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Tuesday, 5 May 1936

Senator BROWN - The average wheat-farmer expends very little money each year on capital equipment. An extra Id. a bushel for his wheat would more than compensate him for the higher price he .pays for Australian machinery compared with the cost in other countries. Australia's wheat production totals probably 200,000,000 bushels a year.

Senator Dein - It was 177,000,000 bushels in 1933.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The 1931 crop totalled 213,000,000 bushels.

Senator Guthrie - That was a record year.

Senator BROWN - Let us suppose that the production is 200,000,000 bushels. An extra Id. a bushel on that quantity would represent nearly £850,000. But if the farmer were to get a really decent price for his wheat, and obtain another ls. a bushel for it, it would represent an enormous sum. Honorable senators beat the air and talk of the price of machinery, when their activities should be directed towards increasing prices.

Senator Guthrie - How are the farmers to obtain an extra ls. a bushel for their .wheat ?

Senator BROWN - A good start was made when a home-consumption price for wheat was fixed. The Labour party believes that every worker should be properly rewarded. Under a proper national scheme, the farmers of this country would receive the due reward of their labours, not by injuring the manufacturers through reducing the prices of their goods-

Senator Herbert Hays - That is what is done with wheat.

Senator BROWN - We have not to make one section of the community poor in order to benefit another. There should be a fair price for the machinery required by the primary producer, and the worker who makes it is also entitled to a fair deal. The Labour party is opposed to those Jeremiahs who continually wail about th.6 high price of Australian machinery, without taking all the facts into consideration. If those who complain were to use their energy towards the organization of the primary industries of this country on a national basis, instead of decrying other industries, they would be helping to solve the problems which confront us.

Senator Herbert Hays - The cost of distributing agricultural machinery is 50 per cent., which is too high.

Senator BROWN - The system which allows it is stupid. Fancy engaging an army of salesmen to try to force a commodity on the community. A " Singer " sewing machine, which, some years ago, cost about £14, now costs about £28. The landed cost of the £14 machine was about £2 10s., the difference representing the cost of placing the machine on the market, and profit. It seems strange that men should be engaged at such a large cost ito try to persuade farmers to buy machines that they need, but cannot afford. The longer I remain in this chamber, the more I realize the absurdity of the system which honorable senators opposite uphold. Their argument is, "Let us put the boot into the manufacturer in order that the farmer may be better off." When I hear arguments of that kind, I find difficulty in expressing adequately my disgust.

Senator Dein - 'What system would tha honorable senator advocate.

Senator BROWN - Under the system which I advocate, there would be no financiers bludgeoning the people, and no interest mongers; but the producers would receive a fair return for their labour. Some day the farmers of this country will realize how they have been misled. The}' should be given a fair deal, but not at the expense of the workers in the cities. Recently, I spent a few days in Sydney, where I stayed in the house of a friend. He advised me, however, not to return to the house for dinner, because he could not afford to provide me with a decent meal. Throughout Australia there are thousands of men in that position. The time is not far distant when, through national organization along democratic lines, we shall be able to feed all our people, and give the farmers better conditions, without making others poor in order to do so. The city dweller is not so fortunate as some representatives of the Country party would have the farmers believe. That which presses heavily upon the farmers of this country is not the cost of farming machinery, but the heavy interest rates they have to pay, and the low prices they receive. Is the unhappy position of many farmers to-day due to their having to pay an extra few pounds for their machinery, or is it not rather due to the small price received for their wheat? It is criminal to set the city against the country, and to say to one section of the community : " Look what the farmers are getting in bounties ", and to another : " See how the manufacturers are made rich by means of tariffs." In my opinion, one concession offsets the other. We must get down to bedrock. Unless we do so we shall continue along a path that will lead us nowhere.

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