Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Thursday, 28 May 1942

Senator JAMES McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -By no means. It is futile to argue that the Government is unable to pay the money. A few days ago we passed an invalid and old-age pensions amending bill involving an additional expenditure of £1.500,000 a year; yesterday we passed legislation providing widows' pensions which will cost a further £1,600,000, yet it is claimed that a similar amount cannot be found for the man on the land.

I admit that the circumstances surrounding payments from the No. 5 pool are in a somewhat different category, and possibly there is room for argument in that regard. However, any one who makes a careful study of the secondreading speech on the Wheat Industry (War-time Control) Bill 1940 made by the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) on the 20th November, 1940, will admit that the right honorable gentleman's interpretation of the bill was that 140,000,000 bushels of wheat should be paid for at the rate of 3s.10d. a bushel, and the balance at realization price. In existing circumstances there can be no realization price but it is a great pity that the Government should shelter behind that fact. Owing to the war with Japan, and the consequent lack of shipping space, there is no prospect of disposing of our surplus wheat in order to obtain a realization price. Possibly that is why Cabinet decided to spread the payment over 153,000,000 bushels. As my colleague SenatorUppill has said, the honorable thing for the Government to do would be to return the wheat to the growers if payment cannot he made for it, but it is impossible to separate the wheat, and that is one of the main difficulties. The position is most unfair especially to small growers who predominate throughout the Commonwealth. In South Australia there are about 13,000 growers, of whom 30 per cent. grow more than 1,000 bags of wheat a year. Therefore, if the payment is tobe spread over the 153,000,000 bushels, the small growers will be unjustly penalized. Their wheat is in the pool and it cannot be separated. The only just thing to do would be to pay the 3s.10d. a bushel and then wait tosee what the wheat realizes. Obviously, no reasonable person would expectthe wheat-farmers of Australia to produce exactly140,000,000 bushels. Sir Earle Page may have an extensive knowledge of certain matters, but I am afraid that he does not know much about primary production. We all know that wheat-growing is subject to seasonal conditions and that land which produces a certain quantity of wheat one year may produce much more or much less in the following season. Sir Earle Page also suggested that at hay time a farmer should look oyer his crop, estimate what the total yield would be, and, after allowing for his quota of wheat, cut the rest for hay. That is ridiculous, because the weather conditions experienced when a farmer is cutting hay may increase or reduce the yield of wheat. A good rain at hay time might increase the crop by 8 per cent. or 10 per cent. Taking into consideration the heavy costs of the primary producers, the shortage of superphosphate and the man-power difficulty, every consideration should bbe shown to this. deserving section of the community. I do not believe that any section is prepared to rob "the primary producers of the money to which they are entitled in respect oof tho extra 13 000,000 bushels of wheat; but unless payment be made to them in the way that 1 have suggested the producers will be robbed.

SenatorMcBRlDE ((South Australia) [5.32].- I support the motion. I listened with attention to the case presented by the- Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator Fraser) with regard to the action or inaction of the Government of which he is a member. The excuses offered by him for the delay that has occurred in making payments to the wheat-growers of money already in hand were of the most flimsy nature, and his explanation will not be regarded as satisfactory by the wheat-growers. Ho has admitted that the Government has in hand over £2,000,000, which could have been distributed among the growers some time ago. Had that money been paid, considerable relief would have been obtained by farmers throughout Australia. The excuse offered by the Minister that, because £260,000 sterling already in Australia had not been made available to the Australian Wheat Board, £2,000,000 already available had not been distributed, will not bear investigation. Even though the £260,000 sterling had not been paid to the board, the Government had good security on which it could have made an advance to the fanners, so that the accounts in respect of the Nos. 2, - 3 and -4 pools could be finalized. Regarding the No. 5 pool I agree almost entirely with what the Minister has said as- to the measure passed through this Parliament containing definite undertakings which I have no doubt will be honoured by the present Government. A guarantee was given to the farmers of Australia that 3s. lOd. a bushel would be paid on 1-10,000,000 bushels of marketable wheat, and it was agreed that the Government would make 'facilities available for the disposal of any surplus. Tho Minister tried to support the action of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) in proposing an .average payment on the total crop of 153,000,000 bushels instead of payment of the guaranteed price in respect of the 140,000,000- bushels. He quoted the resolution passed at the conference of wheat-growers . in May, 1941, in support of a departure from the provisions of an act of parliament.

Senator FRASER (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I quoted an interpretation by the wheat-growers of what the act meant.

Senator McBRIDE - - I suggest that the Minister is now getting deeper into the mire. It would be extremely foolish for him to go to a conference for an interpretation of an act of Parliament. The Minister has the legal advisers of the Government for that work, but the act is so clear that its meaning could be interpreted by him without assistance. I suggest that the conference was never asked for a legal interpretation of what was intended under the act.

Senator FRASER (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - It expressed its unanimous opinion on the matter.

Senator McBRIDE - - It was asked to express its views regarding a proposal made by the Minister as to how the act was to be administered. If the members of the conference were called together again, they would probably reach an entirely different decision. Production in the primary industries has been rapidly falling off. The present Government, having been in office for about eight months, cannot escape soma of the responsibility for the delay in the proper organization of our primary industries. We have heard a great deal lately about what the Government proposes to do, but we observe very few signs of action.

Suggest corrections