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Thursday, 19 August 1993
Page: 424

Senator CALVERT (11.20 p.m.) —I apologise to the Senate for delaying our departure from this place tonight. I think in six years I have made three adjournment speeches. I was not going to do so tonight until I, like Senator McGauran, became incensed by the delaying tactics of Senator Burns. Senator Burns is the chairman of the committee that Senator Brownhill, myself and you, Madam Acting Deputy President, are members of. I have always respected his chairmanship, but I thought that his display in here tonight was rather disgraceful. I was quite astounded by the way that he carried on.

  I must admit that I am one of those people he was talking about. I left school when I was 15, so I suppose that I am one of those uneducated rural people that he was having a shot at tonight. I feel just as slighted as anybody else in the rural community about the unwarranted attack that he made upon the rural people of Australia. If I had had the opportunity, like my colleagues were hoping to have the opportunity today, to support Senator Brownhill, I was intending to pass comment on the fact that this being the budget week, we were very lucky yesterday to able to hear four maiden speeches, or should I now say, now that we have this new non-sexist language, four first speeches? We used in the old days to call them maiden speeches.

  It was interesting to note that three of those four first speeches made comments about the effect that this government's policies have had on people in rural areas. I looked with interest at Senator Troeth's speech, and she has confirmed again tonight her ties and concerns with the people in rural areas. She said:

  There is a great deal of concern in rural Australia about the future of the family farm.

That is absolutely correct, and that is why earlier today my colleague Senator Brownhill put forward his motion. Madam Acting Deputy President, I have the feeling that you were just as embarrassed as I was about certain comments that were made by our committee's chairman tonight about rural people.

  I was also very interested to hear my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Gibson, in his first speech mention something that I had forgotten about but which was absolutely true. When talking about the prosperity that Australia has had over the years, he said:

  The exceptions to this trend have been our miners and farmers who are world leaders and have remained world leaders in efficiency and productivity for the past 100 years or so.

It was rather comical to hear Senator Burns here tonight talking about making our farmers more efficient. We have been the most efficient farmers in the world for a long time. All we got from this government and this budget that came out this week was to screw the farmers harder and harder. All the winners in this country have been taxed out of existence over the years and this budget is no exception.

  Then I was very interested to hear our new Democrat colleague Senator Woodley. He had a bit of a jibe at our side of politics, but he did say that he had spent a lot of time in the bush travelling through Queensland. He said:

Those 30 years have enabled me to observe the steady decline in population, the impoverishment of many rural families and the awful neglect of the bush by successive governments of every complexion.

We have not been in government for 10 years. I have been farming since I was 15 years of age; I have been through the credit squeeze in the 1960s and a few other bad times; but my colleagues and myself in the bush have never experienced anything like the things this government has subjected the people in the bush to. It does not matter where one goes.

  I was quite surprised to hear Senator Burns because our committee went to Barcaldine where the Labor Party supposedly had its roots. We went out and stayed there. Senator Burns took the hospitality of a magnificent woman who on the night we were there said, `Look, you've nowhere to stay because the pub is full up'. So we travelled the 50 miles to her place at 2 o'clock in the morning. She made her home available to us and extended her hospitality. She was there on her own and had been battling along. I just wonder how she feels now when she will have to pay another 10c a litre on her fuel as well as all the other nasties, such as the wholesale sales tax and the compounding effects of freight charges as they affect those who live and work in the bush. The effect of the fuel increases on goods and services in remote areas will be catastrophic.

  Senator Burns has been with us on the drought inquiry to the back of Bourke where farmers were letting their sheep die and were forced to shoot kangaroos to make a living. We experienced the absolute desperation of country people. Now we see what is going to happen with this budget.

  I was surprised to see that some of my Labor colleagues from Tasmania have been quite outspoken. I noted on Tuesday of this week that the new Labor member for Franklin, Harry Quick, got a headline on the front page of the Mercury. It was absolutely good stuff; the sort of stuff that Bruce Goodluck, whom Harry Quick replaced, used to get. It said, `Quick opposes petrol tax hike'. He said he was going to oppose it because it was going to have a big impact on his rural area and his battlers in Bridgewater. What happens?

Senator McGauran —Has he stood up in Canberra to be counted?

Senator CALVERT —No. The budget came down the next day, and then we saw another headline: `Revolt looms from state backbenchers'. The report says:

Two of Tasmania's new Federal Labor backbenchers have vowed a party room rebellion to try to overturn some of yesterday's Budget decisions. Franklin Labor Member Harry Quick said he would oppose the petrol price increase.

What a load of rubbish. Michael Lester, who wrote this stuff, must be a member of the Labor party. He knows how things work. It is a bit of a joke for him to say all that. How can Harry Quick turn around and look at his constituents in Franklin and say, `Look, I am opposing this'. When the budget bills come up I will be interested to see what Harry Quick does. Will he do what Michael Tate quite often did—absent himself from the chamber when the vote is taken so that he can say, `Well, I did not vote in favour of it. I was going to oppose it, but unfortunately it was a budget decision and I had to go along with the party'.

  We on this side of politics from Tasmania have been there. It would not have made any difference if we had crossed the floor. But if Harry Quick has got the courage of his convictions, after having all this media coverage, he should lobby Senator Devereux. Then Senator Devereux should join us over here and vote against some of these taxes that are going to affect the rural people.

  I have had dozens of phone calls from sawmillers and battlers in Franklin who were quite surprised and disappointed about what has happened. With all the promises that were made at the last election, they did not believe that these sorts of things were going to happen. Dick Adams, the new member for Lyons, had the audacity to come out and say that the budget provided funds to help rural industries to set up for production of high quality clean food exports. Senator Sherry and I both know that Julian Alcorso, who produces Murilla wines in Tasmania—and who has been a very good supporter of the Labor party—

Senator Sherry —And the Greens.

Senator CALVERT —Well, his father has been in recent times. Julian has been a very good supporter. He had these big dinners when Bob Hawke was being re-elected and put all the money in. What thanks has he got? The government is going to decimate the fledgling wine industry in Tasmania—one of the few industries that is starting to show a bit of promise. The government has increased the excise. As my colleague Senator Tierney said here earlier tonight, the government is cutting the wine industry off at the knees.

  I will not go over all the other particular matters that have been canvassed by my colleagues. It goes without saying that, as a farmer from Tasmania representing all Tasmanians who have been savagely affected—and we have been particularly affected in Tasmania because we rely on freight—it will really hurt us. I make the point once again: I just hope the people of Franklin, Lyons and Bass realise that the cavalier attitude of Harry Quick, Silvia Smith and Dick Adams is nothing but a sham—just like this budget—on the people of Australia but, in particular, on those of Tasmania.