Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Official opening of National Party Conference

Download PDFDownload PDF

10 S'


This first annual conference of our Party in Western Australia

since reunification in October last year is a milestone for the


There are many miles still to travel, many battles to be fought,

and many dry gullies to be crossed— but this conference is a

very real milestone, all the same.

After some diversion once more we have resumed that "immense

journey" as that great chronicler of American politics,

Theodore White, once described the political process.

To succeed we must move as a united party with a common purpose

to encourage individual opportunity freed from unnecessary

Government intervention. Our political agenda must not be just

a knee-jerk reaction to the troubles created by Labor. It must

be a deliberate program directed to the goals of economic growth

and non-discriminatory social opportunity. They must be achievable

and meet the aspirations of the Australian people whether here in

Western Australia or across the continent.

That this conference is taking place and in the presence of so

many delegates gives me and my federal National Party colleagues

enormous pleasure. -

. . . / 2

21 . . ,

Congratulations to your President, John Paterson, and to all

who have worked so hard for this day.

Branch membership and branch involvement are the life blood

of our Party.

I hope through the commonsense and practical judgement of

each of you as Party members the divisiveness of the past can

now be forgotten.

In the face of constant attacks on traditional family values

and against the concept of a fair, return ,for a fair endeavour

in these troubled economic times, unity of our National Party

conservative voice is essential to meet the needs of those you

seek to represent — the country people of Western Australia.

They are the people you represent politically: the graingrower,

the beef producer, the sheep man, the dairy farmer, the orchardist,

the grazier, those in all sectors of rural industry, the residents

of regional centres, of country towns, of isolated areas, of

mining Communities, the small businessman and woman, the tradesman,

the professional, the miner, the farmer; indeed all who work to

build and sustain· this great country of ours and those who are

members of their families.

' i , · ' ■ ■ " ' _

The very real sense of achievement of your reunification must

reflect not only personal satisfaction in unity, but basically,

what that unity means for those people.

. . ./3

It must mean that once again in Western Australia, there is a

political party prepared to fight for them, and work with them.

It is something which can be said only about the National


Since amalgamation of the National Country Party and the

National Party in Western Australia, your party organisation

has made great strides.

I am advised you now have 65 branches and 8 district councils,

and strongly growing membership.

In State Parliament, the party is represented by Hendy Cowan,

Eric Charlton and Matt Stephens. Hopefully they will soon be

joined by others from that impressive field of candidates

selected to stand for the party at the next State election.

I welcome too the presence at this conference of Mick Gayfer

and Tom McNeil. .

This conference is all about unity ~ not, as I stressed, for

unity's sake, but for what it means for those we represent.

We must build on that unity by making clear to all who are

concerned for the future of Rural Australia and its people

that they are welcome among us.


.. ./4

4 / . . .

We must make clear that this Party — the National Party -­

is their home, that we want them all to contribute, to take

a share of the load, and to move with us on that political

journey to get iiferventionist big Government off our

collective backs.

United though you now are there are still wounds to heal and

credentials to be re-established. Your spurs are yet to be


I appeal today to all those Western Australians who have not

yet made up their minds about the National Party to join and

play a part in developing the policies that will be implemented

in Government. There is a great challenge ahead and the Party

needs all the help it can get.

Mr Chairman.

I pay tribute today to you for all you have done to make

this conference and all it represents possible.

I know how difficult it has been; how much patience,

understandingand dedication it has required.

I pay tribute to all your colleagues, and to another man who

played an irreplaceable role -- Sir Donald Eckersley.

. . ./5


It was Sir Donald who, as founding President of the National

Farmers Federation and a great architect of rural unity, saw

the importance of restoring political unity among those who

work for the country people of Western Australia.

It was his achievement in exploring for and finding common

ground and common hope that led to the compilation of the

Eckersley Report> which was the basis for amalgamation.

The National Party owes Sir Donald a great deal.

So, I think, do all country people in Western Australia.

Bis role, both in the NFF and the National Party, has been

central in creating the institutions on which the prosperity

and security of country people rest.

That is recognised and appreciated not only in Western Australia

but by country people around Australia.

Mr Chairman.

It is those people, for whom the National Party works in

Parliaments in every*mainland State capital and in Canberra,

who are under threat as never before.

. . ./6

6 / . . .

Overseas markets for our great primary industries are still

in the midst of downturn and uncertainty, fuelled by forces

which Australia can do little to deflect.

Costs are rising in every area and particularly fuel costs.

Inflation is rising with Crean and Kelty flexing their industria

muscle in refusing to discount the September National Wage Case

for devaluation and in pursuing a 4.1 per cent productivity


Interest rates are at an all-time record high in real terms.

