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Address to the West Australian Country Party Conference, Perth

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1970 Conference

Perth -- 27th July, 1970

Address by the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party .

and Minister for Primary Industry,


Fo_r release 10 p.m. A. E.S.Q., Monday 27th July ,_ j 97 0.


1 f

It's always good to come to Western Australia, and

especially to talk to Country Party people. I usually have quite a big audience when I speak in Western Australia. I don't

know whether it's because I'm a popular fellow amongst farmers, or whether there's some other reason.

But today I'm speaking to the annual conference of the

Australian Country Party in Western Australia. I'm speaking to you in the year following a Federal election, the year of a Senate election, and the year before your State election. I

want to say something about each of these.

In the Federal election last year the Country Party had a resounding success. For two reasons this was remarkable.

The first is that there was a strong swing against the

Government in which our coalition partners lost heavily. In this situation, the Country Party went back with the same number

of seats it had when it went into the election. Before the

election we made up 25 per cent of the coalition. Today we are 30 per cent of it. And the other remarkable thing -- but to me

not at all unexpected -- was that, at a time of great difficulty for primary producers, they stuck to the Country Party.

As I continue with this address, I hope to give you some of the reasons why farmers and all country people look to the Country Party to represent them. The main reason is that they know that if they stick to the Country Party, the Country Party

will stick to them.

There's to be a Senate election, probably towards the end of this year. You have two Country Party men in the Senate -Edgar Prowse and Tom Drake-Brockman. Edgar Prowse isn't a

contestant in this election - it's not his turn this time.


But I must tell you that Edgar is one of the hardest-working and clearest-thinking people in the Senate. He never

misses a chance to badger me about what's happening in the primary industries in Western Australia. He's a real ideas man

and he keeps pushing his ideas until someone takes notice of

them. You lcouldn't have a better or more forceful and persistent advocate than Edgar Prowse.

Tom Drake-Brockman is contesting the election this year, heading the Country Party team consisting of himself, Mrs. Bunce

and Terry McDonnell. Tom is another example of the kind of man

country people need in Canberra. A chap who's close to the

farming scene and the problems in it, Tom also has the very responsible portfolio of Minister for Air. He's evidence also of the fact that the Country Party isn't just a farmers' party --

although that is its primary role -- but it's a party of wide-ranging influence and experience in national affairs.

The difficulties besetting the rural industries today make

it more compelling than ever before that country people have a strong, united voice to speak for them. I hope you will see

they do have that voice by making sure that Tom Drake-Brockman and his team get strong support in the Senate election.

And there's to be a State election here next year. I think

no one can look at the progress and development that's taken place here in recent years without acknowledging that great credit belongs to your State Government for helping to create

a climate of confidence in which this development can take place.

I know that this growth and prosperity is not shared by all

Vest Australians. It isn't shared by all Australians. But I'm

surprised that there are people who think that by dividing their strength they can achieve more than they have. I'm surprised that

there are people who believe that the answer to their problems


lies not in attacking the roots of the problem from a solid,

united political base that's in Government, but in stepping off

that base onto the shaky ground of political representation that

has no say in policy-making.

The only way you can have a voice in decision-making is to

be part of the Government that makes the decisions. That's how

the Country Party has achieved as much as it has -- by being in


I know there are people who say: "Well, the Liberal and

Country Parties have been in office for a long time, yet farmers are going broke". Do these people really believe that if another party had been office, farmers would be better off than they are ? -

Would the Labor Party have been able to keep costs down, dominated as it is by the trade unions, whose present activities

give little indication of a desire to help farmers in the cost

battle ? Would the Labor Party have been somehow able to increase the returns our farmers get on world markets ? Would any political group, particularly one not holding office, be able to

do these things, or be more successful in doing them than your Governments have been ?

I leave it to the good sense of the farmers of Western

Australia to decide which party is most likely to fight for

them, and to win some of the fights. To those who say they couldn't be any worse off, my answer is: don't be too sure of that!

