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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2724

Mr DRUMMOND (Forrest) - It is with some concern that I rise during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry. I should like to take up just one small part of the Government's action in this Budget which I believe will have a devastating effect on large sections of the rural community of Australia. I refer to the impact that the change in taxation deductions this year as compared with last year will have. What I should like to point out and what this Committee must appreciate is that throughout Australia we have tremendously different areas and conditions. I could not help but become very aware of this when a fortnight ago I went to the Riverina to visit my parents. In that area there is land which has been developed for at least 70 years. The farms are well improved and have been so for probably the last 20 years, with the introduction of pasture improvement, fencing and sheds, all in good order. I contrast that with Western Australia where for the last 16 years in the vicinity of one million acres a year has been brought into production. In Western Australia most of the development has taken place in the last 15 years, and is very new in comparison with the Riverina and the bulk of the Eastern States. There is quite a contrast between the older established areas of the eastern States and Western Australia where the improvement of the farming land is still in its very infancy. In the last 4 years particularly there have been crises caused by low prices and poor seasons as well as the improvement of the land being in its infancy. There has been absolutely no spare money even to keep the farms in order, let alone to upgrade them. A tremendous amount of the rural area in Western Australia is still by no means an economic area for the running of a farm.

This is the time we were looking forward to - the time when the wheel had turned and when some money could be spent on the additional development that is required to bring a farm up to being an economic area. This is the time when the advantages of the taxation deductions of the last few years could have been used. But we find today that this opportunity has been lost to these areas. I believe that this is an absolute tragedy for vast semi-developed areas of Western Australia and other parts of Australia which are still being developed. I do not think there can be any argument at all today against increasing our development and production in Australia. As we know, many food items are in worldwide short supply. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) very shortly is to attend a Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting in Rome at which action to meet the problems of the world food situation is expected to be discussed. The United States Secretary of State, Dr Kissinger, has warned of the dangerously low world food reserves and has proposed that a United Nations world food conference bc held next year. As a major food exporter, Australia can hardly play a responsible part in these discussions if it is seen to be simultaneously dismantling its existing incentives for food and fibre production instead of making those incentives more effective and widening them in order that Australia's full potential for food production may be realised.

To blame the short-sighted and, I believe, punitive Budget actions of this Government on the St George's Terrace farmer - in case 116 members of this House do not know what that means, he is the same as the Pitt Street farmer-

Mr Keith Johnson (BURKE, VICTORIA) - There are 125 of us.

Mr DRUMMOND - That is right. St George's Terrace is the main street of Perth, the capital of Western Australia, which is the great exporting State and the State that carries the rest of Australia on its back. Because Western Australia has only 9 members in this chamber - it will have 10 shortly - although in area it represents at least one-third of the continent, this Government has discriminated against Western Australia at every turn. An article in the 'Australian' of 24 October was headed 'Canberra is greedy, Perth chocked'. Truly this is just what is happening to Western Australia. We have seen this Government take control of the oil and natural gas on the north west shelf. We have seen the removal of the tax incentives, of which I have made some mention, and the subsidies for the mining industry which have well been described once again by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the Bill he introduced today.

Just to show the importance of Western Australia to the economy of Australia I point out that Western Australia's export earnings in 1972-73 were $1,1 58m and imports totalled $394m. It seems to me these days that it is not a great thing for us in this country to be endeavouring to earn money overseas somehow or another to pay one's way in the world and make this a wealthier nation. It does not seem to be the thing to do. But I believe that the time will shortly come when the earning capacity of States like Western Australia will be very much appreciated by the rest of Australia.

I would just like to make the point once again that in developing areas of Western Australia particularly, but also in the rest of the continent, we have a situation today in which farms are in the very infancy of development in comparison with rural areas in the eastern States. It is just remarkable to see some of the old established land throughout the eastern States and to see how little remains to be done to it by way of improvements and capital expenditure. It has all been done. It is only a matter of upgrading and maintaining the excellent standard they have. In contrast, millions of acres of land have been developed in Western Australia each year over the past few years. I believe that somehow this Government should be able to work out - I would not suggest special consideration should be given because none of us on the land particularly in Western Australia would wish that - some method whereby we can be allowed to catch the main reason given for these punitive budget actions against the rural sector is the Pitt Street farmer, or the people who are not involved in farming, enjoying tax deductions. In order to make them toe the line, to reduce the development of vast areas of our land, must we go to these extremes? I suggest that there must be a better way to organise the present Budget for the development of our land, and for the continued prosperity of all Australians.

