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Friday, 6 March 1942
Page: 294

Mr LANGTRY (Riverina) .- It seems remarkable that on every occasion on which a member of the Opposition discusses the position of the wheat industry he tries to score at the expense of members of the Labour party. Why do not members of the Opposition say that for ten long years when they were in office they allowed the industry to drift from a reasonably sound position into a wholly deplorable one? Now they have the audacity to tell the Minister for Commerce (Mr. Scully) what he ought to do in the interests of the industry. When members of the Opposition had a majority in both branches of the legislature they were not confronted by insuperable war and shipping problems. They had every opportunity to assist the industry, but they lacked the will to do so. Now they are shedding crocodile tears during the greatest crisis in the history of the nation. For three successive seasons wheat has been piled up in Western Australia for weevils to eat, but the Opposition would not allow such wheat to be fed to human beings. Honorable members opposite ought to admit that the downfall of the industry has been brought about by the action of the members of the Country party in the Senate. When the Labour party was prepared to guarantee to the farmer the payment of 4s. a bushel, the proposal had to be approved by the Senate, but, unfortunately for the growers, the Labour party did not have the necessary majority in. that chamber and the proposal wasdefeated.

Mr Prowse - That statement is not correct.

Mr LANGTRY - What I have said is on record. The Minister for Commerce and I condemned the present wheat scheme from the first, on the ground that it is not .fair to the growers, and I hopethat it will be scrapped. The formerMinister for Commerce (Sir Earle Page) said that the scheme represented the efforts of 20 years. What a glorious effort it was to reduce the price of wheat below the cost of production! Members of the Opposition have the " hide " totell the present Government what it ought to do for the wheat-farmers, although during ten long years they did nothing to place the wheat industry on a sound, footing. What a government could not do in ten years it could not accomplish in 150 years, if it had not the will to do it. The present Ministry has been in office only a few short months, yet during that period it has given to the growers an opportunity to have their own representatives on the Wheat Board. Instead of the previous Government doing this, it said to the growers that they must be content to produce the wheat, allowing others to do the marketing and get the rake-off. That is why the wheat industry is in the deplorable position in which it finds itself to-day. It has never had a fair deal from the Opposition parties.

My views regarding the wheat industry are well known. I have favoured production on a bushel quota basis ever since I have been a member of this House, because I believe that such a scheme would enable the small farmers to secure a living. The big farmers have other avenues of income, such as returns from the sale of cattle, lambs and wool, hut the small growers depend almost entirely on the price they receive for their wheat. Under the present scheme the small farmer must inevitably go further into debt. When the new plan is finalized I hope that it will be based on a bushel quota, with a guaranteed price to the grower of not less than 4s. a bushel, cash on delivery. The farmer should not be given an advance of two shillings a bushel, and a few extra pence a bushel later, probably spread over three years. If he informed the railway authorities that he would pay his freight charges on machinery, oils, bags, Asc., when he received his wheat cheque, he would not get delivery, but in the past lie has been required to accept payment for his wheat by instalments. That is absolutely unfair. I hope that, the full price will be paid in cash on delivery.

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