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Tuesday, 7 May 1985
Page: 1787

Mr IAN CAMERON(9.24) —It is my pleasure tonight to speak to the legislation before the House. Before I get into the debate on the legislation I congratulate the honourable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr Snow) for bringing up the problem of the wild pigs-feral animals- that we have in this country. This is a matter that he continues to bring up and I support him one hundred per cent in his efforts to have research programs set up so that we might start to spend money on eradicating some of these unwanted animals in Australia. A program has recently been established near Rockhampton in Queensland to look at ways and means of eradicating the wild pig. In the area where I live wild pigs are a tremendous problem. Their numbers continue to multiply and they continue to move further and further north. They are now to be found practically across the length and breadth of Australia. This is certainly one of those areas that needs close attention. I just hope that while the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) has his present portfolio he will give very serious consideration to allocating some funds to that. The previous Minister was in the process of doing that and I would just like to think the present Minister might allocate some funds at least in an attempt to eradicate some of these feral animals.

The legislation before us covers a very important aspect of farming in the 1980s. It is tremendously important for us to have funds for research. I always think it is a pity that governments have to get involved in this area. Unfortunately, levies have to be compulsory. None of us likes paying these things and, when levies are payable voluntarily, governments never seem able to collect enough funds to run research programs. But governments do get involved and, once they are involved, they start setting up committees and appointing all sorts of people. To my mind, that just creates unnecessary bureaucracy and it costs industry quite a deal of money to run these research councils. I congratulate the Minister. He is prepared to consolidate and look at streamlining the committees that apparently we must have.

This legislation covers a whole range of industries, most of which are represented in the great electorate of Maranoa. We have enormous beef production, wool production, cotton production, wine production and tobacco production. We even have fisheries, although separate legislation for fisheries is to be brought in. There is tremendous interest in Australia now in re-stocking our inland waterways. Even the Murray cod can now be purchased in small plastic bags and delivered to isolated properties and water holes throughout Maranoa. I am hopeful that, in the future, people with properties will take up the offers that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and others are now making and purchase some of these fish and put them in the dams and streams of inland Australia to see whether we cannot witness a resurgence and have the enormous amounts of stock that used to be there. As time goes by I think we will see a tremendous increase in stock in that area.

The Cattle Council of Australia, which met in Canberra yesterday and today, is to spend at least $12.3m on meat research. The great beef industry of this country is continually looking towards trying to improve production methods. I was fortunate enough to see today Mr Dougal Cameron from the Aronui feedlot at Dalby in my electorate and also John Moore, one of the managers of Beef City. These are the two major feedlots on the Downs. These people spend quite a deal of private money on research and people within the Department of Primary Industry play a tremendous role in this area. As a farmer I have always believed that we probably do not pay enough attention to the individual farmer who carries out enormous basic research and comes forward with many improved techniques for farming. Going right back to the Sunshine header, the first header was developed in Australia by a farmer without any government assistance and the stump jump plough was also developed by an individual. We continue to see an enormous range of new and improved specialised machinery that is developed by private individuals coming on to the market. I often think it is a pity that they are not given a bit more encouragement and even some government help at times.

Of course, we must praise fully those people employed in research because they devote an enormous amount of time and effort and they are dedicated workers. An enormous amount of follow-through work is involved in research to achieve some improvements in wheat, barley, tobacco or grape varieties. Researchers have to spend probably 10 years researching one variety to get an improvement. It is also important to note that State Department of Primary Industries advisers play a role in this area. There is not much point in spending millions on research if we cannot get through to the farmer exactly what innovations are available to him. This area is probably the most important, because there is an enormous range of computerised products and new types of plant and machinery available to us to increase production and unless the farmers are educated in their use those products are really of no assistance to us whatever.

I turn now to another important aspect. Because Australia is very much an exporting country in the primary field-that includes mining as well as agriculture-I believe that there is still a lot of room for us to encourage the research and development of new markets. Honourable members spoke about this matter a few weeks ago. I think the Government ought to be spending a lot more money than it is in these areas.

People in industries such as the pork industry have not been consulted on these new Bills. It is a pity that the Minister for Primary Industry for some strange reason has seen fit to rush them into the House. Some of the producer bodies have not been satisfied with the new arrangements. The pork producers, who are not members of the National Farmers Federation, feel they have been left out. Of course, the National Farmers Federation plays an important part in the structure of agriculture today. This matter has been mentioned by previous speakers. I hope that the Minister picks up some of the problems of these industries and attempts to correct them.

I will mention some other matters. Unfortunately the Labor Government has not adequately financed the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. The Minister for Science (Mr Barry Jones) has just returned from an extensive tour of Israel. I do not know how many Mercedes he used, but I guess he had a decent look around. He has come back here fired with enthusiasm about irrigation and water. I do not believe any government in the history of this country has overlooked the adequate funding of water more than the Hawke socialist Government. It is a disgrace that precious little money has been allocated to irrigation. No industry in Australia today is doing more for inland Australia, its towns and their residents than the irrigation industry. It does not matter where a person goes, be it the Maranoa, Goondiwindi, St George or Emerald areas, wherever there is water there is irrigation. Many high producing farmers are growing sorghum, cotton, oil seeds and so on. Hundreds of people are employed and are supplementing these high technology farms with services, such as aerial spraying, fertilising, et cetera.

