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Wednesday, 14 October 1970

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) (1:12 AM) - I want to correct a misconception of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull), who in this House this evening made certain allegations against me regarding wheat. It has come to my notice over a period of time that the honourable member for Mallee has been running around the countryside telling producers that I have been opposed to paying $1.10 a bushel as a first advance to wheatgrowers within the quota. This has come to my notice on several occasions.

Mr Kennedy - Would you say he was a liar?

Dr PATTERSON - If I say that, it will be unparliamentary. He has attempted to justify this tonight by quoting from a speech I made. I have had the privilege now of reading that speech. Not one sentence in that speech justifies his contention. What he is trying to say or maliciously imply is that I am opposed to paying wheat farmers $1.10 a bushel for the first advance, despite the fact that in this Parliament on behalf of the Opposition I supported the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). I have supported that statement many times in public and yet the honourable member has the temerity to say this outside many times. I assume that he will deny it. I have heard from other sources that he said it. In this House again tonight he attempted to say it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock - Order! I would suggest to the honourable member for Dawson that he cannot revive a debate that has been held in this House previously.

Dr PATTERSON - I am just referring to it. What I said is quite clear. I assume it would have the backing of every sensible member of this Parliament. With regard to the moneys being made available by the Commonwealth or through the Reserve Bank to the Wheat Board for advance to farmers, this is the accepted principle of making a first advance payment. What I said was that where you have a position of surpluses, where you have a position of uncertainty, you have to be extremely careful in the upper limit of what is advanced. That is entirely what the Minister for Primary Industry also said, in more blunt language than I used. This is what I said:

It is obvious to everybody, to the industry and to the Government, that last year there would be large sums of money unrepaid in respect of the 1968-69 harvest. The Government then made another advance of $440m. Looking at it in perspective now-

That is in 1970- we see a total of $440m as the first advance for last year's crop and approximately $2S0m in unsold wheat or the equivalent still on hand. This amounts to a loan of from $650m to $700m having been made. The disturbing thing of which Parliament must take note-

This was also stated by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony)- is the very serious economic problem of the consequence of making large advances to anyone when that money has been spent and the product for which it has been advanced has not been sold.

In other words, how long can we continue to do this? This is the basis of the quota system - an upper ceiling on the amount of Commonwealth liability. All I was doing was warning the Government, which the Minister for Primary Industry did and I will later quote what he said. I said:

The Government has now been warned about what can happen by being a guarantor for large proportions of wheat that cannot be sold at this point of time.

The Minister for Primary Industry said even more than that. He in fact warned the industry that if it went above that ceiling he would reduce the $1.10. I do not think the honourable member for Mallee has even done his homework. I. will now quote what the Minister for Primary Industry, his office boy as the honourable member has referred to him, said-

Mr Turnbull - That is completely untrue.

Dr PATTERSON - You know that is the truth. This is what the Minister for Primary

Industry said on 30th April 1969: 'The limit of $440m must be observed. The amount is a large one. As honourable members know, the industry, through the Wheat Board, is now heavily indebted to the Reserve Bank and is likely to have an overdraft of as much as S200m at the time when advances on the next crop will be around their peak. In other words, there may be as much as $640m advanced to the industry in the early months of 1970.' That is exactly what I said. I suggest the honourable member for Mallee listen to this. The Minister continued: 'Let me make it clear that the sums I have mentioned will not be exceeded'.

A warning. The Minister continued: 'If quotas are not implemented and if the quantity delivered to the Wheat Board exceeds 357 million bushels, then the first advance will have to be something less than $1.40'. This is far more than I ever said. Is the honourable member for Mallee going around the countryside saying that the Minister for Primary Industry said they will get less than $1.40? I ask the honourable member for Mallee to have some respect for the spoken word. He knows full well that what I said was a complete endorsement of Government policy on this, -because we argued in this Parliament for most of last year on the wheat crisis that there had to be some control on production and if the industry had a larger peak it was obvious that the first advance payment would have to be reduced. At no stage have I ever indicated, as the honourable member has been alleging about the countryside, that I am opposed to paying $1.10 as a first advance to wheat farmers. It is an untruth and he knows it.

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