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Monday, 26 November 1973
Page: 3829

Mr HUNT (Gwydir) - I want to reply to the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) who, I am sad to say, is not with us at the moment; I doubt whether he was with us before. He is obviously in trouble in trying to defend a situation which is quite indefensible as far as this Budget's effect upon the rural sector is concerned. Of course this was well noted in the New South Wales State elections held only a week or so ago. There was a swing against the Australian Labor Party of up to 12 per cent and it was probably higher in Riverina than in most other parts of New South Wales. I know the feeling of country people as a result of the provisions of this Income Tax

Assessment Bill (No. 5). They feel that they have been deceived. If honourable members look through the Bill they will find that the cancellation of accelerated depreciation allowances amounts to a loss of SI Om at least to the rural sector. The cancellation of deductibility of certain expenses amounts to a further SI 7m and the cancellation of investment allowances amounts to a further SI Om. These shock provisions have caused great despair in the rural areas of Australia. So it is not without some significance that only last week Labor recorded the worst vote that it has recorded since 1932 in the rural areas of New South Wales.

The Minister for Immigration affords himself an enormous task in trying to go out and defend the Government's policies and attitudes towards the rural areas of Australia. I have never heard him so unconvincing about the rural rump of the ALP. As I said in this House once before, the cheeks of the rural rump of the ALP must be blushing as a result of this Budget. The Minister claimed that this Government has now adopted a policy - a collective or a planned policy - for the rural sector; that there is no longer this ad hoc approach to the rural areas. Yet the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) in speaking to the fruit juice industry claimed that he knew nothing about the fruit juice tax. So who has adopted this ad hoc approach to the rural industries and rural producers?

To me one thing is certain and that is that it is not an ad hoc approach to the rural sector, it is a deliberate policy to try to shift resources from the rural sector to the milk bar economies of Sydney and Melbourne and certainly to shift resources from the private sector to the government sector. This is part of the Labor Party's policy. It is no ad hoc policy, it is part of a total plan. It is certainly a result of the Coombs Task Force report, this task force which could be likened to an economic police squad. Its clear guidelines were to make savage cuts in the former government's expenditure policies so as to enable the Labor Government - the Whitlam Government - to implement its socialist program - and the end result is that the rural sector, not only for the fanners but for the townspeople alike, can be described only as brutal and discriminatory.

In the provisions of this Bill which we have been debating there has been a total loss of $140m to the rural areas of Australia. Need

I remind the House of what the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has said about this Bill and the other provisions of the Budget. Perhaps it is not SI 40m contained in this Bill because I think the $140m loss is the total sum of the provision for the Postmaster-General's Department and other areas which were affected by the Budget that was brought down. But let me remind the House that the Treasurer with great frankness and honesty has told us that this Budget represents only phase 1 of the implementation of the Coombs report. We await with some anxiety and fear the implementation of phase 2 and phase 3. This is what is causing consternation in the rural sector. Because of high world prices and the best seasons across Australia since 1964 the people in the farming areas are to enjoy the best incomes they have received since that time. Of course no government can claim - nor can the Minister for Immigration, the honourable member for Riverina claim - that this has been a result of Labor policy.

World markets have never been much better for primary products than they are at present. Just at a time when a government should be trying to encourage the farmers of this nation to plough some of their profits back into improving their properties and their productivity and to increasing production many of the taxation incentives that were available to the rural sector - indeed, to industry generally - have been withdrawn. Then we hear all the screams about high food prices brought about by a shortage of goods. Surely at a time when the Government is trying to stabilise prices and when it is worried about inflation it should be providing incentives and encouragement to the farmers of this nation to produce more food so that we shall have more of those products available to the housewives in the metropolitan areas.

It has been a disastrous Budget from the rural sector's point of view, and this view is shared by the rural community as a whole. It was evidenced in the New South Wales elections of last week when Labor sustained the biggest swing against it since 1932, since the days of Jack Lang. So I say to the worthy men of the Labor Party who are representing rural seats: Get to work in caucus and make sure that these Cabinet gentlemen do not steamroll and walk across the face of rural Australia with policies that will cause harm not only to the farming community but also to the nation as a whole.

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