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Tuesday, 23 July 1946

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) .- The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) has driven home the point which honorable members on this side o'f the chamber have been impressing upon the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). The honorable member stated that we should disregard politics and discuss the means to stimulate wheatgrowing. What is more likely to stimulate the production of wheat - the payment to growers of the export price of 9s. 7£d. a bushel, or the payment of the stabilized price of 5s. 2d. a bushel? .The question answers itself. Therefore, I cannot understand the inability of honorable members who speak in that fashion to compel the Minister to use common sense. The additional income which the growers of the 1945-46 crop would receive if that crop were excluded from the sta- 1bilization scheme .would enable them to recover much of what they had lost during the last three years of drought. Under :the taxation law, any losses incurred can be offset against subsequent profits i; consequently, they would not have to pay tax on a good deal of this additional income, because, undeniably, they have had severe " losses. They could utilize the money in the improvement of their properties and the repair of their machinery. Therefore, the proposition of the honorable m.ember for Barker that they shall be given an opportunity to express their opinion is a sound one. If the Minister will not submit the whole matter to them, he should at least ask them whether or not they are willing that the 1945-46. harvest shall be included in the stabilization scheme. I am wholly in favour of stabilization. The present scheme, in general outline, follows the scheme that I submitted to the Parliament in 1940; but my proposal differed from this in that it deliberately excluded the wheat harvest which, at the time, was being delivered by the growers, and provided that only future harvests should be embraced in it. Any grower who did not wish to be bound by the scheme could refuse to grow wheat. I beg the Government to treat this matter on a non-party basis. Surely, if the farmers themselves were asked to decide whether or not the 1945-46 crop should be included in the scheme political considerations would be excluded ! Who is introducing such considerations? Surely the Government is, by resisting all attempts to enable the growers, who own. the wheat and are entitled to the proceeds from the sale of it, to decide what procedure shall be followed.

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