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Thursday, 5 March 1970


Mr STREET (Corangamite) - It is with a real sense of regret that I rise to take part in this debate in an atmosphere of anticlimax and disappointment which has been created by the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) whom my friend and colleague, the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) well suggests will become known as the shadow shadow Minister for Primary Industry. The honourable member for Riverina may be expert in publicity. The very success of his efforts in this direction perhaps has led us to expect that he also knew something about what he was getting publicity for. It was a great disappointment to honourable members on the Government side of the House to discover that the honourable member has now been exposed as a victim of his own publicity and has nothing to offer in the way of constructive contribution to the admittedly great and pressing problems of primary industry. The honourable member demonstrated that he is reasonably competent at pulling down but is sadly lacking in ability to construct.

I have never heard anything so insincere and unfounded as this matter of public importance raised by the Opposition. As the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) said, it is an outstanding example of political opportunism aimed at trying to cash in on the present critical position of primary industry. Anyone not familiar with Australian Labor Party rural policies could be forgiven for thinking that the Party is concerned about the problem or that it might know something about it.

Firstly, Mr Speaker, dealing with the question of whether the Australian Labor Party is concerned, not long ago I had the opportunity to hear the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Mr Hawke, address an agricultural economics symposium at Monash University. The main tenor of his remarks was that the skill and efficacy with which the rural industry and export industry case had been put to the Arbitration Commission had, in his opinion, been successful in lowering or keeping down the rate of wage rises and that if he had anything to do with it he was soon going to change this situation. If there is one thing that is notable in this area of seemingly constant inflation it is the effect of constant wage rises on the costs of primary producers. Yet according to the President of the ACTU, he was going to accentuate this problem and do so as quickly as possible. He also happened to mention as an aside during the course of his address that the Australian Labor Party seemed to lack a realistic rural policy.

On the second point, the assumption that the ALP knows something about the problems of rural industry, it must have been very embarrassing for its candidates in country areas to have to go about during the last election campaign trying to explain what their policy was. In fact ALP policies are geared to the past and not to the future. Heaven help the rural industries if the ALP ever is in a position to implement its outworn, out of date policies, devoid of any appreciation df modern conditions. Fortunately the Australian country people are not deceived by such policies..

Everyone in the rural industries knows that they are in trouble. I have had several meetings in my own electorate but I have been greatly heartened and encouraged by the responsible attitude taken by people at these meetings. I would like to quote as an indication of this sense of responsibility one of the motions that was passed at the largest of these meetings. It was this:

That the critical situation of the rural economy both requires and justifies urgent and substantial Government financial assistance,

But that in applying this assistance, the Government must have as its aim the long term strength, stability and independence of the rural community rather than attempt to deal with the present difficult conditions by measures prompted by the desire for political popularity.

That motion makes me proud to be a member of the rural community that passed that motion. I completely agree with that resolution.

In other words, when policies are put forward, it is essential that they bs designed to fulfil these objectives. The greatest danger at the present time is that because of the growing economic crisis in major sectors of primary industry, to quote the words of the matter raised for discussion in this debute, hasty, ill-considered policies will be proposed designed merely to take the heat off temporarily rather than to attack the real cause of the situation. Such policies would certainly lead to a much worse situation and, eventually, make the solution even more difficult. Given the sort of policies proposed by the Australian Labor Party, country people would end up as a second rate sector of the community and would be put in a perpetually mendicant position, in pawn to the whims of whatever government happened to be in power. Clearly, from my meetings, this situation is not desired by the rural community. What these people do want is a policy which recognises the vital part that they have played in the Australian economy in past years and the equally vital role that they have to play in the future. They want policies which will enable them to continue to hold their heads up in the community and not become a burden on the backs of taxpayers, which they would become if the policies of the Australian Labour Party were ever implemented.

Government policies must recognise that world trading conditions recently have undergone the most rapid and drastic change in history. The policy for the rural community - and I stress the words 'the rural community' because the way in which the Opposition has raised this matter for discussion seems to take it that only primary producers themselves are in trouble - must take account of these international changes and the changes in the economic situation of Australia itself.

Hasty illconsidered policies would make it impossible to arrive at the right solution The matter raised for discussion by the Opposition infers that the Government should be stampeded into making this hasty decision which would result in short term palliatives which are not wanted by the rural community because the rural community knows that these policies would not solve the problems. No-one appreciates this fact better than does the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) who is sitting at the table. I heard the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) pay a tribute to the Minister in the address that he gave to the Agriculture Economic Symposium which I mentioned a moment ago. I would like to add my congratulations to the Minister for his responsible courageous statements on the problems of primary industry.

If easy solutions to our problems were possible, they would have been found long ago. The fact is that the real solutions to the problems are complex, difficult and will take time and trouble to work out properly. The Minister has shown how they must be tackled. He is not prepared to see the rural community suffer a steadily declining standard of living without any real effort being made to attack the causes of this decline, not just the complaint itself. I have every confidence that, under the Minister's direction, realistic and responsible leadership will be shown regarding rural problems and that country people will not be deceived by the efforts of the Opposition to make political capital out of the present situation.

This is what has surprised me more than anything else in this all too short debate. I refer to the fact that the critical situation facing primary industry has been used as a football rather than as a forum to propose sound policies for the future of Australia. If this debate, short as it is, has done nothing else, it has shown the complete absence of any constructive proposals that the Opposition can put forward. We have had the Opposition's shadow Minister for Primary Industry speaking. We have had the shadow shadow Minister for Primary Industry speaking also. Between the two of them, we have not heard one constructive solution put forward to these admittedly great and pressing problems. Country people in Australia including the people in my own electorate will not be deceived by these specious attempts to gain sympathy from non-existent policies. The future of this Parliament will show that this Government is well capable under its present leadership of giving a lead to primary industry so that primary industry may fulfil the great role which it must continue to play in the future of this country. I look forward with great pleasure to being a part of these policies.

Motion (by Mr Barnes) proposed:

That the business of the day be called on.


Dr Patterson - I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Docs this mean that the Government is gagging this important debate on primary industry?


Mr SPEAKER - Order! It is not for Mr Speaker to say what the Governments policy is. It is my duty to see whether motions moved come within Standing Orders. The motion is within Standing Orders. 1 propose to put it.

Question put -

That the business of the day be called on.







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