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Tuesday, 29 August 1972
Page: 757

Mr MAISEY (MOORE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the first advance payment on wheat. I ask: Is the Minister aware that the present first advance of 110c a bushel was fixed in 1957 and that since that time dramatic Increases in wages and salaries and improved working conditions, in association with excessive tariff protection to secondary industry, have drastically eroded the purchasing power of this 110c? Will the Minister make early representations to have the first advance payment increased to at least 125c a bushel in order to restore economic viability to the industry pending payments to growers accruing from the vast quantities of wheat being shipped against extended credit sales contracts?

Mr SINCLAIR (NEW ENGLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) - The Government has taken into very careful consideration the problems of wheat growers at a time of escalating costs in maintaining its first payment at the level of $1.10 a bushel. The significance, of course, of the first payment is that it means that not only will the wheat grower get money into his pocket immediately but also the whole of the rural community affected by incomes from wheat will get an immediate flow of money, which helps to sustain the people in the towns and the people in the cities who are providores to those country towns. It is only to a very limited degree that the farmer has any residual benefit. As the honourable member's question so rightly propounded, unfortunately erosion of that minimal return has taken place because of escalating costs.

In the world wheat trade there has been regrettably something of a drift in prices. It is a drift which has been accentuated because of the degree to which grains for stock feed purposes are tending to a greater and greater degree to be the norm from which all grain prices are assessed. Whereas in days gone by grain for human consumption was accepted as demanding a premium, because of the tremendous growth in the degree to which there is a demand for grain for stock feed purposes and the extent to which that is tending to dominate world grain markets there has been some erosion in prices of wheat being essentially for human consumption. I can understand the concern the honourable gentleman has for an increase in the $1.10 a bushel first advance payment to cover escalating costs, but I think wheat growers need to realise that with world grain prices easing there is regrettably a position today which sees world grain prices becoming closer and closer to that $1.10 a bushel basic payment. Under present arrangements the Government does provide a very generous guarantee to the wheat industry. It provides significant help to the industry and I believe the industry has benefited substantially from that Government assistance. Nonetheless, I will take the honourable gentleman's concern into account when deliberations ensue prior to the initiation of the next 5-year wheat stabilisation scheme, which, of course, is due to commence on 1st July 1973.

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