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Thursday, 5 March 1970


Mr ANTHONY (Richmond) (Minister for Primary Industry) - Before the House today is an urgency motion by the Opposition accusing the Government of giving insufficient leadership in the implementation of important policy matters dealing with rural industries. The first speaker we heard was the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). He gave us a somewhat more spirited speech than we had from him in the last Parliament. We all look forward to this sort of performance. The substance of the speech, when analysed, was a little pathetic. In fact it was so diffuse that the Government was attacked on the one hand for giving leadership in some directions and on the other hand, for not giving it in other directions. The argument fell to the ground without any real substance to it. The whole urgency motion was a little sad. It seemed to be more a demonstration of who is going to give leadership in the Australian Labor Party on agricultural policy - Tweedledum or Tweedledee.

In the list of speakers for today were some men whose remarks I appreciate and for whom I have a high regard, such as the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) and the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen). I think it is a pity that they were passed over to allow the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) to speak in their place. It is quite obvious that in future the Labor Party is going to ignore men who. have been in this House of a number of years and who have something of substance to say. The honourable member for Dawson is a man who normally has something of substance to say, and I have a high regard for the thought that he puts into his speeches, but always there are overtones of the Labor Party's doctrinaire policies. I doubt very much if he will be able to make a very great impact on the rural leaders and the rural industries of Australia. After seeing the performance by the honourable member for Riverina at Jerilderie last week, and the calamity howling that went on and the cool reception he received from rural leaders there, 1 doubt whether he will make very much impact either.

Rural industries have had a remarkable performance over the past .decade. They have met in a fantastic way the challenges of increasing costs, of difficult marketing and of keeping up with technological advances. Production has gone up. Their efficiency has increased. It is remarkable that while the Labor Party comes here and claims that it can do a better job, it puts up no constructive proposations whatsoever. 1 think it is remarkable also that, even though the Labor Party has been in office for only 9 years over the past 50 years, its performance in dealing with agricultural affairs has left an indelible impression on every agricultural producer in this country. Agricultural producers have been appalled at the doctrinaire philosophies which the Labor Party has adopted every time it has been in office, of knowing what is best for them, of telling them what they should produce, how they should produce it and what price they ought to get for it. This is why the Labor Party has been rejected by the agricultural sector time and time again.

The Government has a splendid record of giving leadership. For a few minutes this afternoon I want to run through some of the things it has done. I want to mention that they have been done against a background of almost unprecedented difficulties in the marketing of Australian commodities and at a time when surplus production has never been as great as it is today. There is also the problem of meeting unfair competition in the various markets of the world by the dumping policies and the highly supported agricultural policies of the developed countries. The Government has managed to cope with these. It will work jointly with the rural industries and their organisations in implementing policies and will not venture into the doctrinaire field that I mentioned, of telling the industries what to produce. By negotiating, consulting and arriving at agreement the Government will bring down legislation to make that possible, as it has done and is continually doing with all types of industries.

There have been difficulties with drought. The Government has come to the forefront by giving assistance of almost SI 00m over the past 3 years. It has come forward with a new, positive programme to assist with water conservation, and this will entail another $100m in the next 5 years. In the field of marketing the Government has assisted in implementing policies of orderly price arrangements within Australia for wheat, butter, cheese, sugar, dried vine fruits and canned fruits. Enormous and highly sophisticated systems of joint government and industry efforts have been developed to explore and exploit new markets overseas, through the Department of Trade and Industry and the Trade Commissioner Service. All forms of taxation incentives have been granted to make this possible. As a Government we have been at the forefront of international negotiations to bring about the great International Sugar Agreement which has given stability to an industry that did not know where its future lay.

We have been at the forefront of the International Grains Arrangement which has ended the absolute chaos in the marketing of grain. We have been at the forefront of all the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade discussions dealing with agricultural commodities. The latest commodity on which we have been able to get agreement on price is skim milk powder. This means that the ruling world price will go up by S3 1 a ton from now on. We have been at the forefront of negotiations with the United States of America for access to that market, thus giving the Australian meat industry the most buoyant period and the highest prices it has ever known. We have been at the forefront in seeing that the abattoirs are up to the required standard to meet the hygiene and sanitary requirements for the American market. We have been at the forefront in opening up markets for our meat products in other parts of the world.

