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Thursday, 16 May 1957


Mr FAIRBAIRN (Farrer) .- I am one of the many members who join the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) in congratulating the Minister for Primary

Industry (Mr. McMahon) upon bringing in this measure. Because I know that many other members wish to speak, I will not take up a great deal of time, but I do wish to say that the wheat industry is entering a new era. I think the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is rather inclined to underrate the necessity for wheat research. He was inclined to say that Australian wheat is an excellent wheat. Well, it may be, but we know that by comparison with some other wheats it is not as good as it should be. Surely that is one reason why the growers believe that it is necessary to put a tax on themselves in order to encourage research to improve the quality of that wheat.

Recently I was looking at a list issued in the United Kingdom of wheats entering that country. I noticed that a Canadian wheat, No. 1 Northern Manitoba, the Canadian hard wheat, was shown as having a protein content of 12.48 per cent. At the same time, the Australian f.a.q. wheat on the same list was shown to have a protein content of 9.63 per cent. In other words, that is a difference of nearly 3 per cent, in the protein content between the Canadian wheat and the Australian wheat. I would not have thought there were many people to-day who did not realize that the greatest necessity in Australian wheat-growing is to increase the protein content or the quality of Australian wheat.

The Minister has certainly recognized it, because in his second-reading speech he said -

The need to improve the quality of our wheat crop is being more widely recognized, and the spur to analysis of the problems involved in doing this can be provided by making more money available for research.

Later the Minister said -

Recent experience in overseas markets indicates clearly that we have prospects of selling more wheat if we can produce a quality higher than our present f.a.q. There is little doubt our market outlook would be greatly improved if we were producing more hard medium-hard high quality wheat.

One could go on and quote one person after another. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) on Tuesday, in answer to a question by my colleague, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Ian Allan), mentioned that there is no doubt that given a higher quality of Australian wheat we would be able to make better sales. Recent sales in Japan have indicated that the Japanese require at least 1 1 per cent, protein content before they will be prepared to purchase our wheat. A higher quality wheat has become more necessary because the markets of the world are being flooded by wheat which is being dumped from the United States. For that reason also we must improve our quality so that we can compete with this subsidized home-grown wheat which is being dumped on to other markets.

How can we encourage the growth of more hard wheat by farmers? First of all, can we grow hard wheat in Australia? The answer is that we can. In the electorate of the honorable member for Gwydir, and in the south of Queensland, we grow an excellent quality wheat. In fact, some 4,000,000 bushels annually is purchased by millers at a considerable premium because they know that from that wheat they can make more loaves of bread. But not only in those areas can we grow better wheat. We have shown from tests that high-quality wheat can be grown throughout Australia. Recently, tests were carried out at Temora. That is not regarded as a high-quality wheat area, but a selection of six different types of reasonably hard wheats, grown under proper conditions in soil which had been improved by clover leys, produced wheat with a protein content of more than 13.5 per cent. One variety, Pusa 4, contained up to 15.8 per cent. There was a recent test of 321 different samples in Western Australia, and the average protein content was 12.69 per cent. The interesting thing about those 321 different varieties was that they were only selected because the farmers thought they were of high protein content. They thought that because they knew that the wheat had been grown on good land which had been growing clover for a considerable time and so had had its nitrogen content built up. They selected a hard-quality wheat, of which there are a number of varieties already available in Australia. So we can say we are growing any amount of hard-quality wheat in Australia. But we are growing a lot more which is just being lumped in with f.a.q. wheat, and for which, if we had a method of segregating it from f.a.q., we could get a higher price on the world market.

Why is hot more being grown? The obvious answer is that the farmer is paid exactly the same price whether he grows wheat of 8 per cent, protein content or 16 per cent, protein content - apart from the very small quantity of premium wheat which is grown in the north of New South Wales and southern Queensland and which I mentioned earlier. So, obviously, a farmer will grow the wheat that fills the bags and the wheat which is filling the bags is not the wheat which has the high protein content. There are two ways of getting things, done. Let us take the oft-quoted illustration of the donkey. To move him, you can hit him with a stick, light a fire under him, or dangle a carrot in front of his nose. The same may be- said of wheatgrowing. We can "tell the wheat-growers that they must grow high-protein wheat and that in order to make them do that, we are going to limit the number of varieties they may grow. We can tell them that they can only grow Gabo, Pusa, Javelin, or whatever the different varieties are. I do not agree with that and I do not think it will achieve results. There is no doubt that by eliminating wheats such as Bencubbin we would improve the quality of Australian, wheat. It is interesting to know that even Gabo, which is probably the hardest wheat grown in Australia, has recorded protein qualities from 8.15 per cent, to 15.58 per cent, in the one year and in the one State, showing that not only the type of wheat grown, but also the quality of the soil and the disposition of the rainfall affect, the protein content. So, by limiting farmers to certain wheats we are not going to increase the protein, content of Australian wheat very appreciably. The other way,, obviously, is what I would call the, carrot method,, and that, is to pay a pre.mium for the stronger wheat.. Applying the same principle to wool', how many people would grow 70's or superfine qualify wool' if they were paid the same amount as for- 56's?' Obviously every one would produce the 56's.

We are up against a problem in wheat. In wool any one who has had reasonable experience of: classing can look at a fleece and immediately say correctly that it is 56's, 64's-, or something else. On the other, hand, up to now, test in a chemical labora tory has been necessary to determine the protein content of a wheat. That test takes some considerable time. In other words, you cannot run your truck into the siding, take a sample, and decide how you are going to grade it. Luckily there is every indication that it will be possible shortly to conduct a test on wheat which will determine within two minutes its protein content. I refer to the test which the Minister mentioned to-night by way Of interjection. The test is known as the Zeleny process, which has been developed m Germany and has been taken up here by Dr. Sutton, one' of our experts in Western Australia on wheat. The process is now being examined by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. If it proves successful, we will completely revolutionize the system under which Australian wheat is graded.. Even under the present setup Dr. Sutton believes it would be possible to segregate wheat quickly into the three qualities in which it is segregated to-day, namely premium, f.a.q., and below f.a.q. It is a slow and difficult process at present, but if the Zeleny process proves successful, we will be able in a very short time to grade wheat the moment it comes into the silo, and of course, the corollary of grading is that the wheatgrower is paid more if he produces a higher quality wheat. A quick grading method' would enable the flour-millers to purchase the wheat that they require.

We in- Australia' have great opportunities'. We are the only large exporter of wheat in the sterling area, and, if we can produce the kind of wheat that is required, many countries will buy from us instead of spending valuable dollars in buying hard wheat that they can get at present only from Canada and the United States", of America.We have already received inquiries from New Zealand-, Japan, and South- Africa1, and I am sure that countries in the Far East also will show interest. Although' we have great opportunities, we have a constitutional difficulty that presents a hurdle. Although the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon)- has been able to introduce this excellent measure to provide for. a- levy on wheat, it is not possible for him. to control the handling- arrangements in each State, because every State is responsible for the grading and Handling of the wheat produced within its boundaries. Therefore, I should like to see some of the Commonwealth funds devoted to the financing of an Australian committee, which should be given the major task of recommending ways in which wheat may be graded or segregated. I can think of no man better fitted to serve as chairman of that committee than Dr. Sutton, who, for years, has advocated segregation of wheat, and has shown how it could be achieved, even under the present arrangements.

As I have said, I do not want to speak at great length, because I know that many other honorable members wish to address the House. However, I should like to congratulate the Minister on the introduction of this bill, which is one of the greatest forward steps for the benefit of the wheat industry that has been taken in a decade.







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