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Friday, 2 December 1938

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) (Minister for Commerce) . - I move -

That the amendment be agreed to.

I should like at this stage to amplify the remarks which I made in a general way a few moments ago when explaining the necessity for this appropriation. It will be remembered that in the "Wheat Industry Assistance Bill two methods were provided to deal with the amount set aside for the assistance of distressed farmers. In the first year at the unanimous wish of the States the sum of £500,000 is to be set aside and divided among the States in the proportion of £200.000 to Victoria and £100,000 to each of the States of Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales. That money is partly to be used and is to be supplemented by the State governments; to assist farmers in marginal and distressed areas.

To that £500,000 the other States, notably Queensland, make definite contributions as they have had the good fortune this year to enjoy a good season. Although Queensland is only a relatively small wheat-producing State, the Queensland Government indicated its wish to provide some assistance for Victoria on condition that during the next period there would be established a similar fund from which, if Queensland growers found themselves in difficulty, they could be assisted, and on the further condition that the money should be used to endeavour to bring into being a longrange policy for transferring farmers from marginal areas to areas capable of profitable production. In Queensland practically all wheat-growing is done on first-class land. Drought and adverse climatic conditions are the only factors likely to cause difficulties in that State during the next five years. If this amendment were not inserted in the bill the Queensland farmers would be automatically cut out of any assistance in drought years. When the Premier of Queensland read the bill he indicated his wishes to the Commonwealth Government and the amendment made by the Senate has been the result.

Mr Scully - Could not the position of the Queensland growers be met under the provisions of clause 6, sub-clause 3 ?

Sir EARLE PAGE - No. The position is dealt with under clause 7, subclause 5. That is the clause which deals with the distribution of the second kind of payments provided for. in paragraphb of clause 6. It was found, however, to be drawn in such a way as to exclude Queensland from participating in the benefits of any distribution of this special allocation.

Mr.Forde. - If the Queensland Government had put up this proposal at the Premiers Conference, the Commonwealth would have agreed to it.


Mr Curtin - The Premier of Queensland said that the bill as drawn did not comply with the terms of the agreement reached at the conference, and that, when he discovered what had been done, ho telegraphed to a senator with a view to having the position remedied.

Sir EARLE PAGE - The Premier of Queensland telephoned to the Prime Minister regarding the matter, and as soon as the position was realized, the Government agreed to accept the amendment.

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