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Thursday, 4 June 1970


Mr HUNT - I will proceed to show how shallow the arguments of Opposition members have been right throughout the crisis within the wheat industry. We have the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) coming in here on numerous occasions to cry all sorts of sad songs and stories about the wheat industry, but never once putting forward a constructive suggestion. He usually advances a policy which is diametrically opposed to that of the Opposition's shadow Minister for Primary Industry. I am starting to wonder, as I am sure all honourable members arc. v. ho is the spokesman for the Opposition. The Opposition has 4 wheal policies and 3 wool policies. I am sure that before it is finished it will have a lot more.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Scholes)Order!A few moments ago I asked the House to hear the honourable member iii silence. There are still too many interjections. If the House does not come to order I will have to lake some action.

Mr Duthie - I rise to a point of order: Would you direct the honourable member for Gwydir to address the Chair and leave us alone?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - All remarks will be made through the Chair. I was not aware that the honourable member was not making his remarks through the Chair.

Mr HUNT - I will of course direct my remarks to the Chair. The honourable member for Riverina claimed that the Federal Government had forced the question of the delivery quota system on the wheat industry. I submit this is another wild, reckless, shameful and irresponsible statement. I refer the House to what Mr L. V. Price, who is Senior Vice-President of the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, had to say on i his question on 2nd July 1969.

Mr King - He is now the President.

Mr HUNT - The honourable member for Wimmera rightly notes that he is now the President. This is what he said:

I would strongly refute that there has been any political pressure exerted on the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, whether before the implementation of, quotas or since their introduction. Should any politician or political puny endeavour to m:,ke adverse capital out of the introduction of wheal quotas, they will be responsible for the greatest disservice ever to the wheal industry of Australia.

I ask honourable members to pause and consider that statement by a very responsible leader of the wheat industry in Australia. We saw the spectacle today of the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) being called upon to speak on the problems of the wheat industry. We heard the honourable member for Dawson, the honourable member for Riverina, and then into the fight came this great old warrior smelling blood, looking for some political capital, and saying nothing. The closest he has ever been to wheat was when he was born at Currabubula. He is a great old warrior but he knows nothing about wheat; he certainty knows more about aircraft noise. He knows how to win his .seat by playing this up. But why does he not leave the question of wheat to those who know something about the very real problems of the wheat industry? It comes to a poor pass when we have to listen to such drivel from honourable members who represent metropolitan seats and who probably do not eat bread. But the truth of the matter is that we have a serious problem in the wheat industry because of world over-production. We know that there is a very serious economic situation in the rural sector. We know that it is in poor shape because of low world prices for wool and other products, because of world overproduction and market problems, because of drought and because of the rural indebtedness that has occurred as a result of these factors. We know that the Minister is working day and night to try to overcome the problems and to try to ease the pressures on the farmers throughout Australia.

Because of the difficulties in the rural sector we have seen this mad scramble by the Australian Labor Party to get on the band wagon. 1 will take honourable members back to 1968 when we had the debate on the wheat stabilisation scheme. Opposition members did not smell blood at that time, and only one honourable member from the Opposition side spoke on it, and that was the honourable member for Dawson. Of course, when they saw that there was some political capita] to bc made out of this situation, in they came. Suddenly they realised that the farmers were in trouble and. like the bie bad wolf in the Little Red Riding Hood fable, they attempted to woo the farmers. Let me warn the farmers of this country that if the Opposition is elected to power and it implements the 1 vote 1 value policy, as was announced by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam), we will see the elimination of at least 2 wheat seats in this country, thereby reducing the voice of the fanner further and putting him further into the wilderness. There is all the evidence in the world to prove that the policy of the Australian Labor Party is to cut the throat of the rural voter.

Mr Dobie - They cannot deny that.

Mr HUNT - They cannot deny it. I have the evidence here. Now I would like to address my remarks to the Bill. It complements legislative action taken by the State governments to implement a quota scheme for wheat deliveries and to give discretionary authority to the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat in Australia for purposes other than human consumption at prices lower than the price for human consumption. This Bill also will enable the Wheat Board to sell weather affected wheat, off-grade wheat, for stock feed at appropriate prices for this purpose. Owing to adverse seasonal conditions over a wide area of New South Wales during the recent harvest an enormous quantity of wheat was rain damaged It had to be classified as offgrade wheat unfit for millable purposes. Obviously wheat of this quality is better out of the Grain Elevators Board system. This Bill will enable that wheat to flow into the stock feed area at appropriate prices.

This Bill amending the 1968 Wheat Stabilisation Act demonstrates once again the degree to which the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government are prepared to work with the Australian wheat industry to help it through a difficult time. In the 1968 Act provision was made for the fifth 5-year stabilisation plan for the wheat industry. In the first year of the current plan production exceeded 540 million bushels, resulting in the delivery of a record 515 million bushels to the Australian Wheat Board. This occurred concurrently with world over-production and shrinking world trade. We saw a huge build-up of stocks in Australia - indeed, in most wheat producing countries - and a rapid decline from the record world trade levels for wheat during 1965-66. This caused enormous storage and marketing problems for the Australian wheat industry. I do not think there is any rural industry in Australia better organised than the wheat industry to cope with such problems. Industry leaders were quick to realise the seriousness of the situation. They acted in a most responsible manner to devise what is now known as the delivery quota system to help lower production levels and at the same time take into account the very real problems of the small farmer.

