Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2747

Mr OLLEY (Hume) - I congratulate the Labor Government, on behalf of the people whom I represent, for the initiatives it has taken in trade. I refer especially to the vital role that the Australian Government has played in creating the relationship with China that has led to the signing of the greatest long term contract ever negotiated in any Australian rural commodity. There can be no belittling of the importance of this agreement with China. It is a real bonanza for the wheat growers. It is colossal. The Federal Labor Government has won many friends in the countryside because of it. The agreement sign' -1 recently in Peking by the Australian Wheat t Board and the China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Import and Export Corporation guarantees the Australian wheat growers chat over the 3-year period they will be able to sell China up to 4.7 million tonnes of wheat. The value of this wheat, on current interrational prices, could be at least $600m.

This historic agreement means that the Australian wheat growers can plan ahead with certainty that a large part of their crop will have a guaranteed market. This is what wheat growers want. They have wanted it for years. The Labor Government has given it to them because it believes in stability in rural incomes and certainty for the future for growers. Let us not forget that the loss of the Chinese market for wheat in 1970 was a dreadful blow to the hopes of Australian wheat growers. We should not forget that this happened because of the pig-headed political policies of the previous Liberal-Country Party Government. Let us not forget also that, as a result, Canada was given priority as a seller of wheat to China because of the realistic step that the Canadians had taken in recognising China. From then on, Canadian wheat growers had the advantage over Australian wheat growers in this vital market. Thanks to the work of the Australian Labor Party and this Government, Australian wheat growers are now back in the China market with the best arrangement ever made to guarantee an outlet for a large proportion of their produce.

But what is the attitude of the Opposition parties? All they are able to do is to try to belittle this agreement. Not one of them has uttered in this chamber a word of praise for the Government. The Leader of the Country Party, the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony), sulks with envy. Yet, he was a member of th - previous Government which could have taken the initiative to establish sensible relations with China and could have taken steps to safeguard our wheat market in China. Instead, it was the fanatical attitude of people such as the Leader of the Country Party that caused us to lose the market. Where do the Oppos ition parties stand now on the question of China? This is a very important question for Australian wheat growers. Not the slightest doubt exists in my mind that, if they were ever re-elected to government, they would throw the whole wheat agreement into jeopardy

The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) claims that his Party would not disrupt the new relationship with China. But, at the same time, he still wants relations at a high level with Taiwan. Before he went to China in July last, the Leader of the Opposition told a meeting of the Australian University Liberal Federation in Melbourne that a Liberal government would renew relations with Taiwan. A news report in the 'Australian' in June quoted him as saying that it would be his policy to re-establish, at the highest level possible, relationships with Taiwan'. What does this mean? It means that a Liberal government - if ever elected - would treat Taiwan as a separate, independent government, separate from China. The Leader of the Opposition would try to re-establish relations with Chiang Kai-shek. I am convinced that this reactionary policy would ruin Australia's long term wheal agreement with China and wreck the possibility of it being renewed under a LiberalCountry Party government.

What is the policy of the Country Party with respect to China? Its members have nol said a word. Nobody knows for certain because their Leader, who has been preoccupied with trying to arrange a marriage of convenience with the Democratic Labor Party, has not had the courage to say whether he is for or against the recognition of China. Obviously, the Leader of the Country Party shares the reactionary views of the Leader of the Liberal Party. The Leader of the Country Party is more captive to the fanatical antiChinese policies of the DLP than ever before. Obviously, therefore, he would share its views towards Taiwan. So, if the Country Party were ever returned to office it would jeopardise the relationship established by the Labor Government with China. The people who would be the first to suffer would be the Australian wheat growers.

I reiterate a question which I heard posed in the course of the last general election campaign. I believe that it was posed to the Leader of the Country Party by a leader of industry. This man said: 'In 1949, every person involved in primary production was doing fine. He was prosperous. Today, after 23 years of Liberal Country Party rule, he is either broke or fighting against bankruptcy. If you can tell me why and satisfactorily explain the situation, I might vote for the Country Party'. Ten months after the election of the Labor Government, one could pose the following question: 'Today, after 10 months of Labor Government rule in Canberra, every primary producer is doing fine. Why?'

I turn now to a different subject. I commend the Labor Government on the steps that it has taken to assist the farming community against the cost of tariff protection. I refer to the 25 per cent tariff cut announced in July by this Government. The Labor Government won many friends in rural Australia with this policy. For 23 years, under a Liberal-Country Party government, Australian farmers cried in vain for relief from the high cost that they were paying for protection of Australian manufacturers. They never received it. But the Labor Government provided it. This was a major breakthrough for Australian farmers, and they appreciated it. Every farming organisation in the country applauded this action as an enlightened and courageous move to restructure secondary industry and to attack inflation.

But what was the attitude of the Liberal and Country Parties? They both attacked the tariff cut. We have heard it attacked tonight. Playing a short-sighted game of party politics, the Leader of the Country Party described the tariff cuts as 'cowardly*. We heard one Country Party member say that if this action had been taken years ago it might have been effective. But he was a member of the Government at that time and his Party was a partner in the Government coalition. What an absurd statement from the Leader of the Country Party, a man who claims that his Party speaks for growers.

Little wonder then that farmers all over Australia thought that the Leader of the Country Party had lost his sense of proportion and was unable to speak for farmers, just because he had to speak against whatever Labor did, even when he must have known that Labor's actions were for the good of producers. Little wonder, too, that farmers object to the pretentions of the Country Party that it speaks for them. So, we see Mr W. N. Hogan, President of the Australian Farmers Federation, reported in this morning's 'Sydney Morning Herald' as saying that the public should not be deluded that the Country Party is a champion of rural industry. Mr Hogan's attack on the Country Party came after the Country Party proved that it was not interested in a new approach to tariffs as outlined in the Government's new Industries Assistance Commission Bill. I could say much more to applaud the action taken by the Government to counter rising costs by the establishment of the Prices Justification Tribunal, the Restrictive Trade Practices Act and by so many Bills that have been introduced into this Parliament but which have been opposed by the Country Party. I commend the Government for its positive policies. I applaud the beneficial effects that they are calculated to have on the rural community.

Suggest corrections