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Monday, 27 June 1994
Page: 2050

Senator CALVERT (6.40 p.m.) —In this debate on the motion to refer the rural adjustment scheme to the Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs, I would like to put on record my support for the chairman of that committee, Senator Burns, and the deputy chairman, Senator Brownhill. I would also like to reflect on some of the issues which support the position taken by the government and the coalition.

  Only this morning, when talking about the exceptional circumstances provisions, it was pointed out to us by representatives of the Department of Primary Industries and Energy that they were again looking at the exceptional circumstances provisions because they have been rather controversial. I imagine that if further provisions were added to the exceptional circumstances provisions the whole thing would become even more controversial and harder to interpret.

  We have had evidence to the effect that 55 per cent of claims and 58 per cent of the money allocated by the rural adjustment scheme has been under the exceptional circumstances provisions. Everywhere we have gone—in all the different states—the evidence has been that, while the guidelines are interpreted somewhat differently, in nearly all cases they have been used in a way that covers these exceptional circumstances. I believe that to put any more slant on what constitutes exceptional circumstances, as Senator Woodley is trying to do, would be to further confuse the issue.

  One of the major arguments is that this inquiry, following on, as it does, from the 1988 inquiry, puts extra pressure on the people administering the scheme. But those people just want to get on with the job and do what they do best—looking after the farmers through this rural adjustment scheme. There has already been criticism of this inquiry changing the direction of the scheme. Since most people are happy with the present direction, I see no advantage in supporting this motion. As has been said, we have already had six days of public hearings and this reference would only further confuse the issue.

  Question resolved in the negative.