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Thursday, 20 September 1973
Page: 1316

Mr FitzPATRICK - My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the urgent need to expand food and fibre production, will the Minister indicate whether rural credit facilities are at present adequate to meet the needs of producers to expand to feed our own people and to meet the needs of our own markets?

Mr GRASSBY - It is quite right, as the honourable member says, that there is a need to expand production of food and fibre at the present time. When the new administration took office, not only was the bank accommodation zero for many farmers but they were in deep debt. The other point is, of course, that the national cupboard was bare. We were short of a whole range of commodities, and there is a need to increase production to meet the whole range of food and fibre needs of the nation. I have just recently with the Minister for Primary Industry and the Treasurer had a look at credit availability in the rural sector, and it would seem to be about S350m at this point. It is not possible to quantify exactly the amount of unused rural credit, but as at 12 September the major trading banks held Slim in their farm development loan fund accounts, which together with repayments to the funds is available to meet drawings against loan approvals. At the same date in their term loan accounts there was $43m, about a quarter of which would be. available for application in the rural sphere.

The Reserve Bank also announced in July that it would be arranging to supplement these funds in this month of September. In addition to all this the honourable member for Darling and the House will be interested to know that a large amount of undrawn overdraft approval is available to the rural sector. The latest figures available show that the amount involved is $259m. On top of that, of course, there has been made available by the Government a special fund of S20m to the Commonwealth Development Bank. In addition, under rural assistance, S48m has been made available nationally. I would submit that this is a considerable volume of rural credit at the present time. It does not mean to say that that is the end of the initiatives in this important sector. I have had a special interest in it for a long time, and the Treasurer, the Minister for Primary Industry and I are continuing to look at even further supplements to the figures I have given to the House.

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