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Wednesday, 4 March 1970

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Minister for Primary Industry) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill is intended to amend the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act in two respects. It will complement legislative action by the States: first, to implement a quota scheme for wheat deliveries; and, second, to give discretionary authority to the Australian Wheat Board to sell wheat in Australia for purposes other than human consumption at prices tower than the price for human consumption.

The 1968 Act made provision for the fifth consecutive 5 year stabilisation plan for the wheat industry. In the first season of the plan, 1968-69, production exceeded 540 million bushels and the unprecedented quantity of 515 million bushels was delivered to the Australian Wheat Board. The build-up of stocks and the prospect of further large supplies at a time when world trade in wheat had suffered a serious decline from the record level of 1965-66 meant that the industry was confronted with storage and marketing problems such as had never before been encountered. Industry leaders were not slow to see that these problems would be compounded unless some positive remedial action were taken without delay. Their reaction was courageous and responsible. They proposed, and obtained the backing of the industry for, regulation of deliveries to the Wheat Board by a system of quotas.

The State governments accepted the industry proposals. With the exception of Queensland each brought down enabling legislation in 1969. In Queensland a severe drought cut wheat production so badly that little more than one-third of its proposed quota was delivered to the Wheat Board. There was therefore less urgency about enacting legislation but I understand that it will be introduced this month.

The 1968 Act envisaged that the Wheat Board would continue to operate its accounts on a pool basis with all the wheat delivered in any one season being wheat of that season's pool1. This Bill will enable the Board to operate on a quota pool basis. In the 1969-70 season, for example, wheat delivered in excess of this quota will be become part of the quota pool. Wheat delivered in excess of his quota will be received as over-quota wheat. It will not be taken into the 1969-70 pool unless, and to the extent that, it is sold and paid for in full during the season.

This Bil'l does not provide for the allocation of quotas. That is a matter for State legislation. It does contain provisions in respect of deliveries in the Australian Capital Territory, the intention being to ensure that the purpose of the quotas in a State may not be defeated by delivery of wheat grown in a State to a licensed receiver in the Australian Capital Territory. This

Bill recognises that costs incurred in the implementation and administration of quotas should be borne by the industry as a charge against the relevant quota pool. The quota provisions of the Bill are intended to be effective from the beginning of the current season, that is, 1st October 1969.

Turning to the price provisions of the Bill, the change proposed is as a result of a further recommendation by the Australian Wheat Growers' Federation. The 1968 Act provided for a home consumption price to apply to all domestic sales of wheat whether as stockfeed or for products for human consumption or for industrial use. It is the prerogative of each State to fix the price for sales within its boundaries. The Commonwealth legislation in this respect is effective only in so far as sales in a Territory of the Commonwealth are concerned.

In September 1969 the Federation asked that the price provisions of the complementary legislation be altered to give the Wheat Board discretionary authority to sell wheat for stockfeed and industrial uses at a price below the going home consumption price of $1.71. per bushel for f.a.q. wheat in bulk f.o.r. ports, but not less than the equivalent of the guaranteed price which for that season was $1.45 per bushel for f.a.q. wheat f.o.b. With changes in the price levels and in the freight to Tasmania loading the limits for this season are $1,725 and $1,435 per bushel f.o.r. ports basis. Each of the States enacted legislation to put the changes into effect in November-December 1969. This Bill would make the Commonwealth legislation consonant with that of the States.

The home consumption price of wheat has long been tied to a cost of production concept. In earlier years of stabilisation it was well below going export prices. For some years now it has been above the level of export prices. The industry's decision to seek this departure from a basic feature of its stabilisation arrangements was not taken lightly. It reflects a realistic appreciation of the marketing situation which has developed. I commend the Bill.

Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.

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