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Thursday, 4 August 1921

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) . - I move- -

That the House of Representatives be requested to amend sub-item (C) by making the duties, intermediate, 2s. 6d. ; general, 3s. 6d.

I have been waited on by representatives of 86 per cent, of the maize-grower 3 of Victoria, who assure me that in this State the cost of growing maize is at the present, time from 4s. 3d. to 4s. 6d. per bushel, including the cost of delivery to the nearest railway station. Those who are growing maize are mostly settled on small blocks, and their industry is threatened by the competition of black labour in South Africa, Java, and India, and especially of Java. Maize-growing is an industry worthy to be encouraged with adequate protection. Australia should at least supply her own demand for maize, but she has hitherto been- a. large importer of that cereal. A good deal of maize is grown in Victoria, and, I think, in the northern States, too, by returned soldiers. The Tariff liberally protects the manufacturers of maize products, such as starch,, glucose, and cornflour; but the growing of maize is not encouraged as it should be, and consequently in every State the area under crop has decreased considerably during the last ten years. The highly-protected manufacturers of maize products have in Victoria threatened the maize-growers that if they will not contract to sell the coming season's maize at 3s. 6d. a bushel they will get their supplies from Java.

Senator Crawford - Then we had better recommit the Tariff for the reconsideration of items like that dealing with glucose..

Senator GUTHRIE (VICTORIA) - Maize-growing gives employment to more labour per acre than any other crop, the cobs having to be picked by hand. In the period between 1903 and 1913 the average price of maize in Australia was 3s. 6d. a bushel, but nowadays the cost of growing maize is twice what it was then. Yet the highly -protected manufacturers of maize products are trying to force the Victorian growers to sell forward at what was the average price nearly ten years ago, and, as I have stated, the present cost of production, is between 4s. 3d. and 4s. 6d. per bushel. There are thousands of acres of land along our rivers suitable for maize-growing, and if that land were putunder maize it would lead to closer settlement, and give a great deal of employment. Australia's production of maize averages from 8,000,000 to 9,000,000 bushels annually, whereas the black labour of India produces 80,000,000 bushels, and that of South Africa 34,000,000 bushels per annum. In i918, the last year for which figures are obtainable, we imported 255,000 bushels of maize. I do not know what Java's product of maize is, but it' is from that country that it is now proposed to import supplies to compete with the locally-grown maize. It is wrong that a country like Australia, which can grow maize inferior to none, should import that cereal. The maizegrowers asked for a duty of 4s., but I told them I thought tha.t a little too much, and that I was prepared to support a duty of 3s. 6d.

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