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Thursday, 4 August 1921

Senator GARDINER (New South Wales) . - The statement just made by the Minister (Senator Russell) calls for a reply. When a self-satisfied Minis ster contends that he has done a good thing for the farmers, it is well, to remind him that there is no justification for his statement. This Government has not handled the farmers' wheat in a satisfactory way. They sold it for 4s. 9d. per bushel at a time when the British Government was guaranteeing 9s. 6d. per bushel, or the highest market value.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - And; the Victorian farmers are begging the Government at the present moment to handle their wheat for them.

Senator GARDINER - If they are prepared to overlook the mistakes of the past that is no concern of mine, but when a self-satisfied Minister, after mishandling the farmers' wheat, claims that he has done well for them, it is necessary to reply to him.

Senator Cox - How would the honorable senator handle the farmers' wheat?

Senator GARDINER - I was a member of the first Government to form a Wheat Pool. Not 'only did the present Government sell the farmers' wheat, at 4s. 9d. a bushel when the British Government were guaranteeing 9s. 6d. a bushel, but they raised the freight on wheatcarried in Commonwealth ships from 14s. per ton in 1914 to £7 10s. per ton. This meant an increase from 6½d. and 10½d. per bushel, as before the war, to 4s. 2d. per bushel; and why? It was in order that the farmers might not see that the freight was being increased so as to bring the wheat sold in Britain in line with the world's parity.

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - You are insinuating that there was a shortage of tonnage.

Senator GARDINER - I do not insinuate anything of the kind, but there was no reason why, in respect of our own ships, the freight should have been increased to such an extent. It was simply a means of making the farmers pay in four years the cost of those ships, while the rest of the community went scot-free.

Senator Russell - Cornsacks were brought at 80s. on our own line when other boats were charging £15. We never at any time charged the farmers the full ocean rate.

Senator GARDINER - Nevertheless, the farmers' wheat paid for the Commonwealth ships in four years, and that at a time when the ' farmers were " up "against it " like every one else.

Senator Crawford - Was there no return freight?

The CHAIRMAN (Senator Bakhap - All these matters cannot be discussed on the item of wheat.

Senator GARDINER - But the Minister spoke as if he had conferred some great benefit on the wheat-growers, and I wish to show that those growers were treated by the Government in such a way as to make them pay the whole of the purchase money for the ships in four years. When the Minister discusses this question with an air of injured innocence, and pretends that the farmers are under some great obligation, I tell him that the farmers have nothing to thank the Government for. The farmers got 4s. 9d. per bushel when the world's parity was at least 10s.

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