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Tuesday, 21 June 1949

Mr HAMILTON (Swan) .- Whenever this House considers the subject of wheat, the name of Mr. J. S. Teasdale, the representative of Western Australian wheat-growers on the Australian Wheat Board, almost inevitably arises in the debate. About, a week ago, when we were discussing the sale of Australian wheat to the United' Kingdom, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) made statements to the effect that Mr. Teasdale was not, in fact, a wheatgrower, and that he was delivering only three or four hags of wheat a year. At that time, I interjected in an endeavour to correct any wrong impression that might have been created by those assertions, and I now take this opportunity to place on record Mr. Teasdale's own explanation of his position as a wheatgrower. His letter appeared in the West Australian on the 11th June last. I shall not read to the House his remarks about what he termed " the tirade of abuse " against him, but his explanation is as follows : -

When it became necessary for me to take up duty on the Australian Wheat Board it was obviously impossible to attend a fortnightly meeting of the board in Melbourne and conduct the physical work involved on a wheat farm 160 miles from Perth and so 1 entered into a share partnership with my brother on the customary terms. Owing to the fact that two of his boys went on active service as soon-'as they reached that age, coupled with the shortage of labour, the arrangement could not be continued. However, my next-door neighbour, Mr. Perry, was anxious to prepare for the return of hiĀ« son - then a prisoner of war in Germany - and he asked me to facilitate this process by a working arrangement between his two sons and myself.

Sharecroppig arrangements between nextdoor neighbours are notoriously liable to cause difficulties between the parties and to obviate this, and to continue the good relationship between Mr. Perry and myself, which has existed for many years, it was decided I should retain a nominal interest in the crop, namely the proceeds of one acre assessed at 12 bushels, plus a cash payment. The arrangement has a few years to run and has maintained the mutual friendship which has existed for so long. Moreover, it has permitted me to concentrate on the fight for a just price for my fellow wheat-growers without having it cast up against me that I am merely trying to put money into my own pocket.

Et ill became the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister for Works and Housing to attempt to belittle Mr. Teasdale by stating that he delivered only three or four bags of wheat annually. At least one of those honorable gentlemen must have been aware of the facts.

Last Friday, before the debate on this bill was adjourned, I was analysing the degree of protection that the International "Wheat Agreement will give to Australian wheat-growers. I emphasize that the only protection that they will have is that during the next four years they will be certain to receive the minimum price for 80,000,000 bushels of wheat. Honorable members will recall that the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) expressed the opinion than even that degree of protection was doubtful, and I agree with him. However, before I deal at greater length with wheat in this International Wheat Agreement, I desire to direct attention to the position of the Australian flour-milling industry. The International Wheat Agreement provides that an importing country shall import wheat and/or wheat and flour. Flour-milling in Australia is a most important industry, and if importing nations aTe to be permitted to receive the whole of their wheat requirements in grain, instead of continuing to purchase some flour from us, tragedy will overtake this industry. Last year, when this House was considering the previous international wheat agreement, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is reported in Hansard as having said -

In the case of markets equidistant from Canada and Australia - e.g. Shanghai, when Canada is shipping out of Vancouver - it would be necessary for us to be able to come down to such a price in order to compete with Canada on a c.i.f. basis in those markets. However, where countries such as India, New Zealand, Java, Ceylon and Malaya want wheat, or flour, they will naturally come to Australia for it and pay the Canadian f.o.b. prices - converted, of course, to Australian currency.

Last Friday morning, the Minister, in an answer to a question, said that Australia's export trade in flour was falling off. That statement is undoubtedly correct, and we should endeavour to ascertain the reason for the decline. Prior to the last twelve months, India had not been importing wheat from countries through the London Food Council. Singapore is no longer working under that authority, and recently, Malaya announced that after the 1st September next it would not make purchases through it. Why have those countries in the Indian Ocean area reached that decision. They have announced, in unmistakable terms, that bloc-to-bloc sales, or government-to-government sales, are so clumsy and awkward that they prefer to conduct their transactions on commercial lines. We are amazed to find that American interests, as the result of their activity and business acumen, have been able to worm their way into those markets and supplant Australian exporters.

The reduction of our flour exports, which the Minister has admitted, will be detrimental, not only to the wheatgrowers, but also to the flour millers and to many people who are employed in the milling industry. Hundreds of thousands of men are associated with the industry, and their livelihood will be seriously affected if the export trade continues to fall away. The decline of flour milling will also affect the poultry industry. Australia has a contract with the United Kingdom to provide a certain quantity of eggs. When that contract was prepared, it was hoped that Australia's bird population would be increased by some millions within a few years. How can farmers increase their flocks, or even maintain the present supply of eggs to the United Kingdom, if the flour milling trade falls away, causing a decrease of bran and pollard production? Disregarding recent increased prices of those two commodities, what will be the ultimate effect of reduced flour milling upon our commitments with the United Kingdom for the supply of eggs? Another industry that is largely dependent upon flour milling is the dairying industry. Everybody who has had anything to do with dairying knows that milk supplies will fall off if dairy-farmers cannot get adequate quantities of bran. Decreased milk production will have an effect upon the supply of butter to the United Kingdom.

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