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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr LANGTRY (Riverina) .- I take exception to the use of the words " repudiation " and " confiscation " by the author of this motion. The Government has been guilty neither of repudiation nor of confiscation. The only act of repudiation of which I am aware in connexion with the wheat industry was when the previous Government took control of the crop for a payment of ls. 7d. a bushel. I ask: Why was the basis of this scheme altered from 3s. 6d. a bushel f.o.r., to 3s. lOd. a bushel f.o.b.? In my opinion, the alteration was definitely a trap for the purpose of misleading the farmers. On the day that the announcement was made, I sent to the then Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) a telegram protesting that the alteration would definitely mislead farmers. The Government of the day guaranteed the payment of £27,000,000 for 140,000,000 bushels of wheat, but no one could tell the farmer what he will receive for his crop. I regret that the former Minister for

Commerce (Sir Earle Page), the former Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Anthony), and the present Minister (Mr. Scully) are absent to day, because their views upon the matter would have been most interesting. The subject was never properly understood. Although I did my utmost to ascertain the facts, a definite pronouncement was never mads. I asked Sir Earle Page what would become of the surplus if the crop exceeded 140,000,000 bushels, and the right honorable gentleman replied that he did not expect that there would be a surplus. A few days later, a big meeting of farmers, settlers and interested organizations was held at Temora, New South Wales, and the president of the Farmers and Settlers Association, Mr. Kendall, travelled 100 miles for the purpose of explaining the wheat stabilization scheme to the gathering. He stated that if the crop reached 160,000,000 bushels, the sum of £27,000,000 would be spread over the whole of it. A week later, I complained to Sir Earle Page that farmers were anxious to learn the Government's intentions if the harvest exceeded 140,000,000 bushels. Again, the right honorable gentleman replied that he did not anticipate that there would be a surplus. The Minister never committed himself to say what would happen if his expectations proved to be wrong. The present Government is not obliged to pay the additional money, although I should like it to do so. For honorable members opposite to declare that the Government is confiscating the wheat, or repudiating a contract, is deliberately to mislead the farmers.

Some time ago, the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen) and I estimated that the net return to the growers, on the basis of a harvest of 140,000,000 bushels, would be 2s. 6d. or 2s. 8d. a bushel. The former Assistant Minister for Commerce (Mr. Anthony) challenged our figures, and stated that we were under a misapprehension. Subsequent events have proved that he either misled the farmers or did not understand the wheat industry, because our statistics have proved to be substantially correct. Only 11,000,000 of the 153,000,000 bushels has been, sold, and the expenses are approximately lOd. a 'bushel. From those figures, honorable members may estimate what will happen when the whole surplus is sold. I also declare that it would be impossible to enforce the fodder conservation scheme in war-time, because labour would not be available for stacking hay. In fact, farmers were unable to obtain assistance to harvest the wheat. Three months after the hay should have been stacked in roy electorate, it was still lying in the paddocks, and heavy rains would have ruined it. Because of the shortage of man-power, the fodder conservation scheme could not possibly operate. I am gratified that in a comparatively short time the whole scheme will be scrapped. The only way in which a farmer may tell what he will receive for his wheat is by having a guaranteed price on a bushel basis, cash on delivery at a siding.

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