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Tuesday, 12 August 1902

Mr KENNEDY (Moira) - I fully expected, from the tenor ' of the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, that he would try to demonstrate that the Government are the cause of the drought. He also made an effort to show that the duty of ls. 6d. per cental is the cause of the present high price of wheat.

Mr Conroy - No; the drought is the cause.

Mr KENNEDY - Then the duty is not the cause. Australia has exported since last harvest nearly as much wheat as would, suffice for the requirements of her people for a whole year.

Sir William McMillan - Would that wheat have been exported for 3s. a bushel if the exporters could have foreseen that the price would rise to 4s. 6d. per bushel 1

Mr KENNEDY -.- The whole cause of the trouble is the fight which is going on between the exporters and the millers. The last wheat yield was over-estimated, and consequently the exporters' have not been able to fill their charters or the millers to fill their floors ; but there is no evidence that there is not sufficient wheat in Australia to tide us over until the next crop is harvested. It has been stated that the high price of bread is also largely due to the duty, but I find that five years ago, when there was no duty, flour was as dear in New South Wales as it is now.

Mr Conroy - But the prices ruling in the outside world were 8d. per bushel lower.

Mr KENNEDY - If that was so, the fact was used by the Sydney millers and those connected with them to bear down prices in New South Wales. I have taken my information as to the prices then prevailing, from the SydneyMorningHerald and the Sydney DailyTelegraph of June and August, 1897, and compared their prices with those quoted this month. To my own knowledge Adelaide buyers came into

Riverina in 1897 and bought wheat there which the Sydney buyers would not touch. During this year the export of wheat and its equivalent from the port of Sydney has amounted to date to 3,384,104' bushels.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Was more exported this year than last year 1

Mr KENNEDY - No. I have ascertained from the Sydney Morning Herald, within the last week, that in 1900 there were received in Sydney from the wheatgrowing districts of New South Wales 90,638 tons of wheat, and 14,953 tons of flour; in 1901, 173,857 tons of wheat, and 24,959 tons of flour; and in 1902, 120,435 tons of wheat, and 19,429 tons of flour. There is no evidence there of an absolute scarcity of wheat for the requirements of the people of the Commonwealth. If it could be shown that we had not sufficient wheat in the Commonwealth for our own requirements there would be some force in the arguments which have been advanced in favour of the abolition of the duty. There are prophets who tell us that there will be no return from the ensuing wheat harvest ; but assuming that the yield will be onlyhalf as large as the normal yield, the supply will be ample for our requirements. It is estimated that the average citizen consumes 5£ bushels of wheat per annum, the duty upon which at lOd. per bushel would be 4s. 7d., but there is no evidence that the consumer pays the whole of the duty, and assuming that only three-fourths of the total consumption is home-grown wheat it is more than probable that he does not.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Are there no indirect disadvantages from the duty upon wheat 1

Mr KENNEDY - If the farmers do not continue to grow wheat, we shall have this disadvantage, that considerable areas now devoted to agriculture will cease to be profitably occupied, and many subsidiary industries will be ruined. I ask those who are pressing for the remission of the duty to prove that there is an absolute scarcity of wheat now within the Commonwealth for the requirements of our people, and that the duty is the cause of the present high price of wheat in Victoria.

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