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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1123


Mr CAMPBELL(1.16) —I did come into the chamber with a grievance but after listening to the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Andrew) I am afraid I must take issue with and grieve about the hyperbole which has emanated from him. There is a problem in the rural sector; I am aware of that. I have in my electorate the highest level of farm debt in Australia, but it is a localised problem and it affects a small group of wheat farmers-a group for whom I have the greatest sympathy. There is only one thing that can help these people in my opinion, and that is special consideration in respect of interest rates. On every occasion that I have put forward special consideration for this group of people it has been rejected. It has been rejected by the National Farmers Federation and by other farm bodies on the ground that assistance must be across the board.

Assistance for many people in the rural sector is not needed. Some of the farmers in Esperance have told me that this year has been their best ever in financial terms. They have made more profit this year than ever before, but it is interesting to note that these are all farms without any debt structure at all. So it is absolute nonsense for the honourable member to come in here and carry on as he does unless he is prepared to argue for targeted assistance. I must also, as a member of the task force set up by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke), take exception to what the honourable member said. I was not at the meeting that went to air but I have been to several others and I am familiar with the issues. I also had the opportunity to see a video of the meeting I think he was referring to, and I think if the honourable member took the trouble to look at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation coverage of that meeting he would agree that the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Cunningham) was being assailed. In my opinion he acquitted himself very well indeed. I have been at meetings like that amongst some sections of the rural community and they are, to say the least, irrational. I remember once being accosted in a pub at Northampton by farmers demanding that we increase the super bounty, reduce interest rates and legislate to stop banks foreclosing. In the end he said to me: `But most of all, get off our backs'. It is an attitude which seems to prevail in the muddled mentality displayed by those opposite.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to grieve particularly about the lucky country. We may well ask what has happened to the lucky country. I have just returned from overseas and I am convinced that the lucky country still exists. It is to be found between latitudes 10 degrees south and 45 degrees south and longitudes 115 and 155 degrees. In that general area we can find it, intact. When we see the problems overseas we realise that we are in fact a lucky country. What we have in Australia is a loss of confidence, and in some sections a determination to undermine this great country. This is seen nowhere better than in the enormous ill-informed emotion that arises about the so-called current account deficit. A lot of people do not realise that the situation in Australia is in no way analogous to that in the South American countries. The governments of those countries, or their agencies, owe the money. In Australia that is not the case. Sure the overseas debt of the Australian Government is some $10 billion-and it has risen dramatically, although because of adverse terms of trade-but it is still less than government reserves. It might be noted that the State of Queensland has a debt of $11 billion, and no reserves.

Overwhelmingly debt in Australia is in the private sector-some $66 billion of our overall $100 billion-odd total debt.


Mr Andrew —It's 60 per cent.


Mr CAMPBELL —It is slightly over 60 per cent. I suspect that those companies that have borrowed money overseas, run by the Bonds, the Holmes a Courts and the Elliotts of this world, know how to repay it. If they do not know how to repay, they will go broke-not Australia. While I feel a responsibility for Australia's share of that debt, and a somewhat more reluctant responsibility for the Western Australian share of that debt-including the heavy debt that the State Electricity Commission in that State has incurred as a result of some rather shoddy and short-sighted business practices by the previous Government-I have no responsibility for the debts of South Australia, Queensland or any other part of Australia, and I certainly do not bear any responsibility for the debts of Mr Holmes a Court or Mr Bond. I am sure that they would not expect me to.

It should also be noted that a lot of this debt is, in fact, capital required for the restructuring of industry in Australia, for the revitalisation of industry-industry that was killed during those tragic years of about 1977 to 1982, when the previous Government crucified industry in this country because it had no policy to contain wages or inflation. It was relying on creating unemployment, a policy which sadly did not work. But we seem to be beset today, and I must admit it affects both parties, by these gurus of the finance world who have raised the debt apparently to the extent that it is some sort of milestone around our neck. However, a milestone it is not.

We have governments and oppositions pressing to cut government expenditure. I am all against waste, and wasteful government expenditure, and there are many sorts of expenditure I would certainly like to cut, but cuts in some areas are very counter-productive. I refer particularly to road funding. Arterial and local roads are very important in Australia. They help to bind communities together and there is not better way of generating jobs in the community than through road funding. It will be a grievous shame if funds for this area are cut. I think they should be dramatically increased. I have heard some people, including from my own party, talk about Australia's gold-plated road system. This is nonsense. Roads in Australia are not by any means gold-plated.

Road trauma costs Australia $3 billion a year. One of the little bits of misinformation we get is that this is entirely related to alcohol. We blame alcohol for this problem. It is simply a cheap fix. If we blame alcohol we can move responsibility from where it really lies-with the whole of Australia, the people of Australia-and put it on to the group of people who drink. A couple of weeks ago in Kalgoorlie I had the very unfortunate experience of going to the funeral of a young lad, a lad I had known since he could hardly walk. Frankie Fontana was about 20, and he died in a road accident; a kid of enormous potential who was very well liked in the community. He died not because he had been drinking-because he did not-or because he had taken drugs, because he did not; he died because the roads were bad. He was caught in the situation where, while overtaking a vehicle, he ran over a steep shoulder on the road, the car rolled and he was killed. Those sorts of trauma are happening throughout Australia and I believe they are a national disgrace. They happen far less in Canberra, where it can be truly said the roads are gold-plated. The roads in Canberra tend to protect bad and incompetent drivers and a lot more could be done in this country in terms of engineering to protect people in that way. We should also be having in schools very intensive courses in driver training. I believe these are the methods that could be very effective, not this wholesale blaming of road trauma on drink driving. I believe it is nonsense. I would also say that when one has a look overseas and sees the problems that beset other countries, a country such as Australia that can spend so much time discussing the dangers of passive smoking and so much money promoting the dangers of passive smoking really has not much to worry about.

I want to turn to some of the people who are doing damage in this community. First, we have the jonahs who talk about enormous problems existing. In every problem they see ruination. They are the Hanrahans of this world. Second, we have the Johns of this world, those who have simplistic cures and offer snake oil and charms to solve our problems. It is interesting that the first group and the second are often the same people. I believe that they do this country enormous harm. What Australia does need though is the realisation that productivity should be rewarded and highly regarded; that it is something for which we should all strive. We should be having a lot less of this mindless union bashing. It is interesting to see that those in the community who call upon unions and workers to accept lower wages do nothing about the manifest lack of management which often exists in society. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am about to run out of time and regret that deeply.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Ruddock) —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.