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Tuesday, 4 October 1983
Page: 1314

Question No. 57

Mr McVeigh asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 4 May 1983:

(1) Further to his statement in his 'Policies for Agriculture', in which he states that a Labor Government will maintain existing drought arrangements and also provide additional measures, first to ensure all types of farmers receive equitable treatment and, second to extend aid after drought breaking rain, what additional drought measures have been provided.

(2) Will he extend the Commonwealth Fodder and Interest Payments Subsidies to horse and goat breeders, thereby ensuring that all types of farmers receive equitable treatment.

(3) What aid will the Government extend to farmers after drought breaking rain.

Mr Kerin —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) I have proposed several initiatives to help cope with the effects of drought. They include development of predictable, equitable guidelines which indicate precise criteria for both drought declaration and the type and level of payment by the Commonwealth and States.

These objectives are well on the way to being achieved. The recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, of which I am Chairman, considered a comprehensive report on drought policies which had been prepared by a Working Group of the Standing Committee on Agriculture.

The main conclusion of the report was that drought policy should primarily be designed to minimise economic hardship to individuals from drought and encourage an efficient allocation of resources.

The Council agreed to the establishment of a National Drought Consultative Committee to comprise economic, technical and administrative expertise from the Commonwealth, States and the Northern Territory and a representative of the National Farmers' Federation.

(2) The Commonwealth Fodder Subsidy was terminated on 30 June 1983. It was applicable only to sheep and cattle. It was aimed at preserving breeding stocks of the Nation's two most important animal industries and this need has now been largely overcome.

The Interest Subsidy will continue until 31 December 1983. It is available to eligible drought affected bona fide primary producers irrespective of their type of enterprise.

(3) There have been general drought breaking rains. The Interest Subsidy Scheme is available to farmers whose properties were drought declared at some stage after 1 September 1982 and will continue to be available until 31 December 1983. All measures under the Natural Disaster Relief arrangements continue to apply in areas which are still drought declared.

The Government has also made available $35m under the Rural Adjustment Scheme in 1983-84. This compares with $18.4m in 1982-83. In addition, an amount of $11m was made available under the Rural Adjustment Scheme for carry-on loans to sugar cane growers in Queensland and New South Wales.