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Thursday, 1 March 1973
Page: 181

Mr O'KEEFE (Paterson) - 1 should like to extend through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, congratulations to the honourable member for Sydney (Mr Cope) on his elevation to the Speakership of this House. I congratulate you, Sir, on your appointment as Chairman of Committees. I also congratulate all those honourable members who have made their maiden speeches in this AddressinReply debate, particularly my colleague, the honourable member for Fisher (Mr Adermann), whose father the Right Honourable Sir Charles Adermann, P.C., was a member of this House for 29 years and who as a Cabinet minister held the portfolio of primary industry. In the present honourable member for Fisher we have a very worthy successor in our Country Party team.

I was amazed to hear the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) say in this debate tonight that he was delighted to see that primary industry had figured very prominently in the Governor-General's Speech. I had a good look through the Speech and 1 found it extremely difficult to discover any mention at all of primary industry. I found that 15 lines were devoted to primary industry, 7 of which related to the Australian Wool Corporation, 3 to fisheries and 5 to general assistance to primary industry. So, I do not think primary industry received much attention from this Government in the Speech. When I note that primary industry is responsible for earning $2,500m of export income, it amazes me to see how little thought is given to this important industry by the present Government. In my experience since I became a member of this Federal Parliament very little attention has been given to primary industry by members of the present Government

I should like to address my remarks tonight mainly to decisions made by . the mini Cabinet. That mini Cabinet made some decisions which will have far-reaching effects on Australia. They may np,t be felt at the present time but they certainly will. $e. felt very severely, economically and nationally, as the months and years, go by. The first- decision to which I refer . is the, recalling of our Ambassador in Taiwan and the return, to.. Taiwan of the Taiwanese Ambassador in Australia. What was the need for hurry? There was no need to 'hurry in severing our relations with these loyal people - none whatever. Taiwan has had a wonderful relationship with Australia. The 15 million people on Taiwan do as much trade each year as their 800 million counterparts in Mainland China, and while this trade continues Taiwan will remain very much a going concern.

Mr King - What about our .exports to Taiwan, including barley?

Mr O'KEEFE - We export to Taiwan large quantities of Australian primary produce. In 1970-71 our exports of primary produce were worth $40m and last year they- were worth 855,734,000. They included barley, wheat, wool, powdered milk, beef and many other primary products. I am particularly interested in this trade because I represent a very rich dairying electorate. The loss of export markets could mean that the producers in my area could lose at least $2m in trade in the powdered milk field. Two-way trade wilh Taiwan is of great benefit to Austrafia. Our export trade could be endangered by the Government's action in breaking off diplomatic relations with Taiwan. I know that great play has been made of the supposed loss of our wheat trade to Mainland China, but Mainland China has always bought wheat when she has needed it. Six or 7 years ago Mainland China purchased SI 00m worth of wheat. That figure came down to $63m. It has gone up again. Mainland China has always purchased our wheat when she has required it, irrespective of the influence of Taiwan. It is interesting to note, too, that the communist controlled countries Mainland China and Russia have great, difficulty in getting their government farmers to grow grain and hand it over to the government because farmers,, being what they are. do not like handing over their produce when there is no incentive for them to do so. In the factories there is an incentive for workers to lift production. Another action of the miniCabinet was the severing of diplomatic relations with Rhodesia. In 1971-72 we sold to Rhodesia 45,384 tons of Australian wheat valued at $2,443,000; Now we are not trading with that country and there will be a loss to Australia and to the Australian wheat farmer.

The revaluation of the Australian dollar by the mini Cabinet was certainly a severe blow to Australian mining, manufacturing and primary industries. Let us look at the loss sustained by our industries in the revaluation process. In mining there was a loss of $143m in February plus a loss of $100m in December and $l,000m has been written off the value of Australian iron ore. Let me refer to manufacturing industries. Taken in conjunction with the effective revaluation of 6.3 per cent in 1971 and the more recent unilateral revaluation of 7.05 per cent in December 1972 Australian exporters are now faced with the fact that in the worst instances their products must be 23.5 per cent more expensive in some overseas markets than similar products exported by the United States of America.

