wheat Growers , Association - The Victorian Wheatgrower, dated the 17th April of this year. The publication is headed " Official Organ of the Victorian Wheat Growers Association ", which, of course, is the Victorian element of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. On the front page there is an article headed " Federation's Wheat Stabilization Plan". The article gives a description of that plan, and' states that a conference called to determine the federation's policy on this matter arrived at certain conclusions. It proceeds -

This conference approves the necessity for the introduction of a satisfactory plan for the stabilization of the wheat industry on the following lines: -

The second of the lines stated is -

This federation requests that the 1945-46 season's crop be not included in the plan as it has been acquired under the National Security Regulations.

I challenge the Minister to reconcile that statement with his repeated announcements in this House that the Government's plan, in all respects, has the approval of growers' organizations.

Mr Scully - :The publication to which the honorable member has referred is not the official organ of the federation.

Mr McEWEN - The Minister need ' not try to trap me on a technicality, because' he is on very weak ground. This is the official organ of the Victorian Wheat Growers Association, which, as I have said, is associated with the federal body representing the wheat-growers of Australia. The Minister stands revealed as not having been candid when he said that the federation was in agreement with the Government on every point of this plan.

Mr Scully - I did not say that the federation agreed to every point of the plan ; but that, in the main, the plan had the approval of organizations representing wheat-growers.

Mr McEWEN - The Minister is now trying to " crayfish " out of the difficulty in which he finds himself.

Mr Scully - The honorable member should keep to the facts.

Mr McEWEN - By constant interjections the Minister is now seeking to make the second-reading speech on this bill which he failed to make at the appropriate time. .The Minister also said that the Government's five-year plan was approved by the Wheat Growers Federation.

Mr Scully - Of course it is.

Mr McEWEN - The official organ of the association, which I hold in my hand, makes it clear that the federation stands for a ten-year plan. I read from that official organ the following extract : -

It is also suggested that the plan should operate for a period of ten years. /

That shows clearly that the Minister is wrong in saying that the Government's five-year plan has the approval of the Wheat Growers Federation. Not only is the bill inequitable, but also it is not in agreement with the expressed views of the organized wheat-growers of Australia, in that it includes a crop which ought not to have been included, and provides for a five-year plan instead of a ten-year plan.

I criticize the bill on the further ground that it makes no provision whatever for recording the names of contributors to the stabilization fund, or the amounts of their contributions to that fund. Last Friday, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Rankin) moved an amendment to cover the points which I have mentioned to-day. He proposed that the 1945-46 crop should be excluded and that a ten-year period should be substituted for a five-year term provided for in the bill. The amendment also provided that the board should keep a register of growers each year, showing in respect of each grower the amounts diverted to the stabilization fund - which, ' in the absence' of such a fund, would have been payable to him under the realization.

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