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Thursday, 25 October 1973
Page: 2743

Mr KERIN (Macarthur) - I have a poem for honourable members, with apologies to John O'Brien. It reads:

We'll all be rooned' said Anthony

In accents most forlorn,

Outside the House ere Question Time,

One frosty Tuesday morn.

The Country Party members stood about

Coat-collars to the ears,

And talked of stock, and crops and drought,

As they had for twenty years.

It's looking crook', Mac Holten said,

Bedad it's crook me mate.

For never since the banks went bad,

Have seasons been so great'

It's wet all right' said Brucey Lloyd,

With which astute remark.

He rolled right over on his soid

And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran,

It's keepin' wet no doubt,

We'll all be rooned' said Anthony,

Before the year is out'.

The crops are big, you'll have to work,

To get them harvested and stored.

From here way out to back o' Bourke,

They're wanting bigger Fords.

The cockies want us' Kingey said,

But not one dam is dry,

The Country members scratched their head

And gazed around the sky.

There's too much grass in any case,

Too much for sheep and cows,

There's too much grass on Sinclair's place.

As I came down just now.

The rain must stop soon' said McVeigh,

And cleared his throat to speak,

We'll all be rooned' said Anthony.,

If the rain don't stop thi' week.'

A heavy silence seemed to steal,

On all at this remark,

And each man squatted on bis heel

And chewed a piece of bark.

We want a drought we do,'

O'Keefe observed at last,

But Nixon said they wanted two,

To put the danger past.

If we don't get drought and locusts. Bracey,

Or behave like Samin' louts,

We'll all be rooned' said Anthony,

Before the year is out.'

The reason I have just burst into verse is that I am overjoyed to learn that the farmers' income in the coming year is to rise by some SI, 000m. The thought of this strikes gloom into the hearts of honourable members opposite, but I am very happy. On a serious note, I know there are many qualifications one can put on this but coupled with figures now becoming available of changes in the structure of rural debt, it simply cannot be denied that things overall are a lot better than they have been for a long time.

Mr O'Keefe - We have bad-rain.

Mr KERIN - That is right. Estimates put gross income in the rural sector up by SI, 201m in the coming year with net income up by S986m or an increase of some 52 per cent. As honourable members opposite say, the big change is mainly due to the seasons and the markets overseas. This looks good on the surface but it is not evenly distributed and we accept that; it is only representing short term stability. Flexibility in rural industries is very desirable but exceptionally hard to achieve. But again talking of the overall situation - talking more in the macro - in an article in the latest Australian 'Quarterly' written by Mr J. B. Paul that is largely critical of the Government, the writer states:

The Cabinet's ready adoption of the 25 per cent tariff cut contrasts oddly and rather sadly with its watering down of the recommendations on reduction of assistance to rural industry put forward by the task force headed by Dr H. C. Coombs to appraise critically policies inherited from past governments. The two decisions taken together amount to a redistribution of income in favour of primary producers on a scale which Country Party Ministers were unable to match while in office as coalition partners of the Liberals; though with McEwenite policies in the ascendant there was Utile likelihood of such policies being adopted even if favoured by the Liberals. Hence the political reactions to these decisions, especially to the tariff cut, provided a great deal of amusement. In their unaccustomed role as revisionists of Australia's high tariff orthodoxy, the Labor Party could claim to have become more truly a free enterprise party than its avowed free enterprise opponents; yet Mr Snedden accused them of implementing a socialist policy. Of course his situation was awkward: it was not so much as if the Labor Party had stolen the Liberals' clothes while they were bathing, for the Liberals had never bad the guts to wear those particular clothes; Labor had simply taken them unworn from where they had been hidden from view under a protective layer of moth balls.

The major primary industry in the electorate of Macarthur is dairying and there are very few dairy farmers who are actually ecstatically happy with the Budget. They are worried mainly about the phasing out of the free milk scheme for school children which will cause a 4 per cent drop in sales which will not be regained for at least a year. However, there are some countervailing factors. They are not so concerned about the dropping of the investment allowance and the accelerated depreciation allowance because, quite simply, they have never been allowed to produce all the milk they can in the safest area of the State.