Australia today finds itself wracked by industrial trouble.

There seems to be a kind of industrial malady infecting the

community. There is no doubt that this malady, if it continues

untreated, carries with it the real possibility of serious industrial illness which can affect the whole economy, and therefore all Australians.


What concerns me is the apparent lack of understanding by

Australians -- I don't include farmers in this -- of the damaging effects that incessant demands for higher wages must

have on everyone's real purchasing power and standards of


In the 10 years to 1963-64, average weekly earnings rose at

the rate of 4.5% a year. But the rate is accelerating rapidly.

Average weekly earnings rose by 6.6% in 1966-67, 5.9% in 1967-68,

7.5% in 1968-69 and 8% in 1969-70. If the rate of increase in

the last two years was merely maintained, money wages would at

least double every 10 years. Surely a country dependent on international export competitiveness and export growth for better

living standards and higher real income must look at this matter

very seriously.

Everyone in the Australian community must come to understand

that if wage increases are simply followed by price increases --and this must happen if wage increases are not matched by

increased productivity, and they aren't -- then no one gains in

the long run. hventually, in fact, everyone loses.

The job of curbing inflation is everyone's job. One thing

that won't help curb it is the current mood which demands more money for less time worked, and a rate of productivity that

doesn't keep pace with this demand.

Earlier today 1 addressed the inaugural meeting of the

Perth Press Club. I took the opportunity there of describing

the very great difficulties being experienced by the primary industries. I explained why i believe the Australian community

is under an obligation to stand by our primary producers in this

time of difficulty.

I see it as an important part of my job to do this kind

of thing - to explain to Australians, most of whom live in the

cities, just what is going on in primary industry.

In fact, I said at the Press Club meeting that I

believe our primary industries are under attack. They are suffering from all the effects of low returns, rising costs,

trade barriers and the other things you are so familiar with.

But they are also suffering from a sustained and

vigorous attack aimed at persuading the Australian people and

the Australian Government that primary industry is expendable-,

that Australia no longer needs it; that farmers for too long

have been leeches living on the rest of the community, and that any suggestion that farmers need more help is merely further

evidence of the Country Partyts unscrupulousness in buying votes

at any cost to the taxpayer. I'm not exaggerating. This is the atmosphere and the climate df public opinion in which the

primary industries find themselves.

This is the kind of background against which you have

to womb, and the Country Party has to work, in trying to obtain from the community a recognition of the right of rural producers to a fair go --- nothing more, and nothing less than a fair go.

Some of the arguments used by the critics of primary industry are questionable, to say the least. For example, we hear it said that it isn't really true that 40,000 woolgrowers have a net farm income of less than 02,000. They're really

getting much more than that, say the critics, because they

enjoy so many 'perks' at the expense of the taxpayer. In fact,

we're told, they're getting more than the average wage—earner.

I find it hard to believe that a farmer on j2,000 gets all that

much benefit from tax concessions, or that by claiming a

deduction for his car expenses he's much further ahead of the man travelling on subsidised city rail and bus services.

The argument takes no account of the higher costs

incurred by country people in obtaining an education for their children, and in obtaining medical or hospital services.

It takes no account of the fact that, out of his

$2,000 income, the farmer not only has to service his capital,

but he has to try to provide for further development of his property as part of the never-ending battle to cope with rising

costs. And what this argument ignores is the fact that, unlike the wage-earner, the woolgrower on this low income would, as a general rule, have at least 830,000 invested in his property. 1

can see nothing satisfactory in a situation where this woolgrower,

with that level of investment, has the same income as a person with nothing invested.

The simple

are at their lowest

to hope for a subst,

wool in 1969-70 was

costs and prices of

have been rising by

facts of the wool situation are these: Prices

level for 22 years; it would be unrealistic

^.ntial revival in price; the value of shor. rx

$100 million less than in the previous year;

farm inputs and services in the wool industry

22% to 3% a year.

