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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1560

Senator PETER RAE(5.57) —I support the motion and would like to reply to some of the remarks made by the Minister for Community Services, Senator Grimes, who was on duty and who described what my colleague Senator Lewis said as a farce and a phoney and then referred to a petulant display. If there has been a display of petulance in this place on this matter it has not come from this side of the chamber. The petulance we have seen has come from the other side of the chamber. The reason for the petulance is quite obvious. There is a matter of very real urgency and there has not previously been an opportunity for reasoned debate on what happened at the Australian Agricultural Council meeting until that document was tabled today. That it is a matter of extreme importance must surely be recognised by Senator Grimes, unless he is completely immune to the pleas coming from the whole of the dairy industry in his own State as well as a number of other States. The dairy industry in Tasmania is facing ruin. It is one of the most efficient industries of any sort in Australia.

Senator Lewis —And in Victoria.

Senator PETER RAE —The dairy industry in Victoria, as my colleague Senator Lewis said, is also an extremely efficient industry. Yet those people are forced to such action as the blockade and the introduction of emergency legislation. If that does not indicate that a state of urgency-of emergency-has arisen and if that is not sufficient to convince this Government that the matter deserves debate today, I do not know what we have to do to convince it. The fact that the Victorian Government has declared a state of emergency must surely be proof of the degree of emergency. In Victoria farmers have been blockading the factories and the transport of whole milk and have been pouring away milk products as part of their protest at what is happening with regard to their industry. Yet this Government is so ashamed of its incapacity to deal with the problem and of what it proposes to do to the efficient dairy farmers of Tasmania, Victoria and other States that it is prepared to gag the debate when we have the opportunity, which will not be available tomorrow or the next day, to debate it on air so that some of the dairy farmers can hear what is said by us and by the Government in response. One of the reasons why it is important that Senator Lewis's motion should be carried is that we may have the opportunity to debate the matter in detail.

I know that under the Standing Orders I cannot debate the matter in detail when I am speaking to the motion to suspend Standing Orders, but I draw attention to the fact that the severity of the problem is indicated by the extent to which there have been meetings of farmers in every State where they are dairy farmers. Mr Kerin, the Minister for Primary Industry, has been booed and subjected to some, shall I say, not very friendly treatment at various places where he has gone to try to explain the Government's policy. The Government is now so concerned and so petulant about this matter that it will not let us debate it on air today, when those who are so concerned would have the opportunity to listen to what was being said on both sides.

I wonder whether Senator Grimes would like to visit Smithton, Winnaleah or some other places in Tasmania and say that he regards the dairy industry debate as being a farce and a phoney and that those who wish to have it brought on today are engaging in a petulant display. This is a matter of urgency. It is a matter of importance, and I support the motion moved by my colleague Senator Lewis to enable the matter to be brought on today as a matter of urgency when people can hear what we have to say and what the Government has to say in reply.