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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr McEWEN (INDI, VICTORIA) - That aspect of the matter has been covered by the licensing system, which was introduced as a part of the stabilization scheme. It cannot be intended, surely, that the growers are to receive no recompense for having produced 13,000,000 bushels more than the stipulated quantity of 140,000,000 bushels. Suppose the crop had been of similar proportions to that of 1939-40, when 196,000,000 bushels was produced. Under this arrangement, the growers would, in that event, hand over to the Government 56,000,000 bushels of wheat for which they would receive no payment. I can understand a government wishing to put the peg in somewhere, so that it might have an idea of the extent of its financial responsibility. That, as a matter of fact, was the purpose of the Government, of which I was a member, when the arrangement was entered into to pay 3s.10d. a bushel for 140,000,000 bushels, any amount grown in excess of that to be disposed of as opportunity offered, and the proceeds distributed amongst the growers. Since then, however, Japan has entered the war, and it is virtually impossible to dispose of our wheat overseas, because ofshipping shortages and for other reasons.There is only a remote prospect that the surplus wheat will ever be disposed of at all ; at best, it will be sold at some time in the distant future, provided the weevils have left any of it by then. I am sure that the farmers, who are pretty hard-headed men, never agreed to an arrangement under which they were to receive no compensation for surplus wheat handed over to the pool.

Mr Wilson - Their leaders agreed to it.

Mr McEWEN - I do not agree that they did.

Mr Dedman - We were at war at the time the honorable member's Government entered into the agreement.

Mr McEWEN - Yes, but the situation has changed materially since then. At that time, it was still possible to dispose of wheat overseas, as our experience in connexion, with the earlier pools proves. I disagree with the proposal of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson) that the matter should be disposed of by making an ex gratia payment to the growers. The wheat-farmers are entitled to something better than a mere charitable gift in respect of the extra 13,000,000 bushels. This is a basic commodity, which has a real value and should not he the subject of any charitable gift. It should be paid for. In the new circumstances, the fair method is to pay the guaranteed price of 3s.10d. a bushel upon 140,000,000 bushels, and to make a reasonable advance upon the surplus. As a matter of fact, the Minister for Commerce has already adopted that principle. He announced his intention to substitute for the wheat stabilization scheme an arrangement whereby a specific amount would be paid, on a bushel basis, for a specific quantity of wheat. On the surplus, the advance suggested is 2s. a bushel. The Minister now has an opportunity to apply that principle to the present problem, and to honour the undertaking of the previous

Government that made the arrangement with the wheat-growers by paying 3s.10d. a bushel f.o.b. on 140,000,000 bushels, and making a reasonable advance upon the surplus.

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