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Wednesday, 17 July 1946

Mr ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Barnard) - Order !

Mr SCULLY - It is a contemptible thing for an honorable member to use the privileges of the Parliament to make innuendos and insinuations against the integrity of honest men like Mr. Cullen and the other men who are doing a great job on behalf of Australia. But I will not be led astray by the interjections of the honorable member for Indi. I do not consider that most of the other points made by honorable gentlemen opposite warrant a reply.

One of the principal criticisms directed against the bill was the inclusion of the 1945-46 pool in the stabilization plan. Honorable members know perfectly well that in order to obtain an effective stabilization, we must begin the scheme when prices are high. No one can forecast accurately how Jong the present high prices will continue. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), who, in my opinion, is a greater authority on the wheat industry than is any other member of the Opposition, warned us that wheat prices on the world market might fall rapidly. In a very effective speech, he emphasized that European countries, which had. been devastated during the war, would rapidly redevelop their agriculture. Supporting his statements ' are the views of the chairman of the Canadian Wheat Pool, Mr. McIver, who warned the wheatgrowers of that Dominion not to plant extravagantly large acreages this year.

He advised- them to sow the coarser grains. The Canadian Wheat Pool could not guarantee how long the present inflated prices of wheat would continue. The principal official of Unrra, Mr. Jackson, who recently returned to Australia, considered that Europe 'and North Africa would rapidly resume the production of grain. Statements that high prices will continue indefinitely are mere guesswork, and every wheat-growers' organization throughout Australia is anxious that the wheat stabilization plan shall be introduced immediately.

References have been made in this debate to "the decisions of the conference of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation in Perth recently. Members of the Australian Country party, who are making a political football of the wheat stabilization plan, heralded those decisions as marking the doom of the Government's scheme. The president and: secretary of the federation invited me to meet them in conference in Sydney, and I agreed to do so. With the exception of two men, only one of whom was a Western Australian, those present at that conference supported the present stabilization proposals. Furthermore, when I promised them that I would .recommend to Cabinet the appointment of a commission to inquire into costs in the wheat industry and that a representative of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation would be appointed to it, they seemed perfectly satisfied, and supported the plan m toto. One of the gentlemen who attended the conference was Mr. Ernie Field, who cannot be described as a supporter of the Labour party. He is probably the oldest member of the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, and is also a member of the Australian Wheat Board. Appointed to the board by the previous Government, he was re-elected to the position by the wheat-growers of New South Wales. He publicly supported the wheat stabilization plan, in its' entirety, and described it as the greatest plan that has ever been or is likely to be submitted to the wheatgrowers of Australia. He advised farmers to " grasp the plan with both hands, because it means security for an indefinite period". Never before have wheat-growers enjoyed that degree of security.

A few months ago, I received an invitation to attend the annual conference of the Wheat-growers Union of New South Wales. For many years, I have been in the public life of the Commonwealth and New South Wales, and I say without fear of contradiction that that assembly was the most representative gathering of primary producers that I had ever attended. I was privileged for a while to listen to the discussions. I exercised no particular influence on the decisions, because the day before I attended the conference, members had unanimously agreed to. a resolution approving the wheat stabilization plan.In my presence, the delegates discussed this all-important subject, namely, the inclusion inthe stabilization scheme of the 1945-46 crop.The outstanding feature of the debate was that the organizations representing the largest growers of wheat last year, namely, those in the northern, north-western and central western parts of New South Wales, who would be the largest contributors to the stabilization fund, were unanimously in favour of the inclusion in the scheme of the 1945-46 pool.. That provides an effective answer to the objections raised by the honorable member for Richmond.

Some honorable members opposite have condemned the quota plan, or "Scully plan as it has been termed. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) became "hot under the collar" when be referred to it as the "iniquitous Scully plan". This afternoon, however, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) almost embraced me in his enthusiasm for the 3,000 bushel quota, and emphasized its advantages to the economy of the small wheatgrowers. Although both honorable members are members of the Australian Countryparty. they expressed conflicting views regarding theplan. I place on record my hope, that if through circumstances the production of wheat has to berestricted, the 3,000 bushel quotaplan willbe restored. The big wheat-growercancarry oneffectively with areduced acreage,butacurtailment of acreage means disasterto the small grower, who depends wholly on his wheat harvest for his income. When the

Government guaranteed the payment of 4s. a bushel at country sidings on the first 3,000 bushels of every wheat-grower's crop, the farmer had an assured income of £600 a year.From wheat-growers in many parts of Australia, I have received praise for the quota plan. Even since the formulation of the stabilization plan, I have had definite requests from various centres that I should not depart from the quota plan, because it was. the salvation of the small wheat-grower. If honorable members doubt these statements, they should ask the Rural Bank of New South Wales and country bank managers about the financial position of the small wheat-growers to-day. At one wheat-growers' conference which I attended, a man with a property near Wagga Wagga or Albury stated publicly that as the result of the quota plan, he was able for the first time to look his creditors in the face. And he was the third generation of a wheat-growing family. With the exception of farmers whose crops have been affected . by droughts, the wheat-growers are in a better financial position to-day than they have ever been before. That is due to the Government's foresight and courage in introducing the quota plan.

In conclusion, I inform the Opposition that the Government intends to proceed with the bill. It will not accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Indi, or conduct a ballot to obtain the views of wheat-growers regarding the plan. The objective of members of the Opposition is to destroy the efficacy of the bill - a bill which all wheat-growers throughout Australia will applaud. I advise them to return to their respective States and influence members of the Legislative Councils to pass the complementary State legislation, thereby giving to the wheat-growers the security which for so long has been denied to them.

Question put -

That the words proposed to he left out (Mr. McEwen's amendment) stand part of the question.

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