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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2719

Mr FitzPATRICK (Darling) The honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street) when discussing the estimates for the Department of Primary Industry referred to the total estimated expenditure for all agricultural and rural industries of $295.2m as shown on page 63 of the Budget Speech, which is an increase of $56.4m on the actual amount spent in 1972-73. The honourable member also pointed out that a large part of this estimated expenditure was loan money and had to be paid back. I am inclined to agree with the honourable member that the Budget statement could show more details, and I am inclined to agree with the honourable member's statement that the proposed Industries Assistance Commission should publish an annual list contrasting the various levels and forms of assistance to all industries. I believe that a purpose for which the Industries Assistance Commission will be set up is to ensure that assistance to all industries will have regular and independent public scrutiny.

I believe that this could be more advantageous to the mining industries than to the rural industries. I have in mind the cost of pipelines, wharves, hospitals and this type of thing that the mining companies have to provide in isolated areas, which facilities are used by people besides those who work in the mining industries. Further to that, because of the heavy work in mines many miners contribute to their own retirement fund and are forced to retire at 62 years of age. They have to exist from the age of 62 years to 65 years on the money they have paid in to their own retirement fund. This would save the Government a lot of money. I believe it would be a good thing to have a list published and comparisons made so that we really know where the assistance to industry is going and what the industries contribute themselves.

It seems to me that if anyone has a short memory it is not the members of the Government but it is the Opposition members. We have left behind a series of depressing years under a Liberal-Country Party government when our rural industries had to contend with rock bottom wool prices, give away lamb and mutton prices, badly planned and unfairly applied wheat quotas which had the support of the big companies and the Pitt Street farmers but which forced many small farmers and most of the share farmers off the land and which caused the greatest across-the-board black market that this country has ever known. These were years when millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money were paid out in so-called assistance to our primary industries, though most of it never reached rural communities but went straight to the broker, the banker and the financier. In some years even the weather failed to co-operate and we had some of the most crippling droughts that this country has ever had.

Mr Peacock - You are not blaming us for that, are you?

Mr FitzPATRICK - I am not blaming you entirely for it. All I am saying is that you often see those things travelling together. These adverse conditions brought out some of the finest qualities in the man on the land. In my electorate many farmers and their wives worked in town and their children of teenage and tender age looked after the farms until their parents returned at the weekend. No one should want a return to those cruel days. It should be gratifying for any member to be able to stand in this Parliament under a Labor government at a time when we read every day of increased wool prices and a continuing boom in meat prices. Our wheat, other grain products and sugar are in sharp demand in many parts of the world. It is a time when the man on the land has never had it better and never been more confident of the future of the primary industry. If one examines some of the evidence I think it will bear out some of the statements that I have made. If honourable members examine page 13 of 'The Australian Economy' published by the Treasury in August 1973 they will see, in fact, that as a result of high prices for major products farm incomes after increasing by 27 per cent in 1971-72 will have increased considerably faster than that in 1972-73. The cost-price squeeze on farm incomes which had been evident for more than 20 years was substantially, although not necessarily more than temporarily, reversed in 1972-73. No one would claim that the Liberal-Country Party governments had been breeding Labor Party supporters in the Treasury during the last 20 years. It does not matter how the words are placed, the facts clearly show that after 20 years of cost-price squeezes under a Liberal-Country Party government these have been substantially reversed in 1972-73 under a Labor Party government. If we examine this matter further we can find a better indication of confidence in the rural industry. I refer to a report in the 'Western Grazier' of September 1973. Under the heading Rural land values soar' it states:

Some property values have soared 15 to 20 per cent in north-western New South Wales in the last fortnight.

The report further states:

Buyers of rural holdings include many city professionals, such as building and land developers, solicitors and doctors . . .

If we multiply the percentage figures in that article by the number of fortnights in a year - as members of the Opposition do when they are referring to inflation, by picking the worst period and multiplying it by the number of periods in the year - we see that land values increased by from 375 to 500 per cent in 12 months. Of course that is not the correct way to make the calculation, but if it is good enough for the Opposition it is good enough for me. However this indicates the confidence that some people have in the future of the rural industries. Surely no one would want to invest the amount of money necessary if it was thought that there was no future in the primary industry.

It seems to me that members of the Opposition are always referring to some privileged concession that they had which has been cut out by this Government whereas they should be talking about something that is really of advantage to the primary industries - something that will be consistent. We have an inflationary spiral in Australia at present. Yet in many country areas, because they are not big enough to employ a permanent health inspector, cattle are carted elsewhere for killing - for example, from Lightning Ridge to Dubbo where cattle are killed and the meat is returned to Lightning Ridge where the people have to pay twice as much for their meat because of this type of procedure. We should be trying to make primary industry more viable. We should be cutting out all the false marketing systems and be putting into primary industry something which will be of advantage to the people who depend on that industry for a living. I had a lot more to say on this matter but, of course, time will not permit, so it is no use my starting on other matters unless I can finish what I want to say.

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