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Wednesday, 2 July 1930

The PRESIDENT - If the honorable senator wishes to disagree with my ruling he must do so at once and in writing.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am confident that a majority of the growers, particularly in New South Wales, on behalf of a large number of whom I am entitled to speak, are in favour of the bill, and if I thought that I was not correctly interpreting their opinion I should not be supporting this measure. Not only have the wheat-growers to be considered, but the flour millers, who are vitally interested, are also in favour of the Government's proposals. Representations have been made to me from different quarters to the effect that the flour millers are opposed to this scheme; but representations have also been made to me by their representatives who assure me that they are in favour of the bill.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - Who has given the honorable senator that assurance ?

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The representative of R. L. Scrutton and Co. is one.

Senator Sir Hal Colebatch - Are there any others?

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; but that is the only firm which I can recall at the moment. When Senator Colebatch hears what I have to say on this aspect of the subject, he will realize that the flour millers are on safe ground in supporting the bill. I have been informed that a regulation of wheat prices will result in a stabilization of the price of flour for export, and thus make it much easier for the flour millers to find and maintain overseas markets.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - We cannot stabilize the price of export flour any more than we can stabilize the price of wheat for export.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the price of wheat is stabilized, a good deal of the competition and under-cutting in connexion with the price for export flour will be dispensed with. The representative of the firm which I have mentioned informs me that Australia has practically lost her extensive trade of flour with Egypt in consequence of constant variation in prices.

Senator E B Johnston - That is not due to a variation in prices, but to the fact that the Egyptian Government imposed a tariff against Australian flour.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is not the only reason. The loss of our flour trade with Egypt is due to the continual variation in the price of wheat and the consequent alteration in the price of flour which has led to undercutting in prices, and has made it practically impossible for Australian flour-millers to sell their product in Egypt. If the price of export flour could be stabilized, it should be possible for Australian flour-millers to export larger quantities, which would be of advantage not only to the manufacturers of that commodity, but to the whole community. One could continue giving reasons why this bill should be carried.

Senator Sampson - Thehonorable senator has not given one reason.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have given quite a number; but there should be no necessity to repeat the statements which other honorable senators have already made in support of the bill.

I should now like to examine some of the arguments adduced in opposition to this proposal. Some of them are not only unworthy of the measure, but also of those who submitted them.For instance, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) said that the bill provided for a form of soviet control in that the wheat of Australian farmers is to be handled under a scheme of socialization. He went even further and said that this measure is brought forward by the Government merely to give effect to one of the planks of the Labour party's platform, which provides for the socialization of all means of production, distribution and exchange. The right honorable senator also quoted a report relating to the collectivism of farms and farm produce in Russia. I do not see how it can be claimed that this measure in any way relates to sovietism or to the proposals of the Russian Government with respect to the system of collectivism. There is nothing in the bill which prevents the farmers from retaining control of their land or their produce. Moreover it is not within the power of this Parliament, even if it so desired, to control the land or the produce of the farmers under the soviet system. The statement that this measure constitutes an attempt by the Government to introduce the socialization of industry is so extreme that one can assume that it was made merely because the right honorable senator found it difficult to adduce sound reasons for opposing the bill. He should realize that in uttering such statements he is making a serious charge against those honorable senators who are supporting the measure. If this is the socialization of industry, as the right honorable senator suggests, what have Senator Chapman and others on that side of the chamber who are supporting the measure to say? If the Leader of the Opposition is right they must be condemned, and if he is wrong they will not thank him for placing them in such an invidious position. The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition are an insult to the farmers. In making the charge to which I have referred - a charge which cannot be substantiated - he is underestimating the mentality of our producers, and those supporting the bill. Such statements have been made with the intention of influencing the farmers' votes when a ballot is taken. The suggestion that the measure provides for the socialization of industry should be anathema to every right-thinking person in this community, and in making it the right honorable gentleman shows that he has a very low opinion of the intelligence of the wheatgrowers. There is nothing in the measure or in the statements of those who have supported it to justify such conclusions; on the contrary there is clear evidence, particularly in the speeches of the members of the Country party, that the bill is in the interests of the wheat-producers. It is not fair to place in this position those who are supporters of the Government, and who wish to see the farmers get a fair deal. The right honorable gentleman has supported pools in the past. He was a member of a government which, during the war, inaugurated a compulsory wheat pool. If government action then was right, it is right now. It is possible, of course, that the Government at that time had a clear vision. Probably, the right honorable gentleman himself then had a clearer vision of what was best in the interests of the people.

Senator Carroll - During the war the Constitution was suspended by the

War Precautions Act, and the honorable senator knows it.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - That has nothing to do with the views of the Leader of the Opposition on this subject. I do not condemn the right honorable gentleman for the action which he took as a member of the government that inaugurated the compulsory wheat pool during the war. I consider it was the right thing to do in the circumstances. It is also the right thing to do now, because principles do not change from time to time.

Senator Hoare - Men may change their views, but principles never change.

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I agree with the honorable senator. I am afraid that at times party prejudice determines the attitude of some honorable senators rather than their own clear judgment as to what is best in the interests of those whom they are elected to serve. The party which I have the honour to represent in this chamber has no such prejudices. It is prepared to support a good thing, no matter where it comes from. We believe that the Government, in introducing this bill, has submitted a good scheme, and we are prepared to help the Government so far as it is possible for us to do so. We consider this proposal is in the interests of the farmers. At least it will give them the opportunity to say what they want.

Senator Sir John Newlands - Does the bill do that?

Senator DUNCAN (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I believe it does. For my part I shall never be a party to any proposal that withholds from the farmers the opportunity to determine for themselves what they want to do.

The question of finance must necessarily be the Government's responsibility. It will have to bring down further proposals at the right time to finance the scheme. If money is not available the project will fail, and there will be no need for honorable senators to worry further about it. On many former occasions legislative proposals have had to be abandoned because of the difficulty of securing finance. Lately, Senator H. E. Elliott has had his heartstrings torn almost to ribbons by the action of the Government with respect to defence. I have no doubt that the honorable senator would willingly spend £50,000,000 on defence - and that might not Joe too much - but if the Government has difficulty in finding even £5,000,000, it is useless to contemplate spending £50,000,000 on defence or any other project. We may map out great programmes in many directions, but if the money is not available, they have to be abandoned, and the national outlook with regard to them changed. This Government has outlined a certain course of action which it believes to be in the interests of the wheatgrowing industry. Everything depends upon finance. If the money can be obtained the scheme may be put into operation; if not, it must fall to the ground. For the time being I am prepared to vote for the second reading of the bill, leaving the question of finance to be considered when the Government brings forward its proposals to raise the amount of the guarantee.

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