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Wednesday, 28 November 1973
Page: 4045

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -


Mr McVEIGH - Two of the reasons for this have been the normal ageing process and the limited entry of young people into farming enterprises. I seek leave of the House to have incorporated into Hansard the following tables which detail (a) the changing pattern of the numbers making up the various age groups compiled from the various censuses from 1947 to 1971 and (b) the various proportions.

Mr SPEAKER - Is leave granted? There being no objections, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows) -



Mr McVEIGH - These tables give irrefutable evidence that the farming population is becoming older and we are not attracting the younger people, who are more amenable to change and modern techniques. These are areas in the principles of reconstruction that need to be attended to. The present scheme is not broad enough, in that it does not cover the 2 following categories thus disqualifying some of the people who would make the best producers because of their training, background and experience based on practical application. The first category is the son of a farmer who buys out the family farm, thus allowing the father to retire, rather than continuing the present propositions of the youngster leaving because the father can not settle him and the father has not the training to participate in another occupation. The advantages of this proposal are manifest. Firstly, it lowers the age of the farming community and, secondly, it retains the professional expertise on the traditional family enterprise.

The second area is where a farm is on the small non-viable side and the owner seeks to expand for family and personal reasons. He is not covered under the principles of the scheme if he sells his property and buys a bigger property. To be eligible under the scheme he must retain his original property. This appears to me to be perpetuating inefficiency and discouraging initiative and ambition. He should be covered. He is probably the best operator of all. He has made the grade through determination and unrelenting application to efficiency and self sacrifice. These are the characteristics which ensure success. We want this type of settler in rural areas; he is the backbone of the nation and the defender of our liberties because he values what he has got.

I have long marvelled that in our sophisticated society justice has not been extended to the area of unemployment benefits being paid to rural producers in drought or natural disaster areas. Once someone in industry is redundant or is out of a job, he automatically qualifies for unemployment benefits. This is a sound basis and we would all agree that it is a most laudable and humane approach. But this principle should be extended also to farmers to enable them to sustain themselves and their families when the area in which their properties are located is declared a drought area. There does seem to be a tendency by this Government to treat the farmers as apart from the rest of the community. I submit that they are entitled to the same consideration as far as social security benefits are concerned. The farmer is left to suffer through no fault of his own, debts are built up just through buying the necessities of life and when the season finally breaks, he has to apply for debt reconstruction. This should not be so. This is a civilised community but the rural worker and farmer in the circumstances outlined above, is not treated fairly. If he sells his farm he is entitled to unemployment benefit. We do not want him to dispose of his farm, we want to keep him there and arrest the drift to the city. Social service unemployment benefits should be paid when the farmer has no income through natural catastrophe.

The final point I wish to make in the matter of rural reconstruction is that help should be extended to storekeepers, business and professional people who are bearing the brunt or rural industries' inability to pay in the aforementioned exigencies. These people have to be protected as they do run a risk by extending credit. They should not be asked to carry the burden alone when society as a whole depends for its survival basically on the export income from rural industries. The Country Party rejects the concept of 'Get bigger or get out'. It maintains a policy of viable farms, a maximum rural workforce and adequate reward for one's labour. True it is that in some cases there can be some economies of scale in a bigger enterprise but the Australian farming philosophy will only continue to be worthwhile if it is based on the saying of Confucius: "The best fertiliser on any farm is the footsteps of the owner'.

Criticisms of rural reconstruction retraining schemes apply equally to most other retraining schemes. All reflect the same basic characteristics and deficiencies. With the exception of the retraining scheme for married women wishing to re-enter the work force, eligibility is restricted to those who have failed in their present occupations. The loss of employment to many persons would be difficult enough without being labelled by participation in a retraining scheme for persons unable to obtain suitable alternative employment. There would be merit in making available retraining provisions to any person wishing to change or having to change employment. With this end in view the trainee living allowance must neither be too low nor too inflexible. There must be room to manoeuvre. However, I understand that a national retraining scheme to supersede five existing schemes has been proposed and its introduction is awaited with great interest. It is unfortunate that schemes for rural reconstruction are necessary but I conclude with the words of Rachel Carson: The control of nature is a phrase conceived in arrogance, born of the Neanderthal age of biology and philosophy, when it was supposed that nature exists for the convenience of man'.

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