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Thursday, 20 November 1986
Page: 2643


Senator BOSWELL(6.17) —We are debating today a number of bounty Bills-the Bounty and Subsidy Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2), the Bounty (Ship Repair) Bill, the Navigation Amendment Bill, the Subsidy (Cultivation Machines and Equipment) Bill and the Fertilisers Subsidy Bill. I wish to address my remarks to the Fertilisers Subsidy Bill 1986. The Opposition will oppose the removal of the subsidy on imported fertilisers on a number of grounds. One of the reasons that we cannot support the Government's stand on this fertiliser Bill is that the Government seems to have misread the situation. There are 67,000 tonnes of mono-ammonium phosphate and di-ammonium phosphate manufactured in Australia. Yet the total use of these two types of phosphate is 423,000 tonnes. That represents a shortfall in Australian production of 356,000 tonnes. If that 356,000 tonnes has to be imported into Australia, if this legislation is passed there will be no subsidy on those imports. That means, effectively, that 356,000 tonnes of fertiliser, at $33 a tonne on average, will be lost to the farming community.

The removal of the subsidy on imported fertiliser, in reality, takes the subsidy for cheaper fertiliser away from the farmer and gives the manufacturer a bounty for manufacturing costs. What was intended initially to give farmers cheaper fertiliser, to encourage the production of overseas exports, to encourage farmers to look after and care for the land and keep it in good condition will go to subsidise the manufacture of fertiliser. The local currency devaluation that has occurred has already given the local manufacturers of fertiliser a 40 per cent subsidy, because the value of the dollar has fallen by 40 per cent. In effect, the manufacturers have already received a 40 per cent extra bonus which they have up their sleeves.

We should look at the consistency of the Government's policies. In this case it has been hopelessly consistent in every policy it has enunciated since it came into office. It has bled the rural industry white. It has removed many benefits. It has removed from the primary industries of this nation benefits totalling $440m. It has cancelled the Bicentenary water program, removed the petroleum freight equalisation scheme, emasculated the income equalisation deposits scheme, increased slaughter inspection charges by 200 per cent and cut rural adjustment spending. They are just a few of the benefits it has removed. If I were to name all of the benefits it has removed from primary industry it would take me all the time that is allowed me in this speech. The Government is doing it again tonight.

In effect this legislation is going to take $55m off primary industry and give it to secondary industry. As I said before, this is totally consistent with what this Government has done for the last four years. It has emasculated primary industry but let us look at what it has given secondary industry. In this year's Budget the Government has given $30m to the steel industry, $25m to the car industry, $90m to the heavy engineering industry and $6m to the shipbuilding industry. That is a total of $151m to secondary industry in the 1986-87 Budget. Whilst it has done that it has taken $440m from primary industry. That demonstrates the uneven-handed approach of this Government to the rural producers of Australia. It is a disgraceful performance over its four years of office. No wonder people in rural industry have almost given up with this Government. They see it as totally unsympathetic to their cause.

We should note in this debate that secondary industries receive an effective rate of assistance of 27 per cent while primary industries have had their assistance reduced to 10 per cent over a number of years. The grain industry only receives 2 per cent government assistance. Every farmer in Australian pays $9,000 a year, on average, to protect the jobs of workers in secondary industries. Tariff protection is costing the primary industries of this nation $1.5 billion a year. Yet our highly efficient grain growing industries do not compete in a free market-they have to go overseas and compete in a heavily corrupted market caught between the giant European Economic Community and the United States of America, each cutting the others throat to win markets. Australia is caught in the middle of this terrible trade war. It is probably the biggest trade war in modern history. Wheat and sorghum prices have fallen by $30 a tonne in the 18 months.

This Government, which is unsympathetic to primary industry, wants to take another $55m off it. I want to make it very clear that the National Party of Australia is not against protecting people's jobs in secondary industry, but the Government must realise that it cannot protect jobs in secondary industry at the expense of primary industry. As I have said in this Senate continually, 38 per cent of the nation's export income exchange comes from primary industry exports. If this Government wants primary industry to earn foreign exchange to pay back our foreign debt, or even the interest on our foreign debt, it is going to have to allow primary industry to use the cheapest imports so that Australian farmers will be able to compete in the highly corrupted world markets. What will result from this Government's efforts to subsidise the fertiliser manufacturers will be the reduction of the reduction of the subsidy to farmers. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.