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Tuesday, 27 March 1973
Page: 725

Mr McVEIGH (Darling Downs) - Before the debate on this measure was adjourned. I was making the point that the Appropriation Bills before the House at the present time are very important Bills because they deal with the distribution of finance through the various Government departments, both new and reconstructed. 1 was making the point that we must be most careful of how we distribute finance, whether it is our own, the Government's or some other person's. Like the honourable member for Wentworth (Mr Bury) and the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon), I am concerned about how the distribution of Government finance controls or inhibits inflationary growth - possibly the greatest problem facing Australia today. No sector feels the effects of inflation more than the fixed income earners, the social service beneficiaries, the mining industries, the export manufacturing industries and the primary producers. That is why, in speaking on these Appropriation Bills, it is my intention to make a plea for the primary producers of this country, the export manufacturers and those mining industries which have been savagely affected by the world currency alignments. Although my remarks will, through necessity on account of the short time available to me, centre largely on the grain trade, they will refer generally to the industries I have mentioned.

At the outset and in passing I refer to 2 things said by members of the Australian Labor Party recently. The first came from the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan), who unfortunately is not at present in the chamber. He said in this House on 14th March last that the wool industry will no longer have its traditional right of taking part in deciding policy in that industry but that it will be dictated to by this Parliament - meaning, of course, the Labor Party. The second statement was made by the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) who, at a recent meeting of primary producers at Biloelain central Queensland, proved himself rather naive and impotent in respect of currency alignments. 1 understand, from reports from people who attended, that the people were astounded by some of his statements, which showed that he, a Minister in the Labor Government, was completely unaware of currency problems and their effect on returns to growers. The Minister made the point, and so wrongly, that because the Japanese yen had been appreciated Queensland growers could take comfort that most of the sales would be in Japanese yen.

My reason for speaking is to protest at the indicated attempts to erode the primary producer's rights to negotiate for his survival and to correct the wrong impression that was conveyed by the Minister for Health at the Biloela meeting on Saturday, 3rd March. I can only presume that this thinking is Labor Party thinking, based on erroneous premises and devoid of logical reasons. In offering to advise honourable members opposite of the facts in this industry, I am mindful of Dr Everingham's complete lack of knowledge and the following statement by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) at Healesville on 10th March:

On the matter of my inexperience in rural matters this is true, and I admit to having a lot to learn.

We are concerned therefore at the intoxicating possibilities that can flow from the Labor Party's lack of knowledge and finesse in rural matters. In the interests of survival for rural industries I suggest that honourable members opposite seek the advice of the Leader of the Country Party and the Deputy Leader of the Country Party rather than accept the text book philosophies of an insurance agent or shipwright and that ex-public servant, the honourable member for Eden-Monaro, who convinced us on this side of the House the other night of the need to contribute to a fund to send him to an optometrist to cure him of his'I' trouble.

The truth of the situation in the coarse grain industries is that values are set on a world basis at the Chicago Grain Exchange and are quoted in United States dollars. This is because this Exchange is the greatest centre of free trade in the world, on account of the sheer volume of production and because prices are dictated not only by supply and demand forces but also by American selling policy and the inbuilt subsidy system. The world's consumers are interested only in what prices, C and F, the grain will cost them delivered to their premises and they will buy at the cheapest possible prices. This is a fact of cold, hard business, an irrefutable fact of life. That is the first point: Prices are quoted in US dollars. Prior to the decision of the small dictatorship to appreciate the Australian dollar in December, prices quoted for sorghum at the Chicago Exchange were C and F $92.15 per metric ton, returning the growers $65.50 f.o.b. Following the appreciation the Chicago Exchange prices remained the same but the price return to the growers following the unilateral decision to appreciate our currency fell back to $61 to $62 per metric ton f.o.b. Incidentally, approximately $14 per ton to cover freight and handling costs must be subtracted from this amount to give the return to the farmer at railway sidings. These prices reflect the appreciation of the Australian dollar by 7.05 per cent. The world price expressed in American dollars remained the same but the Australian producers received fewer Australian dollars.

The significant feature in world grain trade of recent weeks, of course, is that for the period from the end of December to midJanuary very little grain was traded on account of the nervousness that developed in world grain trade due to currency scares. In effect, interest went out of the market. With the large Argentinian crop on the market, and following the effects of the huge US wheat sales prices on the world markets, sorghum prices dropped to their present level on the Chicago Grain Exchange of SUS76.40 C and F per metric ton, which returns the growers f.o.b. approximately $46 per metric ton at the new exchange rales. But - and I emphasis this point - if the exchange rates as applied prior to the December 1972 appreciation were still in force, the price returned to the grower f.o.b. would be $54 per metric ton and not the $46 they are now getting - some 17 per cent less for their crop than they would have got if there were no currency changes. I seek leave of the House to incorporate in Hansard the following table which indicates the percentage decrease in sorghum farmers' net income following the currency revaluation.

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