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Thursday, 2 December 1965

Mr McEWEN (MURRAY, VICTORIA) (Minister for Trade and Industry) - I am aware that great publicity is being given by certain newspapers to writings by a lecturer at the University of Melbourne. He has been writing along these lines, to my knowledge, for about 14 or 15 years. His mission in life seems to be to try to damage the Australian wheat industry. I am sure that he will not succeed. The truth of the matter is that today Australian consumers buy their wheat more cheaply than do any other consumers in the world. Only two or three years ago the price of wheat was reduced by ls. 5d. a" bushel - a tremendous reduction. This emerged from the stabilisation plan. I know of no newspaper company or other enterprise that has reduced its price to a degree comparable with the reduction of price that the Australian wheat industry accorded on the basis of a plan proposed by the wheat growers themselves.

I am sure that people who attack the stabilisation plan forget the desperate misery of the 1930's, the bankruptcy and misery of scores of thousands of Australian wheatgrowers who not only suffered desperately themselves but whose failure was a major contributing factor to the whole Australian depression. Because of the loss of exchange earnings the Prime Minister of the day had to appeal to the wheat growers to grow more wheat - not in their own interests, but in the interests of Australia - so that exchange might be earned and the progress of the country might continue. That is still the requirement of this country today.

The truth of the matter is that the stabilisation plan has given Australia a healthy wheat industry, which is an important sector of the Australian economy. Nothing in the history of this country has been of so great advantage to the Australian consumers as the wheat industry stabilisation plan. The wheat growers, under their own proposals, for years sold their wheat to Australian consumers at 7s. and 8s. a bushel although they were receiving for export wheat of the same quality 17s. and 18s. a bushel. They were out of pocket hundreds of millions of pounds in the interests of the Australian consumers. The balancing part of the bargain that they asked for was that, having paid out of their export earnings tens of millions of pounds into a stabilisation fund-

Mr Daly - The Minister-

Mr McEWEN - Honorable members opposite support this scheme and I ask them to help me to protect the Australian wheat industry - this great industry. The growers asked that, if their own funds should run out, the Australian taxpayers should come to the aid of the industry if export prices fell below cost of production. That is the position today. I have no hesitation in saying that it is the policy of this Government to sustain the wheat industry stabilisation plan in its present form and that it is in the interests of the Australian community, and particularly of the consumers in this country, that this plan be protected from those who seek to attack it and destroy our great wheat industry.

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