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Tuesday, 23 July 1946

Mr ROSEVEAR (Dalley) .- During this discussion, I have heard hon-. orable members opposite threaten to submit amendments, although they knew that those amendments would not be in order.

The amendment which is in order is that which proposes to postpone the operation of this clause. We should examine the clause for the purpose of determining whether there will be an expropriation or robbery which honorable gentlemen opposite have mentioned. The essence of the clause is that there shall be deducted from the proceeds of the sale overseas of all wheat including the 1945-46 crop, the amount in excess of 5s. 2d. a bushel. Onehalf of that excess will be paid immediately into the pool for distribution, and the other half will be retained for the purpose of stabilizing the wheat-growing industry for the next five years. If, at any time, the price of wheat should fall calamitously as it has in the past, the money which is retained for stabilization purposes will be paid to the farmers to guarantee that the fixed price will be maintained. Therefore, it is obvious that all this talk about robbery is so much political " eye-wash ". The only money that the farmers of Australia will lose will be the cost of administration by the board. That will be a charge against the accumulated funds of the wheat pool. As the farmer will have returned to him everything that was taken from him, how can- there be any robbery or expropriation. It is all very well for the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to "throw his weight about" as a legal man, but he knows as well as I do that my analysis of the position is correct.

Mr Spender - I do not.

Mr ROSEVEAR - Honorable members opposite assert that the Government's proposal is wrong, and that before this scheme is introduced, the farmers should be invited, by ballot, to express their opinion regarding it. I ask: What will become of the minority of wheatgrowers who would be opposed to the scheme ?

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - We have discussed that.

Mr ROSEVEAR - If the Govern ment's legislative proposal will result in robbery and expropriation, will it not be robbery, through a referendum-

Mr Spender - I rise to order.Is it competent for the honorable member for Dalley to discuss a proposition which we debated on clause 2? The Chair ruled that honorable members on this side of the chamber were not in order in discussing the taking of a ballot of wheatgrowers.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr Barnard - The Chair has allowed members of the Opposition to make passing reference to the subject, and, in the circumstances, will permit members on the Government side to do so.

Mr Anthony - I rise to order. When I made a passing reference to this matter, the Chair ruled that my remarks were out of order, and refused me permission to proceed. Therefore, I submit that the Chair should not allow the honorable member for Dalley to proceed on similar lines.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The Chair is not prepared to have its ruling canvassed.

Mr ROSEVEAR - After those two interruptions, I shall discuss the questions of robbery and sanctity of private property, about which the honorable- member for Warringah spoke at length. If his argument about the sanctity of private property and. the property rights of growers in their crops is valid, the position will not be altered by the fact that a majority of wheat-growers are in favour of the stabilization scheme. If the stabilization of an industry by legislation is wrong, its stabilization by a majority vote of the producers is equally wrong; The minority, in such circumstances, will still retain their rights to their property.

It is true that, at present, high prices are ruling overseas for wheat. The people of Great Britain, we are told, are underfed. They need wheat and,' like Shylock, we are extracting the last drop of blood from them by charging them 10s. 2d. a bushel.

Mr McEwen - The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture fixed that price.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN Order! The honorable member for Indi has already spoken on several occasions, and should not interrupt.

Mr ROSEVEAR - We are squabbling to-night over the difference between 5s. 2d. a bushel that Australians will pav for their wheat, and 10s. 2d. a bushel which we are extracting from the undernourished people of Great Britain.

Mr Bowden - What is the Government doing about it?

Mr ROSEVEAR - Let us face the position honestly.' The fact that honorable members opposite are so anxious to exclude the 1945-46 crop from this scheme is the clearest indication that they have no faith in the future of wheat prices throughout the world.

Mr McEwen - Nonsense!

Mr ROSEVEAR - Let us examine the position to see whether my statement is nonsense. If the honorable member for Indi has faith in the continuance of the high prices' ruling overseas, it does not matter whether the Government commences the stabilization scheme this year or next year. If the scheme were postponed until next year, the Opposition would still raise the same bogy about robbing the wheat-farmers.

Mr McEwen - That is nonsense, too.

Mr ROSEVEAR - The honorable member for Indi, like a greedy kid, wants all the toys and a big doll, too. He wants the people of Australia, through the Commonwealth Government, to guarantee for five years - I heard him advocate even a period of ten years - the price of 5s. 2d. a bushel, and allow farmers, on the 1945-46 crop, the full benefit of the high prices ruling overseas. Such things ought to work both ways. I believe that the success of a scheme can best be assured by starting it in a year when prices are high. A scheme could not prove successful if it were begun after there had been a calamitous collapse of world prices. There must be that " nestegg" of a successful crop at the beginning. As we proceed, if existing prices overseas be maintained, and 'year after year the excess be applied, one-half to the pool and one-half to the stabilization of the price, at the end of the scheme all of those whose wheat had been included in it will share in the distribution of the excess amount.

Mr Bowden - The Minister will not admit that.

Mr ROSEVEAR - The Minister has said so throughout.

Mr Bowden - He has not said so once.

Mr Scully - Of course I have.Mr. ROSEVEAR.- If, subsequently, the scheme proved successful, it could be a continuing scheme. The equity of the farmer in his wheat will not be destroyed by the excess being withheld from him, one-half of it being placed in. the pool and distributed, and the remainder being used to guarantee a' price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for a period of five years. It. is purely humbug and hypocrisy to talk about expropriation, and robbing the farmer, when we know that the only portion of the money collected by the Australian Wheat Board, whether in Australia or overseas, which the farmer will lose, will be the cost of administration of the scheme. The proposal to postpone the scheme is merely an attempt to defeat the objective of stabilizing the wheat industry. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) has joined in the chorus of voices demanding postponement. That has. been the tragedy of the wheat industry.

Sir Earle Page - I secured the legislative enactment of a scheme, and it was sabotaged by the present Minister.

Mr ROSEVEAR - Year after year, for fifteen years; while the right honorable gentleman was Minister for Commerce, this problem arose, and he was never game to face the issue.

Sir Earle Page - This is a replica of my scheme.

Mr ROSEVEAR - The right honorable gentleman did not on any occasion attempt to bring down a real- stabilization scheme. His policy was that of patching and mending year after year, with a levy here and a levy there, in one year excluding from the benefits of the legislation those farmers whose income tax reached a certain level, and in another year embracing all of them when the Government was dependent upon the Australian Country party for its existence. The right honorable gentleman now wants to continue to patch. Is that the sort of administration we can expect from him - waiting all .the time to see what will happen?

Sir Earle Page - What rubbish!

Mr ROSEVEAR - With a knowledge of the disastrous consequences of the legislation that was passed during the years when he was Minister for Commerce

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! " The honorable member for Dalley is getting a long way from the clause. - Mr. ROSEVEAR.- I have said enough to prove conclusively that all this talk about expropriation and robbery is bo much " eye-wash ". Believe me, the wheat-growers are a " wake-up " to all that they have been hearing for years. They are in favour of this scheme. But the people who stand behind and finance the Australian Country party want the scheme to fail so that they can continue to exploit the farmers and obtain for themselves the advantage of overseas prices.

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