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Thursday, 5 December 1935

Senator GIBSON (Victoria) (1:52 AM) . - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) set out at the beginning of his speech to endeavour to prove that the wheat-growers of this country were determined to have a compulsory pool. In my opinion he concluded his speech without proving that such was the case.

Senator Collings -i did my best.

Senator GIBSON - Quite a number of ballots have been taken from time to time in the various States to ascertain whether or not the farmers desired a compulsory pool, and I believe that in every instance the farmers rejected the proposal. I refer specifically to Victoria and New South Wales.

Senator Collings - I quoted the result of a ballot taken by the New South Wales Farmers and Settlers Association.

Senator GIBSON - Admittedly the ballot taken by the association favoured a compulsory pool, but the vote of the entire body of wheat-growers is a very different matter. The voice of the association is not always the voice of the wheat-growers ; hundreds of them may not be members of the association. A compulsory pool can give only one thing - a home-consumption price. It cannot give any more; it cannot organize the farmers; and it cannot do anything for them except to give what they would get from the flour tax - a home-consumption price. In Western Australia a voluntary pool is operating, and there are pools in

Victoria and South Australia. With the establishment of a compulsory pool, the number of sellers is reduced to one. A monopoly is created which can sell the wheat at any price that may be offering, and the farmer does not know whether he is getting full value or not. At present, the merchants and the pool are competing with one another to give the farmer the highest price possible. As proof of that, I point out that the voluntary pool in Western Australia, which has an advantage of 2s. a ton in respect of freight, actually got fd. a bushel less for its wheat than did the Victorian pool, and the South Australian pool got½d. a bushel less than the Victorian pool. Had a compulsory pool been in existence in Victoria, probably the Western Australian price would have been obtained, and the farmers would have received fd. a bushel less for their wheat. Actually, the difference would have been as much as l½d.. if the freight advantage enjoyed by the Western Australian pool were taken into consideration. The best method is to have competition.

I am not altogether satisfied with the bill, but it is the best that Ave can get at the moment; it is only a skeleton, which the States will be required to fill in. It is difficult for the Commonwealth to pass legislation without knowing the provisions of the proposed legislation of the States, or for the States to pass legislation complementary to this bill. This measure covers interstate trade, and the onus or odium of legislating to control intra-State trade in wheat devolves upon the States. Nothing can be done until the provisions of both the Commonwealth and State legislation are known. One of the difficulties I see in this bill is that it will immediately abolish the competition in Victoria alone of twenty buyers of wheat. They include all the millers. Under this scheme, a compulsory pool will be created for one-quarter of the wheat produced, being that for home-consumption, and the remaining three-quarters will be sold on the open market. That is the position as I see it. One-quarter of the wheat will be put into a compulsory pool, on which the millers will draw. Previously the millers competed with one another in certain, districts for certain wheats. In my own district, the climate is fairly moist, and the millers would not buy wheat grown there under any circumstances. All that production was exported.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The millers will still pay a premium where the wheat is worth it. .

Senator GIBSON - No. A miller will buy at 4s. 9d. a bushel.

Senator Sir George Pearce - The miller will give a premium for certain wheats.

Senator GIBSON - Perhaps for individual wheats. There is a difference between dry wheat and moist wheat, but both are distinguished from wheat with a high gluten content. Millers will seek to purchase wheat grown in the Wimmera and the Mallee, because it is very dry. I do not oppose the bill. I think that my vote on the sugar question this afternoon might have been misunderstood, because I voted for the first reading of the bill, and then for the amendment moved in committee bySenator DuncanHughes. If this bill now under discussion had fixed a home-consumption price for wheat at 9s. - the equivalent of the sugar prices under the protection granted to that industry - I would have voted against this measure, also.

Many difficulties will arise when this legislation is put into operation. If a farmer has 2,000 bags of wheat, onequarter of it will go into local consumption. But the farmer might require 300 bags for seed, and for pig and fowl feed. He will put the whole of his wheat into the pool, and get one-quarter of his 300 bags at the home-consumption price. Then he may buy his requirements for seed from his neighbour out of the export pool. In such circumstances, the grower would certainly receive an advantage to which he is not entitled, and therefore, I consider that this measure will require a good deal of policing to stop any such leakage. As nothing will be done before the next harvest, there will be plenty of time when the Senate meets again to bring this measure into line with the acts passed by the States of Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.

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