What does the Labor Government do for water in this country? Absolutely nothing. It has got only one dam under construction. Fortunately it is in Queensland. It is not in my electorate; I wish it were. But at least it is in Queensland. I guess that is something.

Mr Braithwaite —Fortunately the Fraser Government put that in.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Yes, the last Government put that in. I guess the Labor Government has carried it on. But the only thing it seems to be interested in these days is building high tanks in some of the towns around the place and supplying local towns with water. That is the only water program the Government has. I think it is a disgrace. On behalf of the farmers in this country, I hope that the Minister for Primary Industry makes further attempts to have more water storage and dams built. I know he has some difficult arguments in Cabinet. I support the Minister for Science in his endeavours. Obviously he will be attempting to put his point forward to Cabinet. He has not had much luck yet, but no doubt he will continue to try.

The Australian National Animal Health Laboratory has been established in Victoria. The high security research centre is still not under way. The taxpayers have spent $350m for this installation and we still do not see too much happening there. Some research is taking place.

Mr McVeigh —Not too much.

Mr IAN CAMERON —Not too much. We have seen an enormous expenditure of funds. It has cost nearly as much as the new Parliament House and it is damn near as big, but we do not see too much happening. I notice that the Minister for Primary Industry is looking a bit glum. I suggest that he crank this installation up. Surely some good must come out of it eventually.

The other matter that must be mentioned is the brucellosis eradication program. This program must be commended. An enormous amount of research funds has been expended. Only about 20 or 30 very big pastoral properties are left in Queensland until the whole State is declared free. This sort of work is essential in order for us to continue to maintain our products on the world market.

I conclude by mentioning an article written by Barbara Moffet of the National Geographic Society News Service. Some honourable members on the other side of the House refer to us as cockies corner. I can assure them that there are some pretty smart cockies on this side of the House.

Mr McVeigh —You are one of the best.

Mr IAN CAMERON —I thank the honourable member. I have been trying to convince everybody in the House about that. I find it hard. Not too many people will believe me when I tell them that. It is interesting to look at the article which appears in today's Australian in order to see what may happen in the future. It is headed 'Sci-fi miracles will feed world of 2010'. It states:

The 21st century corn plant should be able to resist insects, frost, and drought, and brim with nutrition, unsullied by commercial fertilisers. It may also bear a microchip, linked to a computerised irrigation system.

I emphasise the word 'irrigation', Ministers because you guys are not too keen about that. I would like to see a bit more of it, particularly in Maranoa. I would like to see a few more dams in that part of the world as it is very dry and there is a big drought on. I know that the Government has cut the funding for drought aid. We now need $9m for the State, which is three times more than the previous Government allowed. The producers in that State will find it difficult with the onset of winter. The article continues:

The 21st century farmer may step out the door and aim an infrared gun at this crop to determine if it is dry, or at his animals to see if they are feverish. He may use seawater for irrigation--

that is something you guys should look at-

and only the sun for power . . . data gather by orbiting satellites--

That brings me to another subject. It is a fact that the National program has had some adverse publicity of late. Those of us who live in inland Australia hope to receive all sorts of information via satellite. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) today had a meeting with some of the television licence holders who basically live in Sydney. Presently people who live in Western Queensland are getting New South Wales weather reports. The satellite weather pictures come to us daily which is a tremendous breakthrough for us. But what do we get in Western Queensland? We get the weather for Sydney, which is of no use to us.

Mr McVeigh —We're not interested in it.

Mr IAN CAMERON —We are not interested. I would like to see the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) make some changes in that area. How on earth can we do anything in agriculture these days if we do not get adequate weather forecasts? It is important that we also maintain the regionalisation of television from the satellite. It is important with the ever-increasing amount of information that will come off the satellite that it remain regionalised. We do not want to see the Packers and Murdochs get control of the existing satellite; we do not want to see a backyard deal done with the Prime Minister on these licences; we want to see provincial licences maintained and we want to see provincial Queensland and other States receive a signal from that area which will be picked up, transmitted and received.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mountford) —Order! I ask the honourable member to come back to the content of the Bills.

Mr IAN CAMERON —It is all to do with the weather and satellites. We farmers will be using satellites for transmitting all sorts of data. I conclude by quoting from the article in the Australian. In it Mr Rasmussen states:

Agriculture as we know it would collapse if we lost our supply of fossil fuels . . . within 20 to 50 years, solar energy will open up the next phase--

I condemn the Hawke socialist Government for parity pricing and putting the price of fuel up by 4c to 5c a litre. There is no point in farmers spending millions of dollars on research on the one hand if on the other hand the Government is going to rip it out of us by increasing taxes on fuel and other things. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment moved by the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), who is the Deputy Leader of the National Party of Australia and shadow Minister for Primary Industry. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment that he has so ably put forward.