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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4423

Mr LLOYD (Murray) - .1 congratulate the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Turnbull) for the charity that he has shown in putting up for as long as he did with the speech of the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). While the honourable member for Mallee was speaking the honourable member for Riverina took several spurious points of order as to whether the honourable member was debating the motion or the amendment. I fail to remember any real point in the speech of the honourable member for Riverina that was on this subject at all. His speech certainly had nothing to do with the motion or the statement delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) which is what we are really debating. It would appear to me that Opposition members are acting like a Jot of spoilt children who have just had their ice creams taken away from them. This subject was to be their calamity howler when they returned home at Christmas time, so that they could really spread the muck around the country areas.

Mr Grassby -That is disgraceful.

Mr Foster - Whom do you represent?

Mr LLOYD - The Prime Minister came in and made this statement-

Mr Grassby - You are a disgrace.


Mr Grassby - You ought to go home.


Mr Foster - -Is he speaking about the amendment?

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member for Sturt will remain silent. If honourable members do not treat this House with the respect to which it is entitled, I will be forced to take action.

Mr Grassby - He does not.


Mr LLOYD - The Prime Minister came in and presented this most welcome and timely announcement which has been very well received right throughout Australia and has taken from Opposition members their opportunity to create this nice little calamity situation. We have all heard the term 'Calamity Jane'. I could suggest an alternative, but I will not, with respect to the way in which the honourable member for Riverina spoke this afternoon. It would appear, if we listened -to honourable members opposite, that somehow or other they initiated this action. They have had nothing to do with it. The Prime Minister presented this statement. The debate this afternoon is a result of definite Government policy. To show how ill prepared Opposition members are really to grapple with this situation, one has only to listen to the absurd statements that have been made and that have nothing to do with the ministerial statement and the motion. The amendment certainly has nothing to do with the situation.

I wish now to look in detail at some of the points mentioned in the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party, which is supposed to have some knowledge of the situation. The amendment: . . urges the Government to initiate immediate discussions with the States so that the first grants under this programme can be made before Christmas. ...

Do not members of the Opposition read their newspapers? Cannot what they are told sink into their heads? They have been told several times that the discussions on this matter were held yesterday. Representatives of each of the States were here yesterday to discuss this situation. I understand that the Prime Minister has written to each State Premier setting out definitely ways in which this programme can bc commenced before Christmas. No need exists for any legislative machinery to lie established before this programme can commence.

Anyone who reads in detail the statement which has been made by the Prime Minister will see that the programme and the whole system used in respect of drought relief measures throughout the States some years ago will be followed here. The same principles and procedure will be adopted. One has only to look at the procedures that were used during that drought relief programme to see how the present programme can be initiated and commenced immediately. For example this means that in Victoria an interdepartmental committee will co-ordinate these grants and work out which local government, which State government and which semigovernment authorities can spend this money in the most useful way in the areas where it is most needed. This work can be commenced immediately.

Mr Grassby - Before Christmas?

Mr LLOYD - That is up to the States. The Commonwealth has the whole scheme under way now. There is no reason why, from the Commonwealth's point of view, this programme cannot commence before Christmas. There is no need to wait for any legislation to be introduced in February. If Opposition members only bothered to read the Prime Minister's statement, the newspapers and the reports of the procedures to be followed, this amendment would have been unnecessary.

In another part, the amendment urges the Government to: . . confer with the Stales to ensure she resumption of the rural reconstruction scheme now hailed by lack of finance in the various Slates.

This part of the amendment is most curious. In speaking to this amendment, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) gave the reasons why it is alleged that not sufficient finance has been provided under the rural reconstruction scheme for the debt reconstruction programme. Yet. a week ago, when the Bill providing for the loan of S30m to the Australian Wool Commission was being debated, the proposal was criticised by the Opposition for the same reason that it has now incorporated in its amendment to support its case. The money that is being provided through the Australian Wool Commission will alleviate the need for much of the debt reconstruction programme. Surely it is better to alleviate the problems so that huge amounts of funds are not spent on debt reconstruction. This has been done in rural areas through the buying policy of the Australian Wool Commission and the wool deficiency payments scheme. Payments which would have been necessary under the debt reconstruction scheme have been avoided. Last week the Labor Party in criticising this Government initiative for the wool growers said that-

Mr Grassby - The money will go to the brokers.