For the rural sector this is the final blow.

In virtually every rural industry, the family farmer is more

universally under threat than ever before.

The average age of farmers is now 58. Their children find

the land has no future. ,

Even those who can survive face long, hard, lean years before

they can look ahead with any certainty.

The stark reality of all this is as clear in the wheatgrowing

areas of this State as it is anywhere in Australia.



The loss from the land of so many people whom Australia can

least afford to lose is having its effect on land prices over

a much wider area and depressing conditions throughout the

rural economy.

The rural crisis is particularly severe in some industries;

grain, sugar, dairying and the specialist areas such as dried

vine fruits, wine grapes, citrus and rice.

The extent of the crisis is, however, graphically shown by

the fact that even our most secure and broad-based industries —

such as wool, wheat and meat — are being hit hard.

Australian farmers will have an average net income this year

of only $6,600 — less than one-third of the average male wage.

Next year, according to the latest forecast by the Bureau of

Agricultural Economics,- the real net value of rural production

will fall by 22 per cent.

Effectively, this means that farmers' real incomes will fall by

one-fifth — from an already disastrous low.

That is why around Australia, farmers are fighting for their

families, their farms and their future as they never have before

It is a battle which must be won.

Nv Australian van afford to see it lost.

/ a


Our rural industries provide around 40 per cent of our export


If they suffer, the whole nation suffers.

The seriously adverse terms of overseas trade and the increasing

cost of excess overseas borrowings should prompt real

encouragement for export industries, not their destruction.

This year alone 64 cents of every new dollar borrowed will go

in servicing existing debt!

Our rural industries are the foundation of the prosperity of

that vast area of Australia that lies outside Canberra and those

few capital cities huddled on the coastline.

Mining and tourism are important but the contribution of

Australia’s great primary export industries, pastoral, agricultural

and fishing remains critical to domestic living standards through

the value of their export returns. ,

If they are weakened, the whole nation is weakened.

That must be understood by all Governments.

■ 4 - ' '

Tragically, the Hawke Government has failed in its duty, not

only to Rural Australia, but to the whole nation.

. . . / 9

9/. . .

Its promises on primary industry have been worthless.

Its actions have slashed the ability of the rural sector to

compete in world markets and severely disadvantaged producers

and their dependants.

It must bear the prime responsibility for much of the rural


Recovery in the rural sector will be a long haul.

However, the first essential step is clear.

It is to defeat the Hawke Government whenever the next federal

election is held.

There is, quite simply, no other course of action open if the

rural sector is to regain security.

Rural Australia cannot afford Labor Governments.

It cannot afford Labor Members, and it cannot suffer Labor


There is only one way to start the process of bringing security

back to the farm and getting a fair deal for those who live

outside our major capitals.

10 / . . . ,

It is to kick the Hawke Government out on its backside.

And that is what the National Party is determined to do.

Since the National Party first became part of a Federal

Coalition Government in 1922, it has worked untiringly

for Rural Australia.

We have not always achieved everything we wanted or hoped

for, but each time, we have learned from our mistakes.

And of course, it has been the few short years of Labor

Governments that have seen these measures largely dismantled.

It was years of National Party involvement in Government that

put a floor on the wool price and ensured measures that

recognised the special needs of the rural sector.

It was the National Party in the last Government which ensured

that death and gift duties were abolished.

It was the National Party which saw the Primary Industry Bank

of Australia established with an IED scheme designed to provide

worthwhile drought insurance and by relending through PIBA

longterm funds at competitive interest rates.

.. ./Ill·

11/.. .

It was the National Party which saw the fuel freight

equalisation scheme introduced only to see it substantially

dismantled by Labor in the mini-budget in May^ with resultant

fuel prices in country areas now significantly higher than in

coastal fuel distribution centres. As we all know margins of

12-20 cents extra per litre are not uncommon.

It was the National Party which saw stabilisation schemes

introduced or extended for the wheat# fruit and dairy industries.

It was the National Party which improved tax averaging.

It was the National Party which recognised the particular

problems of the fishing industry and worked to resolve them.

It was the National Party which worked for improvements for

communications, roads, water supplies, health and education

for country people with measures too numerous to list.

It was the National Party which led the fight for increased

access in overseas markets for our farm products — in the

United States, Japan and Europe for beef, for example, as well

as opening up new markets in Asia and the Middle East.

The Middle East has been one of Australia's fastest growing

export market areas over the past decade.

