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Wednesday, 17 August 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I wish to draw attention to the State of the wheat-growing industry, which for a time ousted the wool industry from the pride of position in the Commonwealth in point -of value of 'products, and is responsible for keeping 200,000 adults on the land, as compared with the mere 5,000, 6,000, or 10,000we are told are employed in connexion with, (ihe iron works of New South Wales.

Senator Duncan - Almost every wheatgrowing district of New South Wales is represented by a high Protectionist.

Senator LYNCH - If the Government's policy were sustained by the people who ought to be behind it to-day, there would have been no Country party in existence in Australia. That party has come into this Parliament to oppose the Protective policy of the Government as being against the interests of the country people. Although the area under wheat in the Commonwealth was 12,484,512 acres in 1915-16, it dwindled to half that acreage last year. In 1910-11 the acreage was 7,372,456 acres. The outstanding feature of these figures is the fact that our wheat production is behind what it was eleven years ago. I am told that wheat-growers are turning their attention to other pursuits, because they find wheat-growing unpayable. This is certainly the case with those who paid high prices for land in the drier areas of New South Wales and Western Australia. In the latter State, some men have had such a discouraging time at wheat-growing that there are hundreds of farms now in the hands of the State Agricultural Bank, because their owners have walked' off them, not having sufficient resources to work them under the conditions obtaining during the last few years. That is the condition of the industry that is one of the principal buyers of wire.

Senator Plain - Climatic conditions may have had something to do with the failure of those men.

Senator LYNCH - There are different opinions as to that. Under the same weather conditions, wheat is grown in the Mallee land of Victoria, and in Western Australia. There is a 12-inch rainfall in both places. But the farmers in the Mallee country do not work forty-four hours a week. The result of this Tariff must be that the wheat-growers will be crushed by the excessive cost of their equipment and other requirements, and at the same time wheat, on which we mainly rely, will fall in value. It may be said that the wheat-growers could go in for dairying, but as a fact, there are fewer dairy cows in Australia now than there* were in 1914, the figures for that year being 1,900,000, as against 1,902,000 for 1920. Then there is sheep raising, which requires so' much wire netting and wire; but in that industry the highest number of sheep was reached in 1890, when there were 97,000,000. Droughts followed, with alternating seasons, and in 1910 the number was 92,000,000, whereas last year it was only 87,000,000." It will be seen that dairying and sheep raising have been keeping pace in their decline with -wheat growing. These great indus- tries are .certainly not in a good way, and now action is being taken by means of this Tariff which will make their conditions still worse. It is 'becoming more difficult than ever for men on the land to make ends meet, and this at a time when we are so desirous for men to go out into the country, and make prosperous homes for themselves. I support the proposed reduction on the ground that, otherwise, we are simply giving an extra duty to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company for turning out wire, and that there will not be the least chance of founding the small subsidiary industries spoken of by the Minister.

Senator Payne - After the explanation made by the Minister, I ask leave to amend my request by making the proposed duty 20 per cent, instead of 15 per cent.

Request, by leave, amended accordingly, and agreed to.

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