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Thursday, 7 October 1971
Page: 2080

Mr CORBETT (Maranoa) - Earlier in this debate the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) raised a matter concerning the Minister for Mines and Main Roads in Queensland and said that he had said that there could be a Communist influence in this country endeavouring to raise the price of coal which would make it possible for Communist countries in Asia to supply coal at a lower price than we could. As I recall the honourable member for Dawson said that he had made some endeavours to find out whether there were any grounds upon which he could verify this and he had been unable to do so. What I want to say is that I have the very highest regard for the integrity of Mr Camm, the Minister for Mines and Main Roads in Queensland. I am quite sure that in this case he would not make such a suggestion lightly. I believe that he would have had good grounds for making the suggestion that he has made, and even if the honourable member for Dawson in one day was not able to find to his own satisfaction that there was proof of this, it does not prove that the suggestions of the Minister for Mines were not well and truly founded.

Quite often people on this side of the House are accused of kicking the Communist can, but who started it in this case? It was not my intention to get up here and take a bit of the little time I have to speak on this but I do not want to see my colleague in the State House criticised without saying something in his defence. I think that this could very properly have been left with the State House in Queensland. What confidence has the honourable member for Dawson in his colleagues in Queensland if he could not leave it to them to settle this issue? Why bring it down here? I repeat that I am very confident that the Minister for Mines and Main Roads in Queensland would not have made this statement unless he had reasonable grounds for doing so.

I want to refer to the matter of primary industry and specifically to the wool deficiency payment scheme which has been introduced into this house. The wool industry is one of the great industries of this country. It is an industry upon which the prosperity of the nation was based for many years. It is in difficult circumstances at the moment and I commend the Government and those responsible for introducing this bill very strongly because this scheme provides a degree of security for those engaged in the industry. I believe it is in the national interest that this should be done. There is a very large number of people who are dependent upon this industry and it would certainly have been of great disadvantage to the nation if some steps such as these had not been taken to preserve at least some degree of stability within the industry.

I believe that perhaps the most important aspect of this is that we should look ahead to the day when the scheme, which is designed to last for only 12 months - it will expire in July 1972 - does expire. The wool industry and, indeed, the Government must be looking very closely at the action which should be taken to protect the industry beyond that date. It is a strange thing that while the community at large will accept demands for wage and salary increases and seems to be prepared to accept demands for protection for secondary industry, which I do not condemn providing it is reasonably justified protection, whenever there is a move made to try to protect primary industry, however great and important that industry is, there seems to be opposition to it. I believe that this is indicated in the case of an industry such as wool which is confined mostly to areas of Australia where no other industry could survive. Whenever this is attempted there is a suggestion that there is some weight on the taxpayer.

I would like to point out that the wool growers of Australia have for years contributed to the protection that is provided for secondary industry through tariffs and I am one of those who have urged the

Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) to have a very close and careful look at the degree of protection that is provided. I am very pleased with the attitude the Minister has taken in this regard. He has expressed his intention to see that the tariff protection given in this country is related to need. 1 want to point out that the wool industry provides employment for a very large number of people. It is the basis upon which many of our country towns survive. Surely the people engaged in the wool industry are entitled to some reasonable degree of profit. Surely they are entitled to Jive. I believe it is very much in the national interest that this scheme should be implemented and I commend the Government for it. But I do point out that it is very necessary that the industry and those responsible for it should look, as a matter of urgency, to see what action should be taken with regard to the situation in which the wool industry will find itself at the conclusion of this deficiency payments scheme. 1 would like to turn for a moment to the wheat industry. I compliment the Australian Wheat Board on the job it has done in the sale of wheat over recent times and in reducing the stocks of wheat in Australia. I would also like to compliment the Australian Wheatgrowers' Federation on the way that it has handled the wheat industry. I believe it has adopted a very responsible attitude towards the industry as a whole. It had the courage to face up to the unpopular decision to recommend that quotas be applied to the industry in its interests and so that the cost to the Government could be kept within reasonable bounds to ensure that there would not be an undue accumulation of wheat. But I do want to say with regard to the wheat industry that if we are to have continually rising costs in every section of industry we must have rising rewards in primary industry. As I said before, I am amazed at the amount of opposition and criticism that arises every time a primary industry wants what every other industry feels it is justly entitled to receive. I believe that the wheat industry too will be looking towards getting some further remuneration if it has to face up to the rising costs which must follow if we have a continual rise in wages and salaries. Primary industry just cannot carry the increased costs.

Mr Foster - What about the rise in profits?

Mr CORBETT - 1 would like to see the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Foster) on a wheat farm to see how he would go under the present conditions; or anyone else who thinks it is easy to make a living in primary industry today. The people in primary industry have invested quite a large amount of money it it. It is not easy to change from one type of production to another. These people are there and they have to suffer very many disadvantages such as the high cost of educating their children and all of these things that are associated-

Mr Birrell - Who owns all the racehorses?

Mr CORBETT - That is the sort of interjection that I would expect from the other side of the House and I do not want to waste my time answering such puerile interjections.

Mr Anthony - He could not run a garden party.

Mr CORBETT - That is quite right, Mr Minister. In the minute that I have left I would say that I hope Australians will be as fair to the primary producers of this country as they appear to be prepared to be fair to every other section of Australian industry.

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