Faced with this deteriorating position, the woolgrower

in the sheep-wheat zone has also suffered the effects of the

wheat industry's troubles, with diversification from sheep to wheat being virtually impossible. In Queensland, and here in Western Australia, there has been the added burden of drought.

All these factors taken together have meant that, compared with the late fifties and early sixties, levels of net farm income in real terms are down in 1969-70 by two-thirds

in the pastoral zone and one-fifth in the sheep-wheat zone.

The position is better in the high-rainfall zone, but real

incomes are still below those of the mid-sixties. In fact they are 15% below the income levels for the three years which ended

at June, 1967..

I doubt very much whether there are many people outside

the primary sector whose incomes are worth only a third of what

they were 20 years ago. , l r et when the Wool Board's Advisory


Committee presented to me recently a report recommending

various proposals aimed at helping the wool industry -- an industry that's kept this country solvent more than once ----there was an outraged outcry against the suggestion that farmers suffering hardship as a result of the circumstances Sty e mentioned

should receive some assistance.

I should say at this point that, because the matters

referred to in the Advisory Committee's report are now the

subject of submissions being considered by the Government, I am

unable, of course, to make any comment on them.

Here in Western Australia you have a special problem,

and one which is to an extent tied up with the tremendous

development that has taken place here in recent years. This is the problem of those farmers who have pioneered the new

areas that have been opened up for agriculture -- your 'new land farmers'. Their situation is an additional factor in the problem being experienced in Western Australia, and in other

States, as falling wool prices are accompanied by a contraction of the scope for wheat production.

This is a problem which is of great concern, of course,

to the people directly involved, but also to your industry organisations and particularly to Crawford Nalder and his

Government. He has told me of his worry about this problem, and of the intensive investigation the West Australian Government has made in an effort to find a solution.

I'm aware too of the approach your Government is making

to the Commonwealth Government for assistance. This is a matter which obviously must be looked at in the context of the financial difficulties affecting the primary sector right across Australia.


I cannot forecast the outcome of your Government's

approach to the Commonwealth, but I can assure you that it will be looked at very carefully, and with an awareness of the very

serious situation that exists.

The fact that the approach has been made says a great

deal about Crawford Nalder and your Government here in Western

Australia. I know that when things are difficult, as they are now, we tend to look for people to blame. No doubt Crawford

Nalder has come in for his share of criticism, just as I have and other State Ministers for Agriculture have and all our Governments have.

But this approach is an example of the determination of

your Government and your Minister to try to do something to solve a problem. This is not the first time that Crawford Nalder

has shown his willingness to come to grips with problems, and not

the first time he has shown himself anxious to face up to the facts of life as they apply to agriculture today.

I've been impressed when reading some of the things he's said, and when listening to him speak at meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council, by his down-to-earth realism, and his readiness to recognise that there is a great need for

change in Australian agriculture.

Western Australia was the first State to agree to the

marginal dairy farm reconstruction plan brought forward by the dairy industry, and accepted by the Commonwealth Government. Now

every other State has indicated that it will agree to implement the scheme, subject in some cases to some further discussion on some points.

Here is an indication of a forward-looking attitude by

your Government, and one which can look beyond the immediate criticism to the longer—term interests of the primary producers.


Mr. Chairman, there is a matter I want to refer to for a few minutes, and it's one which is of fundamental importance to the Country Party, to primary producers, and to

primary producer organisations.

It's the question of the way we go about making

agricultural policy in this country -- a question surrounding

which there is some lack of understanding.

I spoke on the subject of agricultural policy—making

here in Perth a few months ago, and at the N.S•..W,.. Country Party conference in Griffith more recently. Tonight I want to try

to bring together, and perhaps amplify, some of the things I said on those two occasions.

The first thing I want to say is that there seems to

be an impression abroad that our system of policy—making is one that consists simply of letting farmersstew in their own juice.

