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Tuesday, 23 October 1984
Page: 2279

(Question No. 1209)

Senator Mason asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry , upon notice, on 8 October 1984:

(1) Is the value of rural production in New South Wales expected to fall by almost one-third this year in circumstances where most farmers have not yet recovered from the financial drain of the drought.

(2) What steps is the Government taking to alleviate this problem, whereby falling commodity prices throughout the world and increasing government charges and taxation are creating a situation where farmers can barely meet immediate costs, much less pay back drought loans, and to what extent does the Government propose to assist these industries, especially wheat growers, rice growers, dairy farmers and poultry farmers.

Senator Grimes —The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The situation in New South Wales reflects movements in the value of rural production for the nation as a whole. The latest estimates by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics indicated that nationally for 1984-85, the Gross Value of Rural Production is forecast to be $14,780 million, down 3 per cent on 1983-84. After the deduction of costs, the Net Value of Rural Production is forecast to be $3,680 million, down 25 per cent on 1983-84. After adjustment for inflation this latter forecast represents a 29 per cent decline in the real net value of rural production in 1984-85. The estimated net value of rural production over this period was as follows:


1982-83-$1,718m (Drought year);



Placed in context, this year should be viewed as a return to trend from a high point rather than a year of decline.

While detailed figures are not available on a State-by-State basis at this time , New South Wales Department of Agriculture officials have indicated that the movements in the value of production in their State are generally in line with the national estimates.

(2) The Government is working on several fronts to alleviate the problems facing our rural industries.

We are seeking to improve access for agricultural products in world trade both through multilateral organisations such as the GATT and the OECD and directly by negotiations and discussions with individual trading nations. Agricultural Attaches are located in key countries for these purposes. Any reduction of protection levels in world trade will be of significant benefit to Australian rural exporters. Another important aspect in increasing productivity, which derives in large measure from the application of research results. In the Budget this year an additional $5m was allocated for rural research administered through the Rural Industry Research Funds and the CSRG within my portfolio.

While variations in seasonal conditions and markets are a normal part of the rural scene, the Government has provided underwriting arrangements for a number of rural industries to protect them from sudden short term downturns in returns. For example, new marketing arrangements effective from 1 October 1984 have been introduced for the wheat industry. In addition, wheat farmers will benefit from a refund of capital and interest from the Wheat Finance Fund. Over $100m should be in growers' hands soon after the end of this financial year.

In a number of industries, the Government in conjunction with the States has introduced orderly marketing arrangements to support producers' incomes.

I have been working with State Governments and the industry, since the release of the IAC Report on the dairy industry in November 1983, to devise new marketing arrangements.

With regard to the rice and chicken meat industries, the Commonwealth Government has little specific input and is winding down its involvement in equalisation arrangements in the egg industry.

In all cases, however, producers in difficulties may be eligible for assistance under the rural adjustment scheme. This assistance may be made for purposes of debt reconstruction, farm build-up, farm improvement and in some cases, carry-on finance. Where farms are no longer viable in the face of market forces, assistance is given with household support and rehabilitation assistance to help the farm family relocate away from farming.

The Government is mindful of the position of producers following recent droughts and the difficult world trading climate. Government economic policy has contributed to reductions in inflation and interest rates which have been of considerable benefit to farmers.