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Thursday, 26 September 1974
Page: 1480

Senator WRIEDT (Tasmania) (Minister for Agriculture) - in reply- Yesterday the Senate was considering the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill. One or two points were made on which I would like to dwell and, because of the time factor, I will be as brief as I can. In recent weeks there has been considerable discussion about the delay in the second payment of 20c a bushel to wheat growers. The comment was made that had this legislation been enacted earlier the payment could have been made earlier. I assure the Senate that that is not the case. It would have had no effect on the payment of 20c a bushel. I understand that this is the first occasion on which the second payment has been made before November in any year. So this legislation, which gives the Australian Wheat Board the option of borrowing commercially, will enable second payments to be made to growers earlier than has been the case in the past.

The main substance of the legislation concerns the new wheat stabilisation scheme. As any stabilisation scheme ought to do, this scheme will not make payments available to the industry when those payments are not warranted. But it will assist the industry when it is in difficulty. I think Senator Young said it is possible that there could be great wheat surpluses in the years ahead. The wheat industry is historically a volatile industry, in regard to both production and volume and also in regard to prices, and it is for this reason that under the new stabilisation scheme the Government is establishing the principle of picking up the total debit that may be standing in the account at the end of the scheme. Under this scheme that could be up to $80m. I think it is only fair that the Government ought to be prepared to write off any debt that would be standing in the account at the end of the scheme. I believe that this is an important new principle which is being written into wheat stabilisation. I thank the Opposition and the Senate generally for supporting this legislation. I am sure that all of us accept the fact that it will do a great deal to help stabilise the wheat industry.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In Committee

The Bill.

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