This is the way many people seem to interpret the Country Party's view that the farmer himself, as an individual

and as a member of his industry organisations, is best placed to make his own decisions. This is how people interpret my

statement that I believe farmers don't want the Government telling

them how to run their affairs.

I don't think this interpretation is quite fair. It

certainly doesn't reveal much urrierstanding of the situation.

For who can study the record of the Commonwealth Government, and the State Governments, and vccuse them of an unawareness of the problems of primary industry, or of an unwillingness to work

out and implement policies for the benefit of primary producers.

The important point I want to make is that there are two ways of deciding on policies for agriculture. One way is for the Government to work out the policy, and then implement it.

1 0.

That is, for the Government to decide what should be done, and then to tell farmers it must be done. What's more, under a

system like that, when .a Government works out a policy and tells farmers what's to be done, it must go on from there and make sure that it is done, whether the people concerned agree with it

or not.

The other way is to use the method we have used for many

years, and that is the system of consultation, of discussion, of

seeking advice, and of negotiation.

I believe there is no better method of formulating policy than by doing it in the closest co—operation with the people who will be most affected by it, and who, because they

have elected c, Government to office, have the right to expect

that Government to work with them in deciding what policies are to be adopted.

I don't believe it's good enough to say: " We put you

into office; now you run our industries for us, and tell us what we should do." We could do it that way. I could work out policies that would help solve farmers' problems. I could do it without consulting farmers or their organisations. But I'm absolutely

certain that no matter how sound or logical or realistic those policies were, they just wouldn't work without the support and co—operation of the people they would affect.

When the Country Party asks you to vote for it, it doesn't say: "Put us into office and we'll tell you how to solve your problems." What it says is: "Put us into office and we'll work with you to try to solve your problems."

It's on this basis that country people vote for the Country Party, and it's on this basis that the Country Party operates, and must continue to operate.


I'm convincedthat the only way to work out policies

for primary industry is to do it through a combined, co—operative approach involving industry and Government. It's not 'passing

the buck' to adopt this approach. Its recognising the fact

that if policies are to be realistic and if they are to work, then they must be supported by the people concerned.

To me, it's nothing less than common sense that if

you want co—operation, you work with people, not in isolation from them. You seek their advice and combine it with your own knowledge in an effort to come up with the right answers.

I mentioned the Government's record. I'm not going to

take up your time by going through it over the years. It's a proud record, and one which should be sufficient answer to

anyone who feels that the policy—making system I've been talking

about has been a failure.

Take wool, for example. Ignore everything that's been happening in the last two or three months, with the Advisory Committee making recommendations to the Government about the future. Just look back, not over the years, but over a few months

This year alone --

. the Wool marketing Corporation has been set up, and

is now in operation, with the Commonwealth providing 07 million

a year towards its costs.

legislation has been passed to virtually double the Commonwealth's contribution to wool research and promotion, taking it to about a27 million a year

at the same time, the levy on growers has been halved


. and we've given the Wool Board power to borrow

money so that it can build, if the industry wants them, fully— integrated wool—selling complexes, and so it can rebuild and

renovate existing wool stores.

. this could involve up to $90 million.

Is this the mark of a system that doesn't work ? Are

these the actions of a Government that doesn't care about the

wool industry ?

Mr. Chairman, I've taken some time on this matter

because its. important. In fact it's o, matter of fundamental importance to the Country Party.

The Country Party does have a capacity and an ability

to work for and achieve things for the primary industries.

This cannot be challenged. It has had this ability for 50 years,

and has demonstrated its effectiveness continually over that period.

It's simply not good enough for people to say, as some do, that they would be better off if another party represented them. That sort of talk doesn't stand up to examination, either

in the light of the Country Party's record, or when viewed against

the activities and interests of other parties.

I think of the Labor Party, with its over.-riding

interest in tie problems of the cities -- an interest that is

entirely legitimate, and one which is of great importance, and

which the Labor Party historically is bound to have. I have no criticism at all of this interest. But I do make the point that

it's very hard to have this interest and, at the same time, to devote to the difficulties of rural areas the attention they demand.


