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Wednesday, 7 December 1938

Mr JAMES (Hunter) (1:38 AM) .- I am always anxious to assist necessitous primary producers, but in this instance wealthy farmers as well as those in poor circumstances will benefit. Between 1931 and 3934, when the Government did not have to depend upon the support of the Country party, concessions such as this were made only to those in necessitous circumstances, and there are Ministers at present in the chamber who at that time criticized the members of the Country party who were in favour of the benefit being extended to all primary producers. But now, because the Government depends upon the support of the Country party, it has extended concessions to primary producers which a few years ago it flatly refused to grant. I am pleased to hear that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Frederick Stewart), although entitled to the subsidy has never collected it. That does not hold good of members of the Country party, two of whom have already indicated their intention of supporting the bil! as originally drafted. Members of that party are only too anxious to vote themselves a subsidy to supplement their parliamentary allowances and other rich emoluments of office. It is a travesty of justice that wealthy members of this Parliament should be permitted to vote for themselves and their relatives moneys which only go to swell their already large resources at a time when such heavy sacrifices are demanded from the people. It savours too much of the policy of " the more you get the more you want ". Those hungry individuals of the Country parry, who are out for everything they can get, have been referred to as butcher birds. Especially are their efforts to be discouraged when we take into consideration the unfortunate position of the mothers who are called upon to render the greatest service to this country as the result of the restrictive provisions of the maternity allowance legislation, which insist that if a. man has an income in excess of the basic wage, his wife is not qualified to obtain the maternity allowance in respect of the first child she ushers into the world. Where is the equity in legislation which makes such odious distinctions? Members of the Country party sit here cheek by jowl, anxious to see rushed through a bill designed to further their interests. What do they care about the plight of the unfortunate dole worker who has to submit to a most iniquitous questionnaire before he can get bread from the State governments? Has the farmer to submit to a questionnaire before he becomes entitled to a subsidy such as that proposed under this bill? All that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) has suggested is that the payment of the fertilizer subsidy shall be restricted to those farmers who have had no taxable income in the previous year.

This subsidy is being granted at a time when many essential services are being pared down because of the huge expenditure on defence. I suppose that almost every honorable member of this House has received a letter by air mail to-day, from the postal workers' organization, urging consideration of the plight of certain temporary postal employees who

Mr.James. are to be retrenched because of the necessity to cut down expenditure in order to make more money available for defence purposes. Surely at a time when this cutting-down of essential services is necessary, the members of the Country party should be prepared to agree to the restriction of this subsidy to those who have had no taxable income in the preceding year. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Nock) has suggested that this fertilizer subsidy is in the' nature of an experiment. Why should the wealthy farmers be given the people's money to conduct an experiment in times such as these? What service will those wealthy farmers render to the community for this proposed expenditure of the people's money? Certain members of the Country party in this House would do well to emulate the splendid example set by the honorable member for Parramatta; in doing so they would be performing a real service to the community. I distinctly remember the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Perkins) saying in this House when the first fertilizer subsidy legislation was before the Parliament, that it should be given to the needy and not to the greedy. The honorable gentleman went on to say that two members of the Parliament told him that they had purchased two properties adjacent to their own at fairly high prices, and he -added that they would both participate in the subsidy. I feel sure that if the Minister, who represents a large rural electorate, were now a private member sitting on the back benches, he would not cast a silent vote in regard to this amendment. The constant demand by wealthy Country party members of this Parliament for their pound of flesh is nothing short. of highway robbery. Once again we are to have an instance of the poor supporting the rich. In spite of definite assurances of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), when the flour tax legislation was before Parliament, th'at there would be no increase of the price of bread, prices have recently been increased and the children of the poor will have to suffer.

Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. G. J. Bell).Order!I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill now before the House.

Mr JAMES - Everything used by the farmer for the production of his crop is exempted from s'ale3 tax. Even his rabbit traps are exempted from that tax, but if a worker purchased such traps to eke out an existence he would pay the tax, yet the Government brought down legislation imposing a further tax on flour which will be borne mainly by the poorer people. Why is not a similar measure of assistance meted out to other primary industries? What has the Government done for the rehabilitation of the coal industry? Noi.hing whatever. The reason, which is obvious to everybody, is that the coalmining districts have 'not sufficient representatives in this chamber to force the Government's h'and. It is high time that the Government realized that it can no longer continue to meet the avaricious demands of the Country party which, we are told, has now delivered an ultimatum to the Government that if it does not withdraw the national insurance legislation it will be shot from the flank.

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