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Wednesday, 17 December 1930

Senator DUNN (New South Wales) . - As the position of the wheatgrowers had already been discussed from time to time in this chamber, it was not my intention to speak on the second reading of this bill; but I feel that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) should not be allowed to pass without comment. In the first place, this Government and all State Labour Governments have always placed the welfare of the farmer first. In past years State Labour Governments have, during periods of drought, made seed wheat available to farmers, and have also granted them financial assistance through the rural banks in the various States and particularly in New South Wales. Unfortunately through acts of God many farmers have lost their crops, as in the case mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. The Government has made every endeavour to assist wheat-growers by prodding for a guaranteed price, and if any difficulties should arise in connexion with the supply of seed wheat to farmers who are unfortunate enough not to have any crops to reap, they should be met by the State authorities. If there are any farmers, who, through torrential rains or hail storms, have been deprived of any return from their crops, assistance will, I am sure, be given if proper claims are lodged. The Commonwealth Bank, to which the Leader . of the Opposition referred, is functioning as the bank of the nation with the credit of the Commonwealth and the protection of Parliament behind it. Some weeks ago, the Government introduced a Wheat Marketing Bill into this chamber, in which the provision was made for a guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel. That bill was rejected by the Opposition. In consequence of the falling market since then, the guarantee price has been reduced to 3s. a bushel. Under the present system of marketing, in which private enterprise predominates, many wheat merchants have paid farmers only1s.10d. a bushel at country sidings, and as low as1s. 4d. a bushel for stored wheat. Numerous conferences, at which all political parties, wheat-growers, and wheatmerchants were represented, have been held in an endeavour to formulate a workable scheme, for the assistance of wheatproducers. The Government has now introduced a bill providing for a guaranteed price of 3s. a bushel f.o.b. or 2s. 6d. a bushel at country railway sidings, which has caused the Leader of the Opposition to indulge in a good bit of political slangwhanging. Speaking for myself, and not on behalf of the Government or of my colleagues, I say unhesitatingly that the sooner private enterprise is dispensed with, in the matter of wheat-buying, the better it will be for the farmers. The wheat-growers have always been at the mercy of the wheat-merchants, who have gambled with the products of the farmers for their own benefit. What do the wheatspeculators in Winnipeg, Chicago or Liverpool care for the struggling wheatgrowers in theRiverina, the Mallee or any other part of the Australian Commonwealth? The Labour party favours a system of pools, under which the farmer has the right to say how, and at what price, his wheat shall be sold. This Government's tariff policy for the last twelve months has been framed in the interests of all sections of the community. But I do not propose, at this stage, to labour that point. I rose to express my pleasure, as a representative of New South Wales in this chamber, at the action of the Government in bringing forward this measure to assist the wheatgrowers, not only in my own State, but also throughout the Commonwealth.

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