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Friday, 11 October 1985
Page: 1071


Senator WALTERS(11.06) —While the Opposition supports the Export Inspection Charges (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, the Export Inspection (Service Charge) Bill and the Export Inspection (Establishment Registration Charge) Bill because they allow more flexibility in the payment of these enormous export inspection charges that this Government has imposed on the rural community, we do not agree with the general concept of export inspection charges. Indeed, it has become our policy that all these inspection charges will be abolished as soon as we regain government. This present Government has moved against the rural industry in a more discriminatory way than any government in the history of this country. The sad part about it is that our farmers are the most efficient people in the world. We know that-I can see some Government senators nodding their heads in agreement-the farming industry is the most efficient industry in this country. The problem we face is that our main competitors in other parts of the world are so heavily subsidised.

We have heard the Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, saying in this chamber many times what a great benefit the falling dollar is to the farmers. I will tell the Senate what the falling dollar has done to this country and to our export industries as well. It has sent real interest rates to their highest level in 50 years. It has sent inflation up; we are reaching double digit figures. I can see Government senators nodding their heads in agreement with that statement also. It has increased the cost of farm machinery-a cost that the rural industry certainly cannot afford. The Government has done a deal with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Australian dollar has fallen because our peers, other countries, do not see us as a viable state. As the value of our dollar is so low they are not willing to invest or to buy at any price, so our dollar is now below US70c.

What has happened in the rural export industry versus other export industries? Our total exports increased by 4.3 per cent between 1979-80 and 1983-84. But what happened to the rural industry, which accounts for about 50 per cent of those exports? Total exports increased by 4.3 per cent but rural exports decreased by 12.9 per cent. This all happened with the breaking of the drought and the wage freeze that the previous Government brought in.

As I have said, our main competitors are heavily subsidised. Low world prices for the rural industry are not a figment of the imagination. In yesterday's Australian Financial Review there is an article which is headed: `Australian study shows high price of EC's rural policy . . .'. According to that article, this policy will cost Australia one million jobs. The article states:

The employment cost of the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Community could be as high as one million jobs.

This is one of the main conclusions of a new study by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Economics, released yesterday simultaneously in Canberra and London.

The study is part of a new stage in Australia's response to the impact of the CAP on world trade in agricultural commodities, and the costs imposed by it on the world-and on Europe itself.

The National Farmers Federation's newsletter states that this will cost $5,000 per farm. The latest Bureau of Agricultural Economics forecast indicates that the real net value of rural production will fall by 22 per cent this financial year. There is an agreement between the National Farmers Federation and the major banks that they will not foreclose on members of the farming community; that they will give them time to pay. Things are so bad on the land that the farmers are being given time to pay by agreement between the banks and the National Farmers Federation!

What does the Government do when things are so bad that agreements have to be made between the banks and the National Farmers Federation and when the Bureau of Agricultural Economics says that things will get worse and the real net value of rural production will fall by 22 per cent this financial year? This Government introduces a capital gains tax. It does away with the water usage tax return and it allows the Mudginberri situation to develop. Every senator in this chamber would know that the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union held one of the slaughter houses to ransom for months to the extent that we lost one of our valuable export agreements with Taiwan.


Senator Boswell —Three million dollars worth of sales.


Senator WALTERS —As the honourable senator has said, $3m worth of sales were lost because a radical group of meat workers put up a picket line. We all saw them on television-a couple of big fat blokes sitting under a shade saying: `Nobody pass this line'. What did the Government do? It allowed its meat inspectors to go there and say: `Oh, those blokes look too big for me. I'm not going to cross that line'. The Government allowed its meat inspectors to back off. It did not insist upon its meat inspectors going in to inspect that meat for export. What was this strike all about?


Senator Aulich —We should have sent you.


Senator WALTERS —I think I might have done a bit better than your meat inspectors.


Senator Aulich —Would you?


Senator WALTERS —Yes, I believe I would. What was the strike all about? How democratic was this strike? The slaughtermen and their employer came to an agreement on what was best for them. They decided that they would not slaughter so many beasts a day; they were going to work as hard as they wanted to. Their pay went up and the cost of slaughtering the bullocks went down. It helped the export market and it helped the men because they were doubling their take-home pay. But the union had not organised it; the union objected. So this Government stood by the union and told the meat inspectors that they need not cross the picket line. It was only as a result of the National Farmers Federation standing by that slaughterhouse that we have the situation we have today. That picket line was illegally stopping members of other unions crossing it. We had a secondary boycott on our hands in contravention of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. Union funds were taken and a fine was imposed. But that has not helped the slaughterhouse much. It has a right, which for the first time in many years it is using. It is taking on the union and demanding that it get compensation for the export markets it has lost. If the Government does not assist in this matter by enforcing the law everyone in Australia will acknowledge that there is one law for the unions-with the Government's support they will be outside that law-and there is another law which the rest of the community must obey.

I move from the Mudginberri situation to look at what the unions have done to another section of the rural industry. Last year I visited Japan with a parliamentary delegation and we went around many of the woollen mills. We asked the Japanese to give us longer term commitments on our export industries, but they were not a bit interested. They said: `There is no way we will give any long term commitments to Australia. We used to deal almost solely with Australia in fine and coarse wools but we no longer do'. In fact they deal with 16 countries in greasy wool and 22 countries in clean wool. They no longer deal solely with Australia. Why? The answer is that our storemen and packers held up our exports of wool bales for so long that the woollen mills in Japan ground to a halt. The Japanese said: `Never again will we deal with Australia solely. We will make sure that we deal with other countries so that when a similar disruption occurs we will not have to close our woollen mills'. What a situation we have reached-the most efficient farmers in the world are held to ransom by these radical unions.

We all remember very well when the waterside workers had to back down over the live sheep exports. They had refused to load live sheep, but farmers converged on the docks and said that they would load them themselves. I remember very clearly one nervous waterside worker asking: `Are the farmers armed?'. The leader of the farmers said: `Don't ask me if they are armed. You know as well as I do that every farmer has a gun. I do not know whether they have brought their guns'. That was the only reason the waterside workers backed off. This Government is doing nothing to help the farmers; it is doing everything in its power to do otherwise. I am not quite sure what it sees as its main aim.

As I have said, the Opposition supports these Bills, only because they are a step in the right direction towards allowing more flexibility in payments. We do not condone the very high levy that this Government has imposed on export inspection charges. It is our policy to do away with that as soon as we return to government.