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Wednesday, 17 October 1973
Page: 2301

Mr WHAN (Eden) (Monaro) - We have just heard a classic example of the Liberal-Country Party approach to the electorate. It is: You establish an image of what must be ahead and then attribute this as a fact that is accepted by government and then condemn government for it. The electoral image that the Opposition parties are creating will in the end be their own destruction. They have no positive policies. They condemn the public expenditure embodied in our Budget because, as we now know, they are financed by big business and it is for them that they speak.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! I ask for silence during this speech. The honourable member for Bradfield was heard in complete silence. I ask that the same courtesy be extended to the honourable member for Eden-Monaro and I intend to see that he gets it.

Mr WHAN - The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) obviously did not read his political journal this week. The 'Sydney Morning Herald' had an editorial condemning the gulf that has widened between this Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The reason for this is that they have different views on the referendum on incomes. But we heard the honourable member for Bradfield say tonight that there is almost complete union. The Opposition wants it both ways. The domination of the Opposition by big business is excelled only by the Opposition's inability to grasp the fact that it is not in government. Let us consider the claims that have been made by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who said that the superphosphate bounty will be lifted by the Government and that Colonel McArthur will be sacked as the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board. They are wonderful predictions. They are categorical statements about what the Government will do. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), posturing on the steps of Parliament House last week, confidently predicted that the Government had decided to make a senator Minister for the Capital Territory because, as he said, this man would be the hatchet man. Once again a spokesman for the Opposition made a fatal mistake. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr

Anthony) confidently predicted that the Government would impose a meat tax. Not only that, he is reported to have said: that having once applied a tax and finding it did not work the Government would keep increasing it in an attempt to make it work.

It is this sort of fabrication that leads the Opposition into these stupid mistakes that it made in the Senate when it removed 0.6c from the proposed export tax on meat. It has now placed in jeopardy the entire brucellosis and tuberculosis campaign. The American importers are now wondering what new devilment, what new uncertainty is being introduced into the meat market by the people who are supposed to be the champions of the country men. The question of 'Where will this money come from?' is now well worth asking. As a result of the actions of the Country Party and the Liberal Party in the Senate money V be gained from the export tax which was to have been used to pay for the brucellosis and tuberculosis campaign is now not available. Why is it not available? Herein lies the fatal flaw. The ex-Minister for Primary Industry, the honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair), was able to encourage his confederates to drop this 0.6c tax because they made an incredible mistake. They got their facts wrong once again. They based their calculation on the weight of carcass meat. A Country Party ex-Minister did not realise that when we export beef we export a great deal of it boneless and therefore the export weight is considerably lighter than the carcass weight.

Honourable members interjecting-

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I will make one more appeal for silence. If it is not forthcoming someone will miss the important debate in the morning. I can assure the House of that.

Mr WHAN - Mr Speaker, I have obviously struck a raw nerve. The Opposition has made its mistake. Its homework was faulty and it has once more placed another element of uncertainty in the meat industry. Firstly, the Opposition parties are the ones who were entirely responsible for creating the uncertainty associated with the meat export tax. Secondly, they have now created uncertainty in regard to the brucellocis and tuberculosis campaign. Honourable members opposite are the people who are causing mischief in the country. This will become known and understood before any election campaign can possibly get under way from this point on. This mischief is causing serious doubts among leaders of the farm industry.

We have heard of the proposal to introduce a program for the elimination of weevils from wheat. The Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) had never at any stage given an undertaking to take this proposal on board. At a meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council he was asked to give such an undertaking and he answered:

I cannot give you that undertaking because this is a matter which will have to go before Federal Cabinet.

He said that he appreciated the opportunity to spell that out. The Australian Wheatgrowers Federation - egged on by the Country Party - refused to allow inspectors on to properties to inspect stored wheat on the farm. I put it to you, Mr Speaker: How can any infestation program, a program designed to eliminate the activities of weevils, work if a great proportion of the wheat crop cannot be seen by the inspectors, the people who are involved in the elimination of weevils? This condition alone was enough to destroy the credibility of that campaign. The Country Party's position in regard to the meat industry has been enough to destroy its credibility. It is almost now as low as it was when it was in government.

We see yet another attack on a very useful innovation introduced by this Government, and that is the opportunity for industry groups to put their point of view to the Government and to hear the point of view that is being placed by other industrial groups. That opportunity was given to the farm industry for the first time by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Prices which was looking into meat prices. Now the Country Party has chosen to use that Committee as a vehicle for short term political advantage. Naturally the Government must seriously consider whether it will revert to the confidential manner of obtaining advice by the use of interdepartmental committees on which industry groups could not get the opportunity to put their point of view let alone hear the point of view of other industry groups and the evidence on which government might come to a decision. This behaviour in regard to the Prices Committee inquiring into meat prices has attacked the very basis on which this Government has established its open government and the very basis on which it has given industry groups the opportunity to approach government and to put their points of view.

The stupidity of such behaviour has been motivated by the blind fury of these people.

In a mindless attack on the Government, the Opposition has become abusive. It has made mistakes and it has revealed the basic weakness that caused it to lose government. The Oppostion fails to do its homework, lt is negative. It has opposed off-shore legislation, assistance to local government and isolated children's grants. What positive policies does the Opposition have? Opposition members accuse us of being anti-social. Let the farmers hear it. Let the farmers remember the wheat stabilisation schemes and all the other price stabilisation programs and the Australian Wheat Board. Let the farmers remember that these people on the opposite side of this House condemn us because they say we are socialists.

Mr TURNER(Bradfield)- Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.

Mr SPEAKER -Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr TURNER - Yes, grossly misrepresented. The honourable member for Eden-Monaro has just referred to me as a member of the Country Party.

Mr SPEAKER -If the honourable gentleman is offended I will ask for a withdrawal.

Mr Whan - I withdraw, Mr Speaker.

Mr TURNER - It is most embarrassing, because my friends in the Country Party are just as much upset as my friends in the Liberal Party are confused.

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