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Wednesday, 16 March 1966

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) (Prime Minister) - We are all well aware of the interest of the honorable member for Gwydir in measures designed to improve the security of persons in areas gravely affected by drought. 1 point out to him that the discussions to which he has referred will follow on several talks that we have had in the Cabinet in relation to various aspects of the drought situation, and in particular the objective of having long term finance available, in the first instance and primarily for those who have been affected by drought but also as part of a general and continuing policy of long term financial assistance for rural producers. Whether it would be practicable for funds which we wish to see channelled to individual rural producers to be apportioned in part at least for larger developmental projects is a matter to which I would like to give some further thought. I would not wish to see the amounts which otherwise would be available for rural producers reduced by an allocation of portion of them to other purposes. It may be that funds should be available from general banking resources for the kinds of projects that the honorable member has in mind. In practice, of course, the larger developmental projects are in the hands of governments, and in this respect this Government has been very active. When I refer to this Government I include, of course, the government of my predecessor. I believe we can claim that our governments have been more active than any previous Australian government in advancing to the States the funds necessary for developmental projects, certainly in the northern areas of Australia and also in all other parts of Australia.

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