. ..7b


Our exports to the region have increased from less than

$135 million in 1972-73 to some $1,700 million in 1983-84

when they accounted for 6.9 per cent of total Australia

exports. That market was ' predominantly the result

of my predecessor Doug Anthony’s efforts as Minister for Trade

and Resources.

And it was the National Party which ensured help was at hand

when trouble came — with massive aid for the wool, beef and

sugar industries, for example, and every dollar spent efficiently

and effectively — and with measures which ensured the survival

of the majority of farmers in that terrible drought which broke

late in 1983.

Just contrast that record with Labor *s — look at all the broken

promises, the cost increases, the rural sector programs either

abandoned or maimed beyond recognition.

Contrast the record on Government spending under the last

Coalition Government with that of the Hawke Government.

The fact is that the Fraser/Anthony Government restrained

spending better than any Government State or Federal since the

end of World War II, ' i

Real growth in Government spending averaged only 2.2 per cent

from 1975 to 1983.



That is almost half the level of the Menzies years.

It is one-fifth of the level under Whitlam — and less than

one-third of the level under Hawke.

I am not saying we should not have done better nor that we

curbed sufficiently the power of the trade unions.

The initiatives I have listed, however, and they are far from

complete, show up in the clearest possible way the contrast

between Labor and the National Party. ·

Two other developments make that contrast even clearer.

They are the dispute at Mudginberri abattoir, in the Northern

Territory, and the Hawke Government's humiliation over tax reform.

These two issues, as different as they are, have a bearing on

the whole future of the nation, over and above their particular


Each demonstrates the Government's domination by the trade

union movement.

' .·. '

Each demonstrates Labor's fundamental inability to come to grips

with the great issues facing the nation because of the power and

influence of its Socialist Left.

.14/. . .

At Mudginberri, unions are holding an abattoir — management,

workers, pastoralists and their overseas customers -- to

ransom, with the support of the Hawke Government.

Incredibly at a time when European Community agricultural

policies threaten the stability of so many world markets, the

unions and the Hawke Government are pursuing a course which

could cost Australia a hard-won EC import quota.

The unions are picketing to prevent men working under Award

conditions granted by a Full Bench of the Commonwealth

Conciliation and Arbitration Commission under the Chairmanship

of Sir John Moore, instead of under a lower paid tally system.

The cost per beast killed at Mudginberri is $34 a head. At

nearby Katherine abattoir under the tally system it's $158.40.

You know as I do the difference is at the producer's cost.

The union doesn't even have the support of the meatworkers

whom they have expelled from the union.

They are working under an Award which gives them more than

they would earn under the system the union wants.

What the unio/i does have is the support of the Hawke Government

which is refusing the provide the export inspection service

necessary for products to be sold overseas.



Indeed the Minister for Primary Industry even co-operated

in having his Commonwealth Meat Inspectors transferred from

Mudginberri where they had been based to inferior caravan

accommodation some miles away in Jabiru.

The result was that they now need to pass the picket line to

provide the inspection service they formerly gave while living

adjacent to the works themselves.

The National Party regards the dispute over Mudginberri as

critical for the Australian’s right to work.

It is vital for the Competitiveness of our meat export


It is vital to demonstrate that unions cannot flout Award

conditions nor the law of the land.

Sections 45D and 45E of the Trade Practices Act# inserted

by the last Coalition Government, have proved a vital weapon

in this dispute.

At the order of the unions, the Hawke Government tried to

abolish sections 45D and 45E — and failed.


16 / . . .

The Mudginberri dispute must be won if the fundamental

industrial problems of Australia are to be tackled at all.

I commend the National Farmers Federation for the role it is

playing in supporting Jay Pendarvis and the Mudginberri


I regard it as significant that the two most significant

attempts to blunt abuse of union power have come from

organisations rooted in the rural sector -- the NFF in the

Mudginberri case, and the National Party Government of

Sir Job Bjelke-Petersen in the case of that State's power

industry dispute.

In Queensland, Sir Joh has shown that abuse of union power

can be decisively halted.

At Mudginberri this must be demonstrated again — for the

sake of all Australians.

The role of the Hawke Government in both disputes, where it

has aided and abetted unsuccessful attempts by the union

movement to use industrial blackmail to get its way ■ — has

been a betrayal of its responsibility to the nation.

That responsibility was betrayed again when the Government

announced on Tuesday that it had abandoned any meaningful

move to reform the country's tax system.



That was a humiliating admission that the Hawke Government

was incapable of changing the tax system without the permission

of the union movement.

It was a condemnation of the Prime Minister, who stitched

together the unwieldy compromise with the ACTU, undermining

the efforts of his own Treasurer.

