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Friday, 2 December 1938

Mr SCHOLFIELD (Wannon) . - I consider that the amendment is a hastily conceived attempt to correct what is undoubtedly an anomaly in the bill. Although in the first place I was opposed to the allocation of £500,000, the committee has agreed to it, and having allocated it, we should see that it is expended in the best way to aid the industry. As the honorable member for Dalley (Mr.

Rosevear, pointed out, the amendment is a departure from the intention of honorable members that the money should be directed toward the solution of one of the most pressing problems of the wheat industry, namely, marginal wheatgrowers. The amendment would allow this £500,000 to be expended, not on the removal of farmers from marginal areas, but on the provision of relief for those farmers who might also be engaged in uneconomic wheat-growing. A special fund is to be provided for five years. As the bill stands, the fund will be used in the first year for the relief of distress, and in the four subsequent years for the removal of farmers from marginal areas. It is well known that the purpose of this amendment is to correct an anomaly in respect of Queensland, which has no marginal land on which wheat is grown. The amendment was devised to make available to that State something in return for what it has done this year for the other States, notably Victoria. The Victorian wheat industry is in a bad way, and Queensland has generously forgone its share of this year's allocation. I can see the anomalous position in which Queensland is placed, and I want to do something to help it. I want also to do something for those States which have marginal areas. I find myself therefore in a dilemma. Paramount in my mind, however, is the need to remove farmers from the marginal lands, and, if this amendment is gone on with, I shall have to vote against it.

Mr Scully - Transfer of farmers from marginal areas is a matter for the States.

Mr SCHOLFIELD - Yes, but it was the intention of the committee that some of this money should be devoted to assistance to the States for that purpose. I urge that the Minister for Commerce have the committee report progress so that this difficulty can be surmounted.

Mr Thompson - What does the honorable member suggest?

Mr SCHOLFIELD - I am not competent to draft a new amendment which would satisfy both of my wishes. The legal advisers of the Government could draft the necessary amendment.

Mr SCHOLFIELD - I suggest that the Minister should withdraw this amendment in favour of one more acceptable to the committee. I realize the importance of inserting a provision in the legislation to safeguard those States which have relinquished their claim to a certain amount of assistance this year, in favour of other States, more especially Victoria. That is the dilemma in which I now find myself. I do not wish to see the principle of this measure altered. It was passed in its original form by this chamber and now it has been returned from the Senate with a request that a certain provision be made. I feel very keenly about that provision which it is proposed should be inserted. I sincerely desire that distribution among all States should be equable. I appreciate the generous action of one State in particular, namely, Queensland, which has allowed money it could normally claim this year to go to other States, particularly Victoria, which have been suffering adverse seasonal conditions. Therefore, I do not wish to see Queensland or, indeed, any other State, prevented from participating in future benefits which may be derived from the allocation of this £500,000, but I urge that the principle of removing people from unprofitable marginal lands should not be departed from. It is said that the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce has the right to veto any suggestion made by a State Minister, but I ask how many Commonwealth Ministers would stand up to the States and argue as to what should be done in those States? That has not been done in the past and will not be done in the future. I suggest that the Minister should investigate the possibility of adopting the Senate's amendment in another form.

Mr.JOLLY (Lilley) [2.171.- It is a matter for very great regret that this factor was not considered when the bill was being discussed by this chamber originally. Naturally, as a representative of Queensland I am sympathetic with the proposal contained, in this amendment and I think my sympathy is shared by almost every other member - but I agree that the acceptance of the amendment in its present form would endanger to a certain degree the principle laid down in clause 7 of the bill. I propose that the amendment should be redrafted so that a limitation of the amount to be used for the purpose of granting relief to distressed wheat-farmers in any one year may be fixed. If, for instance, it were stipulated that not more than £100,000 could be paid out of this fund in any one year foi- the relief of distress caused by adverse seasonal conditions, that would ensure that £400,000 would be left to carry out the principle set out in the bill. I should be glad to know if the Minister would accept an amendment of that kind. Some such provision would meet the wishes of the Queensland growers, who, as' every fair-minded person will agree, are entitled to some consideration. Queensland, as has been pointed out, has practically no marginal wheat lands.

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