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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2727

Mr ADERMANN (Fisher) - I find it hard to believe that the honourable member for Darling (Mr Fitzpatrick) can say in all honesty that the Australian Labor Party is building up a more viable rural sector. I thought the demolition squad was in, not the builders. I was amused, too, at the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Whan) who danced quickly into the chamber a few minutes ago and just as quickly went out again and who hurled by interjection a statement relating to what Mr Hogan of the Australian Farmers Federation was reported to have said yesterday. I hope the honourable member for Eden-Monaro will read just as assiduously a later Press release by Mr Hogan in which he said among other things that he wished to correct a misunderstanding which appeared to have come from his Press conference yesterday. Mr Hogan said that one report had confused the question of relations between the Australian Country Party and the farmer organisations. He had tried to make it clear that the Press had often fooled the public in creating an image of the Country Party as a handout party for farmers. In fact, Mr Hogan said, many good ideas had been placed before the Government by the farm groups and undoubtedly had been supported by the Country Party. There is more to Mr Hogan's statement, but what I have just read is quite different from what we read this morning.

Although the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry occupy less than 4 pages, these few lines emphasise - if any further emphasis were necessary - what the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) said in this House just 2 days ago. He said that under this Government country and rural people have been kicked and bashed viciously, discriminately and with unprecedented savagery. That same day, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) spoke of the Coombs report. He referred to its recommendations with obvious approbation as removing wasteful expenditure. We know what he regards as wasteful expenditure; this Budget and these appropriations made that absolutely clear. The Prime Minister referred to concessions which applied to primary producers and primary production. On the same day, the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Riordan) said in the House when speaking of the increases in the cost of living index that it was attributable to the pets of the Country Party because the greatest component in the increase was the rise in the cost of food. Let the honourable member for Phillip be fair. When he is looking at award rises and wage rises he looks also at the rises in the cost of living. When he is looking at the income of primary producers, let him then look at the whole picture. Let him remember how their income has fluctuated up and down over a period of years because of prices and because of a series of droughts and let him remember that many of the concessions that were written into the Australian statute books under a LiberalCountry Party Government were there to even out for the primary producer some of these great oscillations in their income.

When I look at these estimates, of course, I find a savage reduction in the amounts allocated when compared with the previous year. There is no reduction in salaries and payments in the nature of salary. Naturally, these have risen because wage and salary levels have risen. Administrative expenses have risen for the same reason; this is understandable. But honourable members should have a look under the heading 'Other Services'. This is the section that tells the tale. This is the one that gets into the primary producer's pocket. There has been a savage reduction of more than $13m. When we examine where these reductions occur and when we compare them with the document of deceit that circulated last year called 'It's Time - Rural' we find that these 2 things are entirely incompatible. First of all, we see that there has been a reduction in butter and cheese bounties of $ 10.5m in these estimates - despite the celebrated telegram of the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Hansen) and despite all the denials which were given by the Labor candidate in my electorate and in every electorate in Australia who said that the Labor Party would not reduce subsidies.

We could have a look at a few more industries. There has been the removal of the sales tax exemption on carbonated beverages with a 5 per cent fruit juice content. I hope to have an opportunity to say something further about that. The Government has raised many other costs in a lot of other estimates that have already been discussed. Suffice it for me to say that postal costs, fuel, radio station licences and land line fees have increased. All of these things hit in one place - in the country. They hit the primary producer. When we have a look at these estimates, what do we find about such things as the $500m at 3 per cent over 40 years which was promised before the election? Nothing at all. What we do find is an allocation of something like $20m and I think that that is just a reallocation. What about the promised interest rate of 3 per cent? Not only has the interest rate increased; we also find that the preferential interest rate that rural producers justifiably enjoyed previously has gone.

Mr Fisher - It is 9i per cent.

Mr ADERMANN - It is 9{ per cent, as my colleague the honourable member for Mallee reminds me. Where in these estimates is the promised revaluation compensation provision? I know that some assistance has been provided for, I think, the apple and pear industry but that is not revaluation compensation; that is reconstruction. For all of the promises, I can see no provision in these estimates for anything like revaluation compensation.

We see that the money provided by the estimates has been cut down, but let us have a look at the other side of the picture. Let us see what this Budget has done. This is closely tied up with these estimates. The accelerated depreciation rate for primary producers has been removed. What about the deduction in one year under sections 75 and 76 for certain capital improvements? That has gone. What about the investment allowance for new machinery purchased by farmers. That has been removed under the guise of removing the Pitt Street or the Collins Street farmers or what we call in Queensland the Queens Street farmers. Perhaps the Government has hurt one or two of them but it has hurt every other bona fide primary producer in Australia in a year when these things could not be afforded. After 5 years of drought, when incomes were looking a little better and when the farmer had a chance to undertake some capital improvements - when he did have a chance to renew some of his machinery that he has battled on with over the years because he could not afford to renew it - this Budget has savagely taken away the investment allowance.

In regard to the Prime Minister's promise not to increase direct taxation, what is this if it is not such an increase? Do you not increase direct taxation when you take away all the concessions and deductions? Of course it is an increase in direct taxation. There has also been an increase in direct taxation of private companies which will affect quite a number of people engaged in rural industries. I believe that this Budget has cost the primary producer and the people in the country something like $150m. This is a tragic document. Every one of the documents accompanying the Budget contains a reference to the primary producer. Yet the honourable member for Darling gets up and talks about what the Labor Party is doing for the rural sector. I wonder what sort of reception he will receive on the platforms in his electorate in the next election when he goes out among the primary producers. It is no good saying that this Industries Assistance Commission will help because concessions for primary producers such as depreciation allowances will have to go through the Commission. We will have to start all over again.

The Government will not help the primary producers. There is nothing left. It has taken away all of the primary producer's concessions and it has cut the estimates most savagely for the Department of Primary Industry in the category of 'Other Services'. The items are outlined. One is the assistance to various industries. Some industries will receive absolutely nothing and the allocation for others has been reduced savagely. I would say that the Bill giving the estimated expenditure for the Department of Primary Industry is a document of doom and will spell the doom of the Labor Party in rural electorates. There will be no rural rump left after the Labor Party goes to the people again. The Government refers to the Country Party as 'cockies corner'. But it should look at this Party's augmentation when we next go to the people and show them what this Government has done to the primary producers of Australia.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Armitage) - The honourable member's time has expired.

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