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Statement by John Kerin, handing over to Simon Crean

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— — --- --- * 4 June 1991


The process of internationalisation and deregulation of the economy which this Government has brought about since 1983 is central to the reforms to Australia’s primary industries during my tenure as Minister.

These industries are Australia's most important in terms of export income and among our most efficient. They are integral to the longer term future of this nation's environmental and social wellbeing. The structural reforms put in place and the attitudinal changes I have encouraged have, I believe, enhanced the strengths of this sector.

Similarly, the resources sector of our economy - for which I gained responsibility from 1987 - has prospered under the Labor Government.

I leave these responsibilities with some mixed feelings. There is still much to be done. There always will be.

However, I am confident that the agricultural and resources sectors are well positioned to move forward and maintain their leadership in terms of productivity and export returns. This confidence is based on two key factors:

* the Government will be maintaining its overall policy direction

* the appointment of Simon Crean as Minister for Primary Industries & Energy.

Simon Crean is an eminently capable Minister who brings to this portfolio skills and a capacity for work equal to the task ahead of him.

I look forward to working with him in government as Australia continues the process of growth through restructuring to become a truly robust and competitive economy.

In the current difficult times in the rural sector, there is a definite need for people concerned with the current income problems in agriculture to take a, balanced view of the matter.

Through the combination of the Government's policy changes for the wool industry, specific assistance measures for the wool and wheat industries, increased general assistance measures through the Rural Adjustment Scheme and the Rural Counselling Program, and the

improvement in the climatic outlook, we have now more grounds for optimism than at any stage over the past year.

There are still going to be substantial income difficulties for people in the wool industry. All our decisions have been directed to minimising these while setting the parameters for recovery through the package of wool legislation

through the Parliament in the current session.

the industry's which will pass


While I have always welcomed action in rural areas to help overcome our difficulties, I am becoming concerned that people are failing to recognise the improvements in our situation.

In many areas we have mercifully had good rains which have been sufficient for winter plantings. Because the weather has also remained relatively mild, there will also be useful pastoral growth

in many areas.

I am not complacent about the future for climatic conditions or for the wheat and wool industries. Certainly it will be in the best interests of some farm families to leave agriculture and I know how hard this can be.

However, after putting policies in place to support rural families, I am concerned that some people are still talking up 'the crisis' - often for their own ends, not for the good of Australian agriculture.

The Opposition are the worst offenders. Their repetitious and negative attacks offer nothing positive or new. Bereft of real policies, and chronically split between the agrarian socialism of the dying National party and the New Right orthodoxy of the characterless Liberals, they have merely attempted to camouflage

their own nakedness by throwing cheap taunts in my direction.

The time has now come for all to get back to more positive thinking. It is vital that community groups, financial institutions, local authorities and farmers' organisations work together to support their own actions, and the actions of governments, which will build on the solid future for agriculture and rural areas.

We must not be complacent. But neither must we fall for the trap of being so consumed with the challenges in front of us that we fail to recognise turning points and an improved outlook.

Contact : Simon Grose (06) 2777 520