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Wednesday, 23 November 1938

Mr WARD (East Sydney) .- Every member of the Opposition appreciates the point of view of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Wilson), and sympathizes with his desire to do something to assist the wheat industry. I think that he, alone among Country party members, has been consistent in his efforts to assist the growers. I am compelled to point out, however, that while the Opposition realizes the difficulties of some of the wheat-growers, it also realizes the difficulties of other sections of the community. Moreover, it believes that if any delay occurs in providing assistance, the responsibility must rest on the Government itself. This Parliament cannot be considered to have been so busily engaged in the last few weeks that time could not have been found to consider legislation to give assistance to the wheat industry. As the honorable member for Wimmera points out, the crop is already being harvested, but, until to-day, no effort has been made to give the wheat-growers assistance. At the close of sessions when the Government is legislating by the process of exhausting honorable members, it always finds it convenient, in order to shorten discussion, to say to the Opposition, " You must not discuss this bill and delay its passage, because the assistance is needed urgently ". Any delay in assisting the wheat industry must be attributable, not to the Opposition, but to the Government itself, because legislation should have been introduced long ago.

I was not impressed with the argument advanced by the Minister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page), that thebill is urgent for the reason that, unless it is passed, unemployment may be increased, because supporters of the Government showed their lack of concern for the welfare of the unemployed yesterday when they " gagged " a discussion of their plight. The budget is the most important subject which Parliament can discuss, but it has always been the practice of this Government to use it merely as a stop-gap when it either has no other business to bring before Parliament, or cannot make up its mind on other matters. Since the introduction of the budget, the discussion has been interrupted to permit of the passage of bills relating to land tax, income tax, sales tax, therapeutic substances, the apple and pear industry, and the appointment of an additional Minister.

I assure the honorable member for Wimmera that members of the Labour party are anxious to assist those in the wheat industry who are deserving of assistance, but we must be mindful of the fact that many persons engaged in wheat production, by no stretch of the imagination, could be considered to be in the deserving class.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the subject before the Chair.

Mr WARD - I am endeavouring, Mr. Speaker, fo point out that the urgency of this measure emphasized by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) is not applicable to the whole of the wheat industry. The Opposition is prepared to give assistance to those who are in need, but many persons engaged in the production of wheat are more fortunately circumstanced than others, and there is not the urgency in respect of giving them assistance as there was for this Parliament yesterday to give consideration to the unemployed, who have no income.

Mr Holloway - Any legislation to assist the wheat industry could be made retrospective.

Mr WARD - Yes. I add my protest at the delay which has occurred in the discussion of the budget. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition hit the nail on the head when he said that the only urgency in this bill was the urgency for the right honorable member for Cowper to obtain some cheap publicity at the wheat-growers' expense.

Amendment negatived.

Question resolved in the affirmative ; motion agreed to.

In committee:Consideration of Governor-General's message.

Motion (by Sir Earle Page) agreed to-

That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to provide for financial assistance to the States in the provision of assistance to the wheat industry, and for other purposes.

Resolution reported.

Standing Orders suspended ; resolution adopted.

Ordered -

That Sir Earle Page and Mr. Thompson do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.

Bill brought up by Sir Earle Page, and read a first time.

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