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Tuesday, 23 July 1946

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) .- Sub-clause 1 of clause 4 reads as follows : -

A charge is imposed and shall be levied and paid - («)' on all wheat harvested on or after the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and fortyfive ....

I emphasize- the year 1945. This is the 23rd. day of July, 1946, and we are now considering imposing a levy " on wheat harvested on and after the 1st October, 1945, almost ten months ago. That wheat was probably sown in May and June, 1945, thirteen or. fourteen months ago. When the facts are stated in this manner it becomes obvious that this levy constitutes a retrospective tax on the wheatgrower. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) expressed the optimistic view that the Minister might accept his amendment and exclude, the 1945-46 harvest from the provisions of the bill. The honorable member is indeed an optimist because, if his amendment were accepted it would mean that the Minister would have to drop about £7,000,000 of " loot " which he proposes to take from the wheat-growers in order to initiate this so-called stabilization scheme. It is apparent that the scheme is to be financed initially not by the Government placing a sum of money to the credit of the fund to be drawn upon in case of necessity, but by a tax on the wheat farmers of Australia amounting to no less than £7,000,000 in respect of the 1945-46 harvest. It is evident indeed that the Opposition is fighting a forlorn battle; the numbers are against it and the Government will have its way. Whilst honorable members opposite who are supposed to represent wheat-growing electorates should be willing to range themselves alongside the Opposition in its attempts to exclude the 1945-46 harvest from the provisions of the bill they are strangely silent. The honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) read a letter from a constituent who would be very generous with the wheat-grower's money. The writer was prepared to sell to the under-nourished people of Great Britain wheat at lower than world-market prices. ' He said that if we did otherwise we would be guilty of exploiting the straits in which the people of Great Britain were placed. Whilst 10s. 4d. a bushel might be considered a high price by comparison with the price that prevailed over the last few years, I agree with the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) that if generosity is to be shown to the people of any country the cost of that generosity should be borne by the whole of the community and not by one section whose product is required by them. The support of the honorable gentleman for such a proposal is to say the least of it extraordinary.

Mr Breen - That is a wrong deduction to make from my remarks.

Mr ANTHONY - It is the only deduction. 1 am able to make. We realize that all our efforts on behalf of the wheat-growers will be fruitless because we have not the numbers to prevent the Government having its way; nevertheless., we shall not be prevented from objecting to this proposal with all the vigour we can command.

Mr Scully - It obviously does not prevent the honorable member from stone-walling the bill.

Mr ANTHONY - We are prepared to light against a principle which we believe to be wrong, whether applied to the wheat industry or any other industry. What would the Minister say if honorable members in Opposition suggested that the wages of workers should be subjected to a tax having a retrospective effect over the last twelve months? However, because the wheatgrowers represent only -a small body of approximately 60,000 individuals the Government believes that they will stand for anything. It has been suggested that the issue should be determined by a ballot We know that the holding, of ;i ballot is the last thing the Minister desires to do.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAX.The holding of a ballot is not involved in the clause.

Mr ANTHONY - The amendment moved by the honorable member for Wimmera was that the clause be postponed as an instruction to the Government to exclude the 1945-46 crop. [ consider, that I am in order in giving reasons why a ballot should be held.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - The Chair will determine whether or not the honorable member is in order.

Mr ANTHONY - Reasons must be. given otherwise there would be no substance in the claim that the clause should be postponed.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair has already ruled that the holding of a ballot is not involved in the clause.

Mr ANTHONY - How may I advance reasons for the postponement of the clause if I am not permitted to proceed ?

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Chair will decide what are the limits of debate permitted in the discussion of the clause.

Mr ANTHONY - It is obviously futile to attempt to move the Government in this matter. In raising their voices against this iniquity honorable members on this side of the committee are apparently only beating the air. However, a poll of a different character will shortly be held and this iniquity will rapidly be removed.

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