And I think of the statement of the A.C. s .U.

president, Mr. Hawke, that the unions will strongly resist

further efforts to use the cost/price squeeze and its impact on farmers as a reason to hold down wage levels.

The strength of the Country Party -- and you must

have strength if you're to achieve anything -- comes from its close relationship with the people and the industries and the

industry organisations it is dedicated to working for.

This is not a time for weakening that relationship.

It's a time to strengthen it. This is not a time for farmers to

be deserting their o n leaders and organisations. it's a time

for farmers to get behind them and back them. It's a time for everyone -- farmer, farm organisation, organisation leader, and the Country Party to pull together, not in different directions.

The Country Party is as willing as ever -- in fact

more willing than ever, because of the present difficulties ---to work with and for the primary producer in -trying to find sound, realistic, workable solutions to his problems. The

Country Party is willing, but willingness alone isn't enough.

It must be backed up by strength, and the strength of

the Country Party comes from country people. If you back us, we'll back you. If you don't back us, we can't back you.

There are just a couple of things I want to say


the wheat situation. The first is that, as a result of a

magnificent sales effort by the Wheat Board, and because of our

iuotas and cuts in world production, there does seem to be room

for little optimism.

The Board expects to export 280 million bushels of wheat

nd flour this season. When you add home consumption of about

55 million bushels, you have disposals totalling 335 million Bushels .

This is good, but we can't afford to ignore the fact that',

despite this level of disposal, stocks at the start of the next

harvest will be between 280 and 290 million bushels.

These large stocks are costing the industry a large amount

of money to hold, and they are delaying payments from pools.

It must be the objective of the industry to reduce its


The delivery quota scheme, which no one likes, is

achieving its objectives. 'hat are -those objectives ? To bring

production more into line with outlets; to protect the interests

of the traditional grower, the small grower.

I said no one likes uotas, but I want you to asp, your-selves what were the alternatives.

How would the small grower have fared if the first advance

had been reduced ? And it couldn't have been held at $1.10 if

there had not been some limitations placed on deliveries.

How would he have got on if payments from pools had been

dragged out over an even longer period than they are now ?

quotas were brought in at the request of the industry so that

everyone, but particularly the smaller grower, would have some

protection, and a chance to share in the available finance.

Of course there are anomalies and there is hardship.

But they are nothing like the anomalies and hardship there would

have been if we didn't have the quota system.

And the other thing I want to say about wheat is that the

stabilisation plan negotiated two years ago is now proving its


For the first year of the plan, the Commonwealth's

contribution -- first estimated at between_ 2 million and 4

million -- will in fact be more than 30 million.

then the stabilisation plan was negotiated, the estimate

of the Commonwealth's subvention over the five years was

-68 million. But, based on 'recent cost e`peri ene.e : nc3;,;* n:p ent

world prices, the estimate wouldbe more like '$175 million.

There are two other wheat matters I should bring to your


Firstly, there is no prospect that the :Jheat Board will

be able to meet its commitments to the :,eserve Bank in 1971.

This means it will again be necessary, as it was this

year, to make special financial arrangements for the Board.

Secondly, the 3oard will not be able to pay off the debt

on the 1968/69 Pool until about the middle of 1971.

Only after that is done can a second payment be made to growers from the 1968/69 Poole

These matters will help make it clear why there was no alternative to the industry's imposing discipline on itself.

A matter that has been thrust into prominence

recently is that of our responsibilities in Papua-New Guinea.

A Country .arty Minister, Ceb.Barnes, has the very

onerous job of fostering the development of the Territory

under the critical scrutiny of world opinion. I believe he

is doing an excellent job under the most difficult circum-stances,

I don't want to talk in detail tonight--about Papua-New Guinea. All I want to say is this: to fix a date now

for Territory self-government would be like fixing a date

for a student airline pilot to take command of a plane

loaded with passengers, whether or not he finishes his

training by that date.

