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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr McEWEN (Indi) .- The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Marwick) is to be congratulated upon having raised this matter. He has acted in the interests of the growers, and his action affords honorable members an opportunity to place their views before the Government. So far as No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 pools are concerned, the purpose of the motion is merely to urge the Government to distribute the funds in its possession, funds which are believed to be liquid and distributable. The" financial position of the growers is too well known to need emphasis at this time. They have passed through an extraordinarily unfortunate cycle of low prices and adverse seasonal conditions, and the majority of them are in serious financial straits. In regard to No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 pools, the Government acts only as the agent for the growers in order to realize the wheat, and distribute the proceeds. It is claimed that the Australian Wheat Board is in possession of funds belonging to the growers, and the Government is asked to arrange for their distribution. I hope that, without more ado, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) will be able to say on behalf of the Government that there will be a prompt distribution of the money. The position is not so simple, however, in connexion with No. 5 pool. The speeches that have been made here to-day indicate that opinion is divided as to the nature of the contract entered into between the Government and the wheatgrowers when the present stabilization scheme was drawn up last year. According to the interpretation of the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) - and in this he has, apparently, the approval of the Government - the growers are to receive no benefit in respect of any wheat produced in excess of 140,000,000 bushels. I am convinced that it was intended under the plan to guarantee to the growers 3s.10d. a bushel f.o.b. on a maximum crop of 140,000,000 bushels, but it must be understood that no one can estimate exactly the size of the crop that will, in fact, be produced. That is determined by seasonal conditions, and other unpredictable circumstances. Surely no one suggests that the growers, who have passed through such vicissitudes, would voluntarily agree to an arrangement that would prevent them from deriving any benefit from raising a bumper crop. Yet the Government says that they did.

Mr Pollard - Such an arrangement would encourage the production of better crops on smaller areas, thus conserving man-power.

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