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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 926

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN(7.22) —I wish to speak for a few moments on prices for dairy products. Today I asked the Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, a question about this matter and I think we can see from his answer the real reason for Labor's dairy plan. It is clear that Labor has rejected the national dairy plan supported by all State governments and the industry because it wants to extend the price freeze on dairy products which commenced in December 1982. Senator Walsh more or less accused the Opposition of wanting to slug consumers with a 17 1/2 per cent increase in prices for dairy products. However, I point out that, in spite of the wage freeze introduced by the Fraser Government in December 1982, wages have increased by 16 per cent under the Australian Labor Party-Australian Council of Trade Unions prices and incomes accord. It seems to me that the Labor Party has one rule for the unions and another for the farmers. One could say that it is a government of double standards. Labor is prepared to drain the last drop of blood out of the dairy farmers of Australia while under the accord it fully indexes wages to take account of inflation.

Senator Walsh suggested in his reply to my question that market forces should be allowed to settle dairy product prices. I feel that he ignored the fact that world prices for dairy products are distorted by the huge surpluses generated by highly subsidised production in the European Economic Community. There is no doubt that Australian dairy producers are amongst the lowest subsidised producers in the world. Labor's Kerin dairy plan is a devious plan to freeze dairy prices. The Government forgets that the plan will be enormously costly to taxpayers as a result of the estimated loss of 20,000 jobs. I mentioned this yesterday when speaking on the Address-in-Reply, but the Minister was not here to hear about it.

Senator Walsh —Who wrote this for you?

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN —I am quite capable of writing my own speeches. The Minister forgets that because 20,000 jobs will be lost there will be an unemployment benefit bill of $2m a week. I put these facts before the Senate because I feel that the answer the Minister gave me this afternoon was quite wrong.