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Friday, 3 December 1976
Page: 3223

Mr BAUME (MACARTHUR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: What will be the effect of devaluation on the incomes of farmers? Is it true that these incomes will still be about $50 a week lower than average city workers' wages for the current financial year? What steps will the Minister take to reduce further this unfair gap that not only leaves rural people with a lower standard of living but also provides no effective return on their large investments in their farms?

Mr SINCLAIR -It is true, as the honourable gentleman so correctly identifies, that in spite of the product of devaluation and the litt that this is expected to give to the incomes of rural producers, the average weekly expectation of income this year for the rural sector, taking into account not just labour but also management and return on capital invested, on the Bureau of Agricultural Economics projections will increase only from $126 a week to $143 a week. That compares less than favourably with the present average weekly earnings of about $184 a week across the breadth of the Australian economy. I do not think that there is any more drastic way to illustrate the product of the changes which have occurred in our society in the last few years and which are one of the very real consequences of the failure of the previous Administration to introduce policies to assist the rural sector.

There are many other things that we are doing to overcome the economic difficulties of the farmer. Such action was in evidence only yesterday in the form of the extended, revamped and updated rural adjustment scheme which is designed to accommodate those who are either financially stretched in their resources or no longer judged viable and want to move out of farming. In each of the individual commodity areas, there are specific forms of assistance. Another illustration this week of Government action is the lifting of the reserve price for wool. These examples illustrate how, commodity by commodity, we are prepared to provide assistance. There are still, however, a number of major industries in difficulties. I mention the beef industry, in which I know the honourable gentleman has an interest, and, of course, the dairy industry and the horticultural industry. Each of those three is an industry to which the Government has provided significant help already. The Government is quite determined to ensure that there will be a maintenance of additional Government aid so that, despite the economic traumas which are apparent in the statistics that I have given, that sector of the Australian community will not be too disadvantaged for too much longer.

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