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Wednesday, 13 October 1971
Page: 2244


Dr PATTERSON (DAWSON, QUEENSLAND) - Is the Prime Minister aware that major sectors of primary industry are now experiencing the worst financial crisis since the great depression 40 years ago and that even more serious problems will be experienced in the immediate future as conditions worsen and unemployment grows in country areas? Is it true that the right honourable gentleman has agreed to the Minister for Primary Industry going overseas for at least 2 months to attend a meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, of which I believe he will be the Chairman? Of all the Ministers in the Government, it is the Minister for Primary Industry most of all who should be in Australia in the immediate future because of the rural crisis and in view of his ministerial responsibilities. Is this not an act of stupidity as well as a blatant contempt of the rural crisis?


Mr McMAHON - In a matter that is as serious as this - and it should be treated seriously - I regret that such offensive language should be used by the honourable gentleman. I think that we on this side of the House do understand the difficulties of the rural community, and we do not, like the honourable gentleman has done, go to other parts of the world in an attempt to prejudice our opportunities. My colleague did make an application to me for approval to go to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, of which he will be Chairman, and I have approved. I think that not only is it an honour to this country, but it is a very great honour to him. I personally believe that he is an excellent Minister and well worthy of his position in the Commonwealth Cabinet. But what has to be said is that we have his distinguished colleagues here, particularly the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for the Interior, representing rural industries. I have no doubt whatsoever that they will be able to handle the difficulties associated with his portfolio, as will the other members of Cabinet.

As to our recognition of the difficulties of primary industries, I remind the honourable member that so far as the major one is concerned, that is wool, we have agreed to deficiency payments. We also have our arrangements regarding wheat, sugar and other primary commodities. I contrast this with what I believe to be the policy of other parties which agree that primary industries should stand on their own feet. Having said all that, I believe it is right and appropriate that my colleague should go overseas, and I strongly support him in the activities in which he will be engaged.







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