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Tuesday, 17 March 1936

Senator BRENNAN (VICTORIA) (Minister without portfolio assisting the Minister for Commerce) - No specific reason can be given for making the alteration, except perhaps that it was thought it would be more convenient, for the administration of the act, that applications should be lodged a month earlier than in the previous year. The alteration misled those farmers who failed to read carefully the application forms, and therefore were unaware that applications should be lodged not later than the 31st October. Furthermore, in some of the States the dry season caused many producers who intended to harvest their wheat for grain, to cut their crops for hay, and as they wereunable to state, up to the date fixed for the closing of applications, what proportion of their crop would be cut for hay and what proportion for grain, they were unable to take advantage of the provision made for financial relief. The Government, realizing that there was much to be said in extenuation of the failure by many farmers to lodge their applications in time, decided to extend the closing date for applications in respect of the 1934-35 subsidy to the 30th April, 1936. Section three makesthis provision. The other amendment simply provides that whereas in the principal act the sum of £325,000 was set apart for the purpose of the act, this bill enacts that " such sums as are necessary" shall be provided.This does not mean that further heavy additional expenditure will be incurred. Just at the moment we do not know what amount will be required to meet the new claims which will now come in, because the department has no record which would indicate how many additional farmers arc likely to submit applications; but we do not think that the additional amount required will be very great.

Senator COLLINGS(Queensland) [3.10J. - Members of the Opposition do not intend to oppose the passage of this measure, for we are in sympathy with every proposal that has for its object the granting of assistance to primary producers. This bill will afford financial relief to those sorely in need of it, and will encourage the production of fertilizers; we also recognize that it will improve the productive capacity of the land to which the fertilizers will be applied. Nevertheless, we emphasize that the continual appearance of amending bills shows either that this legislation was too hurriedly considered by Parliament, or that those entrusted with, the responsibility of drafting it were not acquainted with the whole of the facts. The Minister has said that certain conditions arose which made it impossible for the producers to submit their returns by the time fixed in the original measure; yet we have no guarantee that the fixing of the closing date six weeks from now will give those farmers who are interested in this legislation sufficient time to complete their returns. In dealing with measures for the relief of first one primary industry and then another, no attempt, apparently, is made to take a reasonably long view of all the steps that are necessary to assist them adequately. We should take a broad survey of the requirements of these industries'. Of course, we realize with some satisfaction that this Government, or some other Ministry, will, sooner or later, have to make a complete survey of the basic facts, and cease tinkering with secondary and primary industries, if we are to avoid the annual presentation of bills designed to assist them, and cease placing those engaged in them in the position of mendicants. Having said that, the Opposition welcomes this measure. We consider that the producers concerned are more than entitled to the assistance proposed.

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