The Government’s failure on tax reform represents the greatest

failure of nerve by any Government in our history.

The Government has decided, however, to go ahead with all the

proposals wanted by its left and centre left wings and by the

union movement.

They include a new capital gains tax, a tax on fringe benefits,

a crackdown on off-farm income, and the abolition of the

concessional deduction for PAYE taxpayers.

All these measures will have a serious impact on the productive

private sector and those who work in it.

They will all, to a greater or lesser degree, have a serious

impact on the rural,:* sector.

Clearly, the new capital gains tax is the greatest danger.

• /18


The effect of the Hawke Government's failure on tax reform,

in fact, effectively dumps a major part of the growing tax

burden on farmers. *'

The rural sector will pay through the nose — through the

new capital gains tax — for the Government's rout on tax


The Government claimed at the tax summit that its proposed

new capital gains would have only a minimal impact on the

rural sector.

The truth is far less comforting.

An independent tax firm which surveyed rural land values in

New South Wales since 1974 presented its work in a financial

magazine last month. ,

It showed that for a property in western New South Wales bought

in 1976 for $100,000, the capital gains tax payable on the death

of the owner under the Government’s plans could be as high as


The cost would be at least as high in Western Australia.

This de facto death duty would be a crippling blow to any

farming operation, let alone one facing today's problems.

.. .Δ9

1 9 / .

The National Party is totally opposed to any new capital

gains tax.

If the Hawke Government succeeds in introducing one, it will

be the shortest-lived new tax ever — because it will go out

the window when a Coalition Government is re-elected.

Rural employers will also be hit by the proposed tax on fringe

benefits, which taxes them not in the hands of the employee —

which would be fair — but in the hands of the employer.

This proposal is grossly hypocritical.

It preserves all the benefits won by the unions at no cost to

the employee, while imposing a massive cost burden on the

private sector.

Under the Government's proposal fringe benefits which are part

of Awards will not be taxable.

Without doubt this will generate a move for arbitrated fringe

benefits, again at full cost to the employer.

Incidentally*,; of course, politicians and public servants will

pay no-tax on their fringe benefits.


20 / . . .

The other serious impact on the rural sector will come from

what the Government has claimed is an attack on Pitt Street

Farmers — those whose main business is off-farm, but who

claim losses from farm operations as a deduction from taxable


It is far more serious than it appears, and its ramifications

will run right through the rural sector. .

It will not only hit the so-called "Pitt Street — or should

I say 'the Terrace1 — Farmer" — who incidentally often

invests heavily in innovative farming techniques of benefit

to all « — but the ordinary farmer as well.

Those who have invested money off-farm in the good times, to

help them through the bad will be hit.

Those — and there are plenty of them — who work off the farm

to keep their operation going will also be hit.

Altogether, it is likely to lead to the withdrawal of at least

$150 million in rural sector investment — a very serious blow,

especially in today's conditions.

•i .. . . ■

The debacle' of the tax summit and the humiliation of the

Government in its wak underlined the fatal flaw in Labor's

whole approach to tax.


21 / .

It is not trying to reduce the heavy tax burden on all


■ f f r ­

it is simply trying to redistribute it.

That is where it fails, and will continue to fail, the

Australian people.

Under Labor, that tax burden will continue to rise, as will

Government spending, and the level of Government borrowing.

Even the much-vaunted "trilogy" is no protection.

If the deficit in 1985-86 is held at $5.5 billion, and the

projected figure for economic growth of 4.5 per cent is

achieved, Australia's total public sector borrowing requirement

this financial year will be 50 per cent higher as a percentage

of gross domestic product than it will in the United States.

In addition, a total of 64 cents in every dollar borrowed this

year will be needed to meet repayments on past debt.

If the trilogy is achieved, Government spending can still

increase by three per cent and revenue — what we all pay in

taxes — by four per cent, in real terms.

That is all from a Government which is already the highest

spending, highest taxing, highest borrowing Government in

Australia's history prevailing over the highest ever level of

real interest rates.


22 / . .

Australians should not be deluded by Labor's claims to

economic responsibility. ■ · - '

Australia's future is under threat, a very real threat.

A French economist once compared the performance of the

Australian economy since the Second World War to an idiot

who keeps winning the lottery.

Whether you accept that or not, there is no doubt that we all

face very serious times ahead.

That chronicler of American politics to whom I referred at

the start of my speech, Theodore White, also had some sensible

words to say on the problems of leadership.

He wrote:

' ’This conflict between what lies ahead and the needs of

those on the march behind is the continuing problem of the

working politician — and often the stuff of art to the

historians who tell it later.

