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Thursday, 29 October 1931

Mr LACEY (Grey) .- Several attempts have been made by this Government to assist the wheat-growers, and the failure of those attempts has been made the subject of a good deal of misrepresentation. I have always given the Government credit for being sincere in its efforts to help the growers. On this occasion I thought that the wheat-growers throughout Australia were to receive, a definite benefit, and that there would be little, if any, controversy about it. I join with those who are asking the Government to expedite the passage of this legislation. Honorable members may not be aware of it, but in some parts of Australia wheat carting is already general.

As a matter of fact, in parts of my electorate wheat is already being delivered every day.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That will not affect the right of the growers to r:ceive the bounty.

Mr LACEY - No, but the Minister will admit that, particularly at the present time, it is desirable that the growers should know just what return they will receive for their wheat. T desire to obtain from the Minister a further explanation of why the bounty has been altered from one on export to one on production. This matter particularly interests the representatives of 'Western Australia and South Australia. In regard to all these schemes, the banks appear to be dictating the policy of the Government. One of the other bills actually passed both Houses of Parliament, but the act was never put into operation because of certain objections raised by the banks. At first the banks said that they would furnish the money for a bounty of 6d. a bushel on export, provided the price of wheat did not exceed 3s. a bushel.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That was the proposal agreed to by the Premiers Conference.

Mr LACEY - It was agreed to by the Premiers Conference, and was afterwards accepted by the banks. If the banks could make advances on wheat which sold at less than 3s. a bushel, it would surely be a sounder proposition for them to advance money on wheat which was bringing more than that price. It has now been agreed to remove the price limitation, and the banks have agreed to accept the new arrangement; but they have insisted that, instead of there being a bounty of 6d. a bushel on the export of wheat, it shall be one of 4½d. a bushel on the production of wheat. The question of whether the bounty should be on production or export was first raised at an informal conference held in this building between the Minister for Markets and members representing wheat areas. Immediately reports of that conference were published _ in the press, calculations were made to show how the new scheme, if put into operation, would affect the growers. In the South Australian Advertiser of the 28th September - a few days after the informal conference - the following statement was published : -

The payment of 4½d. a bushel on wheat production, instead pf 6d. a bushel on export, will, it is calculated by the Government Statistician, deprive Western Australia of £300,000.

In the same paper there is a sub-leader which discusses the effect on South Australia of the proposed alteration.

Mr Bernard Corser - The bounty is to be paid on wheat produced in any part of Australia.

Mr LACEY - Yes, but the new scheme will adversely affect South Australia and Western Australia;

Mr Bernard Corser - It will give the Queensland growers something; they would not have got anything under the other proposal.

Mr LACEY - It would have been possible to give Queensland something without altering the basis of payment. At any rate, the farmers in Queensland who are getting 4s. a bushel for their wheat are fairly well catered for. I do not object to the Queensland growers receiving 4s. a bushel, but I remind the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) that the people of Australia are making a very handsome contribution to Queensland through the operation of the sugar embargo, and they have not complained too much about it. I believe that a bounty of 6d. a bushel could be paid in such a way that South Australia and Western Australia would not be placed at a disadvantage.

Mr Hill - The growers in those States will not be under any disadvantage.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Growers in South Australia and Western Australia will not be at a disadvantage now that the price limitation has been removed.

Mr LACEY - The price limitation should not have been included in the previous bill, and its removal was the only amendment which was necessary. I ask the Minister to give some explanation of the alteration. The sub-leader to which I have referred reads -

In Victoria and New South Wales, with their greater populations, the wheat exported bears a smaller proportion to that consumed than it does here, and their concern is, not with wheat exported, but with wheat produced. In South Australia, nature has endowed us this year with a record estimated yield of 50,000,000 bushels.

I am sorry that that estimate will not be realized, by millions of bushels. I should say that 45,000,000 bushels- will be the maximum for the season. The article goes on - and as only 3,000,000are needed for local consumption, 47,000,000 will be available for export. Excepting, therefore, the : J,000,000 bushels, the whole of the wheat harvested in this State would have been entitled to the Od. bounty. That is to say, this bounty would have represented to South Australian farmers a distribution of £1,175,000, whereas, with the bounty paid to all growers, irrespective of the destination of the wheat, the £3,000,000 will not allow of the payment of more than 41/2d. a bushel, which, as regards the growers in this State, will represent a total payment of £937,000, or £237,500 less than would have been due if faith had been kept with the Premiers Conference.

That indicates thatWestern Australia will lose some£300,000, and South Australia approximately £237, 000, by this alteration.

Mr Hill - What will the other States lose?

Mr LACEY - They will benefit, The honorable member is a practical farmer, and represents the State of Victoria, and I am not surprised that he should sponsor the proposal for a bounty of 41/2d. a bushel on a production basis, as that arrangement suits Victoria, with its large population. Two-sevenths of the wheat produced in Australia is consumed locally, the remaining five-sevenths being exported. Because of its small population, nearly all of the South Australian production is exported.

Mr McNeill - Is the honorable member serious when he says that South Australia requires only 3,000,000 bushels for seed and flour purposes.

Mr LACEY - That is the opinion expressed in the article that I have quoted. I believe that the alteration embodied in this bill, will be to the disadvantage of South Australia and Western Australia.

Mr Gregory - The previous bill would have been of no good to either State.

Mr LACEY - Unfortunately, I was not here last week, when that measure was debated. I shall be glad to hear some explanation from the Minister that might cause mc to alter my present views on the subject. '

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - This bill must be compared with the suggestion that emanated from the Premiers Conference, which was not merely that there should be a bounty on export, but also that there should he a price limitation of 3s. a bushel.

Mr LACEY - I am not complaining that the Minister has not conferred an advantage on the wheat-farmers of Australia by withdrawing the 3s. limitation. I merely request that he should ascertain whether it would be possible to pay a bounty of 6d., as was originally provided, and still retain the other advantages that are proposed by the bill. I do not desire to delay the passage of the measure. Time after time the wheat-farmers have been promised assistance; but it has not materialized. I want this bounty to come into operation promptly. At the same time, I regard it merely as a palliative. I believe that, in the near future, this Parliament will have to consider the stabilization of our wheat industry and the effect of bounties.

There are some anomalies in the bill. For instance, the farmer who has produced a good crop will receive more than his les3 fortunate colleagues. That is a difficulty that cannot be overcome. It would not be possible to differentiate, and say that the bounty should not apply to persons who produced a crop that gave more than 21 to 24 bushels to the acre. The scheme must be uniform. Although the season has, to some extent, been a bounteous one, those honorable members who represent wheat-growing constituencies know very well that, for many years, wheat-farmers have gone through periods of drought and semi-drought. If a liberal amount of bounty is paid to a few, it will tend to outweigh the disadvantages under which they previously laboured. I urge the Minister to give some consideration to the points that I have raised, and, if passible, give me a satisfactory explanation with regard to them.

Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Ican give no explanation other than I have already advanced.

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