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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Senator FRASER (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Important factors that must be considered were reduction of acreage sown, limitation of the supply of superphosphates and reduction of manpower.

Senator McBride - I do not believe that there is anything less than 20,000,000 bushels held back on the farms.

Senator FRASER - The division of the total fund available over the total receivals. will result, in a payment of. approximately 3s. 6d. a bushel, f.o.b., to wheat-growers. The 153,000,000 bushels received by the Australian Wheat Board do not include any wheat produced by wheat-growers on excess areas. This wheat has been placed in a separate pool and the Government will deal with it as a special problem. The total receivals represent wheat grown on registered land in accordance with the provisions of the Wheat Industry Stabilization Regulations. The request now submitted would hive the effect of increasing the liability of the Commonwealth Government in respect of No. 5 pool by ?2,500,000, but I would suggest that the decision of my colleague, the Minister for Commerce, as already announced, conforms in every way with the policy of the previous Government as formulated and put into effect by its- representative, the former Minister few- Commerce- (Sir Earle Page)1. As far as this' Government has been able to ascertain, it meets the wishes of the great majority of the wheat-growers of Australia, who knew and' understood the position prior to the- harvesting of the crop. As: I have mentioned previously growers have been paid a substantial advance against the wheat in No. 5 pool, and the Government is not prepared1 at this stage to make any alteration of a scheme which received the almost unanimous endorsement of the wheatgrowers. I cannot appreciate the reason why the Leader of the Opposition has raised {he matter by means of this motion. He could have secured all the information he desires by placing a question on the notice-paper. As a former Minister' for Commerce, the Leader of the Opposition must know that, wheat shipped- to- Japan has not yet been paid for..

Senator McLeay - A small portion of it has not been, paid for.

Senator FRASER - I shall now quote the resolutions of the conference of wheatgrowers' representatives to which I referred.

Senator McBride - When was the conference held?

Senator FRASER (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - It was held in Melbourne on the 1st May, 1941. I shall quote first a statement made by Mr. Teasdale, and I am sure Senator Johnston appreciates what Mr.-. Teasdale has done for the wheat-growers. He said -

It was necessary to be realistic. At- present there was no prospect of selling 140,000,000 bushel's, and any excess' over that figure had' no value at all. Under present conditions1 it was1 actually a liability, although later with altered conditions' it might become an asset; Until the Government, had recovered the ?26,000,000 involved in the guarantee there would not be anything available for excess production.

Mr. Cullenstated that ;

Growers, have realized the position in regard to the. excess over 1'40,000,0'00 bushel's' and they realized that there might be no returns- from; it. There would, however,, be charges in respect of. this excess and the: question was raised as. to how they should be provided for.

Similar views were expressed by other representatives of the various wheatgrowers' organizations. The conference did not act hastily, or without adequate consideration. On the first day of the conference, the. following resolution was submi tted : -

That when the marketable crop exceeds the quantity around which the guaranteed price is' payable", and1 the- realization from the sale of that crop does not return to growers the guaranteed price of 3s.. 10d.. per bushel f..o.b. ports bagged basis-, payment of 3s. 10'd. per bushel on the guaranteed quantity bi> averaged for the whale marketable crop for the year.

Theresolution was given further consideration when the conference assembled at 2.15 p.m. on the following day. It was carried and submitted to the Minister for Commerce as the basis of the stabilization plan. That is borne out in Senator McBride's second-reading speech on the "Wheat Tax (War-time) Bill 1940 on the 11th December, 1940, in which he said -

The Commonwealth Government's liability with respect to the guaranteed price of 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b. is limited to a marketed crop not exceeding 140,000,000 bushels.

There is no difference between that and the resolution carried by the conference.

Senator E B Johnston - There is.

Senator FRASER - Not a bit of difference. The Commonwealth guarantee is limited to 140,000,000 bushels.

Senator E B Johnston - And the farmer to get what the balance realized when it was sold.

Senator FRASER - There can be no ambiguity about this matter. I am sure that neither the previous Government nor any other government would have exceeded what was demanded by the conference. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is endeavouring to raise the enthusiasm of the wheat-growers in regard to this matter, especially in view of the fact that there are rumours of a second wheat stabilization plan which exceeds in detail the one now in operation. That is quite unnecessary because the Government realizes that something has to be done for the wheat-grower, just as it realized that something had to be done for the woolgrower. The Government intends to carry out the plan which was recommended in the resolution carried by the wheat conference.

Senator E B Johnston - That resolution was agreed to six months after the legislation was enacted.

Senator FRASER - Yes, but it endorsed what had been 'done. At no stage did the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) say definitely that this would apply to the whole of tha production in excess of 140,000,000 bushels. The case presented by the Leader of the Opposition has been based on wrong premises. I do not accuse him of political motives, because

I realize that he is entitled to submit the motion now before us. I assure the honorable senator, however, that the Government will adhere to the scheme drawn up by a previous Government and endorsed at the conference of wheatgrowers' representatives which was convened by Sir Earle Page.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Is the Government likely to obtain £260,000 sterling which is outstanding? That money is now in Australia. 'Senator FRASER. - It is, and I can assure honorable senators that every effort is being made to obtain it. As soon as the money is available it will be paid to the wheat-growers.

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