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Wednesday, 17 July 1946

Mr FROST - Did the honorable gentleman object to the shipping of the wheat?

Mr McDONALD - I did not; but I am also in favour of allowing oats to be exported. . I do not think that Australia can take pride in- the quantity of foodstuffs which it has shipped overseas, particularly to the Mother Country, where the rationing of foodstuffs is more severe now than it was during the war years. Although the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture may bc satisfied with what has been done, I am very far from satisfied. We should have done infinitely better than we have done. We have the spectacle in the western districts of Victoria of many stacks of unthreshed oats standing in the paddocks, although one one of the most famous races on earth is reared on oats.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! Oatmeal is hardly relevant to the hill.

Mr McDONALD - With respect, Mr. Speaker, I do not think that you could have been listening to my argument.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! The honorable gentleman should not mistake tolerance for deafness.

Mr McDONALD - In my opinion, it is not possible properly to discuss a plan for the stabilization of a particular primary product without dealing with other primary products closely related to it. If the Government had as much regard for the primary producers as it would have us believe it has, it would have done more for the growers of oats and hay than it has done, particularly as it encouraged them to increase production in order to accumulate reserves of fodder.

Mr Fuller - Does the honorable member believe in shipping everything out of Australia?

Mr McDONALD - I do not believe in anything that the honorable member believes in. I believe in the Government standing up to its responsibilities and obligations. I consider that this Government has run away from its undoubted obligations to certain sections- of .primary producers. If we should have another drought in Australia, and conditions in some areas are not very promising to-day, we may find that our reserves of fodder will become still further depleted, particularly as the growers of hay and oats have been treated so unfairly.

Mr SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must return to the bill or resume his seat.

Mr McDONALD - I shall return to the bill, Mr. Speaker. I point out that as the result of the Government's policy, land which has been prepared for sowing to oats may now be sown to wheat.

The Minister has said that this scheme will be an encouragement to exservicemen. I cannot see that that will be so. I do not believe that the exserviceman will be satisfied with it in any way, because the system, of licensing is apparently to be preserved. I know that ex-servicemen in my own electorate are still being required to fill in forms for licences to grow wheat. One of them told mo the other day that he had been required to give all kinds of information about himself, except the colour of his eyes, and this at a time when we need wheat as never before and when everything possible should be clone to encourage the production of wheat! Some of the most successful ex-servicemen in my electorate had sown their crops before their licences were granted. They got a flying start. But if they had not been men of initiative the position would have been very different. The season would have been too late for them to sow their crops after their licences arrived.

I favour an effective stabilization plan, but I shall not be a party to permitting honorable gentlemen opposite to pretend to the people of this country that this Government is prepared to spend millions of pounds of public money to stabilize the wheat industry. As a matter of fact, if the industry should be stabilized under this scheme, it will be done by taking a part of the earnings of the farmers over a period of five years and holding it to meet eventualities. The Government is saying, in effect, " If wheat prices fall we are prepared to bring the guaranteed price up to 5s. 2d. a bushel ". The Government-, is- giving nothing for nothing. It will be using the wheat-growers' money to do whatever may need to be done. When the previous Government was in office and wheat was valued at only about 2s. 6d. a bushel on the world market, it was prepared to pay a stabilized price to the wheat-growers and to advance as much as 6d. or even ls. a bushel to achieve this end. If the proposed committee to inquire into the cost of wheat production in Australia be not appointed, the people of Australia will continue to have the advantage of purchasing wheat at below the cost of production. That is a state of affairs which would be quite unfair to the wheat-growers. To-day the wheatgrowers are paying exorbitant prices for the machinery they require to produce their crops. I agree with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) that nowadays one man can do as much as two men could do formerly with the old horse teams, but we are fast reaching the stage where a farmer cannot afford to purchase an up-to-date plant until he is almost in a position to retire. A man in that position will not be induced to work day and night to produce a huge crop of wheat. He could live in tolerable comfort without doing anything of the kind. If the Government accepts the amendments foreshadowed by the honorable member -for Indi, something worthwhile could probably be done with this bill, but if the Government persists in its iniquitous plan to include in the scheme the 1945-46 season, in respect of which sowing was done more than twelve months ago and harvesting more than six months ago, in order to ensure a stabilization scheme over the next four years, it -will be so manifestly unfair that even this Government will not be able to survive the shock of it.

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