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Friday, 2 December 1938

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) (Minister for Commerce) . - Some honorable members seem to overlook the fact that three hurdles will have to be jumped before any of this money may he distributed. The amount, to be provided is £500.000. First, the Minister for Commerce will have to he satisfied that any proposal for the distribution of any part of this sum is in accordance with the general principles of the legislation. Secondly, the amount which each State receives must be determined by the Minister for Commerce in consultation with the State Ministers, who .will, in fact, determine whether a State shall receive any of the money at all. Thirdly, any money allotted to a State must be distributed in accordance with the plan agreed upon between Commonwealth and State Ministers. The Minister for Commerce must be satisfied under all three headings. An amount not exceeding £500,000 is to be distributed in accordance with the general plan each year for the next four years after the first year, in such a way as will help farmers on marginal land for all time. Queensland will receive nothing out of this scheme, as the bill now stands, and I must admit that the representatives of that State have been extraordinarily helpful in regard to the whole matter. The geographical position of Queensland is such as has enabled it to maintain a home-consumption price of its own for wheat for a number of years. Realizing the value of this principle, it has intimated that it is prepared to do everything possible to help the other States" to fix a home-consumption price. ' The value of the principle of a homeconsumption price has also been demonstrated in Queensland in respect of both butter and sugar. The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Jolly) who, I take it, would support the Senate's amendment as it stands, has suggested an addition to it which may meet the views of certain honorable members who genuinely support the main principles of the bill, but feel that they cannot accept this amendment. He has suggested that an amount not exceeding £100,000 of the £500,000 at issue may be allocated each year for drought relief. Personally, I am prepared to agree to an amendment, if the amendment made by the Senate is defeated, which would allow one-third of the total amount, which would be about £166,000, to be used for this purpose. This would meet the needs of, say, two States which might experience a drought in the same season. I agree with honorable members who contend that a. limit should be placed upon the proportion of the £500,000 which may be used for purposes other than dealing with farmers on marginal areas, as that was in the minds of 'the State governments when they agreed to the original clause ; and if it needs to be stated, the suggestion of the honorable member for Lilley offers a reasonable compromise along these lines.

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