He probably could get the plane off the ground, but

real danger could arise if he ran into bad weather or an

emergency situation.

We could bow to the pressures of political opinion

and force self-government and independence on the Territory

before it wants it or is ready for it,

But our' responsibilities go far deeper than that

and we would be avoiding them if we were to look for short-term expedient policies rather than policies for the lasting

benefit for the people of Papua-New Guinea.

The Country Party is much more than a party which speaks

for the primary producer and for country people. It must be more

than that if it is to keep on exercising the degree of influence

it does.

The Country Party has at the root of all its policies the

belief that Australia must be strong, and its people safeguarded.

It was this belief that led us to our commitment in

Vietnam -- a commitment which has brought sorrow to many Australian

families, and raised doubts in many minds.

All of us are pleased that progress in Vietnam is such

that it will soon be possible for some troop withdrawals to be

made. As announced by the Prime 1•zinister, the 8th Battalion will

be withdrawn by I-lovem'ber and not replaced.

But as we are able to begin this scaling-down of our troop

commitment, there will be no scaling-down of our commitment to

the objectives for which we sent troops to Vietnam.

What were these objectives ? To try to establish the

chance for the people of 0"outh ` diet .am to determine their own future; to answer a call for help against aggression; to try to

preserve stability and security in South-East Asia --- a matter

vital to our o

United States should not have to stand alone against aggression.

These were our aims and have remained our aims. And we've

gone a very long Way to-Tards their achievement.

The Commonwealth V overnment is very much aware of the

growing importance of our western coastline in any consideration

of Australia's defence re uir.ements. For this reason we have

committed considerable expenditures for the development of defence

facilities in this State.

We have announced plans to spend ,7 million as a

preliminary to the establishment of the Cockburn Sound naval

base s We are spending 152 million to make Pearce a full

training and operational Air force base, and a further $12

million is being spent to bring Learmonth to full, all—weather

operational status.


vir. Chairman, I've spoken of the way in which the wheat industry has imposed a discipline on itself. I've talked of

the way we are facing up to our defence responsibilities. I've

mentioned the tremendous task we are undertaking in Papua—New Guinea.

Through all these things there runs a common theme of

discipline, determination, responsibility.

I believe no nation?, if it is to become a. great one, can

ever afford the luxury of losing its grip on, these qualities in

its national life. No people can build a nation if they are not

prepared to accept the need for these qualities in their own lives.

I am alarmed at -what seems to be a trend in Australia

towards defiance of the law. what is most disturbing is that this

trend is to be seen in the actions of people who should be the last

to have any part of it ---- the people who make out laws.

..ecently we have seer_ the Victorian conference of the

Labor Party calling on young men to defy the iJatioual Service Act.

We have seen Labor t'iembers in the _..ouse of iepresentatives defy

the Speaker, and bring the business of the 'Louse to a standstill.

are seeing people abusing their legitimate right to

protest by entering offices and, in h!telbourne on Friday,

throwing documents out of windo';is in an attempt to disrupt the

work of public officials„

The maintenance of law and order is fundamental to the

existence and development of the Australian community. "shere is

room in our national and community processes for dissent and

protest, and for action to change things that are not acceptable

to the majority.

But there is no room for defiance of laws made by

democratically--elected reprosentatives of the Australian people,

and for disruption of the =work of the community.

At a time when there are disturbing and even dangerous

trends evident in our national life, I believe the people of

Australia are looking for political leadership that is strong,

determined, responsible and, above all, stable and reliable,

The Country Party, in concert with its coalition partner,

is determined that that kind of leadership will be given.

But there is no room for defiance of laws made by

democratically--elected representatives of the Australian people,

and for disruption of the work of the community.

At a time when there are disturbing and ever dangerous

trends evident in our national life, I believe the people of

Australia are looking for political leadership that is strong,

determined, responsible and, above all, stable and reliable,

The Country Party, in concert with its coalition partner,

is determined. that that kii d of leadership will be given.