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Wednesday, 28 October 1970

Mr GRASSBY (Riverina) (3:47 AM) - I want to force home here the point that under the arrangement for financing the advances to the Australian Wheat Board we have a situation in which the Treasurer can intervene if the interest burden is too low but he can intervene at the primary stage. In fact, this was done by Prime Minister Chifley at a time when he was not only the Prime Minister but also the Treasurer and the wheat industry was in trouble. What he decided to do was to reduce the interest rate and therefore the burden on the growers. Of course, the bur den was a considerable one as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony; would know in relation to the record wheat crop that we had in 1968-69. The interest due to be paid by growers for moneys advanced was S25m. So interest is of tremendous importance to us. Here we havei clause whereby it is proposed that the Government and the Treasurer will underwrite or guarantee the repayment of private bank finance. This means that there is no real reason to seek the money in that quarter because the Government is in fact saying: 'We will guarantee it if this is necessary.' So surely there should be a consistency about it in relation to the precedent for wheat and also in relation to our own taxpayers and our own growers The Government should go to the Reserve Bank and say clearly that it is the borrowing authority. If the Treasurer has to guarantee anyone let him guarantee ourselves, let him guarantee our own institutions, let him guarantee on the best basis for the taxpayers and the growers themselves. I think this is a terribly important and fundamental point. We are very much concerned about it and I would ask very sincerely that the Minister think again about giving a guarantee in such terms to private banking institutions when in fact we can go directly to the Reserve Bank. We can fix the interest. The Treasurer has a direct say. He can protect both the taxpayers and the growers in a very adequate way under the terms of the amendment which the Opposition has moved.

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