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National Party task force on rural finance

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A Federal National Party deputation will hold talks next week

with senior banking officials in an attempt to ease the burden

of record high interest rates on regional communities in Australia.

Deputy National Party Leader and Shadow Minister for Primary

Industry, Mr Hunt, will lead the seven-member task force in talks

on Wednesday with senior officers of Westpac, the Commonwealth

Development Bank and the Primary Industry Bank of Australia (PIBA)

in Sydney.

Discussions are also being sought with the Reserve Bank.

Mr Hunt said today the objective of the task force was to discuss

all aspects of the record interest rates and the general economic

situation, with particular reference to banking policy as it affects

the agricultural industries and small business in rural Australia.

He said the full impact of interest rates, some exceeding 20 per

cent, was placing thousands of small businesses and primary producers

in jeopardy.

"The time for Government pussyfooting around this issue is long

gone," he said.

"The economies of whole towns and rural communities could well face

collapse in 1986 unless there is a full realisation of the havoc

being wrought by these excessive interest rates.

"It's just not good enough for the Government, in order to preserve

the basic elements of its Accord Mark II, to be expecting the small

business sector and farm businesses in Australia to pay more than

their share of the cost of an Accord simply to satisfy the demands

of the union movement," he said.

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"I believe the banks could give some excellent advice on what kinds

of options could be adopted. .

"I don't think I have ever seen a potentially" more dangerous time for

businesses in rural Australia.

"Some estimates are that 15 to 20 per cent of farms could be in

jeopardy within the next 12 months.

"A great deal will hang on the prices for commodities next year,

but already we know that a lot of the wheat crop has been damaged

by rain and will probably suffer dockage.

"There must be some action taken in the first few months of 1986

at a Government level, and the National Party will be discussing

the options for interest rate relief in Sydney next Wednesday and

hopefully with other banks in Melbourne early next year to ensure

we have a full briefing on policy options to strengthen our case

when Parliament resumes in February," Mr Hunt said.

Members of the task force with Mr Hunt are -

. Hon Evan Adermann (Member for Fairfax)

. Senator David Brownhill (NSW)

. Mr Michael Cobb (Member for Parkes)

. Mr Tim Fischer (Member for Farrer)

. Mr Noel Hicks (Member for Riverina-Darling)

. Mr Garry Nehl (Member for Cowper)