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Wednesday, 9 June 1915

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) .- I do not think this is. a case in which we should press a fiscal policy to the extent of blind devotion. We all know, just as well as does the Minister, that, in November last, there was practically an ascertained shortage of fodder. The honorable member for Cook was on the right track the other night; and I am sorry that he allowed " his motion to be smothered.

Mr J H Catts - I could not help it.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - The honorable member "blew hot" for a while, and then "blew cold."

Mr J H Catts - Nonsense! I could not help myself.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - The position illustrates the necessity for a dependable Department devoted to the collection of statistics. Nothing is more important than that we should know that enough foodstuffs, are being raised, either for the preservation of the people or for the preservation of stock, which is, I think, our greatest national asset; the first es"sential, as a basis of our national existence, is " Enough for all." I freely give, my support to this motion; and, indeed, I go further. I am not even, so keen as the honorable member for Grampians, or the honorable member for Richmond, on the question of the reimposition pf these duties, though certainly I should vote, for that. I do not regard the duties as absolutely essential to our primary industries; we all know that they are not. There are only very odd years when the farmers get any benefit from such duties. Of course,- they may operate at times in regard to oats, hay, and wheat, but generally they are practically inoperative. I am pleased that the Committee is showing a disposition to ratify what the Minister has. done; and the only trouble is that the honorable gentleman did not act soon enough. In my opinion, the Federal Government and the State Governments have slept on the question, whereas they should have been in the field much earlier. The first consignment of lucerne for Victoria is about to be landed, to be followed by the first consignment of cereal fodder; but, in the meantime, thousands of head of stock have died. The assurance by the Minister that the fodder is coming in duty free constitutes, in my judgment, not Free Trade, but the highest form of Protection that could be offered to country producers at the present time, seeing that fully 90 per cent. or 95 per cent. of the farmers are buyers, and not growers and sellers.

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