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Monday, 23 March 1987
Page: 1352

Mr CUNNINGHAM(10.50) —I rise to follow the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Peter Fisher), who continued with the normal procedures that we have been listening to for nearly 18 months. We have had a very severe downturn in the commodity price of our major rural product-wheat-and we have had a terms of trade problem on the world market with some of our other products, such as dairy products and sugar, but what the honourable member and other spokespersons for the rural sector have failed to do is give any recognition to the measures taken by this Government to rectify the problems in rural Australia and the basic problem with the economy, that is, that our dollar was overvalued for many years and we were totally uncompetitive on world markets, not just with our rural products but also with our manufacturing industries. We were going to have what the Fraser Government said would be a resources boom such that we would have a massive inflow of imports and we would not need the manufacturing industries. At the same time this had a massive impact on our farm sector. Honourable members opposite and the leaders and spokespersons for the rural sector have failed to point out the turnaround which has occurred. I see the honourable member for Mallee leaving the chamber because he does not want to hear about the real issues.

I refer to a document which I tabled in the House a couple of nights ago. It is from the National Farmer of 18 March and refers to commodity and finance issues in relation to rural products. It has headings such as `Sheep and lamb prices move ahead' and `Wool surge continues', and it refers to beef sales. I quote from the document I tabled to put into perspective what is happening in the rural sector. Recognising that the wheat industry still has major problems which are not caused just by Government costs, as we hear from honourable members, it refers to some of the good stories that are around. It says that there was keen demand for lambs at the sales last week-that is, 5 March-where farmers received 134c a kilogram and that the price jumped to around 142c a kilogram on 12 March. It says that heavy lambs realised $38 to $47 a head. Lambs were selling at unheard of prices in Australian markets.

I turn to beef. We have had no complaints from the beef industry, which is doing quite nicely. Its only danger at the moment is that the American market is being threatened because American producers are trying desperately to keep the Australian product off the American market. At present beef and wool farmers are doing nicely by any measure anyone likes to put. These figures show that the price being received for beef is as high as it has ever been.

The article headed `Wool surge continues' shows a graph which clearly indicates a line moving upwards for all of last year for wool prices. As for the start of this year, there is not enough room on the graph to show the price of wool as it has gone so high. When this was printed, only a week or two ago, the price of wool was $6.59 a kilogram. Today it has gone to over the $7 mark. People from the National Party of Australia and other members of the Opposition are telling us that everybody in the rural sector is in crisis. They should recognise soon that they are destroying the very base of the wheat farmers who are desperately trying to convince their bank managers to stay with them for another 12 months.

While there is talk of doom, gloom and crisis, the heads of banks in Sydney will not direct their managers in the bush to lend further funds, because all they hear is this sheep bleating from the Opposition and some farm leaders. It is time that they were honest, before they create a situation where wool growers, who have money rolling into their pockets, gobble up some of their neighbours in the wheat industry and buy their farms for practically nothing simply because the industry is being talked down incessantly, day after day, week after week. They should recognise that the problem is not right across the board.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.