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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Senator ASHLEY - Some have been well paid.

Senator McLEAY - Not the members of the board. I admit that the manager. Mr. J. Thomson, is paid a good salary. Considering the millions of pounds lost during the last war period through purting inexperienced men in charge of the wheat scheme, the present board has rendered invaluable service.

Senator Ashley - The board has benefited by the .experience gained during the last war.

Senator McLEAY - That is so. The board has shown great judgment in its colossal task. It obtained as manager a gentleman who was considered by it to be the best person available in Australia for the work, and it was prepared to pay to him what it considered to be a fair salary.

Senator E B Johnston - The manager was well paid in his previous job.

Senator McLEAY - Yes. The appointment of Mr. Thomson was the best investment that could have been made in the interests of the wheat-farmers.

I am not able to state what were the exact intentions, under the scheme introduced by the former Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) in 1940, with regard to the method of disposal of any wheat received over and above the 140,000,000 bushels which was the basis of the guarantee. I do, however, know that provision was intended and made for the disposal of any such surplus. Any attempt to avoid payment on the present surplus of 13,000,000 bushels I regard as repudiation of the Government's obligations in the matter. If the Minister has any doubt on that matter I refer him to the Hansard report of the speech of the then Minister for Commerce on the Wheat Industry (War-time Control) Bill in 1940, in which the following passage occurs : -

It must be realized that any wheat grown in excess of the 140,000.000 bushels basis will not participate in the guarantee. The same must, of course, apply to surplus hay, but facilities for its disposal will ie provided. [t is clear that the intention of the Menzies Government was that any wheat in excess of 140,000.000 bushels would be paid for at realization. In view of the altered conditions to-day, due to the war, it would be impossible to realize on the crop, and, in the circumstances, the Government has no alternative but to pay on the full quantity. A payment of 3s. lOd. a bushel would only be fair to the wheat-growers, as even that rate would be considerably less than the realization from other pools, which turned out so satisfactorily. When th.e Minister's statement appeared, there was great concern among the various wheatgrowing organizations of Australia. In order that the Senate may appreciate the nature of the protests which were received, I shall read the following extracts from a letter from Mr. W. C.

Cambridge. the general secretary of the Farmers and .Settlers Association of New South Wales, dated the 2-6th May:-

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