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Thursday, 4 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) .- I move-

That the House of Representatives be requested to make sub-item (a), intermediate and genera], free.

Sub-item a is one of those curious innovations of- the Tariff of which we have several samples. So far as we have' heard, there are two reasons for imposing duties - one in order to protect our industries, and the other to bring revenue' to the Treasury. Neither of these reasons holds in the present case. There is no necessity for any protection, because the wheat industry can stand alone. Thewheatgrower, ' unlike other producers who have their sponsors in this Chamber,, and come to the Treasury for doles, can stand on his own feet, and not only supply the home market, but send his surplus overseas, and compete in the world's market. No revenue is received from this sub-item except in years of 'scarcity, and then it is so microscopic as to be not worth talking about. In the case of wheat, this is an exporting and not an importing country. During the five years from 1915-16 we have exported wheat annually to the value of from something like £7,000,000 to about £20,000,000.

Senator Russell - In 1914 we were importing.

Senator LYNCH - But we exportedmore than we imported.

Senator Russell - Notin 1914.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - This duty is only a camouflage.

Senator LYNCH - Yes, it is only a make-believe. No duty has been asked for by the wheat farmers, and the effects of the duty, from the Treasury point of view, are negligible.

Senator Russell - We imported from Argentine 3,170,000 bushels, in 1915-16 - the year following the drought-and a very poor sample it was!

Senator LYNCH - In 1915-16 we imported . £1,738,000 worth.

Senator Russell - Last year, but for the action of the States in buying wheat to cover them from Juneto December, we should have had to import. We had to stop exportation.

Senator LYNCH - This is a duty that is im.r>osed only when protection is not required, and it then means a tax, the result of which is hardship.

Senator Russell - I notice that large quantities of pork axe imported from New Zealand, and yet pigs, have been put on the free list.

The. CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap). - It is absolutely wrong to discuss the importation of pigs on the item of wheat.

Senator LYNCH - The plain position is that in normal years, which happily in the majority, we not only supply all cur own wheat requirements, but send substantial shipments overseas. In abnormal times, when we do not produce enough wheat, we import in order to meet our own necessities; and then the Treasurer, under these famine-stricken conditions, endeavours to exact from the consumers of this country an extra dole. In other words, the Treasurer imposes a tax on the food of the people, and this, in my opinion, almost amounts to an immoral form of taxation. As a representative of the wheat-growers, I wish to show other producers of Australia- that we can stand alone, without such doles as the Treasurer has been asked to hand out at the instance of honorable senators. The wheat-growers, on the poor soils of this country, and in places with' a comparatively small rainfall, do not desire to crawl on all-fours to the Treasury, as do some of the" agriculturists of Queensland. We have heard a good deal about black labour from the representatives of the northern States, just as though the wheatgrowers never experience such competition. The wheat-growers send their surplus to the overseas markets, and have there to compete with the products of the same black labour that Senator Crawford has been holding up as a bogy during the last week.

Senator Russell - We do not always have a surplus.

Senator LYNCH - What is the good of all this make-believe? During the last twenty-five years, excepting 1902 and in 1914, we have always had a surplus.

Senator Russell - We refused sales last year at 15s. because we had not the wheat to send away.

Senator LYNCH - What is the good of quibbling? The country produced the wheat and it is here. In 1902 and in 1914, when drought swept the continent, we did not produce enough 'wheat for our own people, and it was then proposed to levy a tax on the consuming public. I say again that this is a most immoral proposition, which, so far as I know, is not supported by any evidence of economy. The Senate should .not countenance such ' a thing, as taxing the food of the people at a time of stress and famine. I remind Senator Crawford, and those who support him in asking for high duties on the ground of black labour competition; that the Aus- tralian wheat-growers, not on j£20anacre soil, but on soil that is in the least favoured areas so far as rainfall is concerned, are able to hold their own in the markets 'of the world. They, do not come here with a lot of " tarradiddles,' and whine to Ministers to sustain them; they' are prepared, not only to .feed the Commonwealth, but to send their surplus abroad in the face of all the black labour competition. According to the Commonwealth Y ear-Book, the average price per quarter of Chili wheat on the London market is 30s.; Argentine, 31s. Id.; Bulgaria, 28s. 7d. ; Roumania, 31s. 2d. ; Russia, 30s. 9d. ; United States of America, 30s. 7d.; Canada, 30s. lOd. ; British' India, 28s. 7d. ; New Zealand, 29s. 7d.; and Australia, 31s. 4d. Thus Australia beats the lot, without any protection, and without a brass farthing of Treasury patronage. The Australian wheat-grower has to send his product to a market where it is jostled by the wheat grown by black labour in British India and in other countries I have mentioned; and, without, any protection, they are knocking the stuffing out of all competitors. The Australian wheat-grower has no need to crawl to the Minister, and debase .himself in a fashion not creditable to Australians; he does not seek protection on the ground of black labour competition, although the wheat is grown, not on expensive virgin soil, but on the poorest. There is no whining from the Australian wheat-growers, and I am proud to belong to a fraternity which does not come to the Government, cap in hand, as do the Queensland producers, but which is able and willing to 'meet the competition of labour - black, brown, and brindled.

Senator Russell - I heard the honorable senator move for a bonus and a guarantee.

Senator Crawford - Yes, a guarantee for ten years for the poor, unfortunate wheat-grower.

Senator LYNCH - The Minister is entirely wrong; the terms of my motion would not have involved the Government in the expenditure of a brass farthing. I asked for a .guarantee of 5s. per bushel on the understanding that when the parity value went above that, the Treasury should take the extra amount, and that when it went below it, the Treasury should pay the difference, but in no case would the Government be at a loss.

Senator de Largie - At that time the parity was nearer 10s.

Senator LYNCH - Yes. My - desire was to stabilize the industry, and to give heart and hope to the men who are working out in the arid wastes. Their position is very different from that of those who live on the Queensland littoral. They are on the frontiers of .civilization ; they depend upon themselves, and by their inherent energies forge their way in life instead of leaning on the Government, as some of the Queenslanders do. I speak on behalf of no small number. There are 235,000 agriculturists in this country, of whom 80 per cent., or about 200,000, are engaged in the arduous pursuit of wheat-growing. Theirs is not a spoonfed industry. To them the Government gives no doles. Their energies are something of which the nation may be proud. In a voice without tremor and without the suggestion of a whine, attention should be called to the fact that we produce wheat without help from the Government, and ask for no communal aid. That has been our stand in the past, and will be our attitude in the future. As for this padding of the Tariff with a duty of 2s. per cental on wheat, it is useless to us, and we decline it.

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