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Extract of speech to farm writers and broadcasters society, Journalists club, Sydney

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24 February,


Two years of unremitting effort to control inflation and re-inflate

a punctured economy have wrought benefits in almost every section

of the Australian community.

The rural sector has been no exception.

However, while others have enjoyed cost of living adjustments and

adequate income to benefit from significant tax reductions many

farmers are not so fortunate.

For agricultural producers, market access and cost increases

remain significant difficulties.

There are indications that this situation is gradually changing.

Industry surveys presented at the recent National Agricultural

Outlook Conference in Canberra pointed to a "bottoming" of the

rural recession with probable improvements in farm incomes in

the next 12 to 18 months.

The need for long term policies to promote rural improvement is

undeniable, but the problems of our beef, dairy, wool, fruit,

and sugar producers are immediate -- and demand immediate


Our long term objective in rural policy is to maintain.profitability

for the family farmer and to ensure his relative equality with

those in other sectors of the economy.

This we see attainable both through domestic stabilisation

schemes and through bilateral and multilateral trade agreements

such as the International Sugar Agreement.

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At the same time urgent financial assistance has been necessary.

To this end the Rural Adjustment Scheme has been updated and new

benefits provided within it.

Further, extensions to ensure a minimum income equal to a

capitalised unemployment benefit are now under examination.

This is in addition to the household support scheme which was

established to assist those farmers ineligible for unemployment

benefit but receiving no income.

Assistance of this kind has been essential not simply because

of market and price problems, but because of the severity of

drought in so many areas of Australia.

Even today across wide areas of southern New South Wales,

Victoria, most of South Australia, and parts of Queensland and

Western Australia, the effects of drought are critical.

In South Australia many areas have had 18 months with the lowest

recorded rainfall since settlement.

Much of the assistance provided has been of a maintenance

character rather than designed to ensure long term stability

of producers.

However, in areas such as the dairy industry much has been done.

Unfortunately, dramatic changes within New South Wales in

market milk entitlements and an extraordinary production decline

brought about by drought in States such as Victoria have meant

the situation now facing the dairy farmers is quite different to

that envisaged by the I.A.C. in its examination of the industry.

A further concern is the abnormal decline in domestic market

sales of butter.

While it is true that legislation to restrain margarine

production must have proved beneficial to the dairy industry, I

do not believe present levels of butter consumption in Australia

reflect the correct long term demand.

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With more easy-spread varieties, perhaps better packaging, and

certainly more aggressive advertising, I see improvement in the


In this light it is hard to make a certain judgement on National

Aggregate Entitlements as envisaged by the Stage II dairy

marketing proposals.

Although Agricultural Council in Adelaide has accepted a formula

for distribution of entitlements between States, Victorian dairy

farmers are most concerned at the effect it will have on their

returns. ·

In these circumstances, discussions are still continuing as to

the best way by which the long term interests of dairy farmers

in all States can be protected.

In conjunction with this examination there is, of course, a

commitment to maintain underwriting at a level which will assist

farmers, at least during the transition stage.

Rural policy, of course, covers many industries. Perhaps there

has never been a more difficult time in which to reach decisions

on the role of agriculture and the best form of Government


Indeed, there are many major rural policy issues which emerge

as requiring Government decision in the not too distant future.

Iri a determined effort to ensure an adequacy of information for

solution of these problems, I have asked the Bureau of.

Agricultural Economics to assist in a number of directions.

A major concern must be to gain a thorough understanding of the

main issues and problems 'confronting Japan's agricultural sector.


In this area the B.A.E. this year will prepare a review of

developments in the Japanese agricultural economy outlining the

policy measures adopted by the Japanese Government. .

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The Bureau will attempt to isolate those areas in which the

complementary interests of Australian and Japanese

agriculturalists might be promoted. '

More specialised papers reviewing Japan's dairy and beef

industries from an Australian perspective will also be prepared

The results should be specially useful in further developing

our own agricultural and trade policies and in expanding our

position in this important market. :

In the continuing appraisal of our existing marketing

arrangements and as a foundation for the formulation of

marketing policies for the 1980’s, I have asked the B.A.E. to

develop three further papers evaluating the overall marketing

of our three main export products - - wool, meat and grains.

This work is to be carried out in consultation with the '

marketing authorities and is expected to take some twelve

months to complete. . .

We may be able to discuss the results of this work ■ at a major

national conference early next year to be arranged during

Agriculture Week as part of the Western Australia 150th

Anniversary celebrations.

I have had some consultations with Mr Dick Old, the Minister

for Agriculture in Western Australia, and he will be making a

- further announcement on this matter in due course.

There remain problems in areas of productivity adjustment and

continued welfare of farmers and their families.

I have asked the B.A.E. to prepare a comprehensive review

of these issues and the policy options open to the Government.

Tn"^t'lTFse^tKree""m'aj or" areas 'the B .A .E . wi 11 be g~ivihg the

Government information of a more fundamental kind than is

available in its normal economic review of agriculture.


This extended role of the B.A.E, I see is quite critical. The

adequacy of advice available to the Government before final

. decisions are taken in these areas is extremely important, to

the wellbeing■ of the Australian farmer. , . .

The Government is committed to the development of measures ;

to ensure the maintenance of viable rural industries. · . . -

Farmers' wellbeing", efficiency and competitiveness depend on

well-considered and effective policies evolving to meet the

changing needs of Australia in the world market in ,the 1980's.