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Wednesday, 25 February 1987
Page: 670


Mr CAMPBELL(10.47) —The Wheat Marketing Amendment Bill has the support of both sides of the House and there is very little that one can say. It is an important measure; it should be rushed through. For that reason I have been asked to keep my words to a minimum so that this Bill can get into the Senate. If honourable members opposite really care about the passage of this Bill and the beneficial effect it will have on farmers, they too will keep their words to a minimum.

I want to comment on a couple of things that the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) said because I think I understand the rural problem very well. The highest level of farm debt in Australia is in the electorate of Kalgoorlie. However, the problem is not a universal one for farmers. Some of the larger farmers in my electorate have told me that this year is their best year ever. They have made more money this year than they have ever made. Quite clearly, the problems relating to farmers are not universal problems. I have brought up this matter before. The farmers who are in debt are a band which I put at about 10 per cent of wheat farmers. They constitute young people who went into farming undercapitalised; they constitute the more adventurous farmer, the farmer who took often professional advice, often advice from banks and borrowed. In the climate in which they undertook this borrowing it was the sensible and correct thing to do. The honourable member for Gwydir mentioned the disregard that banks have for farmers. I, too, would like to voice that sentiment as I have done on many occasions. I think the performance of the banking industry in this country in respect of farmers has been abysmal. It may be that had the National Party and the Liberal Party, when they occupied the Government benches in this House, legislated as has been done in the United Kingdom to stop banks owning hire purchase companies we may have got some competition into this area so that farmers would have had better opportunity.

I would also like to mention the performance of some stock companies. As a pastoralist for many years I can say that when things got tough in the industry I saw Elders Smith walk away from the pastoral industry. It makes me quite sick to see it advertising today as it tries once more to ingratiate itself with one sector of the rural industry that is doing quite well.

The honourable member for Gwydir also touched on Ian McLachlan. The truth of the matter is that interest rates have been the main domestic problem for farmers apart from the international markets over which we have very little control. Yet the National Farmers Federation, under the leadership of Ian McLachlan, has led a virulent campaign trying to involve farmers as the foot soldiers of the New Right to carry arguments on matters such as fringe benefits and capital gains. Fringe benefits and capital gains have no relevance to the farmers who are in trouble. Many of them have told me that they have no fringe benefits and that they do not expect any capital gains, that interest rates were the answer. Yet when I took forward a proposal that would have given interest rate concessions to a band of farmers it was rejected out of hand by the National Farmers Federation and the National Party because they said that all interest subsidies had to be across the board. It is quite clear that many farmers did not need interest subsidies and should not have had them. They should have been targeted and I believe that they should still be targeted.

The honourable member for Gwydir started on his 14-point plan. Frankly, I am sorry he did not get to elucidate it. His first point was about more money. The rural adjustment schemes are awash with money; there is money to burn. The trouble is that the criteria are too high, too tight, and that is what needs to be addressed. If the honourable member for Gwydir does not understand that, I suggest that his understanding is indeed superficial.

He also mentioned that Mr McLachlan got thrown out of his meeting with the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke). Anyone who behaves as crassly and as rudely as McLachlan should certainly have been thrown out and I would have had great pleasure in doing it personally. One of the things we have had from this Opposition over the years is a sycophantic adherence to, an almost adoration of, the United States of America. The truth is that super-powers will always do what they perceive to be in their own short term interests. In that respect the United States is absolutely no different from Russia or anyone else throughout history. It is nonsense to suggest that we will get any special privileges from America. Sure, we should be in there fighting very hard for everything we can retain but I fear that it will be a rear-guard action.

We must look for alternatives. Wheat farmers will come under attack from high yielding varieties grown in wetter conditions. I think we will see a drift of wheat production to higher rainfall areas. We must look at other alternatives and in this respect I must commend the Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia who, I think more than any other State Minister for Agriculture, has addressed himself to the problems and challenges of alternative crops. Already we are seeing farmers turning to peas and lupins where appropriate and there are other alternatives.


Mr Hawker —Tell us about emus.


Mr CAMPBELL —I thank the honourable member for mentioning that; it was one of the things I had forgotten. Emus are an enormous potential for the use of wheat. If we were to have in Australia an industry comparable with that at Oudtshoorn in South Africa which has 120,000 emus, we would be looking at a consumption of something like 100,000 tonnes of wheat a year. Second grade wheat would be concentrated in the areas of those farmers who today are perhaps under more stress.


Mr Peter Fisher —What about the greenies?


Mr CAMPBELL —I am glad that the honourable member mentioned the so-called greenies, the ignorant, urban, affluent, selfish people, the pseudo-conservationists who make up the environmental industry today. I think it is an industry that is very self-serving and it needs to be confronted by government. Other alternatives such as teatree oil have to be considered.


Mr Ian Cameron —What about snake oil?


Mr CAMPBELL —Snake oil is the province of the National Party, as the honourable member has already been told. However, I think there is some potential for emu oil and perhaps goanna oil. I have been asked to limit my remarks and I see the glances I am getting; so I will leave it at that point. In conclusion, I make the point that the industry is a vital industry to Australia and it must be given every possible assistance. I believe that farmers are now starting to face up to the problems of the changes that are being forced on the industry. The Australian farmer, who has a natural resilience, will survive. It will be a painful battle for many and I certainly sympathise greatly with them.