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Wednesday, 23 May 1973
Page: 2498

Mr COLLARD (Kalgoorlie) - If ever proof were necessary, and 1 doubt that it is, the matter of public importance introduced by the Opposition today and the speeches that Opposition members have made during this debate show conclusively that the Opposition is as barren of ideas in Opposition as it was when in Government. Certainly the remarks of the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) were no exception to the rule. The wording of the proposition follows almost exactly the same lines which the present Government used while in Opposition in condemnation of those people who are now in Opposition. But of course we had very sound grounds for expressing our lack of confidence in the previous Government whereas the present Opposition has no grounds at all and speeches of Opposition members have proved pretty conclusively that this is so. In fact, all that has come out of this debate from the Opposition side is a clear certainty that what is really worrying Opposition members is not the welfare of the rural industry and the people engaged in it, but the fact that the Government by its well planned, sympathetic and realistic policy on rural matters will further weaken the chances of the Opposition Parties of holding the seats that they now hold.

It is quite ridiculous, indeed dishonest, for the Opposition to suggest that the Government lacks concern for the needs of rural industry. The Government's policy in that regard is quite clear and was made clear to the public prior the last election. The fact that the Government won so many additional seats, sufficient to become the Government, makes it abundantly clear that most people in country areas as well as in the cities saw the Government's policy on rural matters as being much better and more positive than the policy - if it could be called such - of the Liberal-Country Parties. If the Opposition is foolish enough to believe it has the support of people in rural areas it should ask itself why it was that it lost seats in the last election, why it was that its representation declined in rural areas and why it was that it did not receive a greater number of votes from those particular people. The simple fact is that not only was it because of its lack of definite policy but also because of its failure to come to grips with the problems of rural industry that its stocks were so low and continue to be low at present.

The Opposition, while in Government, was notorious for its patching up scheme and for introducing measures which could never be the answer to the problems and could never have any long term effect of a beneficial nature. Despite its failure - I believe the correct term would be its neglect - to come to grips with long term requirements the Opposition now has the unbelievable audacity to try to condemn the present Government which has been in office for only 6 months for things which the Opposition failed to do, when in government, over a period of 23 years. Of course, it was not only in the field of rural matters that the previous Government failed. It failed in so many other areas as well - social services, repatriation, health, education, arbitration, housing and others too numerous to mention. The present Government has been faced with the task of correcting all of those faults or as many of them as possible as quickly as possible.

While members of the Opposition cry out about delays in implementing our policy, it would be well for them to remember that for over 23 years they failed to honour a promise that they made in 1949 in relation to the means test. The present Labor Government has already or is now well in the process of remedying many of the matters left undone by the previous Government, matters which in many cases caused financial and mental suffering to the people concerned. Let me point out that in the majority of cases people who live in rural areas suffered the most. But despite the concern of these people the previous Government did very little except in a patchwork way to improve their conditions.

Let me refer for a moment to the problems and anxiety besetting so many parents in the far flung and isolated areas in regard to education. Many parents on rural or pastoral properties are faced with the high cost of transport, boarding fees and so on in providing their children with a proper education. They received no sympathetic or realistic action or even thoughts from the previous Government. Those problems are not just of recent origin. They had existed for many years. It was not until the present Government came into office that those parents and their children received any proper consideration. Let me inform members of the Opposition who do not already know it that these people are extremely grateful for the quick action that the present Government took. As I said earlier, the same situation applies to social services, repatriation and so on. Surely the Opposition realises that people in country areas just as elsewhere require much better treatment than they received at the hands of the previous Government. Many people are very pleased with the quick action that the present Government has taken on their behalf in those fields.

One of the long term benefits which should have been brought about long ago and which the Labor Party will provide for the rural industry is a statutory marketing authority to acquire and/ or market the Australian wool clip. Members of the Opposition who are trying to accuse us of any delay in that respect would do well to remember that we have been prevented from acting as quickly as we would like because of their actions when in Government. The fact is that while the Australian Wool Commission Bill was being debated in this House the Labor Party moved an amendment to provide that the Australian Wool Corporation should report to Parliament within 3 months on a comprehensive wool acquisition plan. We wanted the plan to become available as quickly as possible. The wool industry wanted the plan as did the majority of wool growers. Had our amendment been carried we would have had that plan before us long before now. But what happened? The Liberal-Country Party coalition Government of the time rejected our amendment out of hand and as a result the Australian Wool Corporation had no direction from Parliament or from the Minister then in office to produce such a plan. We still do not have the benefit of a plan.

Surely it must have been obvious to all those associated with the wool industry that the previous Government really was not concerned with trying to solve the problems of wool growers, even though so many of those growers were in real financial difficulties and were desperate to see something done to give them a reasonable chance of survival. The fact is, of course, that it has been a Labor Government which has given the rural industry the only stability that can really be claimed. It was Labor which introduced the wheat stabilisation plan. Whilst I do not wish to open up old sores or arguments amongst the Opposition parties, it is as well nevertheless to remember that when Mr Pollard, the then Labor Minister responsible for primary industry, introduced the wheat stabilisation plan it was bitterly opposed by the spokesman of the Country Party on the grounds that it was a socialist plot. The spokesman said that this was the first step towards socialising the wheat industry. When the Country Party adopts that attitude in these sorts of things, is it any wonder that the rural industry is looking somewhere else for assistance?

The Joint Organisation plan was also introduced by Labor and like so many other measures introduced by a Labor government it proved to be very beneficial to primary producers. Our performances in government during earlier years have proved surely our concern for the people in the industry. The present Opposition is well aware of our concern, desire and intention to overcome the many problems of the rural industry, and it is worried in the knowledge that we have the support of most of the people affected. Surely one of Australia's problems has been to find markets for wheat. This is one of the things required to allow wheat growers to sell and produce enough wheat to give them a good living and also to meet their payments and problems But what has happened? The previous Government by its action in refusing to recognise Red China in a political way denied us the opportunity of selling additional wheal to China and this, of course, is to its everlasting discredit. The fact is that the previous Government had no long term realistic policy in the general field of primary industry and its unconcern caught up with it at the last election. This move today therefore is simply one of desperation.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable members time has expired. The discussion is now concluded.

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