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Thursday, 28 May 1942

Senator UPPILL - No. They could have held the wheat on their farms.

Thousands of bushels of wheat affected by red rust were held on the farms. The basis of the scheme approved by both Houses was that the farmers were to be paid the guaranteed price on 140,000,000 bushels, plus the amount realized on the balance of the crop.

Senator FRASER - The resolution was quite clear on the matter.

Senator UPPILL - That may be, but does the Minister not assume some responsibility in view of altered conditions? Senator Johnston has proved beyond all doubt what was intended by the legislation, namely, that the farmer should be paid for 140,000,000 bushels at the guaranteed price, plus the market price for the balance.

Senator FRASER - The Leader of the Opposition accused this Government of repudiation. That is not correct. The agreement was made by the previous Government. "We are merely pursuing the policy laid down by that Government.

Senator UPPILL - The Minister is giving his own interpretation of the position. It seems to me that he has become very exacting, and is endeavouring to view the legislation in its worst possible light. I am sure that the interpretation given to the measure by the Minister was not intended.

Senator FRASER - A resolution was carried by the Wheat Conference, and there is no doubt about its intention.

Senator UPPILL - The farmers are not concerned with resolutions passed by conferences. They are more concerned with the construction that is being placed upon the bill by the Minister. If the Government does not intend to pay the market price or to give some compensation for the wheat that it is holding, it should be obliged to return the wheat to the growers. That would be the only honorable course to adopt. In my opinion the Government should accede to the request made by the Leader of the Opposition.

Senator JAMESMcLACHLAN (South Australia) T5.22]. - I see no reason why the Government should not pay the money that is still owing in respect of the Nos. 3 and 4 pools. Governments come and governments go, but neither this Government nor any other government should repudiate an agreement ratified byParliament. The Government has on hand the money obtained through those two pools. One pool worked out at. approximately 4s.1½d. a bushel, and the other at 4s. 4¾d. a bushel. The total amount outstanding in respect of the two pools is approximately £2,500,000. The argument advanced by the Minister is that the payments cannot be made because of the lack of funds. I am afraid that that argument will carry very little weight with the struggling farmers outback who have to fight for their living and whose difficulties include not only small crops, resulting from adverse seasonal conditions, but also curtailment of acreage, rationingof supplies, rising costs of production, the increased price of superphosphate and agricultural implements, the shortage of labour, and increased rates and taxes. In view of these hardships there is no reason why the Government should withhold this money. When the price was fixed at 3s. 10d. a bushel, it was not considered that the price would be a very profitable one. That figure was regarded as being sufficient to provide a living for the farmer. Surely he is entitled to that, and to the little extra which his wheat has realized.

Senator Gibson - It was not meant to be a basic wage.

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