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Thursday, 21 September 1972
Page: 1843

Mr GILES (Angas) - One of the problems in any election year, with a properly functioning Opposition, is that there is the opportunity - I think the people of Australia should recognise it - for people who owe no responsibility to the nation to go throughout its length and breadth telling people what they want to hear. This is not a good idea from the point of view of responsible government, and all sorts of party decisions and policies are made up for the wrong reasons. I think honourable members will agree with me that it is a rarity to find Ministers and, indeed, members with enough plain, old-fashioned guts to stand up for an unpopular decision because they know that that unpopular decision is in the best interests of the nation. To find a situation where this applies one has only to think of my friend the Minister for Immigration and honourable member for Barker (Dr Forbes) and many other people who, in the interests of the nation, have the capacity to take a courageous decision when it should be taken.

One can think of honourable members who do not have this capacity. The one who is particularly irritating me tonight - I put off my speech last night because I was told he was not in the House - is the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). If ever there was a member of this Parliament who has the propensity to go from one area to another trying to tell the people in each area what they want to hear, regardless of the welfare of the nation and frequently regardless of the interests of the industries he is referring to, the classic example of recent times has been the honourable member for Riverina. I would like to remind honourable members of one or two things so that they may judge objectively whether the point I have brought forward has merit. Surely that is the very substance of democracy.

Let us consider a statement he made recently in the electorate of my colleague, the honourable member for Barker, near the town of Naracoorte. The only reference I have to it is a Press release by the honourable member for Riverina published in the Melbourne 'Sun'. The matter was much more heavily exemplified in the Adelaide Press at the time but I regret that I do not have that with me. Referring to the wheat industry, the honourable member said:

.   . the Government used its power to drive thousands of people out of the wheat industry.

I would like the honourable member for Riverina to tell me how the Government drove people out of the wheat industry. If the industry's decisions, contrary to the Government's decisions, drove people out of the wheat industry surely they were the corporation farmers, the big industry farmers, and not the professional wheat farmers, who were driven out if anybody has been driven out. The reason for this was that well known big business firms - I will not mention them - grew vast areas of wheat, and the quota system introduced by the industry made it very difficult for those whose production quotas had gone up very rapidly to draw, according to the industry's decision, a quota that made their new operations viable. I do not know whether the honourable member for Riverina would be opposed to a quota on wheat in this particular case. If he is opposed to a quota on wheat, presumably he does not want to protect the small wheat farmer.

Mr Lloyd - He wishes to encourage the corporation farmers.

Mr GILES - Exactly. If he wishes to encourage the corporation farmers there is not much left, for those towns in Australia that are surrounded by the grain growing industry, and the wheat industry in particular. If that is not bad enough, to demonstrate my original premise quite seriously, let us look at the plank of the Australian Labor Party which has been published recently. Under the heading 'Wheat' ii says:

Quotas will be fixed well in advance of preparatory land workings.

Surely this means nothing if not that the Labor Party in its official platform says that it believes in the principle of quotas. Yet the honourable member for Riverina, as he goes through the length and breadth of the country telling every section what it wants to hear, is guilty of a frightful subterfuge. There is no excuse for pulling the legs of people whose future and livelihood depend on these things. I take a very poor view of anyone who is prepared, in the interests of political expediency, to lead people on or to pull their legs in regard to an industry in which they are involved. I think that this is a highly reprehensible business.

I will leave aside tonight the implications of another of the honourable member's statements, namely, that the Russians have established the need in all phases of their industry for direct personal incentives. I leave aside also numerous other statements that have not been debated in this chamber yet because I wish to come to 5 questions that he posed in the same article to which I have referred, relating to the dairy industry of which I have some knowledge. The first thing he said was that Australia came within a week of having to import butter last year.

That is a reasonable statement. It happens to be true. But it does not describe the reasons behind that situation. Clearly this was due to a seasonal production lapse at the tail end of that last producing year, 1970-71. As a result of it, the Australian Dairy Produce Board acted responsibly and correctly in rationalising export quotas to individual exporters of butter, butter oil and ghee. The effect of that was that we did get through - although it was close - without having to import undue quantities of butter. I think that disposes of the rest of the story he did not tell in that regard.

Hissecond comment was that Australia had failed to meet its export quota of butter to the United Kingdom every year for 3 years despite the highest prices since World War 2. We have to look at the United Kingdom quota entitlements. In 1969-70 some 62,100 tons were exported and the quota was 65,100 tons. In 1970- 71 some 51,500 tons were exported and the quota was 67,400 tons. Because of the shortage of butter in world trade the United Kingdom import quota arrangements were replaced by an open individual licensing system for most of the 1971-72 season. As a matter of judgment, the industry had a state of reduced production from the adverse season I have already mentioned. Further, the industry's policy of diversifying exports to markets other than the United Kingdom was obviously the proper decision for the industry to make. In addition, the honourable member for Riverina did not take into account the acute world shortage of butter at that time. It is of no use taking the view, as the honourable member for Riverina does, that Government action has kept down production to meet markets, because already this year the European Common Market has a surplus building up. Already this year Australia has problems in selling butter at anything like the value of the previous year.

It is totally dishonest to go through electorates, such as the electorate of my colleague that 1 have mentioned before and make statements that are just not true. If they had any semblance of truth they were true last year, but they are far from true this year. Again I must draw the attention of honourable members to the dishonesty of this sort of remark, no matter who makes it. Nothing is more reprehensible to my mind than the fact that people whole livelihood is involved in some industry should be told a story that is inaccurate by someone whom they look up to. I could go on in regard to this. The honourable member also stated that because of cut-backs in Australia's production, the industry and producers have lost S8m alone in the British market. I already have dealt with many of the reasons for that, and I have dealt with the fact that the industry had to make a decision whether to send its entire capacity, in a seasonal low production year, to that market or whether to continue to probe for markets that will be of value to that industry when and if Britain joins the Common Market. All of these things are absolutely true. Fluctuations in the export components of any industry are not by any means- .

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member's time haj expired.

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