In 1968 the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act provided for a guaranteed return to growers of at least S2,000m over 5 years. This is S400m more than the guarantee given under the previous plan. The 1968 Act guaranteed a price of approximately Si. 45 p?r bushel for exports totalling 200 million bushels. That guarantee means that for every lc fall in the world market the cost to the Australian Government, and therefore the taxpayer, is an extra SI Om over the 5-year period. Nobody can deny that the Government has not attempted to do its best to tide this industry over a difficult period.

The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) went overseas to negotiate the International Grains Arrangement as part of the Kennedy Round discussions. If we had not had the Minister's foresight and shrewd assessment of the situation we would have seen great chaos on the international scene. Since 1967 there has been a reduction in world wheat prices but they fell in an orderly way. After the discussions had taken place in Washington, a committee was set up to ensure that prices were cut in order to compete with non-member wheat producing countries. That action helped create price stability on the world markets despite the enormous carry-over of stocks. Had we not had this factor operating in the world wheat trade and had we not had the wheat stabilisation scheme we would have seen absolute disaster facing Australian wheat growers.

Mr Duthie - You can thank the Labor Party for that. Why do you not be fair?

Mr HUNT - If the honourable member for Wilmot says that the Labor Party did it, very well. Good luck to it. I am sure that had we not had the stabilisation scheme wheat prices would have collapsed. There would have been disastrously low prices in this country. Australia has been in the forefront in trying to bring about the orderly marketing of wheat and other primary products on the world scene. Against this background the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation made a most responsible move to meet the situation by devising a delivery quota plan based on a first payment of SI. 10 per bushel. The Commonwealth Government announced its support for this proposal after it had been assured by the

Federation that all State grower organisations agreed to it. The State government accepted the responsibility of implementing the scheme. Once again the Minister for Primary Industry had the most important job of calling together the Australian Agricultural Council and getting its cooperation. At recent meetings in November and January the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation reaffirmed its support of the quota system and rejected the suggestion that an advance should be paid on overquota wheat. The Federation feared that unless this was done the stabilisation plan as we know it could be completely wrecked.

This is the answer to the suggestions made by the would-be spokesman of the Australian Labor Party, the knockers, the political opportunists, who have tried to capitalise on the difficult situation in the wheat industry. I refer to people who make such wild statements as that there has been a black market trade involving 50 million bushels of wheat when in fact the home consumption never has exceeded much more than 68 million bushels. What a shocking statement.

Mr Giles - Who said that?

Mr HUNT - The honourable member for Riverina. Where is he now? Throughout this crisis the Government has stretched every muscle to help the wheat industry. It has done so since the devaluation compensation in 1966. [Quorum formed]

This of course is a means to try to stop me from getting the true message across to the wheat growers of this country, and it is typical of the almost dreadful tactics of the Opposition to try to cloud the issue confronting the great wheat industry of Australia. Let me finish. I want to finish on this note. Where is the honourable member for Riverina now? He is not here. Throughout this crisis the Government has stretched every muscle to help the wheat industry. It acted to help the industry when sterling was devalued in 1966 by providing compensation; it introduced the new 5-year stabilisation agreement in 1968 and it made the SI. 10 per bushel first payment for the record 514 million bushel crop in 1968-69. Then there were the agreement for the delivery quota scheme and the financial guarantee by the Commonwealth, the S7.7m, so far, for research, the 50% increase in the bounty for superphosphate, the negotiations for additional funds to store over-quota wheat this season and the recent announcement that the full cost of permanent and temporary on-farm storage for over-quota wheat would be an eligible taxation deduction in the year of expenditure.

We cannot, as 1 said earlier, look back on the problem on our farms in isolation from the problem which exists throughout the world. In 1965-66 we saw the world trade in wheat rise to 62.5 million tons, and yet in 1968-69 it had fallen to 47 million tons. This is due to several factors, the first being that the Soviet Union was a big importer in the mid 1960s but today is an exporter. Pakistan, once an importer, is now an exporter. As the honourable member for Warringah so rightly said today, we have seen the green revolution in South East Asia. New high yielding wheat varieties are spreading throughout South East Asia and Asia. Only 200 acres were being sown in 1964-65 but today it is 20 million acres. It has been against this background that we have seen a very responsible stance taken by the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation, with the Minister for Primary Industry and the Government straining every sinew and muscle to try to help the industry lo meet the situation. 1 believe this Bill is further proof of the Government's desire to work with the industry for the common good for the small and traditional wheat growers. Some do not like quotas. We have heard al] this talk from the Opposition. What is the alternative? Chaos, ls that what the Opposition wants in the wheat industry? I leave that question with it.

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