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Thursday, 29 October 1931


That the bill be now read a second time.

I wish briefly to place before honorable members the circumstances which necessitate the submission of this measure to the House to-day. It will be remembered that at the Premiers Conference which was held in Melbourne at the beginning of last month, it was decided to recommend that the sum of £3,000,000 be made available to provide a bounty at a rate of 6d. a bushel on wheat of the 1931-32 season which is exported. It was suggested at that time that this sum should be made available on the understanding that the f.o.b. price did not exceed 3s. a bushel. The Premiers Conference apparently, took the view that the price of wheat, which was then about 2s. 2d. a bushel, was not likely to reach 3s. It, therefore, suggested that limitation. The Commonwealth Bank and the other banks agreed to the proposal. It was pointed out by me that difficulty would beencountered in giving effect to it, but the Commonwealth Bank laid down a scheme under which it was thought that effect could be given to "the suggestion of the Premiers Conference. At that time the States held divergent views a3 to whether the bounty should be on an export or productionbasis. I, therefore, called a conference, which was held in Melbourne on last Friday week. It was attended by the State Ministers for Agriculture and other Ministers, and representatives of most of the organizations connected with the wheat business. After a lengthy discussion, we arrived at an agreement to adopt the scheme laid down by the Commonwealth Bank, and the agreement was afterwards embodied in the two measures which were passed by this House last week, and subsequently submitted to the Senate. A discussion took place there, but was postponed to enable the Government to consult further with the banks regarding certain aspects of the measures, which were framed to reconcile the views of the different States. It was considered by the Government all along that some difficulty would be experienced in giving legislative effect, to the proposal. As the scheme emanated from the banks we made every effort to pass that legislation, on the understanding that later on any necessary amendment would be made. The conference of State Ministers and others could not, of course, be aware of the legislative difficulties, and indeed, the constitutional difficulties associated with giving effect to it. The conference did one other thing. It requested that the Government, should interview the banks and suggest that the price limit of 3s. a bushel be raised to 3s. 6d. a bushel. Thisthe Government did, and on behalf of the Government I also placed the Senate's request before the hank. The views of the Senate were received while the banks were considering the request of the Government that the limit should be raised from 3s. to 3s. 6d. On Monday and Tuesday, I discussed with the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board the wheat position generally. He, in turn, consulted with representatives of the associated banks. During these discussions, several of the difficulties likely to attend the operation of the measure now before the Senate were discussed. At one stage, agreement between the Government, the wheat interests, the Commonwealth Bank, and the associated banks seemed impossible. Honorable members will agree that it was desirable that an understanding should be reached that would not cause bickering or discontent on the part" of any section. I approached the matter with the desire to be fair to all sections, and to ensure an immediate payment to the farmer. Merchants and millers complained that they would be disadvantaged in respect of wheat stored or delivered for sale. [Quorum formed.'] In regard to the special levy on sales proposed in respect of wheat for local consumption, millers pointed out that they experienced difficulty even, at the present time in doing business with bakers, and in securing payment of outstanding accounts; they feared that the bill then before the Senate would add to their troubles. These complaints were not unfounded. All aspects of the matter were considered, and on Tuesday afternoon unanimity was reached. On behalf of the Commonwealth Government, I agreed to the sum of £3,000,000 being applied to the payment of a bounty of 4£d. a bushel on all marketed wheat of the 1931-32 season. The matter was referred to Cabinet, and this bill is the result. If the estimate that" 160,000,000 bushels will be available for sale is realized, a bounty at the rate of 4£d. a bushel will absorb the £3,000,000.

Mr Gibbons - Suppose that estimate is not realized?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The banks agreed that 160,000,000 bushels was a fair estimate. The principal desire of the farmer is to know that he will receive some bounty, and receive it quickly. He wants to know where he stands. There does not seem to be much doubt that a bounty of 4Jd. will absorb the full amount of money available.

Mr Keane - Is the arrangement with the banks on this occasion in writing?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member need not have any doubt of that. As a matter of fact, the scheme contained in this bill is almost identical with the wheat' bounty bill of March last. The Government then proposed to pay a bounty of 4-Jd. a bushel on a production basis, subject to the passage of certain other legislation.

Mr Latham -The fiduciary notes issue.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Will an Australian price be fixed above world's parity ?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No ; the bill provides merely for a straight-out bounty of 4½d. a bushel.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - And £3,000,000 will be added to the national debt!

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member may dea-l with that later. The farmers have had a very bad time during the last eighteen months, and I am confident that the majority, of members will agree that they deserve every penny that they will get.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Many other people deserve assistance.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I agree; but we must take one hurdle at a time. Regulations will be promulgated to require the growers ,a'nd receivers of wheat' to state on prescribed forms the quantity of wheat sold or delivered for sale.

Mr Hill - Is it not necessary to license buyers?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) -That is not considered necessary. The information which will be sought should be adequate, and when it is received, cheques will be sent to the growers direct from the department. To this method ' of payment, the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank has agreed. The sudden rise in the wheat market, which must be welcome news to all honorable members, will, in conjunction with the bounty of 4$d. a bushel, ensure to the growers an increased return which nobody will begrudge to them.

Mr Gregory - Will not direct payment by the department involve delays in distant States?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We think this will be the most expeditious method.

Mr Gregory - Will all payments be made from Melbourne?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not necessarily; each State can be treated separately.

Mr Latham - There is no. branch of the Markets Department in Western Australia.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The department is represented in all the States. There was a provision in a previous bill that the bounty should not be available to creditors. That provision has been omitted from this bill because the Crown Law advisers are doubtful as to the power of the Parliament to enact such a provision. At the present time tho farmers are protected in respect of their debts under the moratorium acts of the States, and this is a matter in which the farmers may look to the States for protection, as this Parliament does not appear to have the necessary power.

Mr Archdale Parkhill - Is it proposed to pay the bounty to the Queensland wheat-growers, who are already guaranteed 4s. per bushel?

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) -r-This is a bounty on the total wheat production of Australia, and we cannot differentiate between States. Queensland, therefore, will have the benefit of the bounty. Certain States have passed special legislation regarding wheat prices. New South Wales, fo'r instance, has a Wheat Acquisition Act, under which it can raise the local price of wheat used for home consumption. Queensland has passed a measure for the protection of the growers in that State, and, I think, it should meet with our approval. I commend this bill to the House, and I hope that it will have a speedy passage. The wheat-growers deserve all the assistance that we can give them, in view of their trying experiences in the past few years.

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