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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 163

Mr McVEIGH —I ask the Treasurer whether he is aware of the Prime Minister's statement on AM this morning:

We have been very careful not to impose any special burdens, beyond what is being asked of the rest of the community, upon the rural sector.

In light of this statement, will the Treasurer explain why the Government, both in last night's Budget and the May mini-Budget, has broken specific election promises on income equalisation deposits, tax averaging, funding for wool promotion, excise on fortified wine, funding for the brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication campaign, funding for the national soil conservation program, reducing fuel prices and abolishing sales tax on the freight component of goods? In this Budget and the May mini-Budget has the primary industry sector been called upon to bear a greater share of the burden of economic restraint than other sectors?

Mr KERIN —It is a bit rich for--

Mr McVeigh —I take a point of order. I asked the Treasurer to answer the question. Does his refusal to answer indicate that he hates Australian farmers?

Mr SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr KERIN —It is a bit rich for any member of the parties that sit opposite to talk about broken promises when the previous Government raised the whole question of broken promises to an art form. I will not go through them all but I will state this: This Government came to office looking down the barrel of a Budget deficit of $10.4 billion due to the mismanagement of the people who sit opposite today. Today we live in a country where 3 million people are on the breadline, over 800,000 people are unemployed and Australia is in the worst economic situation since the Depression.

This Government has acted responsibly. Despite the background in which this Budget was framed we increased the money available to primary industry by some 21 per cent. The Budget follows the National Economic Summit Conference, the prices and incomes accord and the May economic statement. What we are doing is setting about putting this economy right. It is in the long term interests of Australia's primary producers that we have a stable economy, that we bring down the rate of inflation and that we do not go on with the pork barrelling and lies that we were accustomed to under the previous Government.

Let us look at the statements of honourable members opposite. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Budget should have been a lot tougher; the former Treasurer says that the Budget should have been a lot tougher. Some of the statements from honourable members opposite make the Australian Democrats look rather consistent and that is saying something. Mr Anthony, the Leader of the National Party of Australia, said in his Press statement that we should have spent at least $110m more. The question honourable members opposite have to answer is: Where would they have gone? Would they have wiped out the tax cuts which they gave last year? Would they have increased indirect taxes on the essentials of life? Would they have cut pensions or left people on the dole at the same old rate? What would they have done?

It was the former Government that cut wool promotion by $6m in 1979-80. It was that Government's razor gang that froze the level of wool promotion funding at $ 20m over three years. It was that Government that in 1979 introduced the 50 per cent recoupment of inspection charges. It introduced legislation with respect to some commodities and put it in place from 1 January this year. The Opposition is humbug; its members represent humbug. It talks about broken promises when it was an expert at it.

The one area of assistance to industry across the board which can be singled out is with respect to the steel industry. I am talking about our producing industry sectors. We came to office with a clear policy to preserve Australia's steel industry. This mob would have wiped out Australia's steel industry and wiped out three regional centres. That is the reason why we are doing something about it. When the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd is in trouble, because of the state of the economy that the previous Government put us in, it is essential to do something about our most basic industry. That is the only reason why we have to do so much; we have to preserve the structure of Australia's industries.