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Wednesday, 30 November 1938

Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (3:00 AM) . - The intention of this legislation is to give some relief and security for the future to the wheat-growers. It will be recognized that until the last few months the consumer of bread has paid for it at the price which he will be expected to pay when this legislation is placed in effect. That is to say, for several years past consumers have been buying bread at from 5d. to 6d. a loaf. It is only 'because circumstances have been unfortunate for the wheat-growers and fortunate for the consumers that the price of bread is at present at a low level. Even in country districts, although the price of flour has fallen tremendously, the price of bread has remained the same and the increased profits have gone to the millers'. This legislation aims to give some degree of permanency to the price which will be paid to the farmer for his product, and to the price which the consumer will be charged for bread. It has been stated that this legislation is, in effect, a tax on bread. I do not think it can be looked upon in that way. If it is contended that consumers should be able to purchase all commodities at the lowest possible price at which these goods can be obtained, then no restrictions should be placed upon the importation from other countries of articles which are manufactured in Australia at a higher cost. This legislation envisages the provision of a profitable price for wheat consumed in Australia, not only to-day, but also for some years ahead. While this scheme may operate slightly to the detriment of consumers to-day, twelve months from now it may be operating to the benefit of the consumers. If the price of wheat should go above 5s. 2d. a bushel at Williamstown, this bill provides that the wheat-grower shall pay back to the miller, the difference between the Australian price and the overseas price. If we limit the operation of this measure to twelve months, we might as well eliminate that section of the bill altogether. This legislation will stabilize the price of bread and prevent it from becoming unduly high or unduly low. I am surprised at the attitude of the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry Gullett), who is one of the strongest advocates of the provision of assistance for the manufacture of motor cars in Australia. The honorable gentleman knows quite well that if manufacturers of motor cars are entitled to the security of tariff protection which they regard as necessary to enable them to embark upon the profitable production of complete motor vehicles in Australia, the wheat-growers may in all justice expect security for their industry for a period of more than twelve months. I find it difficult to understand the attitude of the honorable gentleman towards this great industry which for many years has been a great factor in maintaining financial stability in this country.

Sir Henry Gullett - I did not ask for a bounty on the export of motor cars.

Mr ANTHONY - The honorable gentleman asked for all he could get for that section of the community in which he was interested. The Government of New South Wales has demonstrated that it has the power to control the price of bread. In 1920 the Parliament of that State passed legislation fixing the price of bread at 6£d. a loaf. At that time the price of wheat was in the vicinity of 7s. 6d. a bushel. Surely that meets the argument advanced by honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House, who have claimed that State governments would not take any action to fix the price of bread.

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