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Thursday, 30 October 1930

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W Kingsmill - The honorable senator iswell awarethat he is not in order in addressinganother honorablesenator in that manner. I ask him tobeless personal, and to address the Chair.

Senator LYNCH - My retorts are provoked by unsolicited raving about a wheat bounty, the payment of even half of which would bankrupt the Government. The present value of wheat is approximately 26s. a quarter; it is within a fraction of the lowest price reached during the last 70 years. In 1892 it was 24s., and for a few sales only 22s. a quarter, or ls. 8d. a bushel at country sidings in Victoria. At my siding in Western Australia wheat to-day is worth 2s. Id. Yet what are the supposed friends of the farmers doing to relieve a deserving class, whose labours are not regulated by the clock, and who work, not 44 hours, but nearer 64 hours a week to provide cheap bread for those who masquerade as their well-wishers? Nobody can deny the desperate straits of the wheat-farmer. City people talk of their troubles during the present depression ; but what sacrifices are they making in comparison with the hardships of men, the value of whose labour has been halved, even quartered in a few months? As a farmer's income is halved his debts must double. That is plain enough. Only a small number of the wheatgrowers will be able to withstand the impending storm. This Parliament enacted a bankruptcy law, which, instead of protecting the wheat-grower, as it should, is protecting the unscrupulous creditor who would' pounce upon him. T desire that law to be amended or suspended, in order to prevent any rapacious creditor from forcing a farmer off hi? holding. The immediate purpose of this Parliament should be ito amend the bank.ruptcy law so as to make it possible for State legislatures to give relief to struggling primary producers, many of whom are threatened with legal proceedings .and may he forced off their holdings. In the present state of the federal law this relief cannot be given. If the relevant sections.. aire repealed jas I suggest, it will 'be possible for .State legislatures to safeguard the interests of our struggling wheat farmers. Their desperate plight is my justification for raising this matter now. It amply warrants my action in urging that instead of adjourning as is proposed, the time available to us should be utilized in -considering legislation ito give relief to these people.

This Parliament is, or should ,be, .the custodian of the public welfare. "We should see to it that, in .this time .qf dire distress, our struggling primary producers are encouraged to carry on their work. When I attended the meeting of the Senate this afternoon, I expected that my motion- would be discussed to-morrow. But the Senate is to adjourn until the 12th November, Nothing can be done in the meantime. The legislature of Western Australia is endeavouring to give relief to the wheatgrowers in that State; but the Commonwealth bankruptcy law bars the way. The only protection afforded, by that law is protection for creditors who can well look after themselves.

Senator Daly - Who says that the Commonwealth bankruptcy law prevents relief from being given?

Senator LYNCH - I do.

Senator Daly - It does not, as a matter of fact. The South Australian Parliament has passed a measure, such as the honorable senator is advocating, to give relief to farmers in that State.

Senator LYNCH - When I say that the Commonwealth bankruptcy law is preventing State 'legislatures from safeguarding the interests of the primary producers, I am offering, not my own opinion, but the opinion of a high legal authority in Western Australia. Under the law in its present form any designing creditor may take action against a primary producer to the disadvantage of other creditors.

Senator Daly - The State has the right to say what constitutes the creation of a debt.

Senator LYNCH - I do not propose to argue .that point with the Minister at this stage. My principal concern is to emphasize the desperate position in which wheat and wool growers of Western Australia are placed at the moment

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