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Thursday, 14 October 1971
Page: 2392

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! Payments to the growers are factors in the effects of the Wool (Deficiency Payments) Bill. Finance has been referred to before and I think it is a factor which is involved.

Dr Patterson - This is dealing with Communism.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! 1 call the honourable member for Hume.

Mr PETTITT - Mr Deputy Speaker, we cannot get away from the fact that costs are our biggest problem and no matter what we do to sell our wool more effectively and to present it more effectively, unless we can contain costs this deficiency Bill will be of no avail at all. The honourable member for Dawson has suggested that costs have nothing to do with the problem. This shows the shallow thinking of the so-called shadow minister and members of the Opposition. Costs have everything to do with the problem.

A few years ago when we went through a period similar to the present, we had bad seasons. When the seasons improved and a fair increase of price occurred many primary producers and many wool growers in the western section were able to pull out of their problems and regain prosperity. But what chance have wool growers today? The seasons will be just as good as those of past years and wool prices will come back again but growers have no hope while the present cost structure is affecting them and making it impossible for them at every point of the handling of wool. The more we can eliminate this unnecessary handling, the better. No country in the world has a greater opportunity to produce wool and food more cheaply than this country given a reasonable opportunity, encouragement, finance and the chance to tide over this difficult time which has been caused not by the wool growers but by world conditions beyond their control and principally by continued attempts to force up costs beyond reason. High costs are of no help to anyone. They are of no help to employees in the country areas, to primary producers or to the people whom even the Opposition claims to represent.

This is one of the most useful pieces of legislation that this Government has brought forward for many, many years. As I said before, it is not the complete answer to the problem but it does give the people who have been the backbone of this nation for generations a chance to get back into production and to pay their debts. The honourable member for Riverina suggested that debts should not be paid. He suggested a moratorium. Nothing could be more disastrous to the rural economy than a moratorium. Finance that would be available to the practical man would not be available at all if a moratorium were introduced. Who would be game enough to lend money to a primary industry when there was talk of a moratorium? Such talk has already done untold damage. I believe that the statement made by the honourable member for Dawson suggesting a moratorium has done more to tighten bank credit in many areas where the country is sound and where people are efficient, than any other single factor. I have yet to hear one answer from these calamity howlers and other people who tell about all of the problems that face country people. What do they do? They even try to play politics with the wheat industry, which is one of our really productive industries.

Those of us who represent country areas may be a minority but we are prepared to fight. We have had a tremendous win in getting this support scheme. We won this success in the face of tremendous opposition and difficulties created by the policies put forward by honourable members who sit on the other side of the House. I strongly support the Bill and I support the Minister. I commend him for the tremendous amount of work that he has put into this legislation. The Government has said that more money will be available. However, we should not forget that this money is an advance to primary industry. Primary producers generally - and this is the case with wheat growers - always have to pay for the money that they are loaned. We hear people from the city talking about the cost of these schemes. The popular Press loves to talk about the cost to the taxpayer of payments for wool, wheat and other products. However, it forgets that the primary producer pays interest on these loans and repays the loan over the years.

The future of the rural industries and all of those people who live outside of the great metropolitan areas is tied up with the prosperity of the wool industry. Any political party or any government that neglects the wool industry will neglect it to its peril.

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