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Monday, 30 March 1987
Page: 1745

Mr CAMPBELL(10.57) —We are used to hearing promises and promises from the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). I remind him that in per capita grants Tasmania is treated very generously and that generosity is exceeded only by the exorbitant extortion that the Northern Territory applies to the Commonwealth. I want to talk about--

Mr Hodgman —How much?

Mr CAMPBELL —Far lower, in fact. I want to talk about speeches made last Wednesday by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Hawker), the honourable member for Riverina-Darling (Mr Hicks) and the honourable member for Gippsland (Mr McGauran), who came into this House in some sort of cheerful triumvirate trying to espouse their sympathy with the farmers. It is a cause which I am very aware of because I have the highest farm debt in my electorate. The honourable member for Wannon incorporated in Hansard a table which sets out the plight of two farmers. Then he started to berate us on interest rates. I am very aware of the effect of interest rates on farm viability. The table shows clearly that interest rates are not the problem; the problem is the dramatic decline in land values. In the first example we notice that in 1985-86 the total liabilities were $146,000, against $180,000 for the previous year. The farmer obviously sold some assets to reduce his liability. The fact is, even with the high interest rates, the interest bill will be less than it was the previous year.

Land values are clearly what has caused this problem. We should ask ourselves why land values have declined so dramatically. There are many reasons for this. There was an overstated confidence in the rural sector; prices were talked up. Certainly the banking fraternity has a lot to answer for in this respect. The professional advice of the day was to get big or get out. While it is true that the economic advisers have stopped saying this, they have stopped saying it very quietly. Farmers, particularly those with families coming on, were intent on getting in and buying land before the price went even higher. Both of the farms referred to by the honourable member for Wannon suffered a massive loss of equity due to land values. The loss of equity would not be a problem if the terms of trade had not turned so adversely against them. Provided they could service their loan, that was not the immediate problem. They suffered simultaneously a dramatic decrease in the terms of trade.

It is rather poor for these honourable members to come into this House and berate the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Cunningham), who has worked so hard in the rural sector, and the honourable member for McEwen (Mr Cleeland), who would probably know more about the tax system than all the honourable members opposite combined. He certainly has an expertise in this area, which is recognised in his previous profession. We have to look at the way out of this mess. Not all farmers are in this diabolical trouble.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! It being 11 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 2 p.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at 11 p.m.