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Friday, 23 August 1985
Page: 292


Senator ARCHER —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to Budget information and media headlines which have applauded the fact that rural industry has received an increased allocation of a very generous $117m. Wheat growers, however, claim that included in that amount is $104.6m which was in fact their own funds which were in hand in the previous financial year and could have been paid out in that year. I therefore ask the Minister: Was $104.6m of the increased rural industry budget allocation in fact wheat growers' own funds? Were these funds held over from last financial year and paid out on 1 July? Was the increase in rural industry funding for 1985-86 in fact only $12.4m?


Senator WALSH —One thing I will not accept responsibility for is the way in which the Press reports any item of news at all. I am not sure whether the figure is $104m. At least $100m from the Wheat Finance Fund has been paid out in this financial year-indeed, it was paid out on 1 July. The history of the $100m is that when in 1980 the Fraser Government abolished effectively the wheat stabilisation scheme there was a grower fund to which growers had contributed and from which, subject to certain criteria being fulfilled, payments were made back to wheat growers. It was raised by a grower levy. When the Fraser Government effectively abolished the stabilisation fund it chose, however, not to refund the last $100m of grower contributions which were then in it. It set up some typically dodgy piece of cosmetic accounting under the name of the Wheat Finance Fund under which that $100m, for which there was no longer any justification for retention, was advanced to the Wheat Board as a loan to make the first advance payments to growers. I stress that ever since 1980 the reason for which the $100m had originally been collected from wheat growers has no longer been applicable. It was typical of the sort of cosmetic, shonky accounting devices in which the Fraser Government specialised in order to reduce artificially its outlays and deficits. This Government decided it was time that the money was returned to the wheat growers from whom it was originally raised. That was done on 1 July.