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Tuesday, 16 October 1973
Page: 2139

Mr MAISEY (MOORE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Is the Minister yet in a position to answer my question of 13 September last concerning the suspension of wheat quotas in Western Australia this year in order that all wheat for marketing in Western Australia may be delivered to the Australian Wheat Board and a first advance payment received? Is the Minister aware that, whether or not Western Australia as a State exceeds the State delivery quota, there will be many individual growers who will produce quantities of wheat vastly in excess of their individual quotas? Finally, is the Minister yet in a position to answer my question as to the actual cost of the quota delivery plan, and how many people are presently engaged in administering this abortive and redundant plan? Is its cost being met from grower's proceeds as part of the administration costs of the Australian Wheat Board and is this the major reason why these costs have now increased by approximately Sim a year since the inception of the quota delivery plan?

Mr GRASSBY - I' do recall the question asked previously by the honourable member. He asked what would be the fate of wheat grown in Western Australia if the State produced above its State quota. He asked: Would it be taken in, and would the first advance bc paid on it? He was very concerned about those aspects. He also, I recall, raised the matter whether the quota system would continue in this year. I did refer the question to the

Minister for Primary Industry. Unfortunately, as far as the quotas for this current season are concerned, it is a matter for the various State Governments, lt has not been possible, with the authority of the Minister for Primary Industry or the Australian Government, to suspend those quotas. But 1 agree entirely with the honourable member that to suggest that there should be any form of rationing in this year of shortage would be absurd. We have said that.

In relation to the position in Western Australia, if Western Australia exceeds its State quota, all wheat certainly will be taken in by the Australian Wheat Board because the Australian Government has provided the funds and the mechanism to enable the Board to pay the first advance on a special pool of 20 million bushels. This special pool of 20 million bushels is an Australia-wide pool and it operates for this year. I might say in passing that this is something about which I have been most enthusiastic because it leads to a position where we can see the beginning of national storages of wheat and some national earmarking of grain for special purposes. This year it is being done. The special pool will enable any State with excess-quota wheat to deliver it and the growers to be paid for it. The Minister for Primary Industry assures me that the special pooling arrangements will be adequate to enable all wheat to be accepted and the first advance to be paid on all deliveries to licensed receivers in Western Australia. I think that was the matter about which the honourable member was concerned. The Government of Western Australia, I understand, will issue special quotas if necessary.

The honourable member raised a further matter in his question. I have not had an opportunity to discuss that matter with the Minister for Primary Industry. The honourable member indicated that there had been an additional cost of perhaps Sim because of the introduction of the Australia-wide rationing or quota system. This is a very important question. It is a very serious one. What is more, I think it should be probed and the exact facts ascertained. I give this clear undertaking: I will confer again with the Minister for Primary Industry to see exactly what the cost of the quota system is. I undertake to give the honourable member and the House the full facts of a system which, incidentally, was introduced in previous years with my entire opposition at that time - and now.

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