"This conflict perplexes men in politics at all times — the

. contradiction between what they must talk about to hold the

hearts of their followers and what they see ahead and

cannot talk of because so few will understand."

. . ./23

2 3/...

Hr Chairman.

■ . ; ί f ·

I want to talk, about something today that I hope everyone

here does understand.

Recently, many economic commentators have warned that

Australia, unless it faces up to and resolves its fundamental

economic problems, will be on the slide to becoming a third

world country.

I am afraid I have some bad news.

In many ways, we are there already.

Think of the problems facing most third world countries:

dependence of bulk commodities for export income; heavy and

growing overseas debt; small manufacturing base; isolation

from major markets; and dependence on overseas suppliers for

major equipment and technology.

Sounds familiar? It should, because that list in many ways

describes Australia today.

We are a long way different in degree from Ghana, Peru, or

Pakistan, but we share many of their problems, and we should

realise that.

You can argue that in a sense those problems spring from our

immense resource base.

.. ./24


I do not subscribe to that.

We have, in a sense, been "given" those resources -- or more

precisely lent them.

We cannot reshape history and it is up to us to do the best

with what we have.

Australia's resource base has served,us well throughout the

Nineteenth Century and the first six or seven decades of the


There have been downturns and depressions, but we have

weathered them, and gone On to further growth.

I do not believe this will continue indefinitely.

What should concern us all is the inexorable, apparently

unstoppable growth of major trading blocs — North America,

Europe, the Soviet Union and its satellites, even, increasingly,

South East Asia.

Only the strongest -- such as Japan — can stand apart in this

world and even Japan is not immune to pressure.

·< · ’ ■ ' . ■

Australia is very Small beer, very small beer indeed in the

world trading system.


2 5 / . . .

This growth has completely distorted world markets in the

major farm products which Australia produces so efficiently.

Coupled with the spread of "beggar thy neighbour" protectionist

policies# it has hindered the establishment in Australia of

profitable# secondary processing of our production for export


The mining industry faces similar problems, worsened by the

phenomenon of "social metals".— uneconomic mining subsidised

by poorer nations in an attempt to gain hard currency for

imports and debt repayment.

In the manufacturing sector, our small domestic market limits

economies of scale, and our market alignment — still so often

to Europe and North America — coupled with the effect of

domestic production on trade with our neighbours — is a

severe brake on competitiveness.

What we need now# as we have never done before# is a major

new thrust in Australian economic policy.

As we progress along the immense journey, we have crested a

new ridge.

Australia’s political, commercial and industrial leaders all

agree that ahead of us is a deep and impenetrable marsh.



Those who march with us on the immense journey, strung out

behind, concerned with the needs of day-to-day life, have

not yet understood. . ·

But to go ahead, we must have a new direction.

Many policies are required — in trade, seeking out regional

alignments, dropping our own tariff barriers so trade can

circulate more rapidly and more jobs can be created for all,

complementary economies meshed together and narrow nationalistic

jealousies left behind.

Labor’s ties with the union movement prevent it bringing about

the real wage cuts, over time, that we must have if we are to

hand on to our children the nation we all want to see.

Labor's ties with Socialism, and all the apparatus of Government

interference, regulation and intervention and control, mean that

it is incapable of opening up the economy, and reducing the size

and role of Government, as we must if we even hope to move ahead

in the rest of this Century and beyond.

Labor, may have deregulated the financial system. Deregulating ·

the industrial system it has not.

If wages and profits are to be brought in proper balance, as

they must be, and social cohesion maintained,

one of several essential elements is that Governments

at all levels must cut taxes to maintain individual living




They can only do that if they cut spending.

The debacle of the tax summit and its aftermath is more than

a disaster for the Hawke Government.

It is a disaster for Australia, for it spells almost three more

years of sterility and delay in a situation of mounting urgency.

Instead of cutting taxes, the Hawke Government is imposing more

of them.

Instead of borrowing less, it is increasing our debt.

It dithers in impotence and indecision, unable to do what it

knows is right, and unable to provide the leadership the nation

must have.

This nation must take a new direction.

Its leaders must have the courage to tell the people that, and

the vision to see what the new direction must be.

That is the task that the National Party must face, and it is

the task that the Liberal Party must face also.

Our Party, representing the people of Rural Australia, has to

take the message to them, and to all Australians.


28/. ..

Here in Western Australia, we now have a unified Party, a

Party which can take on that responsibility.

I seek your help in the immense task that lies ahead.

I am confident that you can give it.

And I am proud to declare this your first Annual Conference

as a united National Party officially open.