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Thursday, 1 September 1921

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - I wish, briefly, to complete the remarks I desired to make. Although it may not be considered right to contribute personal experience, there can be no doubt that that is the most valuable that could be submitted, and in this matter I can give my own experience for the last twelve years in wheat farming. Personal experience is the best schoolmaster, and hearsay counts for nothing against it. It has been stated, on the best authority in the Western Australian Legislative Council, that there are 600 idle farms in Western Australia. They were taken up some years ago, and for various reasons those who took them up walked off them and went back, into the labour market. Sir Edward Wittenoom called for a return on the subject, and the figures I have given .were supplied. There are hundreds of farms that have fallen into the hands of the Agricultural Bank where the saplings to-day are growing as high as the roof of this chamber. Perhaps it is not altogether seemly to draw on one's own personal experiences, but I propose to put my experience of farming before the Committee. In twelve years I have had four failures. I have experienced two droughts, during which I did not get as much wheat off my land as could be picked up with a pen. We had a drought in 1911 and again in 1914, and for two seasons we had too much rain, and did not obtain a return sufficient to cover expenses. We obtained £84 worth of wheat from 600 acres. As a result of the drought of 1914, which swept over the whole continent, we had to pay £1 a bag for wheat which we had sold for 9s. 6d. a bag the year before, and £14 a ton for chaff which we had sold for £3 10s. a ton. That was the experience of hundreds of men on the land. And yet we have here a proposal to tax them to the extent of 1s. an acre - a taxwhich in reality will amount to nearly 2s. per acre in the case of farmers in the western State. Honorable senators representing the eastern States are prepared to vote for this impost. Senator Bolton, for instance, is ready to do so. He is a representative of Victoria, a developed State, I am glad to say, and one having large areas of good land. I invite him, however, to look at this question from a continental point of view and to have regard to the unfortunate position of thousands of farmers in other parts of the Commonwealth whose experiences have been positively appalling. They are his fellow Australians, although they do not live in Victoria, and he should have regard to their interests. My experience satisfies me that there is not a morsel of warrant for what the Government are now proposing. If they place this impost on the farmers of Australia, the farmers - and particularly those who are trying to scratch a living out of the light dry soils - will not look with a friendly eye upon them. I know what I am speaking about, and I do not hesitate to say that even farmers in the most superior positions, men who have acquired cheap and good land along the Midland Company's lines in Western Australia - capable men, drawn from the mines and the artisans' stops, including many from the eastern States - are in a bad way today. I do not like to tell this doleful tale, but it is absolutely true. I grant that there are some farmers settled on good land in favorable situations who are doing well. They are of the second generation, and there are some who managed to get cheap land in good situations who will, so to speak, "keep ahead of it." But they could not do so unless they were prepared to disregard clocks and. watches, and as soon as' they recover from their bodily tiredness make a fresh attack every morning of their lives. It is on behalf of such men that I make this plea. If the Committee carries this request it will do so with the most callous indifference to the interests of thousands of poor struggling wretches. The Senate is supposed to guard the interests of all sections of the community, but it will deal treacherously with the interests of thousands of poor farmers if it carries this request. Every honorable senator who votes for this increased burden of Is. an acre upon the poor fellows of whom I have spoken will fail in the discharge of his public duty. I am against this request. I . have voted over and over again for Protective duties, but I am taking up this stand to-night on behalf of a most deserving class. If there were any warrant for the increased duty I should not object, but it is proposed in the interests of companies that are doing well. Notwithstanding the foolish step taken by us the other day in imposing a duty on sulphur, I believe they can still do well. If they cannot, then let us retrace our steps and give them free sulphur. Let the big mining company in Tasmania do what it told the world it would do - extract copper on a more scientific basis than before. Let the "cobbler stick to his last." Let this company stick to what it set out to do, and not call upon late and early workers to pay for their by-product. Do not let it call upon the poor wretches out-back to pull it through. I invite honorable senators to show me a statement in the prospectus of that company that its object was to produce sulphur. It was distinctly set out in its prospectus that it proposed to carry on the electrolytic process of producing copper, but it now asks the farmers in the back country to come forward and help it to make ends meet. I appeal to honorable senators' sense of fair play and equity; I appeal to them to exercise their common sense and to reject the request.

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