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Tuesday, 3 December 1974
Page: 3007


Senator SCOTT (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture and I refer to the Government's recognition of steep increases in the wheat industry's cost structure, evidenced in its decision to increase the home consumption price to $2.27 a bushel from the end of December. Does not this price still reflect an industry subsidy to the Australian consumer of some $2 a bushel? Again I ask whether the Minister will impress upon the Government the urgency of increasing the current first advance payment to growers to $1.80 a bushel. Does he dispute that apart from spiralling wage costs the wheat grower faces all the other steep increases, such as in capital equipment, maintenance, fertiliser and transport costs? Has the Government not virtually admitted by the home consumption price increase that the present early return to growers of a gross $ 1.60 a bushel in 12 months is totally inadequate and that an increase is not only justified but also imperative in the light of current circumstances?


Senator WRIEDT - This matter has been raised on several occasions in the Senate and I have said previously that I would not go through it all again. But in view of the fact that Senator Scott has introduced one or two new matters I shall answer them only. The present home consumption price for wheat, as is well known, under the stabilisation arrangement is below the world market price, but the whole purpose of the stabilisation plan is to cope with the situation when the world market price is below the home consumption price. It is not that the wheat grower is subsidising the consumer in this country at all; the reverse situation obtains when the consumer or the taxpayer generally is paying into the stabilisation scheme. The whole purpose of the scheme is to give that protection to the wheat grower and the wheat industry accepts that fact. In respect of the increased home consumption price, it is true that that price has risen from $1.93 a bushel last year on a cost of production basis to $2.28 a bushel this year. If the honourable senator did his homework he would find that that is a 17 per cent increase in the cost of production. The increase in payments to the industry this year is 1 10 per cent, as I pointed out to him a fortnight ago. If it is possible to equate an increased payment of 110 per cent with an increased cost of production of 17 per cent I would like to know the mathematics by which he does so.







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