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Monday, 19 September 1994
Page: 880

Senator SANDY MACDONALD —My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy. As the minister will no doubt be aware, debt is as much a problem as dry weather for farmers and small businesses in drought-stricken areas. Will the government convene a debt summit between the banks, farming organisations and small business bodies to discuss possible solutions to the crisis, including the possibility of additional interest rate relief and tax arrangements for partial write-downs of indebtedness at the option of the bank concerned?

Senator COLLINS —Rural debt is a serious matter. I have written to the banks and I have also written to the pastoral houses, which provide a significant proportion of credit to rural Australia. But directly to the point, I have convened a meeting of ARMCANZ, the council of all ministers for primary industry in Australia. I have not yet received acceptances from everybody but I would think that everyone will be able to be in attendance on Friday.

  The entire subject of that special meeting is the drought in Australia at the moment and the arrangements that are being made for it. I have no doubt that the issue raised by the honourable senator will be raised more fully during the course of that meeting on Friday.