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Wednesday, 26 September 1973
Page: 1506


Mr STREET (CORANGAMITE, VICTORIA) - My question is directed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime

Minister's answer to a question from the Leader of the Australian Country Party on 19 September in which the Prime Minister said:

The constant allegation that the Australian Government had done something to the disadvantage of rural industries, stems from the fact that we have ended some of the feather-bedding of the Pitt Street, and Collins Street farmers. There is no genuine rural producer who has other than benefited from our policies.

I now ask the Prime Minister to confirm, consistent with that answer, that the abolition of the investment allowance, the reduction of depreciation rates on new plant and machinery, the reduction almost to the point of abolition of depreciation allowances for the costs of fodder storage and water conservation, and the doubling of country telephone rentals will apply only to people he calls Pitt Street and Collins Street farmers. How does he propose to define the difference between those and other farmers so that the genuine producers to whom the Prime Minister referred will not be subject to measures which he claims were not aimed at them?


Mr Whitlam - The Acting Treasurer will answer the question.


Mr HAYDEN (OXLEY, QUEENSLAND) (Minister for Social Security) - I think it is undeniable that people who took a speculative interest in rural areas were exploiting the system of financial advantage of either direct or indirect subsidies for farmers so that they could accumulate capital gains. They were largelycity people and often professional people. These are the people who have created to a great degree serious distortions in rural economies by investments in land for purely speculative purposes, by a build-up of capital investment - although on a year to year basis there have been losses netted - entered into with the clear expectation that a tax free capital gain would be achieved. This sort of practice has been reinforced by these people speculating between themselves, to the great disadvantage of legitimate primary producers. I say this with some considerable feeling because I represented a rural electorate until 1968.

It is the legitimate primary producer who has been disadvantaged by this sort of speculation, which the previous Government never did anything about - which indeed, it feather bedded. The fact is, as the honourable member for Dawson and Minister for Northern Development has pointed out on more than one occasion, that the greatest benefit from these subsidies was most often being derived by people who least needed it. They were a clear profit to the most profitable primary producers in the community, whether they were wool growers or dairy producers in Victoria. This is a serious distortion of the whole purpose of these sorts of programs. We have adopted the approach that it is much more helpful to reduce the sorts of deleterious effects which are favouring the wrong types of people and to take whatever steps are possible to get primary industry on a substantial footing. To the extent that there have been people in primary industry who have suffered poverty and deprivation because of the inequitable way in which the benefits of these schemes have been favouring the wealthy it is better to institute programs which will help them to re-establish themselves in other areas.







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