Mr LLOYD - That is right. The Opposition argues that some of the money will go to the brokers, that it will not stay in the electorates. Now, I make 2 points on this argument: What difference is there between that proposal and the Opposition's amendment which seeks more money for debt reconstruction? If a debt is to be reconstructed, somebody has to be paid off. That 'somebody' is still the same bodies - the banks and the finance companies - that the Opposition criticised one week ago. If one is at all close to the country people and the problem of debt reconstruction one may bc aware of the fact that if we can lower the level of debt payments made by a farmer, whether in respect of wool or in any other way, we will be helping him because a lesser percentage of his net income will be required to service his debts.

When Opposition members were offering criticism and making their point about rural reconstruction they were talking about the farmers. Surely the whole purpose of this grant of $2m a month, approximately, is not to help the farming people alone but to help all people in rural areas, cities and towns who may have been affected by the rural crisis because of the drop in purchasing power of farming people. Yet the Labor Party criticised several times the rural reconstruction scheme because it is for farmers only. Here we have something which is for people other than farmers and all they can do is turn around, reverse their tired old argument and say it is wrong because it is for people other than farmers. The Opposition has also mentioned that it would do this and do that. If the Opposition had its way it would cut off these grants designed to assist the many people who work in country cities and towns.

Mr Kennedy - What rubbish.

Mr LLOYD - The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Kennedy) should read his Party's amendment. It is clear that the Opposition wants to give all the assistance to the farming community. We on this side of the House reprepresent all rural people.

It has also been stated that this money is not enough. If honourable members opposite read the Prime Minister's statement they will see that it is an approximate amount. It is flexible and it can be increased if necessary. If the Government listened toall the statements of the Labor Party that not enough money has been provided for certain projects, and if it were to finance what the Opposition said it would do, the biggest industry in this country would be the money printing industry because of all that would be needed to finance the Opposition's schemes. Honourable members want to look at these matters a little more objectively, decide on their priorities and how they would implement their proposals. It has also been suggested that the allocation of 75 per cent of this money to labour costs and 25 per cent for materials is wrong. This is the same arrangement that was adopted for the drought relief programmes which have proved most successful.

If we are to employ people we have to employ them gainfully so that what they do is worthwhile, not only for them but also for the community. And, of course, we will need materials. If the States believe that 75 per cent of the grant is not sufficient to meet the labour costs it is open to the States to provide the materials and to allocate 100 per cent of the funds to the employment of labour. But there is another factor here. It has been stated that this grant will not cover the employment of everybody in the country who is unemployed. This is agreed but the point is that the amount is flexible and can be increased. One of the things needed in country cities and towns and business areas is a boost of confidence and this grant provides just the boost of confidence that is needed.

Mr Martin - The only way to boost confidence is to change the Government.

Mr LLOYD - The people of Australia have shown for 22 years that they do not share your point of view. The Opposition's amendment states that we should be looking also to provide employment assistance in metropolitan areas. This -would mean that there would be less of the $2m a month for the benefit of the people in rural areas. We have 2 types of unemployment; we have metropolitan unemployment which is certainly growing much more rap idly now, but it is not of the same nature orproportion as it is in rural areas where there is large long-term hard-core unemployment brought about by the structural changes in the rural community which have been caused by the crisis in rural industries. In New South Wales the October unemployment figures show that 43 per cent of those registered as unemployed were in metropolitan areas and 56 per cent were in country areas. There is an even more startling figure in Queensland where 35 per cent of unemployed are in metropolitan areas and 64 per cent in nonmetropolitan areas. I think honourable members would find that the number of job vacancies is 3 times as high in the metropolitan areas as it is in the nonmetropolitan areas. This grant of $2m a month will give a much needed shot in the arm to employment and confidence in country cities and towns. It is a step in the right direction which has been initiated by the Government, and the Opposition has had nothing to do with it at all. It will do many good things.

I would like to make a few points in conclusion. If we are to continue to spur employment in non-metropolitan areas we need a lead at Commonwealth level in the provision of more long-term and definite proposals to assist decentralisation, regional development or whatever we like to call it. The last thing we want is another committee. We have had committees dealing with these matters for 7 years and we have all the knowledge we need on the question of what is required to spur, with incentives, manufacturing and other industry in country towns. I urge the Government to continue with this good work that it has started so that we will have very soon a policy from the Government that will provide real incentives, real initiatives and real longterm proposals to assist regional development. This would be to the benefit of both those who live in urban Australia and those who live in non-urban Australia about whom we are now talking:

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