Mr FitzPATRICK(Darling) (4.38)- When my time expired on the last occasion I spoke in this debate I was trying to point out that the Australian Labor Party aims to develop an efficient and viable rural sector. We are striving to take the longer view aimed at tailoring production to meet the real demand of the market place and to place farming on a business-like basis with sympathy and understanding. We aim to tackle the big issues such as rural poverty, undersized farms and inefficient marketing. The Labor Government is seeking to bring a sense of purpose to rural policy-making through the proper allocation of resources.

One of the major decisions taken by the Federal Labor Government is the decision to phase out the dairy bounty. This decision is in line with the Labor Party's contention that all Government expenditure should be purposeful. Despite an outlay of $770m over the years by the previous Government, the bounty has not contributed to solving rural industries' major problem - that of adjusting farm production to realistic levels of demand. As a welfare measure the bounty was inequitable as the bulk of it went to the larger and wealthier farmers who needed it least. Although apparently recognised by the previous Government, the dairy bounty directly frustrated the objectives of the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme. Labor, rather than continue the bounty, would prefer to spend money on structural adjustment. The Federal Labor Govern ment stands ready to spend generously on adjustment programs and federal officers are being engaged in consultations with State officials and dairy organisations to discover where the problem areas are and what assistance measures are most appropriate. When these facts are known, plans will be drawn up and funds allocated accordingly. The bounty is being phased out to enable landholders to make whatever adjustments they consider necessary.

Other steps which have been taken by the Federal Labor Government to meet the needs of primary producers include: The provision of $47.2m mainly for expenditure on rural reconstruction in 1973-74; an amount of $20m has been provided to finance an expanded rural lending program by the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia for a wide range of purposes, namely financing of farm purchase, repayment of short term debts and holding a farm together after the death of the farm proprietor; an amount of $2.6m is to be made available for cattle and beef research - half of this is finance from consolidated revenue, the rest from industry levies on livestock; an amount of $lm has been provided for compensation to stock owners for compulsory slaughter of tuberculosis reactor cattle; a grant of $22m for wool research and promotion in 1973-74 ad the establishment of the Industries Assistance Commission to report on proposals for assistance to primary industries. Honourable members may remember that the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) has already mentioned the way in which this Commission can be used to assist not only primary industry but also all forms of industry. The Commission will bring out the information on where all industry assistance goes. Other steps taken by the Labor Government to assist the needs of primary producers include: The provision of emergency adjustment assistance to farmers producing export apples and pears and apricots following revaluation of the Australian dollar on 23 December 1972; an extension for a further year of the wheat stabilisation scheme to allow a comprehensive review to be undertaken in conjunction with the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation; the provision of a special incentive of 10c per bushel to be added to the usual first advance payment of $1.10 per bushel for wheat harvest and the recent from the 1973-74 wheat harvest and the recent decision to reduce tariffs by 25 per cent will be particularly beneficial to the rural sector and substantially effect the cost of many farm requirements. A cut of this sort has been sought by the rural sector for a long while, but was not introduced by the Liberal-Country Party Government.

It is relevant to note that the various forms and levels of assistance given to landholders in the past have not proved effective in halting the drift to the city. Since 1947, the rural population in Australia declined from approximately 31 per cent of the total population tq 14.3 per cent in 1971. lt is a known fact that 12 months ago many farmers were looking for jobs. They are now complaining that they cannot get suitable labour to work the farms. These are the changed circumstances under a Labor Party government. The Labor Government has indicated its concern in this matter and has established a Department of Urban and Regional Development which will be responsible for implementing a program for fostering extra growth centres. This policy is designed to stem the drift from the country to the city, to improve the educational, recreational and cultural facilities available to country people and to widen the range of employment opportunities in regional centres. It is quite obvious that . the present Labor Government is very conscious of the needs of the country people and wishes to provide them with an opportunity for a better and more comfortable way of life.

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