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Tuesday, 23 August 1994
Page: 20

Senator PANIZZA (3.28 p.m.) —I would like to take part in this debate to put the case for Western Australia. Before I do so, may I just say that I was disappointed that Senator Gareth Evans refused to answer a question which was directed to him, and to defend his Prime Minister and what he said. I know Senator Collins was looking to answer the question but I believe that Senator Evans should have answered it. We have been told by Senator Collins today that RAS is the only way to get assistance to the farmers.

  Senator Collins interjecting

Senator PANIZZA —That is what Senator Collins said in his answer. He should check the Hansard. He said `extreme circumstances', but it is still via RAS. The government has only got RAS, and if RAS does not work farmers will leave in droves.

Senator Collins —Are you leaving?

Senator PANIZZA —Leaving what?

Senator Collins —You said farmers are leaving in droves.

Senator PANIZZA —No, I am not leaving.

Senator Collins —You are doing very well.

Senator PANIZZA —That has got nothing to do with it.

Senator O'Chee —That is an outrageous comment.

Senator PANIZZA —It is an outrageous comment. That report Senator Collins was waving around is already a few years old.

Senator Collins —It is 1992.

Senator PANIZZA —That is at least two, going on for three years old. A lot of things have changed in the last three years. Senator Collins accused Senator Tambling of not having been in the bush for a while. How long is it since Senator Collins was in the bush?

Senator Collins —Are you saying that you do not agree with this program?

Senator PANIZZA —I am saying that that report is nearly three years old. I will come to my point. Expenses for cropping or grazing have increased in the last three years. Things have changed badly. Wool prices dropped away, although they are now coming back slightly.

Senator Collins —Seven hundred and six cents.

Senator PANIZZA —Yes, but read the rest of the story. Costs have increased dramatically in the last three years. The government has wrecked the IED—and I will come back to that if I have time. The situation has changed between when that report was written and now. If RAS is the only system that can help farmers out and it is not able to do so, I can tell Senator Collins that farmers will be leaving in droves. I am aware of that situation from areas with which I am associated.

  Measures undertaken by this government do not help everyone. I would like to ask Senator Collins this question: if factories in the electorate of Bankstown, for instance, had to shut down because of too much water or not enough water, would the Prime Minister or Senator Evans treat them in the same way? No—it would be totally different.

Senator Campbell —They would give them a sporting grant.

Senator PANIZZA —That is correct. They would give them a sporting grant to get them going. Let us take the case of Western Australia. Senator Collins came to Western Australia and summarily dismissed the drought. He said that no further aid was available at this stage.

Senator Collins —You spoke to the Western Australian minister. What did he say to you?

Senator PANIZZA —I have spoken to him. I spent last week in the drought areas. The representatives of five shires have told me that they are in dire straits and need help and that nothing has happened. Salmon Gums, Esperance, Jerramungup and Gnowangerup are in dire straits, but nothing is being done. It is pointless for the shires to declare a drought because no measures for assistance are available any more.

  Another point that Senator Burns cannot get through his head is that in these drought areas the towns are running out of water. What is the government going to do to help them? In Ravensthorpe and Jerramungup the townspeople will soon be carting water—listen to this—300 kilometres. This is nothing to do with farmers; this is to keep the hospitals and the schools going in these towns. I believe that in 1994 no town in Australia should have to rely on water being carted that distance, let alone any distance.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.