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Wednesday, 21 September 1994
Page: 1031

Senator BURNS —I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:

  That the time for the presentation of the report of the Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs on the adequacy of the Rural Adjustment Scheme, the extent of rural debt and mechanisms for the management of rural reconstruction be extended to the first sitting day in December 1994.

I seek leave to make a short statement.

  Leave granted.

Senator BURNS —The notice of motion I have just given seeks an extension of time for the presentation of the report of the Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs on its inquiry into the rural adjustment scheme, rural debt and rural reconstruction. Senators should note that this very important matter was referred to the committee only six months ago and, in this time, the committee has given the inquiry top priority, convening 17 days of public hearings in all states and territories.

  As usual, the committee took the time to gather evidence not only from major organisations and groups centred in capital cities but also from farmers and graziers in rural and regional Australia: Murchison in Western Australia; West Wyalong and Gilgandra in New South Wales; and Dalby, Roma, Charleville and Longreach in Queensland.

  During the course of the inquiry, 287 submissions have been received and over 250 witnesses have given evidence, generating over 3,000 pages of Hansard. The final hearing was held last week—on 12 September. I believe these statistics are a real indication of the committee's commitment to this very important inquiry. However, the committee considers that, in order to effectively reflect the views raised in evidence, it will need more time to draft and finalise its report.

  The extension of time that the committee seeks will also allow it to monitor the implementation of the government's initiatives to be announced today on drought and the rural adjustment scheme. I can assure the Senate that the committee will endeavour to table its report at the earliest opportunity.