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Thursday, 4 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - I am rather pleased that Senator Lynch has submitted his request. This whiff of fresh air from the wheatfields of Western Australia was very much needed. The honorable senator was right in his statement that the people tilling the poorer lands in Australia are not whining for protection from the Government, and he was right also in his statement that this duty represents no protection to Australian wheat-growers. -I can give honorable senators the importations of wheat for some years past. In 1909, they amounted to 128 bushels ;. in 1910, '325 bushels; in 1911, 113 bushels; in 1912, 1,483 bushels; in 1913, 60 bushels; in 1914, 1,641,237 bushels.

Senator Russell - My' figures give a higher importation for that year.

Senator GARDINER - I have quoted from the figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician; but the discrepancy may be accounted for by a note to the figures which reads -

Customs duties on wheat were suspended from 12th December, 1914, tq 12th November, 15)13. and from 10th August, 1917, to 2oth March, 1920.

Senator Russell - That was when all the States were importing from Argentina.

Senator GARDINER - The point I wanted to make was that, on the only occasion when wheat would have been imported, and the wheat-grower might have gained an advantage from a Protective duty, the Government suspended the duty in the interests of the community as a whole.

Senator Earle - How could the wheatgrower be affected if he had no wheat to sell?

Senator GARDINER - There has been no occasion when there has not been some wheat to sell in some portion of Australia. Last year the Minister for Trade and Customs restricted the sale of the Western Australian wheat. Western Australia had a bumper crop, and could supply Victoria. Victoria, also, was in the fortunate position of having a good wheat crop in that season. In 1914-15, when wheat was being imported, the duty was suspended.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - And always will be in a bad season.

Senator GARDINER - Exactly. The same thing occurred from 10th August, 1917, to 25th March, 1920. - Senator Lynch was quite correct in saying that this duty is a mere pretence. Why throw dust in the eyes of the farmers by pretending to give an advantage when no real advantage exists? Senator Crawford took exception to the reference to Queenslanders, who are profitably farming rich lands, whining for more assistance from the Government. It is interesting to note that the averag'e value of the wheat crop for the past nine seasons was £1 6s. 3d. per acre. It reached its highest point in 19J5-16, when it was £3 4s. 7d. per acre. In 1916-17 it was £2 10s. 10d., and in 1917-18 £2 15s. 8d. The wheat farmers are not asking for Government aid, but men cultivating banana lands worth hundreds of pounds per acre have asked for the imposition of enormous duties. ' Whining " is a good word to apply to those senators who, .having in their own State the richest lands in Australia, ask that the people toiling on the poorer lands shall be compelled to pay higher prices for the produce of those rich lands. I- find that for the ten seasons, 1908-18, the average yield of wheat per acre was 11.37 bushels. It is pleasing indeed to have two representatives of the wheat growers in the persons of Senators Lynch and Guthrie pointing out that this duty is only a sham. I hope that the Senate will discard it altogether, and not wait till there is a chance of wheat being imported, and then ask for its repeal in order to prevent ' the farmers getting a higher price for their product.

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