Let us look at the immediate effect that revaluation has had on our great primary ^industries. The effect has not yet filtered through to the cities but it could do so and no doubt it will do so. The December upvaluation cost primary producers from $150m to $200m. As all honourable members will have read in the Press, the Wheat Board announced recently that there would be a loss to growers in this industry of $ 18.5m on outstanding contracts. Cotton contracts are written in United States dollars, and Australian growers face a crippling loss of $5m. This industry which has been developing so wonderfully in the Wee Waa district of New South Wales will feel the effect of this revaluation tremendously. Revaluation could seriously affect this industry that has been developed over the past 5 years and which has brought great benefit not only to the north west of New South Wales but to the whole of Australia. Overall the loss to primary industry caused by the 2 revaluations could not be less than $300m and could even be as much as $400m. In my electorate pf Paterson the extent of the loss will be from $6m to $8m in the various primary industries spread over an area of 25,000 square miles.

No doubt the Labor Government will say that the revaluation of the dollar has occurred at a time when our primary producers can best stand it because of the high prices being obtained for their meat and their wool. It appears that the Government has completely forgotten the great droughts that have occurred in this country' over the last 3 or 4 years when our primary producers have lost stock, when they have had to sell all they had on their properties to get some return, and when poor prices have prevailed in the industry for many years and thousands of farmers have been in poor financial situations. Now, when they have an opportunity to recoup their losses and gain financial strength, they are faced with a considerable percentage loss in income. Primary industries are indebted to the banking institutions for millions of dollars. This revaluation has hit them. At a time when they have an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and their finances every obstacle is' placed in their way. Our great country towns and provincial cities are seriously affected by the incomes of primary producers. The agricultural machinery manufacturing industry, the manufacturing of trucks and cars, steel fabricating and many similar industries all feel the immediate effects of the economy of the country districts. Whether the Government or its industrial supporters like it or not, this is a fact. It is a great tragedy., to these industries that, when they are getting out of the trouble they have been in, they are hit with revaluation. The only industry in- the primary sector that the Government has helped over this trouble has been that which produces apples and pears and canned peaches and apricots. '

Mr Lloyd - Fair go. It has not. :

Mr O'KEEFE - One of my .colleagues says that it has not but my information is that the Government has given that industry some assistance. It has certainly given no other primary industry any assistance for losses suffered through revaluation: In answering a question recently at a Sydney luncheon the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said that the Government did not have any compensation plans at this stage but that every case could be looked at on its merits. It is to be hoped that the Government will look at these industries on their merits and will give assistance in some instances before it is too late.

I want to say something about meat exports. A few weeks ago, after we had gained valuable contracts for the supply of beef to the United States of America, we found that ships in various ports were tied up because the waterside workers refused to load meat for the United States of America. That situation went on for about 10 days. The abattoirs throughout our nation had meat stored in their chillers. 1 am the chairman of a very big abattoir which had 10 or 12 chillers completely filled with frozen beef for the United States. All the stores at the waterside in our capital cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and other exporting cities were filled with beef. A very serious and dangerous situation arose. Hie sales of cattle in the country areas started to go down. Hie operators did not want to buy the stock because they could not load it for overseas destinations. What did this Government do? What did the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) do? They did absolutely nothing; they let this situation exist and endangered our trade relations with the United States of America. They jeopardised 400,000 tons of beef. Thank goodness the situation was rectified and the meat was able to be exported to that country. This situation could arise again at any time. Right throughout the meat industry there is a very uneasy fee ing with this Government in power, not attempting to do a thing to get our produce away from our ports.

Mr Lloyd - It is uneasy right through the country.

Mr O'KEEFE - Yes, the feeling is uneasy right through the country. I have been delighted to bring these facts to the notice of the Government and I hope that some attention will be given to them. It has been a great pleasure to speak in this debate.

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