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Wednesday, 17 November 1976
Page: 2763

Mr GILES (ANGAS, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Would the Minister for Primary Industry care to elaborate on his Press statement and on Government policy relating to household support for near-bankrupt primary producers? Who would decide eligibility -

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to ask for an opinion. He can ask for facts.

Mr GILES - I was asking for an explanation of policy. Who would decide eligibility for such support and what are the criteria relevant to this sort of support?

Mr SPEAKER -The question is in order. I call the Minister for Primary Industry.

Mr SINCLAIR - The concept of household support emerged, yet again, from an Industries Assistance Commission report regarding the assistance that should be available in the case of an industry which required Commonwealth or government support. It is, as we see it, a very worthwhile extension of the present available forms of rural reconstruction assistance. It is my hope that legislation enabling the extension of rural adjustment generally can be introduced into the House before we rise for the summer recess. There have been extensive negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States regarding the terms of the extension of rural adjustment and significant agreement has been reached. I am hopeful now that the approach made to the States will ensure a rapid response from them so that we can proceed to introduce the legislation.

Household support, as part of the total package, is intended to be available at the time that a farmer, not being eligible for either debt adjustment or farm build-up assistance, has been notified to that effect. In order that he will not then be left entirely to depend on his own resources, it is intended that there should be available this capitalised unemployment benefit to ensure that he can have some income until he has worked out his future. The idea is that for the first 12 months the household support would be available on a quarterly basis. After the first 6 months it would be necessary for the farmer to have given some indication that he has been taking steps to leave the land. In some circumstances, the support could be available on a quarterly payment basis for a further 12 months.

In those circumstances it would be necessary that he had actually taken steps to leave the land. It is intended that the support would be made available by way of a repayable loan if the farmer does not leave the land. But in circumstances where he actually had taken steps to leave the land and leaves the land, it would become a grant. In addition, of course, funds are available to ensure that assistance is provided to him if he takes steps to leave the land. That is embodied in another part of the rural adjustment scheme. I am sure that the whole package will be a very worthwhile and humane extension of assistance to a group of people who tragically are very seriously disadvantaged under the present structure of the Australian economy.

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