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Wednesday, 3 September 1902


The CHAIRMAN - To suit the convenience of the honorable member, I will put the items seriatim.

Mr. CONROY(Werriwa.).- I can quite understand that some honorable members do not like this matter to be discussed, although they know that there is a ring of millers who have bought up all the wheat beforehand, and that not a single farmer is benefited by the duty, whilst the rate on flour of £2 15s. a ton has raised the price of bread to the people. They look upon that fact with pleasure, because the members of the ring are putting money into their own pockets. The Minister for Trade and Customs cries in effect - "In the name of all that is good and merciful give the ring a chance of making money out of the necessities of the people." I protest against the Ministerial proposal. In my judgment we might reason. ably accede to the requests of the Senate in regard to reduced duties upon bacon and haras and wheat. The drought which has prevailed allover Australia has worked almost irreparableinj ury . As honorable membersare aware, itwill be impossible for us to harvest anywheat until January or February next ; consequently the duty of 1s. 6d. per cental upon that commodity will affect the food supplies of the peoplefor the next fourmonths. Similarly with regard to grain and pulse prepared or manufactured, n.e.i., I think that we might wellaccept the reduced dutyrequested by the other Chamber.

Mr. BROWN(Canobolas). - I am prepared to allow the duties upon bacon and ham and butter and cheese topass unchallenged, but I cannot take up the same position in respect of wheat. I think it will be admitted that under normal conditions a tax of1s. 6d. per cental upon wheat will not operate within the Commonwealth. In an ordinary season the farmers grow more than sufficient for the requirements of our people, and are compelled to export their surplus to other parts of the world. But throughoutthe entire Commonwealth, and particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, we have recently been experiencing an abnormally dry season, and although the outlook has considerably improved within the last week, the crops are still in a very backward condition. The prospect for the farmers is a very gloomy one indeed, particularly in New South Wales. I feel satisfied that instead of that State being in a position to export wheat, as heretofore, it will be compelled to import it for the purpose of providing food supplies for its people. Indeed I believe that the drought has been so general throughout Australia that within the next year it will be necessary for the Commonwealth to import wheat for its own requirements. In the face of such an outlook, is it reasonable to levy the heavy duty proposed upon the general consumer? I protest against the attitude of the Government in refusing to accede to the reasonable request of the Senate. If they arenot prepared to do that, they might at least agree to a compromise. Certainly a duty of1s.6d. per cental upon wheat is an excessive one.







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