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Wednesday, 17 December 1930

Senator GUTHRIE (Victoria) . - I support this proposal to give some little recognition to the wheat farmers of Australia, most, if not all, of whom urgently require encouragement. The bill before us is a somewhat belated attempt to help the wheat industry.

Senator Daly - The Government took action some time ago; but its proposals were rejected.

Senator GUTHRIE - Although the proposal before us is only half a loaf it is better than nothing.

Senator Daly - The honorable senator knows that the present Government in this chamber must always be content with half a loaf.

Senator GUTHRIE - I am glad that there has been an awakening in parliamentary circles to the importance of our primary industries. In supporting the wheat, industry we have the satisfaction of knowing that we are supporting an efficient industry. During the last twenty years, owing to the application of science to wheat-growing, Australian wheatgrowers have doubled the productivity of their land per acre, and, incidentally, have produced wheat which, because of its high quality, is in demand in all the countries of the world for seed purposes, and brings in Liverpool 2s. a quartermore than the wheat of any other country. It is well that honorable senators are now. recognizing that Australia lives on its primary industries. Of our total exports primary products represent between 9<3 and 98 per cent. They also comprise 75 per cent, of our wealth. Un-fortunately, past legislators, both 'Federal' and State have not realized the importance of our primary industries, with the result that the legislation on the statute-book has driven the people into the cities. To-day, in a country of 3,000,000 square miles, half the population is to be found in the capital cities on the seaboard. Victoria presents the worst example of the curse of centralization ; 54 per cent of the population of that State lives within 20 miles of the Melbourne General Post Office. That is the result of legislating in favour of city industries5 and city dwellers and against the interests of the primary producers in the country who, after all, produce its wealth. Only with a collapse in the prices for wool and wheat do the people realize the importance of our primary industries. Australia, however, is. a wonderfully productive country. It produces in tremendous quantities the best, wheat and wool in the world. If in future we legislate to encourage our primary industries, we shall rapidly again become a prosperous people.

It is well that we should devote our best energies to increasing our production of wool, whea't, meat, butter, metals, and other primary products ; but we must not lose sight of the fact that, after all,' the most essential thing is that we shall produce them at such a cost that they will find a ready sale in the markets of the world against the competition of the products of other nations. The great essential is a reduction in the cost of production. Production costs have more than doubled since pre-war days.

I am sorry that Senator Dunn saw fit to make slighting references to the wheat merchants of this country. They have rendered a great service to Australia and to the wheat-growers of this country, of whom I am one. In my opinion, it would be a great mistake to drive them out of competition.

The eleventh-hour enthusiasm of some honorable senators for the wheat industry is amusing when one remembers that hitherto they have been ready to hamper the industry by piling up tariffs and' embargoes to the detriment of the farmers. In this belated enthusiasm honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber have described the wheat-growing industry as Australia's greatest industry. That is not so. The< wheat-growing industry is, indeed, a great industry; but it must take second place to the sheep and wool industry.

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