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Farm costs summit must lead to action

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6 March 1985


The disagreement between the Hawke Labor Government and the National

Farmers' Federation over the Federation's estimates of tariff costs

to farmers must be resolved as soon as possible, the Acting National

Party Leader, Mr Hunt, said in Canberra today.

Mr Hunt said it was unfortunate that the talks during yesterday

morning's so-called farm costs summit meeting in Canberra had broken

down following disagreement over the cost of tariffs to the farm sector.

"Nobody can dispute the fact that farm costs is the main avenue through

which the Hawke Labor Government can assist primary producers who are

facing one of the worst cost-price squeezes in history," Mr Hunt said.

"There is little that the Government can do to improve low world

commodity prices. . .

"However there is much it can do to help reduce the input costs facing

Australian farmers.

"There is no doubt that the high cost of tariff protection is being

disproportionately borne by farmers and those engaged in producing

for export markets.

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"Heavy rises in fuel, transport and handling charges, real interest

rates and other State and Federal Government charges such as export

inspection charges require immediate attention.

"If the Hawke Labor Government is fair dinkum, the first steps it

could take would be to remove all export inspection charges from

primary industries and to replace the harvester tariff with a bounty.

"It is outrageous that Australian wheat farmers are being asked to pay

$14M to protect 260 jobs in Victoria when a $2M bounty would achieve

the same purpose.

"Our living standards will rise or fall on our ability to compete

on export markets.

"Farmers have made genuine efforts to co-operate with adjustment

programs, and have accepted a reduction in effective protection from

28 to 8 per cent in the last decade.

"During the same period levels of protection for manufacturing have

only eased from 36 to 24 per cent.

"Agriculture generally is the lowest protected sector of the Australian


"It is to be hoped that the Hawke Labor Government treats seriously the

efforts being made by the National Farmers' Federation to strengthen

the ability of Australia's farm industries to sustain the living

. standards of not only those in the farm sector but of all Australians,"

Mr Hunt said.