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Wednesday, 9 October 1991
Page: 1617


Mr BRUCE SCOTT(10.42 p.m.) —-I rise to add my contribution to the discussion on the primary industries and energy part of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1991-92. I must say that I was not going to comment on this Bill tonight, because I believe that, if a Minister and a government understood something about rural Australia, it would not be necessary for us to be criticising the performance of this Government.

But the stark reality of the situation is that we have a Minister and a government that just do not understand rural Australia. It is interesting to look at the other side of the chamber. A Minister is at the table, but no other Government members are present. If the Government backbenchers were doing their job, they would be in here tonight listening to the debate and trying to gain an understanding of what is really happening in rural Australia.


Mr Cobb —-They haven't got a rural member in the Cabinet.


Mr BRUCE SCOTT —-That is right, particularly from Queensland. I am sure that the people of Queensland would like to see better representation, particularly in the Ministry. I certainly declare my interest prior to coming into politics; I am still today a farmer. I own a farm in my electorate and I believe that the electorate of Maranoa is probably one of the truly rural electorates remaining in Australia.


Mr Peter Fisher —-Second to Mallee.


Mr BRUCE SCOTT —-Second to Mallee, as the honourable member for Mallee rightly says. Maranoa represents a large slice of Queensland. In fact, a flight from the eastern boundary to the western boundary of my electorate would be longer than a flight from Brisbane to Melbourne; it would end in Bass Strait. Flying the width of my electorate is like flying from Brisbane to Sydney. Within that large area lies the electorate of Maranoa.

The area of my electorate is being ravaged not only by the policies of this Government but also by the worst drought in recorded history--since records commenced back in 1862. This drought has extended right into the city of Brisbane. Now the people of the cities are getting an understanding of what we have said for years and years: there are such things as droughts, and governments must show to those people affected by them some compassion and some understanding of what happens during a drought.

But the policies of this Government are largely responsible for exacerbating the situation for many people in rural Australia. In the life of this Government we have seen record interest rates; they have been up for the longest period ever, which has led to our Australian dollar being overvalued. This Government has taxation policies which tax business inputs. What a ridiculous situation; what a ridiculous policy! All these factors have combined to result in the lowest farm incomes ever.

I was interested to hear the comment made last week by the Minister for Trade and Overseas Development (Dr Blewett) when he was in Europe on a bipartisan mission taking the Australian case to the GATT round. According to the Canberra Times of 3 October, he said:

. . . the average net income for all Australian farms this year would be $A2100, 45 per cent would have negative incomes.

People in Europe believed that the Minister must have left a nought off that figure of $A2,100. They thought he was joking. They would have expected $21,000, but not $2,100, with 45 per cent with negative incomes. These are the words of the Minister.


Mr Cobb —-You'd expect that in Ethiopia.


Mr BRUCE SCOTT —-Exactly. As the honourable member for Parkes says, an income like that would perhaps equate to a Third World country. But surely we are not a Third World country at the present time.

I have listened recently to the honourable member for Kennedy (Mr Hulls). He came into the House during Question Time on 5 September and asked the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Mr Crean) a question. He was concerned about one of his constituents, a mango farmer whose name was Ray. Honourable members may remember the question. The honourable member for Kennedy said:

Farm incomes are down and his--

Ray's--

projected taxable income for this year is about $13,000. I ask: what would be the effect of a broad-based consumption tax for Ray?

The member for Kennedy should be telling Ray what the policies of this Government are doing to the mango farmer. This Government has a huge range of sneaky, hidden taxes. We on the Opposition benches know that the Government is not telling the public about them. Day after day, the Government is misleading the people of this House and the people of Australia.

Let us take the capital gains tax. The honourable member for Kennedy should be telling Ray, the mango farmer, that when he passes on and leaves his assets to his next of kin, the mango farm will come under the scrutiny of the capital gains tax. Capital gains tax is really a de facto death duty. The honourable member for Kennedy should also be telling Ray about the fringe benefits taxes.

Consider also the fuel tax. We have a ridiculous situation with fuel tax which Ray, the mango farmer, could well be affected by. He could well have petrol driven machines working his mango farm which attract a fuel excise. He cannot get that tax off his business input at all.


Mr Cobb —-They have quadrupled the tax on that.


Mr BRUCE SCOTT —-Absolutely. Yet, if he had a diesel driven machine, he could get a rebate on that. What a ridiculous situation. Just because a machine is driven by a differently powered engine, there is a different standard for rebates. Look at the ridiculous avgas excise. Last year an amount of $6.5m was paid in avgas excise by people in rural Australia with helicopters and aeroplanes which they use for mustering. They received no service for that tax they paid. If we want to apply the user pays principle, people who use a service should pay for it. But with these aeroplanes and helicopters, these producers pay that avgas cost and receive no service.

Consider the sales tax on lubricants. The Minister did say in the March statement that such taxes would be removed. We have farmers facing the worst drought in living memory, facing the lowest net incomes ever, and we still have a sales tax on lubricants. The Government says it will remove these taxes, but still has not taken any action.

The Government has also failed to remove tariffs on imported machinery parts. There are still machinery parts that Ray the mango farmer, to keep his machinery running efficiently, is paying a tariff on. What a ridiculous situation. That is what the honourable member for Kennedy should have said to Ray the mango farmer. He should be taking this message to his constituents, and I hope he sends them a copy of Hansard, because that is what he should be telling them.

This Government has attacked the productive sector of Australia with these sneaky, hidden taxes. Ray the mango farmer, just like every other Australian, has suffered nine years of hard labour. This Government has reduced the morale of all Australians. Imagine the morale of the one million people who are out of work today. The morale of the farmers and the people who live in the towns of my electorate is at an all time low. The people feel they have no hope. Whilst there is some assistance, it really is not going far enough to avert a potential disaster.

The honourable member for Hinkler (Mr Courtice) has also come in here attacking our tax reform package. Our package will assist Australian farmers and Australian businesses. He was a part of the bipartisan mission to Europe to talk to the GATT negotiators only two weeks ago. He should be telling his constituents that this Government does not have effective countervailing duties. It is all very well to go to other countries and tell them what they should be doing, but we have to get our own house in order first. We need to make very sure that our own house is in order.

Australia is fast becoming the dumping ground for unwanted products from other countries. In the last 12 months $2 billion worth of foreign food imports were placed on our shores. None of these products were subjected to effective quarantine laws which would ensure that the quality was the same as our Australian quality; and they were certainly not subjected to effective anti-dumping and countervailing duties. A good example of that is the pork industry. Currently, Australia allows in pork from Canada. Effectively, to get pigs from Canada into the United States of America a countervailing duty is applied, not so in Australia. (Time expired)