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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 667

Senator ARCHER(12.40) —I would like to begin by congratulating the many new senators for the very excellent maiden speeches we have heard. I doubt whether in the time that I have been in the Senate I have heard such a good collection of maiden speeches. Several of the speeches that we have heard have clearly attended to the economic issues of this country and it is extraordinary how many of these statements have differed from the public perception that we have been given. The accumulated facts and a lot of the stories that we have read and been told just do not seem to be quite the same.

In the course of my speech I shall look at the productive sector of the economy and raise the whole question of where the productive sector fits into the thinking of the present Government. Before I go too far up that track it is appropriate that at the moment I should speak about the Government's attitude to the productive sector and, in particular today, to the dairy industry. My understanding is that within the last little while the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) has announced that he has rejected the dairy industry plan. I find this absolutely incomprehensible. I fail to see how any responsible Minister of any responsible government can have taken this sort of action at this time. The dairy industry is in extraordinary difficulty, not one bit of which is the responsibility of the industry itself. It is the responsibility of the nation as a whole. The nation must bear the responsibility for the cost squeeze that is on industries of this nature. To throw out this plan at this stage is absolutely ludicrous, and although it might not interest Senator Cook very much, I stress that I am not speaking about the airy-fairy or the vague, but I am resorting to facts.

I have not seen any documents yet, but it is understood that the Minister for Primary Industry has announced that that ludicrous half-baked scheme that was leaked a few days ago to test the market has now been accepted as a policy of this Government. To put this out to an industry which, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, has an average income of $6,548 per person per year will produce the sort of result that this Government must have already undertaken to face. Whatever transpires as a result of this decision will rest entirely with the Government. Schemes have been put together in an extremely difficult way by the various State authorities and by the industry at large and they have been totally ignored.

I look back at the state of the Victorian election and the rort that was produced there when on the day before the election the various heroes in the Labor Party were given great credit for having brought peace to the dairy industry. It was a rort then, it is a rort now and I think it is an absolute disgrace. Some of us sceptics doubted what was said at the time and now a couple of weeks later it has been shown that we were totally right.

I know a lot of dairy farmers in most States of Australia. I know the problems that exist with education, roads, Australia Post, Telecom, higher education and various other things for the people who live in these rural areas. They are people who work seven days a week, come rain, hail or shine. They do it because they are trying to achieve something and because it is the productive and sensible thing to do for the nation. How much tighter can a very responsive industry become? The industry is as economical and productive as any industry in Australia and as any dairy industry in the world. Here we are now just looking at it and saying that it is totally expendable and that we do not care what happens. Who will bear the responsibility for what this does in the interstate trade? Does anybody care what happens? Apparently this is all part of the plan. The Minister has had plenty of notice and plenty of knowledge of this matter and I believe that in the days and weeks to come he will have plenty of opportunity to put that plan into action. I will continue my remarks later.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.