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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2295


Mr IAN CAMERON(3.25) —It is a great privilege for me to speak to this matter of public importance today. Unfortunately, I believe that the wording should be `all Australians' because, since this socialist Labor Government came to office, all Australians' living standards have fallen substantially. There is not one Australian who has not suffered a loss in living standards. But the Treasurer (Mr Keating) says that there is nothing wrong with the value of the Australian dollar. He should try to leave Australia and spend our dollars and see how much he can buy for the dollar that is put in our pockets today. It is worth US70c. Three years ago it was worth US$1.40. The Treasurer should try going anywhere overseas and see what he can buy with our Australian dollar today. It is an absolute disgrace. That is the sort of situation the farmers of Australia are in. It is all very well to talk about trade and the rural crisis task force wandering around in the deserts of Australian unemployment and bankrupt farmers. The Government has done absolutely nothing. The honourable member for Burke (Mr O'Keefe) was praising the consultation services that his Government set up. If it were a decent government it would not have to set up any consultation services. That is the sort of position that the Government has put the farming community of Australia in. It is a disgrace. Government members should resign.

It is a pleasure for me to speak in this chamber today on behalf of the National Party of Australia. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) is its spokesman for primary industry and I have been appointed as his assistant in this area of importance to Australia. It is important for the people of Australia to understand the emphasis that the National Party places on the farming community and the primary industry of this country. We still ride on the sheep's back. I do not care what anybody says; the standard of living of every Australian depends on the cost inputs and the profits that the Australian farmers can make for the rest of Australia. That has always been the case and it will continue to be the case.

We must make every effort to see that the farming communities of this country have the best government-not the sort of socialist ratbag government typified by the Treasurer here today when he completely contradicted himself when he had to get up and support another Minister. It was an absolute disgrace. The Government has to have two Ministers at the microphone answering any one question we put up to it-and it tries to tell us it is a government. It is not worth voting for. There is no way in the world honourable members opposite will stay in government after the next election. Let us get it clear: The sooner we have an election the better because that means the sooner we will defeat the Government. We will get this country back on the tracks. We will get the farmers, the businessmen and the people of this country who generate the wealth--


Mr McGauran —National Party members.


Mr IAN CAMERON —The National Party is the best party on the conservative side of politics in Australia. We are here specialising in the needs of the farmers and trying to do something about improving their living standards. Mr Deputy Speaker, it should not need me to tell you and the House that the price of grain has fallen by half since this Labor Government came to office. The price of wheat is down now. The current guaranteed minimum price, which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) announced recently, is down to $130 a tonne. The taxpayers of this country for the first time will have to contribute $200m to the wheat industry to keep it in some sort of operating mode-just to keep it in operation. The f.o.b. price of sorghum today is $96 a tonne. When one takes off freight costs this amount is down to $75 a tonne. Two years ago we were receiving $135 a tonne.

We cannot continue to produce the products that we are trying to sell if these are the sorts of prices we get. That is why we plead with the Government to reduce some of the costs that this Government is imposing through increases in taxation, through capital gains taxes and fuel taxes and so on. It never stops. The farm debt has gone from $5.5 billion up to $12 billion since the Labor Government came to office.

It is a shocking setup. Of course, this Government has done away with all the tax deductions that we had to try to continue to keep our capital base in some sort of shape. There is no tax deduction for water improvements, fencing or soil conservation-for a whole range of things. Tax deductibility has been decreased, and we are seeing the capital base rapidly diminish. Of course, the main thing that has affected farmers has been the cost of fuel. This is something which I have taken a great interest in and I will continue to do so.

The Government is now collecting $5.6 billion from fuel excise. The excise rate is now 18.7c per litre which is an increase of 40 per cent in four years. Overall, the fuel excise has gone from 6.1c to 18.7c a litre which is an increase of 300 per cent. We heard the hypocrisy of the Treasurer this afternoon when he was asked a question concerning fuel. He accused the Fraser Government of introducing parity pricing. The Fraser Government certainly did that, but I never supported it and never will. I certainly do not support the policies of this current Government because it has done absolutely nothing to reduce the cost of fuel to farmers and industry in this country.


Mr O'Keefe —What about the consumption tax?


Mr IAN CAMERON —There will not be any consumption tax. Of course, fuel costs are affecting people. It has to be understood that not only is diesel used extensively but also petrol. Forty per cent of all fuel used is petrol and this is costing farmers a considerable amount. It is not only farmers who are paying dearly for fuel. Other rural families throughout Australia are also paying dearly. It is the intention of the National Party of Australia, when it is in government after the next election, to abolish the indexation of the fuel excise. We have a ridiculous situation where this Labor Government has imposed an automatic increase in fuel excise every six months. It is a disastrous situation.


Mr O'Keefe —Where are you going to get the money from?


Mr IAN CAMERON —We will slash government expenditure, do away with some of the bureaucracy, and get this country up and running again. It is also our intention to abolish the sales tax on greases and oils which the Labor Government introduced at great cost to us. We also expect to reintroduce the fuel freight subsidy scheme which previous governments introduced. It has helped to flatten out the cost of fuel across Australia. We want to see some equality in the prices to help us produce the products that we are expected to export and to maintain the standard of living in this country.

Before I finish I would like to support the Queensland Government's industrial legislation. Honourable members opposite talk about strikes and they talk about the workers. Unionists at the Glebe Island grain terminals have been on strike, on and off, for the last 20 years at enormous cost to the grain industry of this country. It is an absolute disgrace. The National Party fully supports Premier Bjelke-Petersen's new industrial legislation in Queensland. If we do not have it we will not be exporting essential products. We will not be exporting any coal to maintain our living standards and we will not be exporting any grain, sorghum, cotton or wool if we allow the unionist and the labour forces in this country to dictate policies. We will get nowhere. The National Party gives 100 per cent support to the new industrial relations policy of Bjelke-Petersen's National Party Government. We will be using that legislative policy when we are elected to government at the next election. We will make sure that output in essential industries and the living standards of this country are increased by ensuring that everybody does a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. Farmers are sick of working long hours every day for the bludgers in this country. It is time that every Australian did a fair day's work for a fair day's pay.