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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 1943

Mr McVEIGH (Darling Downs) - The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Keogh) never ceases to amaze me. Members of the present Government when in Opposition always blamed the Commonwealth Government for not looking after nursing homes. As soon as this Government took office it blamed the States. I suggest to the honourable member that his time would be much better spent in trying to solve some of the industrial disputes which are holding up the supply of such things as nails and other building materials. If this were done the Queensland Government would be able to build homes.

Today I wish to draw to the attention of the House some matters which are causing much resentment among many people. People are angry and disturbed at the rejection by the Labor Cabinet of the wheat industry's request for a Commonwealth contribution of Sim, backed by $500,000 from the States and $500,000 from the wheat industry, for the purposes of research into live insect control on grain and protection from cross infestation from grain in flour mills, provender mills, stores, and such produce as the humble pound of rice held in corner grocery stores.

Mr King - The Government promised it.

Mr McVEIGH - The honourable member for Wimmera is quite correct. I thank him for his contribution and I will develop his line of argument further because it coincides with my own. The export regulations stipulate that there be a nil tolerance of insects, moths and weevils, in all grain exported. Indeed, Australia and Australia's farming community have a reputation for cleanliness and hygiene in this regard which places Australia in the forefront of world exporters. Today I pay tribute to the officers of the Australian Wheat Board, the. various State handling authorities and their employees, for their meticulous attention to detail in carrying out their duties. But the vast amount of money expended by them can come to nought if their efforts are to be frustrated by cross infestation from the enterprises I referred to earlier. The cost to the Australian Wheat Board of fumigation for insect control last year was $1,222,911, or 0.434c a bushel. An analysis of the figures will show that there has been a disturbing increase in costs in later years.

There is an alarming situation in the grain industry because of the breakdown of malathion which up to the present time has been widely and successfully used as a grain protectant. Based on a phosphorus compound, malathion has been successful in minimising and controlling live insect damage. Unfortuately there is no other protectant in the pipeline to take its place so the industry, alive as always as to its responsibilities, believes it to be imperative to practise hygiene on the farm, in industry and in shops for the purpose of minimising cross infestation.

The industry agreed to a suggestion by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) - we congratulate him on his initiative in bringing the matter up at a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council - that there be an involvement by the Commonwealth with the State governments and the wheat industry for the purpose of having premises capable of cross infestation kept free of insects. It was to be a two-pronged attack - the grain handling authorities keeping their storages clean, treating the grain on receival and adopting good housekeeping techniques, as they do at present, with their efforts supplemented by Government help and participation in areas causing cross infestation. This was a reasonable proposition. After all, no one would expect the farmer to keep the corner store and the flour and provender mill premises clean. As I said earlier, this scheme had the approval of the Minister for Primary Industry. In fact, although there was a working committee from New South Wales analysing the position, the Minister planted the idea in the minds of members of the Agricultural Council. They took up the challenge and industry also appreciated the point of view put to it. The industry realised that it was essential to keep grain free of insects in order to maintain our reputation for top quality produce.

This is a serious problem and, as stated previously, once malathion breaks down the industry will be in chaos so far as controlling insects is concerned. Much research is being done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation into grain storage and, incidentally, the industry contributes some $340,000 a year to help research programs initiated and being carried out by that body. But in the prevailing circumstances the best plan of attack is to destroy conditions amenable to the buildup of infestation, thus keeping grain storages insulated from infestation from outside hot bodies.

The Minister appeared to be eager to get things done but he has got everything into a mess. Obviously Cabinet refused to listen to him and to the honourable, member for Riverina (Mr Grassby). The tragedy of this is that one of our great export industries will be placed in a difficult position. I am thinking particularly of the long term when, as inevitably as night follows day, the world's market places will be controlled by the buyer, and produce no longer will be brought but must be sold. Drastic action has been taken against rural industry by the Federal Government. It appears to me that Labor members who represent rural areas thought, in their enthusiasm after their election, no doubt in moments of dreams and journeys into fantasy land, that they would be pioneers in search of land to clear. All that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has given them to tend is a small kitchen garden. The Prime Minister might think it is good to follow the global swirl of high policy but let him remember that Australia still depends upon primary produce to keep it viable. I lay down the challenge to him that the Country Party will fight against the devilry at present ranged against rural producers by the Labor administration.

I bring to the attention of the House as an example of this devilry the savage increases imposed by the Federal Labor Government on the overdraft advances made to the Australian Wheat Board. For years the Australian Wheat Board has operated on an overdraft account which allows farmers to receive a first advance to help them pay their bills and to help keep local business people in business. The Rural Credit Branch of the Reserve Bank has made money available and it is paid back when payments for wheat sold are received. The previous rate of interest was 5 per cent but this Labor Government has increased it to 7 per cent. I want to know where Labor members who represent rural areas stand in regard to this matter. It is all right for them to say that the first advance has been increased by 10c a bushel but the net result of this savage increase in interest rates will downgrade the return to the average farmer by upwards of 6c a bushel.

Mr King - Where is Mr Grassby now?

Mr McVEIGH - Mr Grassby comes in here and talks a lot but when he should be counted the golden voice remains silent. To make matters worse, the interest rate on Government backed loans to the Australian Wheat Board which are to be redeemed by 31 March, following the crop year, has been increased from 5i per cent to 7i per cent.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order!The honourable member's time has expired.

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