The main problem they face is with respect to arrangements within the State which at present the Liberal-Country Party Government of New South Wales is poking down their throats. Ja a situation where their farms are becoming too valuable to farm in any case, they are alarmed that negotiability of quotas is to cease and that transferability will not be allowed. They were conned at the time of the extension of quota arrangements to take in the whole State. The deal was that they were to get one-third of the increase in the basic milk quotas from an increase in overall demand, with two-thirds going to the new zone. Due to the genius of the Country Party in New South Wales, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, Mr Crawford, recently admitted in the New South Wales Parliament, in answer to a question from Mr Maliana, M.L.A. for Campbelltown, that. New South Wales actually imported 3 million gallons of milk last year, some 700,000 gallons going to Canberra. He also admitted that spot checks had shown that there was added water, bacteria and antibiotics in the supplies.

This is the situation dairy farmers face in my electorate. They are not allowed to produce all they can or to have access to a fair increase of the metropolitan market close by, and yet they must tolerate imports of milk from Victoria. Farmers are completely dissatisfied with their organisation which has become a political tool and recently 35 out of 55 members of one local branch of the New South Wales Dairy Farmers Association resigned at one meeting. Before I leave dairying, I should simply like to say that I thought the butter and cheese subsidy should have been phased out over 4 years and not 2 years and that the 2-pool plan will be the best plan for dairy products in general, so long as more positive incentives can be provided for the production of other products. The Australian and South Australian Governments at present are co-operating in a project in this regard and the process being developed will flow through to the Dairy Produce Board. The project concerns a butter vegetable oil spread which will be patented.

The allocation in the Budget of $47m for rural reconstruction was particularly welcome and before people swallow too much of the gloom opposite, it is instructive to learn that interest rates are still at 4 per cent with 6.25 per cent being charged for farm build-up loans. Of this finance, 60 per cent will be used for farm build-up in the coming year and recently there has been no rush of farmers for reconstruction money. Since its inception 2 years ago, some 3,433 farmers have been assisted for reconstruction and 1,485 have been assisted for farm build-up. Some $154m has now been voted towards the scheme and it is essential that this scheme should continue. I hope that the Government will continue to concentrate on schemes of this kind and the Industries Assistance Commission Bill with which the House dealt the other day was further evidence of this. I am sure that the Australian Country Party will find that it is as out of step with some rural organisations in opposing this Bill, as it was in opposing the tariff cuts. At least the honourable member for Corangamite (Mr Street), the official Opposition spokesman on primary industry, has realised the potential advantages of the plan.

I am pleased to see that the allocation of money to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics has been marginally increased, not only because I may need to get a job there again one day but also because of moves within the Bureau to establish an enlarged marketing analysis function.

Mr Calder - You can go there right now.

Mr KERIN - No, it will be about 1990, I think. Producing primary products is not the major problem in many industries so much as selling them. Marketing is not just selling and there is an enormous amount of work to be done in respect of classification of products, responsiveness of market demand and the need for market information. Too much of the work of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics at present by necessity is devoted to out of date statistics, and valuable as such work is, I believe that its move into marketing analysis is very praiseworthy. Time will not allow me to speak on some of the economic matters involved in trying to minimise price movements, but the costs of marketing immediately are apprehended by all primary producers. For example, only 2.7 per cent of the price of a $70 wool suit sold in 1971-72 went, to the producer.

One primary industry that will be affected by the decision to wipe the 20 per cent investment allowance and the accelerated depreciation allowance will be the broiler industry. At a time when we need to produce all the meat we can, it is absurd to say that a 3 per cent depreciation rate is realistic for broiler growers. To a broiler grower the shed is his farm. Given the requirements of the integrators there is no way that a shed will last for 33 years. I can only trust that the Treasury will give sensible consideration to my submission for a more realistic 6 per cent to 7i per cent rate of depreciation. The broiler industry is still trying to unite to gain the protection of the government. I am afraid the States will still not be sufficiently in agreement with the Australian Government to act at the next Agricultural Council meeting.

The Trade Practices Bill which, I suppose, will be rejected by the Opposition in the Senate, will provide a decent basis for broiler growers to negotiate contracts that are real contracts and give equity to the grower to allow him to have his investments protected. Integration is a process of primary production that probably is here to stay for quite a while and has aspects to recommend to the overall community. But the basic element of distrust that is inevitably present in the arrangements means that some form of agreement arising out of negotiations needs to be established. If agreement cannot be reached, there is need-

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Scholes) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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