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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Senator UPPILL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) , - In supporting the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), I desire to impress upon the Government the urgent need for giving effect to the request embodied in the motion to enable farmers to carry on their operations for the remainder of the year. The wheat-growing industry is now in a chaotic condition. The lack of guidance and direction to the farming community, the sudden change of demand for commodities other than wheat, the difficulty of making the necessary adjustments owing to financial conditions, and the serious lack of labour have left a sense of bewilderment and frustration in the minds of practically every wheatgrower in the Commonwealth, Consequently, many of the farmers arc losing the spirit and courage that have been so long an attribute of our country men. I would say that 90 per cent, of our wheatgrowers are financially embarrassed owing to the constantly increasing cost of production and the difficulty of selling their produce at a price equal t to the cost of production. I shall quote from a table in' the third progress report of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries to show the high increases in nine items used by the wheat- farmers. In August, 1939, the wholesale price of superphosphate was £3 10s. a ton, and in March, 1942, the price was £5 Is. a ton, an increase of 44.29 per cent. On cornsacks, the increase of the wholesale price in March, 1942, as compared with August, 1939, was 30.12 per cent.; on woolpacks, 445.35 per cent.; on power kerosene, 43.48 per cent. ; on fuel oil, 86.19 per cent; on petrol,, secondgrade, 57.9 per cent.; on lubricating oil, 30.77 per cent. ; on bag and binder twine, 13.52 per cent.; and on stook-lick, 11.43 per cent. The items mentioned are only a few of the articles purchased by the farming community, but they serve, to illustrate the large increase in the cost of production. Commonwealth aand State Governments still insist on their dues with regard to land tax, water rates, interest, and rent on leaseholds, and interest and rates on freeholds has to he paid by the farmers. The farming community is expected to stand up to all these obligations. "What does the Government propose to do about it? Is the farmer to be allowed to become bankrupt and go out of production, and, moreover, is the Government not going to assume any responsibility with regard to these people and their industry? The Leader of the Opposition suggested an immediate payment to the farmers out of the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 pools. I support his request, and I want the Government to make the payment immediately. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator Fraser) pointed out that certain details were holding up the payment of the money, but one matter that is agitating the minds of the farming community is that there appear to be millions available for practically every other section of the community. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) stated yesterday, during the debate on the bill dealing with widows' pensions, that the Government had made arrangements to finance that social service. The farming community does not object to the Government providing money for such a purpose so long as the farmers receive equal consideration. What is worrying the farmers is that the Government is financing social 'services at their expense. It must be realized thai the scheme for the wheat industry, as laid down by the previous Government, dates back to, November, 1940. Is the Government going to assume some responsibility on behalf of the wheat-growers whose difficulties have been increased in consequence of Japan entering the war twelve months after the scheme was formulated? Conditions have altered drastically since then and the Government should assume some responsibility. The farmers understood that they were to get the guaranteed price for 140,000,000 bushels, plus the realization on any surplus. There is no doubt on that score. Otherwise, would the farmers have delivered their wheat to the pool, knowing that they would not get anything for it?

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