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Friday, 25 September 1970

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for Primary Industry) - The Commonwealth Government is aware of the serious position in Queensland, particularly in the wool industry, because of the severe economic conditions prevailing, that is, the low wool prices and the drought. As a result, a large sum of money has been made available for drought relief to that State. In addition, the Commonwealth has announced that $30m will be made available for emergency relief to wool growers whose income has declined severely in the last financial year as against income during the year 1968-69. Quite a substantial part of this $30m no doubt will go to graziers and wool growers who are suffering in Queensland.

It was announced also in the Budget that I and my Department were to carry out an examination of the debt problem in rural industries. I know that this is a severe problem in Queensland. A survey is not something that one can carry out quickly because finance in relation to rural industries is a very big question. Furthermore, it is an extremely complex question. ft is a question that does involve or would appear to involve the State Governments in possible ways and means of handling the question. Lastly, it is a matter which could involve governments in a considerable amount of expenditure in overcoming some of the problems that we have been told exist.

The survey or the examination that is being carried out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics will look at the extent of the indebtedness and will try to determine the degree of it in certain areas. The reasons or the cause of this indebtedness will be examined and the Bureau will make recommendations to me as to how the problem ought to be handled, but it is a matter that needs considerable examination. It is not easy to know how some of the matters can be handled. There is a great variation in the problem of indebtedness. Some people are at a stage of near bankruptcy, other people have a severe debt problem which they are finding difficult to manage and others see that their potential indebtedness could be quite severe. All of these aspects must be examined. They will be examined and recommendations will be made to the Government.

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