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Wednesday, 25 June 1941

Senator E B JOHNSTON (Western Australia) . - I desire to bring to the notice of the Government two matters, one of which relates to petrol rationing. There is a large number of settlers in Western Australia, and no doubt in other States, who are on small holdings situated from 5 to 25 miles from a railway. Some of them have no horses, and they depend for their transport on small utility trucks or old cars. I appeal to the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) to see that, in implementing petrol rationing, every consideration is given to such people. A friend of mine who has a small property carrying 200 or 300 sheep has been left to manage the holding by himself, because his sons have gone . to the wai*. His only means of transport is an old car which he .uses in travelling over his property and to obtain his supplies from the railway siding several miles distant. There are many such cases, and while I would certainly not argue in this chamber in favour of special consideration being given to people in the cities who can easily travel by tram, rail or bus, I contend that the man on the land who depends for his living on managing his holding efficiently should be given sympathetic treatment. Even if the city people have no petrol at all for pleasure the small farmer with an old car or utility truck should receive sufficient to enable him to run his property efficiently. Many of these people cannot afford to install producergas units while, in some cases, the vehicles are of too low a horse-power to permit the use of such units. When I was in Western Australia recently several such cases were "brought to my notice by members of the Western Australian Parliament. 1 hope that whatever policy the Government may pursue in regard to restricting the use of petrol, greater consideration will be given to farmers owning small .properties.

Senator Clothier - We want a Western Australian on the Liquid Fuel Control Board.

Senator E B JOHNSTON - We do. arid Western Australian members have urged this repeatedly. I am sure that Senator Clothier will support me in this matter as he has always clone on any question concerning the primary producers of Western Australia.

I should like to deal also with the price of superphosphate. In doing so I shall not, refer to the motion that my colleague from Western Australia so ably and properly introduced into this chamber to-day, because I should be out of order in so doing. As honorable senators are aware, since the outbreak of war there has been an increase of 2Gs. a ton in the price of superphosphate. Co-operative companies iu Western Australia have issued circulars advising wheat-growers and others to .buy superphosphate at once and lay in a reserve supply for next year, because the price will increase considerably, possibly by £2 a ton. - That is all very well for those comparatively few settlers who have the necessary financial resources to place their orders, now, .but the great majority of our settlers are living from hand to mouth. They are oppressed by everincreasing costs of production and they had great difficulty in paying for the small quantity of superphosphate that they were able to buy this year at the increased price. They are not able to order next year's supply now, and I should like to know what the Government intends to do about the matter. Does it intend to. -carry the increased price of superphosphate, or does it intend to ask these people, who cannot alford to pay for next year's supply- now, to submit tamely to paying an extra £2 a ton? That may be all right for the people on some of the richer lands in the eastern States, but m udi of the settlement in Western Australia is on comparatively poor land, which without superphosphate is unproductive. It is the duty of the Commonweal.rh Government to do justice to these people. As I mentioned in a question this afternoon, a lead has been given in New Zealand, where the Labour Government has carried the whole of the increased price of superphosphate since the outbreak of war. In' addition, I understand, that superphosphate and other artificial manures are carried free on the government-owned railways, reliance being placed on increased production to make the railways pay. I am not asking the Commonwealth Government to do that, but surely an administration of which the Country party is an integral part - a party which exists for the pur- , pose of protecting the interests of primary producers - should not be less solicitous of the interests of men and women on the land throughout Australia than is the Government of New Zealand. I trust a. quick and favorable decision will be given in this serious matter. As the Government of New Zealand has carried the increased .cost of superphosphate since the outbreak of war, surely the Commonwealth Government should not do less for the primary producers of Australia. It is the clear duty of the Federal Country party to insist on this being done.

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