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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2756


Mr KING (Wimmera) - It was not my intention to speak in the debate on the Estimates tonight. But I feel obliged after some of the things I have heard since the debate on the Estimates recommenced late this afternoon, to make one or two comments. Many misleading statements have been made in the chamber, particularly this evening. As the proceedings are being broadcast I feel quite sure that there are a lot of people listening in who would have gained a completely wrong impression of the actual situation. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Olley) was one of the early speakers in the debate. He quoted from a number of statements made in Canberra yesterday which appeared in the newspapers this morning and which were attributed to the President of the Australian Farmers Federation.

It is all very well to make a comment on one side of a story, but I think that honourable members should get their facts correct. The President of that organisation, a Mr Hogan, corrected the statement late this morning. He was very perturbed about it. I think that it is only right and proper that what he said should be quoted. After all, people do get the wrong impression. Mr Hogan said that one report had confused the question of relations between the Country Party and the farmer organisations. He had tried to make it clear that the Press had often fooled the public by creating an image of the Country Party as a hand-out party for farmers. I hope the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) is listening because, after all, he tried to make some capital out of this also. In fact, Mr Hogan said, many good ideas had been placed before the Government by farm groups and had undoubtedly been supported by the Country Party. Mr Hogan went on in his statement to say that the support on such occasions of the Country Party and other parties had always been appreciated. I think all honourable members appreciate the fact that he was referring to the Liberal Party. He said that the Australian Farmers Federation, in common with other national organisations, naturally looked for their support in matters of mutual interest.

Members of the Government and Government supporters who tried this morning to make some capital out of this statement ought to be corrected. To use the old expression, they ought to be ashamed of themselves for making the statements they did make.

Some of the contributions this evening from Government supporters in defence of actions of this Government in relation to trade and primary industries were some of the weakest I have heard since I came into this place 15 years ago. They all adopted the line of excuse, excuse, excuse, while some tried to indicate how well primary industries are situated today and how the Labor Government has helped them. Anyone at all would fully appreciate that any success that primary producers are having in the year 1973 is not due to the Federal Government. I think it is in spite of the Federal Government.


Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - Rubbish!


Mr KING - What I said is true. It is in spite of the Government. We are having one of the best seasons in Australia, and over Australia, for many long years. As far as prices are concerned, basically they are all based on international rates and have nothing to do with what is taking place within Australia. Look at the price of meat. It is an all time record, and an all time record as far as exports are concerned. This is not attributable to the Government. It has nothing to do with the Government. It is the primary producers who are making this possible. The prices being received again have nothing to do with the Government. This is a case of the importers, the United States of America, Japan and other countries wanting to buy our goods and wanting to buy our meat. The same thing applies to the price of wheat.


Mr Grassby - And China.


Mr KING - Yes, I will come to China in a minute. In wheat there is an all time record as far as Australia is concerned and an all time record as far as the world is concerned. The Minister for Immigration referred to sales to China. What about sales to China? Let us look at this question and see what the facts are. Be fair about this matter instead of playing politics. The Minister for Immigration is smiling. He virtually says that his Government made the sales to China. What is the position? What was the position in the last 10 years while the Labor Party was in Opposition? The Australian Wheat Board - I am glad to see that the honourable member for Moore (Mr Maisey) is present because he had a very important part in this - was responsible for selling over $ 1,000m worth of wheat to China. Now, what about that one? It sold over $ 1,000m worth.


Mr Grassby - And you lost the market.


Mr KING - All right, we did lose the market, but why did we lose the market. This is where the academics do not understand the situation. They simply do not realise that there are different wheat qualities. China today produces the type of wheat that is produced in large quantities in Australia and when the

Chinese have a glut of this type they do not want our varieties. When they have a shortage of hard wheat varieties they do not look to Australia for the simple reason that we literally have only a handful of hard wheat varieties for sale from the northern part of Australia. Therefore the Chinese look to the United States and to Canada. That is the issue that this Government is not prepared to talk about. Even last year when the present Opposition Parties were in Government the Australian Wheat Board came to an arrangement with the Chinese to sell, from memory, some 70 million bushels of wheat. The only problem was that we did not have it to sell.


Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - Ha, hal Who caused that?


Mr KING - Some Government supporters are laughing about this. This raises a question so often raised by the Minister for Immigration. Why has the Minister been carrying on as he has been in the last few weeks? He has repeatedly told us that he is against quotas. Is that right?


Mr Grassby - Yes, consistently.


Mr KING - How can he genuinely support a government that believes in the principle of quotas?


Mr Grassby - The quotas are State quotas and you know it.


Mr Lloyd - When you say: 'What about State quotas?', why blame the previous Federal Government?


Mr KING - That is a very good interjection.


The CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes - Order! The honourable member for Murray will cease interjecting.


Mr KING - If it is not State quotas then why is the Minister for Immigration so vocal about this? Why is it that the Commonwealth is prepared to put into legislation that this is a quota year? I wonder why. The Minister for Immigration knows very little about this question. He is more concerned about going back into his electorate and talking about what his Party will do for the people, what it has tried to do and all this sort of claptrap. This matter has been raised in this House on many occasions but the Minister has not been prepared to get up and flatly deny the question. I think that this morning the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) again asked what this Government is doing to assist primary producers. What about this question of interest rates and long term loans at low interest rates? It is true that the Minister for Immigration did not say: 'The Government will give it to you', but his statements were so worded that every grower looked at them and said: 'Yes, that is what the Minister means' or 'That is what the honourable member for Riverina means.' He was not a Minister at that time. The Minister is not prepared to turn round and completely deny it.

The Minister referred to some of the results achieved by the present Government. I wonder what such a statement is all about when I start to add up the increased taxation facing primary producers. My advisers tell me that the increased rates for primary producers will mean that about an extra $250m will be collected in tax this year. That is a mighty lot of money. If that sum is spread over every farm in round figures it is near enough to $1,000 extra per farm. And what about the interest rates? I have not got time to explain all this in detail but on average, as a result of the increased interest rates introduced by this Government, each farm will pay about $300 more per year. This is the low rate of interest that the Minister for Immigration promised us.


Mr Corbett - This 3 per cent.


Mr KING - Yes, this 3 per cent. What did the Government do? The Minister was talking about giving us -


The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

Proposed expenditures agreed to.

Progress reported.







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