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Thursday, 23 March 1961

Mr TURNBULL (Mallee) .- I am delighted to take part in this debate, the subject-matter of which, according to the proposal before us, is the great harm being done to Australian primary producers by the Government's policy of credit restriction, its failure to halt inflation, and its failure to protect the wool-growers against market manipulation. First let me say that the Labour Party has been asking for a long time that some action be taken to bring prices down. This Government's credit squeeze is designed to do that, and the Labour Party objects to it. These credit restrictions are designed to halt inflation, and they are having that effect; but the Labour Party objects.

I wish to deal with that part of the proposal which relates to the Government's alleged failure to protect wool-growers against marketing manipulation. I was amazed to hear both the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) making such allegations, because they were supporters of a Labour government which was responsible for one of the greatest pieces of market manipulation we have ever known in this country. Using its war-time powers after the war was over, the then Labour government introduced into the Victorian stock markets the onebid auction system. So that honorable members might understand what that means, let me explain that the Government appointed certain men to go through the pens of sheep and lambs and fix a certain price for them. When the auctioneer was selling he had to knock down those sheep andlambs immediately the bid reached the prices fixed by those government officers, irrespective of what the stock were worth at open auction. It was a one-bid auction system, a ceiling auction system. There was no minimum price fixed; the figure set by the government officers was the maximum and the auctioneer had to knock down the stock at that figure. The then honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) said, when speaking of the Government's action -

If the graziers are wise, they will send their stock to the market and accept what is a reasonable price.

A price fixed by a Labour government! Because the graziers and fatteners refused to send their stock to market under those conditions, Mr. Clark said -

The action of the graziers is unpatriotic. Indeed, their patriotism is conditioned by their anxiety to make profit.

Let me remind members of the Labour Party, too, of what happened when Mr.

McLennan, president of the Newmarket Producers Association, a man whom Mr. Scully, the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, described as an estimable gentleman, with a deputation on this subject visited Mr. Scully at Parliament House, Canberra. When Mr. Scully had to leave the meeting to keep another appointment, his successor as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the present honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), insulted Mr. McLennan, who had come to Canberra to plead for the producers. And to-day the honorable member for Lalor has the audacity to speak about practices which he says are having the effect of preventing people from bidding at auctions! Could anything be more absurd?

Mr Pollard - I insulted him all right.

Mr TURNBULL - The honorable member admits he insulted Mr. McLennan. Again, we have Labour's action in restricting the harvesting of wheat. The farmers were not allowed to strip any more than their quota, and when one producer asked for permission to strip for pig-feed the excess over his allotment of 400 acres for pig-feed, the then Labour Government replied -

The regulations will not permit of your harvesting the excess area and retaining the proceeds for pig-feed.

And this former Minister in a Labour government to-day complains of market manipulation.

I point out to him that the New South Wales Government passed legislation declaring wool sale splitting of lots illegal, but that measure has not yet been proclaimed. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) is concerned only about Liverpool Plains, and that is because at the moment an election is pending in that area. He mentioned the honorable member for Calare, and he will always remember the honorable member for Calare for his success in routing the Labour candidate during the recent by-election in that electorate. The Country Party candidate in Liverpool Plains should have equal success in defeating the Labour candidate there, also.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr TURNBULL - Before the suspension of the sitting, I had dealt with parts of the proposal of the honorable member for Lalor which refers to the Government's policy of credit restriction, its failure to solve the problem of inflation and its failure to protect the wool-growers against market manipulation. I had said that members of the Australian Labour Party were better manipulators than the most capable magician in the world, and I had proved that assertion up to the hilt. I had commenced to say that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had asserted that primary producers could get only enough money to carry on. He nods agreement that he made that comment. In answer to a question regarding money for primary producers, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said -

However, in terms of the directive and even in the light of the current banking situation, funds should be available to assist primary producers in their normal farming operations.

That rs exactly the same in meaning as the comment made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I have asked people in my electorate whether there are any primary producers who cannot get enough money to carry on. I do not mean money that would put them up to their necks in debt to the banks or money to buy land, but money to carry on with their normal production. I have not yet found any one in this position. I have told my constituents that if they bring to my notice any such instances I will take them to the Treasurer or raise them in the House if they are reasonable. I have said that publicly and privately throughout the Mallee electorate and now that this debate is being broadcast, I say it to Australia. The honorable member for Macquarie said that he had a very urgent case to mention. This turned out to concern a man in his electorate who wanted money to build a house. The case may have been good, bad or indifferent, but it had nothing to do with primary production.

Let me settle once and for all this matter of the trade agreement with Japan. What happened about that agreement? It is all recorded rn " Hansard ". On 27th August, 1957, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) brought the agreement to the House and two days later the then Leader of the Opposition moved that the following words be added to the motion for the printing of the paper: - and this House expresses its disapproval of the Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan.

He was supported by every Opposition member in the House at the time. Let me put on record that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said -

This agreement constitutes the greatest betrayal of Australian interests that has been perpetrated by this anti-Australian Government in all its long, sorry history.

We are buying from Japan goods worth approximately £48,000,000 a year and Japan is buying from us goods worth £135,000,000. Japan is our main customer for wool. But the Labour Party condemns it. We cannot have it both ways. The honorable member for Lalor may say that he was overseas and did not vote against the agreement, but would he have voted for his leader's amendment if he had been here. If he had not supported his leader, he would soon have been out of the House permanently.

Let me sum up in the short time available to me. It must be clear to every one that the primary producer cannot continue to produce and export to the markets of the world and at the same time buy all the goods he needs in our present high-cost economy. Therefore, the Government has introduced these restrictions in an effort to produce some favorable balance between the primary industries and the secondary industries so that we will have employment in the future and so that Australia's economy will be strong. This policy has the support of honorable members on this side of the House because those who will benefit most from it are those who provide Australia's greatest wealth and the main items in our national wealth, the primary producers.

I have spoken in favour of the Government's present policy because, after all, if the primary producer goes to the wall, there will be unemployment as we will not be able to import the raw materials needed by our secondary industries. Chaos will prevail. Even though there may be some financial restriction, the manufacturers in the cities, including motor firms, surely can stand it without sacking employees. When people can obtain bigger dividends for their money than the same amount invested in primary industry, then it is high time that some financial restriction was imposed.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order!The honorable member's time has expired.

Motion (by Mr. Adermann) agreed to -

That the business of the day be called on.

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