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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 689

Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia) (3.14 p.m.) —Senator Brownhill's impassioned speech today represents the frustration that he is feeling for the people in the bush. Yesterday, the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Senator Collins) told me in answer to a question I asked him that in the last 12 months the government had spent $154 million on drought.

Senator Collins —No, I didn't. That is the amount of money that is being spent on the rural adjustment scheme.

Senator BOSWELL —The rural adjustment scheme had been drawn down to $154 million. I point out that in the 1980s the response from the Fraser government was $356 million, which would be more than double that amount—$700 million—in today's terms. That is to be compared with the $150 million, give or take a few more dollars, that the government has spent on RAS. For the minister to find an extra $14 million is just recirculating the money that has been allocated to RAS.

  Let us just look at what the allocations have been. In 1992-93 the government put into RAS $168.9 million. In 1993-94 the government's contribution has gone down to $24 million. Yes, it has drawn down on state funds that have already been allocated but have never got out to the farmers because the criteria are too high. They are the allocations. So $24.7 million was allocated by the Commonwealth government to RAS in 1993-94. Sure, money has been drawn down from the states to build it up. But that money has all been re-allocated.

  Let us look at the wool `exceptional circumstances' that the government offered. Yes, the government said $42 million, but it made the criteria so high that only $15 million was spent. There is an underspend there of $27 million. Then, with drought `exceptional circumstances' and the worst drought in Australia, there was the allocation of $17 million, of which $10.5 million was spent—a $6.6 million underspend in the worst drought in Australia. Then, of the total RAS of $187 million in 1993-94, only $113 million was spent—an underspend of $74 million. No wonder Senator Brownhill, Senator Panizza and Senator Crane are getting frustrated. We know what is going on out there. We know this is a pea and thimble trick. The government is allocating money, not spending it, reallocating it, going out into the bush, getting another $14 million out of the money that it has not spent and regenerating it again—and the farmers out there are in terrible strife.

  All right, let us put that to one side. But it is unforgivable for those opposite to then come in and misrepresent what John Anderson has tried to do. Today, instead of getting in there and supporting him, they bucketed and misrepresented him—and that is unforgivable. As I have suggested to Senator Collins—and I think he is man enough to do it—if he is wrong, he should have the decency to get up in the Senate tomorrow and apologise. People out there in the bush will admire him for doing so. But if he just goes out and buckets someone who is trying to do his best for the farmers, they will treat him with disdain.