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Thursday, 16 May 1957

Mr McMAHON (Lowe) (Minister for Primary Industry) . - The purpose of this bill is, first of all, to provide out of the wheat tax collections an amount which it is now estimated will be necessary for the purpose of carrying out certain research projects. It is also thought that certain additional projects may have to be carried out in the future, but their nature is not known and the cost of them is not known at the moment. Therefore, I for one would think it would not be logical to provide a specific amount of money for projects which are not at the present moment known and the cost of which cannot be estimated.

When this matter was put not only to the Australian Agricultural Council but also to the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, they agreed that a clause along these lines would meet their requirements. I think it will be adequate. I think the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) will know that as long as this Government remains in power it will honour its promises. Therefore, I can but suggest to him that the wisest course for him to follow is to work to the limit of his capacity to see that this Government remains in office so that its promises can be honoured.

Mr Hamilton - Does the Minister mean that some of these projects may cost more than the amount received from the wheat tax plus the Commonwealth's contribution on a £1-for-£1 basis?

Mr McMAHON - No. I only argue that the amount that will be contributed by the wheat-growers will be fixed, and that so far as the amount of the Government's contribution is concerned a committee will meet at the beginning of each year and decide on the projects which it considers deserve an allocation of funds from this account. A recommendation will then be made by the Wheat Industry Research Council to the Minister. He will recommend to the Treasurer that the funds be appropriated by law and, in accordance with the act, a decision will then be made as to the amount of money to be allocated. I believe that this procedure will be satisfactory. It has been placed before the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, which has agreed with the Government's proposition.

I concede the validity of the point made by the honorable member for Canning. If we wanted to make absolutely certain that the money would be allocated, year in and year out, such a provision could be inserted in the bill; but I remind the honorable member that if another government came into office and disagreed with this principle it would only need to amend the act and cut out that provision altogether, and the position would be much worse than it is under this bill.

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