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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1441

Mr CADMAN(10.50) —We have just heard a speech from the so-called leader of the Government's rural expert committee, the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Cunningham). For 12 months this committee has been travelling around Australia and has produced nothing to support the farmers. Tonight we heard an apology for people facing the threat of being thrown off their blocks of land. Let us examine the situation. We are looking at farm families, most of whom are recent arrivals on the land; mainly younger people who have bought into the land over the past 10 to 15 years. We are not talking about established families who are long term residents of farming properties; we are thinking and talking of people who have recently arrived on the land and have outlaid against their future to borrow money to establish themselves in a rural property.

Government members claim that they have a sympathy for this sort of person. Nothing could be further from the truth. For 12 months they have battled to persuade the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) that something should be done. The Government is talking now about negotiations and discussions. What good are they? Farmers want some results and relief from the terrible burdens that they are facing. With full credit to the Premier of Queensland, a 25 per cent tax rate means nothing to people who are not even making profits. Australia needs to see that there is relief from the overwhelming interest rates that these new arrivals on the land are facing. They are facing interest rates ranging up to 22 1/2 per cent with hire purchase companies.

Mr Slipper —How much?

Mr CADMAN —They are paying 22 1/2 per cent for farm equipment and machinery. How can farmers possibly earn any return on farm equipment and machinery if they are forced to pay 22 1/2 per cent on the money they have laid out to continue their farming practices? As members of the Government know, these decisions were based upon sound premises; sound decisions which could have been made in the period of the Fraser Government when there was stability and a predictable future. Come the change of government, we have instability and an unpredictable future. The Government seeks to blame all of its problems on overseas prices. It needs to examine its economic policies that have forced these circumstances on the farmers of Australia. Most of the people are younger farmers. For goodness sake, the members of the Government know that the average age of farmers today is 56 years. How are we to generate the expertise and knowledge to replace these people in our great export industries? We will not do it unless they are given opportunities.

The Opposition has been saying day after day that the Government is uncaring, unthinking and uninformed about the plight of farmers. The people who will be partly responsible for leading Australia out of its present world trade situation dire circumstances, if Australia is to succeed, are the farmers. If Australia is to succeed the farmers and small businessmen must succeed. Both of these sections of the community are suffering at the hands of the Australian Labor Party. I do not know how the Government can explain to farmers not only that the medicine it has dished out to them is good for them but also that they will benefit in the long term, because nothing could be further from the truth. We are seeing record bankruptcies right across Australia's business and farming communities. Last year was record breaking for bankruptcies and this year there will be a 35 per cent increase in small business and farming bankruptcies. The Government should not be proud of that record, and should not be seeking to explain it away in the facile way in which the honourable member for McMillan has sought to do. He ought to know better, and he has a responsibility that indicates that he ought to be able to produce results.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.