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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 483

Senator BROWNHILL (Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia) (3.35 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Senator Collins), to a question without notice asked by Senator Devereux this day, relating to the rural adjustment scheme.

I thank the minister for his answer clarifying the New South Wales rural adjustment scheme funding. I wish to place on record the exact cost of the drought in New South Wales at the moment. There is a loss of some $400 million in the cotton areas; something like $600 million in the wheat areas; about $6.5 million in sorghum; about $77 million in the barley industry; about $28 million in the oat crop; about $45 million in the canola crop; about $100 million in the wool industry, because of the loss of stock; and the beef industry is untold at this stage. It is a big loss.

  I thank the minister for clarifying the situation somewhat by making an explanation to the New South Wales minister today. It is a little difficult to work out the guidelines which the minister has sent to the New South Wales minister, because they say:

. . . the purpose of the support is to. . . assist farmers. . . who would otherwise have prospects of long-term profitability and sustainability, but for exceptional drought conditions which are adversely affecting the farmers income now and for at least the last two of the past three years, leading to financial difficulty.

That has been fixed up somewhat in the case of one of the New South Wales farmers who have had a bit of a problem. But the area that is a big worry is the following:

in assessing the likelihood of the farm enterprise to be profitable in the long-term, the following factors shall—

and that is the word that is the problem. (Extension of time granted) It goes on to say that two of the last five years had to be profitable. That is rather difficult in a lot of cases because some of the people were recipients of RAS in 1988. Even though the situation has been clarified, I think the letter of the law, we would find, would probably not clarify the interpretations that should be given to the administrators in that state. The minister could clarify the situation further by saying `shall', and let the authority in New South Wales use more latitude than in the past. I thank the Senate for allowing me the extension of time.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.