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Thursday, 4 August 1921

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I want to touch upon an aspect of the matter which has not yet been considered by the Committee. In my opinion, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) was very wise when last year he included this duty on wheat in the Tariff. It is the first time that wheat has been dutiable since 1908, and my references do not go back beyond that time. It will be remembered that this Parliament and Government have arranged, in connexion with, the Wheat Pool, that the remainder of the year's sales of wheat for home consumption shall average 9s. per bushel. Senator Russell will indorse what I say when I inform honorable senators that,

Senator de Largie - Where was there cheap wheat on the west coast of America?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Two or three months ago wheat went down almost to a dollar per bushel, at Chicago.

Senator de Largie - Chicago is not on the west coast of America.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Chicago is in the centre of the wheat districts of America, and wheat might have been brought from Chicago to the west coast of America and delivered here, assuming a cheap freight, at under 9s. per bushel, the price at which Australian wheat has to be sold to local consumers.

Senator Russell - Wheat certainly fell below 7s. at one time.

Senator Crawford - It got very nearly down to dollar wheat.

Senator JOHN D MILLEN (TASMANIA) - That was forward buying.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - I think that wheat was never below 7s. per bushel.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am satisfied that my information is fairly accurate. I went into the matter carefully some months ago, and wheat in Chicago, the centre of the wheat States, on the farms or in the railway trucks, went down to very nearly one dollar per bushel. My information is that if there had been no duty on wheat in our Tariff .Australian millers could then have imported wheat, and could have undersold flour made from Australian wheat at 9s. per bushel.

Senator de Largie - If the honorable senator went into the matter carefully, can he say what it would have cost to haul the wheat over the Rockies to Vancouver, or to any of the Californian ports, and then ship it to Australia ?

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The cost would not have been as much as the difference between dollar wheat and wheat at 9s. per bushel, which had to be paid, for it in Australia, given reasonably cheap freight across the Pacific for the American wheat. A price of 9s. per bushel was fixed for Australian wheat for local consumption, in order that, in the interests of Australian wheat-growers, a fair average might be maintained throughout the year as between the Australian price and the world's parity. It is true that the world's parity is now below 9s. per bushel, but it also went up to lis. and 12s. per bushel, and the Government very fairly tried to even up the position between wheat-growers and wheat consumers in Australia. I reiterate that, but for the duty of 2s. per bushel on wheat in our Tariff, it was quite possible that at one time wheat might be imported from America to Australia and sold here at a price below that fixed for our wheat for local consumption.

Senator Russell - Despite the collapse in the price of wheat for a couple of months in Europe, our overseas sales of wheat have averaged over 9s. per bushel.

Senator PRATTEN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I understand that the Wheat Board, very properly, suspended sales of Australian wheat during the temporary collapse in price referred to by the Minister. I hope that the Committee will pass this as a practical duty, and one which has been effective only so recently as within the last three or four months.

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