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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr BREEN (Calare) .- I regard this as an attempt to discredit the Government or to intimidate the Minister for Commerce.

Mr Marwick - Not at all.

Mr BREEN - I believe that I can convince the honorable member, in spite of his preconceived ideas. The Minister for Commerce has lately expressed his intention to re-organize the wheat control system. It is significant that a barrage of criticism should be levelled at him concurrently with that pronouncement. It does not come appropriately from those who profess to represent the wheat-growers, either in or out of Parliament. The source of this criticism is clear. I have had forwarded to me resolutions professedly from meetings of wheatgrowers, although they have consisted of the president, a few executive officers, and the secretary of a branch - in one instance, a branch in the electorate that I represent. Other resolutions have been passed by spontaneous assemblies of wheat-growers in various parts of the country. These eulogize the Minister for Commerce and his management of the wheat industry, and the sympathetic consideration he has given to the wheat-farmer in this very trying period of its existence; because, on the handling of the industry at this time will depend its existence, and the livelihood of the wheat-farmer in the future. The authentic information available concerning the history of the wheat trade during the last 40 years shows that it has been subject to tremendous fluctuations from prosperity to depression. On occasions, this has been due to interference by vested interests, whilst on other occasions, admittedly, it has been in consequence of conditions over which neither the grower, the Government, the marketing authorities, nor the consuming public has had any control, the causes having been drought, lack of sufficient transport, war, and the like. In this instance, I maintain, interference by vested interests is responsible for the present move to' preserve the pastures on which those interests have been browsing for so long and from which they have been gaining considerable wealth. Up to the time when the present Minister for Commerce assumed control, the Australian Wheat Board consisted of Messrs. Teasdale, Hamlin, Harold Darling, James Cameron, Thompson, McPherson and Gatehouse. With the exception of Mr. Thompson, those gentlemen represented trading interests, which had no concern for the welfare of the wheat-grower. On the board also were Messrs. Field, Cullen, Tilt, and Clarke. There were only three representatives of wheat-growers, and they did not represent wheat-growers' organizations. They were simply representatives of the wheat-growers taken at random. The present Minister for Commerce thought that the representation of the growers could be strengthened in such a way that the board would have more consideration for the growers, and less for those vested interests that had been battening on the growers for so long. Therefore, he appointed Messrs. Bourke, Cavanagh and Evans to the board. That was the beginning of the reformation of the Australian Wheat Board, and those interests which had been getting more than their fair share from the industry have taken fright. It was suggested that the licensed receivers should be excluded so that the growers would get a better deal, and there was immediate reaction from the licensed receivers on the board. They saw that there was no hope of continuing their exploitation of this lucrative field if unrestricted competition were allowed, so it was decided to eliminate those people whose job it was to attend immediately to the handling of the crop at country sidings. A circular was sent out on the 15 th April, 1942, signed by Bunge (Australia) Proprietary Limited, Dalgety and Company Limited, John Darling and Son, Louis Dreyfus and Company Limited, The Farmers and Graziers' Cooperative Grain, Insurance and Agency Limited, J. A. Hemphill and Sons Proprietary Limited, Lindley Walker Wheat Company Limited, and J. J. Sullivan Proprietary Limited. The circular states, in effect, that there is no longer room in the wheat industry for licensed receivers, who are only commission agents. They do no real work, but they receive a commission of 2 5/8d. on every bushel of wheat they handle. I refer honorable members to the agreement entered into with the licensed receivers by the board for the handling of wheat from the 1940 crop onwards. The point is, that these licensed receivers themselves are in a position to control the Australian Wheat Board. Now, an attempt is being made to stir up hostility to the Government in order to intimidate it. There is no real desire to help the farmers. The author of the. motion knows that honorable members on this side of the House, who represent wheat-growing constituencies, strenuously opposed the proposal for the introduction of the f.o.b. method of payment. We realized from our experience in connexion with the No. 2 pool that payment on that basis might result in the growers receiving ls. a bushel less for their wheat. It was found that, in some instances, costs were inordinately high. For instance, in Tasmania, where only a small quantity of wheat is grown, the cost of handling it is more than 3s. a bushel.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member's time has expired.

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