The Government has done an enormous amount to make finance available to farmers so that they can keep abreast of all the latest developments taking place in agriculture and so that they get the credit capacity to purchase and to use the equipment that is coming forward. The carry-on finance available to rural industries is gigantic. In the past 2 years the wheat industry has received credits from the rural credits section of S615m in the first year, and this year it has been provided with up to S444m, of which about $4C0m will bc taken up. There is provision for next season's crop for credit of up to $407m.

Through the rural credits section we are providing $137m for the dairy industry this year. These gigantic amounts of money are being provided so that farmers across the country will be able to continue to operate on a sound basis. New arrangements are being provided for the wool industry. The wool marketing proposals require large sums of money. For the 60% advance that the wool marketing scheme will need $30m to S40m will be made available, plus another Si 4m for buying carry over stocks. Indirect assistance also is of a proportion never before reached by any government in Australia. This year more than $180m will go towards helping rural industries in all sorts of ways. Money has come direct from the Treasury - taxpayers' money - to help farmers through these difficult periods.

The Government has adopted many measures, such as the doubling of the superphosphate bounty in the last 2 years, new amendments to our taxation laws providing probate concessions for rural producers and credit facilities made available in the private banking sector over the last 5 or 6 years. These are enormous in their dimensions. The Term Loan Development Fund since it was formed in .1962 has had its resources increased to S372m, the Farm Development Loan Fund at last July had S67m outstanding to farmers on preferential terms and more attractive terms than they can get from normal financial resources, and the Commonwealth Development Bank, which was created in 1960, has lent $257m. Is this the attitude of a stingy, unsympathetic government in providing finance to rural producers? Of course it is not. Yet Opposition members attack the Government for the indebtedness of rural industries. They cannot have it both ways. They must say either that we are not providing enough or we are providing too much money. The fact of the matter is that farmers across this country have been given access to money so that they can keep up with the latest technological developments.

We have introduced stabilisation schemes. Even in the last year we have introduced a new wheat stabilisation scheme. The Opposition attacked it and said it was no good, but the facts are that, because of the decline in world prices, it looks as though we will be paying $30m or $40m in this year, the first year of the scheme, when it was expected that we might have to pay only S2m or $4m. A new sugar agreement has been concluded between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments. It will ensure control of production, a domestic price arrangement and a rebate system that will enable fruit to be delivered to canneries at reasonable prices. We have brought forward a dried vine fruits stabilisation scheme. A poll relating to the scheme is being conducted at the moment. Before long I hope that the House will consider an apple stabilisation scheme.

We have seen a tremendous development in research programmes. Almost every sector of agricultural industry has some joint Commonwealth and industry research scheme. New ones have been introduced in the last 12 months. One dealing with the fishing industry will require funds of Sim a year. Within the last 6 months we have brought in a chicken meat industry research fund. We have expanded research in the wool industry. We are now considering a research scheme for the pig industry and I hope it will not be too long before it is introduced. We have proposed a farm amalgamation scheme for marginal dairy farms. Some people have turned this into an opportunity to criticise the Government and myself for being unsympathetic to small farmers. How ridiculous that is. The whole objective of the scheme is to help the small farmers in their predicament. We are also carrying out a survey of the structure of other rural industries so that we can discover the appropriate way to help them if any restructuring is necessary.

But what do we get from the Australian Labor Party? All we have are speeches of panic and gloom. Opposition members think they can obtain some political advantage, that they can capitalise on the adversity of farmers. This is about the cheapest form of demagoguery that there is, but some Opposition members make a practice of it. The Government has taken positive action in the wool industry. Decisions to provide an additional $20m a year to the wool industry have been taken in the last 6 months. We have provided money for marketing, money for research and money for promotion. We have implemented the recommendations of the Australian Wool Industry Conference for a wool marketing proposal. This is the first time that a wool marketing proposal has been implemented in this country. That has been done in the last 6 months. But what wool policies does Labor have? During the last session we had the rather comical spectacle of Labor coming out with 3 different policies on 3 different days. The official policy prepared for the election last year was withdrawn. Labor spent a lot of money on a publication explaining its policy, but we never saw it. We have the arrogance of Labor on the export of merino sheep. These recommendations came from the industry, but now, because Labor does not like what is happening, it incites the trade unions to run this country and to go against the decisions of the Government. All I can say is that it is a shameful performance for any honourable member elected to this Parliament, to incite trade unions to act against decisions of the Government.







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