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Thursday, 11 November 1971
Page: 3438

Dr Everingham asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:

(1)   Has his attention been drawn to the unanimous findings of the United States' Commission on Rural Poverty (The People Left Behind, 1967).

(2)   If so, has he evidence that the findings do not apply substantially to Australia.

(3)   Does the report conclude that (a) economic but not moral resources are adequate to eliminate tragic, and intolerably costly, rural poverty in a prosperous country, (b) relief plans must be a joint local, State and Federal government responsibility, (c) public enterprise must be used where necessary to give equal employment opportunities and check the drift to cities, (d) the poor must be actively involved in regional economic planning encompassing rural and urban area's using Federal grants, loans and development subsidies and State and local tax reform, (e) the impact on individuals of schemes for rural amalgamation, submarginal land retirement and moratoriums on new farm land development until demand warrants increased production, must be investigated, (f) food supplements should be available to the hungry, (g) community health centres should be provided to overcome the shortage of rural medical care and (h) pre-school, school, drop-out adult and teacher education facilities should be of the best national standards.

(4)   What has the Government (a) planned and (b) done to (i) assess and (ii) meet these problems in Australia.

Mr Nixon - As Acting Minister for Primary Industry, I supply the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1)   Yes.

(2)   Evidence such as unemployment, social services and vital statistics indicates that there are considerable differences between, the rural situation in Australia and that in the United States of America. The Commission's enquiry was a detailed investigation of United States conditions and its findings could not be expected to be applicable to Australia.

(3)   This would appear to be a reasonable summary of some of the findings and recommendations of the Commission.

(4)   The aim of the Government's overall policy for agriculture has been to ensure the economic welfare of the rural industries and those associated . with them in country centres. Within the powers of. the Commonwealth under the Constitution a wide range of measures and concessions has been implemented over the years with this aim in view.

By means of continuing industry surveys and other methods the Government keeps itself fully informed on the economic situation in the various rural industries. The rural sector is being assisted to adapt to changing circumstances through such measures as the Marginal Dairy Farm Reconstruction Scheme and the Rural Reconstruction Scheme which have been brought into operation in conjunction with the State authorities concerned.

Active steps have been taken to give support to the wool industry in its present critical situation through the operation of the Australian Wool Commission and the introduction of a deficiency payments scheme for the 1971-72 wool clip. The wheat, dairy, dried fruit and apple and pear industries are or will be assisted under stabilisation schemes.

The Government will continue to give consideration to further measures to assist primary producers through the present difficult period. At the same time, however, the limitations imposed by the heavy overall demands on available resources and the national economic problem of inflationary pressures must be kept in mind.

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