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Thursday, 13 September 1973
Page: 937

Mr ANTHONY (RICHMOND, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the Treasurer: Is it a fact that Australia's primary producers as a result of several years of bad seasons and low world market prices are in debt to a record extent of more than $2,000m? Because more than half of this money is owed to trading banks and because of the Labor Party's view as stated in the publication 'Rural - Its Time':

There is ample proof to show that high interest rates are imposing severe burdens on export rural industries just as they are on other sections of the community such as young house owners.

I ask the Treasurer: Can we expect from the Government the same enforced solicitude for debt burdened primary producers as we are told we can now expect to see for home buyers?

Mr CREAN - It is a fact of course that farmers are in debt as are many other sections of the community and none should get unfair treatment as against the rest. All I would suggest is that farmers are probably less in debt now than they were 12 months ago. They are certainly in receipt of better incomes now than they were some months ago. (Opposition members interjecting) -

Mr CREAN - Mr Speaker,Opposition members are a bit more lively today than they have been for days. It seems that it takes a little bit of dissension in the Government side to stir the Opposition into any kind of activity. This morning I said to one member opposite, whom I will not name, that as yet I have not had an intelligent question bearing on my portfolio asked from that side of the House.

Mr Anthony - Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I see no need for these offensive remarks. My question was straightforward and direct and deserved a polite and courteous reply from the Treasurer.

Mr CREAN - If the Leader of the Country Party is offended. I withdraw the remark or the implication that it was an unintelligent question.

Mr Anthony - It is a sensible question.

Mr Calder - Try to answer the question. Let us see how you go. What about an intelligent answer for a change?

Mr CREAN - If honourable members will do me the courtesy of listening, I will answer the question. I submit that when rebukes are sometimes handed out about the length of answers, some sort of rebuke could be made about the questions. Often the question that is asked is not a question but a series of questions and it is not always easy ito give a simple answer. After all, I do not think the Leader of the Country Party would deny that his question was asked with a little political loading.

Mr Anthony - It is your policy. Here is the document.

Mr CREAN - At least it is a political document. We can agree on that. If I may return to the question of the level of interest rates, I am as concerned as anybody about the level of interest rates which prevails in the community. If I had the time I would endeavour to indicate to honourable members, and it ought to have been obvious for some time, that recent moves that have been taken on what are called open market operations are taken primarily in the first instance about inflation and the volume of money. As yet there has been no variation in existing rates elsewhere. I think what the honourable gentleman is suggesting is that there should be selectivity in approach and I have no objection to that. The previous Government did that in relation to rural lending, but occasionally it has to be suggested that a concession given in one direction may mean, if one is not careful, a burden placed on somebody else. We are doing no great favour to people if we allow inflation to rage. The price of a farm may double and a new purchaser, while he may be consoled about the interest rate being kept separate or selective, would be a little more concerned if the price of his farm or of his house had to be less. One has to weigh all considerations. If inflation continues at the rate of 10 per cent-

Mr England - It has been under your Government.

Mr CREAN - It was raging pretty well under other governments. I simply say this: If inflation continues at the rate of 10 per cent, let us say, 10 years - I am not saying that it should continue; I am saying if it continues - it would mean that the house a person bought now for $15,000 would cost him $40,000. Therefore the interest rate is not the only thing about which one has to be serious. One has to be serious about reducing rising prices. At least that is under consideration.

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