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Wednesday, 20 November 1974
Page: 2572


Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - Labor's unsympathetic, ignorant and discriminatory treatment of primary industries has created unprecedented lack of enthusiasm for production throughout the farming community. It has stifled initiative, slashed incomes, and threatened the traditional means of livelihood in Australia. It has affected not only producers but also business people and the general community in all country areas. In the broader view it has led to disadvantage for all Australians and to the millions in less fortunate countries who suffer from malnutrition or starvation. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Government are condemned by their broken promises, their double standards and their abandonment of principles in almost every area of their administration. The result of 23 months of the Whitlam Government is a recession rivalling, if not surpassing, in severity the depression of the 1 930s.


Senator McLaren - After 23 years of LiberalCountry Party Government.


Senator WEBSTER - The honourable senator would not know the difference between months and years. The inability of socialist Labor to govern Australia is manifest in the highest inflation and the worst unemployment in Australia's history. It is a record of government of which not only Labor but also Australia and its people should be thoroughly ashamed. In no single area is the Government's deceit and failure more apparent than in primary industry. I shall quote extracts from a speech by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) to the Farm Writers and Broadcasters Society of Victoria on 30 March 1973. I believe that these extracts illustrate that deceit and failure. He said:

Recently I said that we don't want the rural sector to become one vast sheltered region soaking up scarce public funds that could be better spent upgrading vital community services that benefit both country and city dwellers. This statement has been wrongly interpreted by some people as meaning that a big axe is about to be wielded to top off all subsidies and other concessions to the rural sector. This is just not so . . . While the axe will not be wielded with gay abandon on existing rural subsidies, it will be my aim to have them critically examined as they fall due for renewal and even earlier, and see where modifications and indeed improvements are desirable.

In the same speech he said:

All Ministers are in Cabinet with an equal voice. If primary industry gets downgraded, it will be because I failed to do my homework or exercise a proper role in Cabinet when presenting my submissions. I have no intention of letting this happen.

When interviewed on the Australian Broadcasting Commission's program 'This Day Tonight' on 1 9 June 1 974 Senator Wriedt said:

I 've initiated most of the moves which have been taken by the Government.

That statement was made in relation to the withdrawal of assistance to primary industry. I shall list the decisions adverse to the rural sector of the community in Australia which the Government has taken. As far back as December 1972 the dollar revaluation upwards of 7 1/2 per cent, the further revaluation in September 1973 and the effective appreciation when the yen was devalued in January 1974 brought total change to about 25 per cent. It would be impossible to calculate this effect on the rural community. On 3 April 1973 the tax on the value of shorn wool was increased from 1.4 per cent to 2.4 per cent. On 22 July 1973 it was announced that the bounties on butter and cheese would be phased out over the ensuing 2 years. The Budget of that year resulted in the discontinuation of the accelerated depreciation allowance on plant which had been set at a special rate of 20 per cent per annum to encourage primary producers to utilise new and upgraded equipment, modernise their production, and bring a lesser cost of production into that area of the community.

In that year the excise on brandy was increased, and it was stated that the duty would be raised in 3 equal annual steps. The Budget also resulted in the discontinuation of the immediate taxation deductibility of certain capital expenditure and the double deduction of expenditure on the clearing and development of land. The Budget also resulted in the discontinuation of the investment allowance, which was an allowance of 20 per cent of the capital cost of new equipment. The Budget also brought about the discontinuation of the annual taxation deductibility for a wide range of capital expenditures relating to primary industry, including internal fencing, the provision of water on properties, and the storage of feed. Those expenditures are now deductible either over 10 years or by way of general depreciation where the expenditure is in relation to a depreciable structure.

That Budget also brought about the discontinuation of the adoption of the special basis for the valuation of wine stocks, and the effect of that has been that wine makers are forced to pay tax on upgraded values of stocks at a nearer point of time. In that 1973 Budget private company tax rates were increased from 37.5 per cent to 45 per cent. In subsequent years private company tax rates apparently will be the rates for public companies. A survey has shown that 14.7 per cent of all properties in the rural zone are conducted as private companies. Of course, equating private company tax with public company tax creates a disparity. Large public companies are able to retain what they wish of their earned profits after taxation while the smaller proprietary limited company is inhibited in its growth due to the fact that it must disgorge at least 50 per cent of its retained profits after taxation. The 1973 Budget meant a reduction in the free installation of telephone lines within a radial distance of 15 kilometres from the local exchange. This distance was brought down from 15 kilometres to 8 kilometres or 4.5 miles. This will cost rural producers some $3m.

There has been an equalisation of charges for telephone rentals for subscribers in country areas. This means that the lesser service which people get in rural areas has been equated with the service given to subscribers in metropolitan areas. There was the introduction of a meat export levy of lc per lb to recoup the cost to the Government of the meat inspection charge. That Budget introduced the levy of 0.6c per lb shipped weight on the export of meat to recoup expenditure on brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication in this country. Also there was an increase in the margin on petrol prices in non-metropolitan areas from 3.3c a gallon to 5c a gallon. There was the loss of the petrol equalisation subsidy which had been paid on fuel distributed in rural areas. That has proved an enormous loss to country people, has inhibited decentralisation of industries and has made the cost of production of food and items which are produced in country areas much higher than it was previously. There was an increase in duty on motor spirits and diesel fuel of 5c a gallon. This cost the rural community some $20m. That Budget saw the discontinuance of the sales tax exemption on non-alcoholic carbonated beverages containing not less than 5 per cent of Australian fruit juice. The effect of that proposition has been quite devastating to certain areas of production, particularly in my State of Victoria. The free milk scheme for school children was withdrawn as from 1 January 1974. The effect of that is still being felt. Undoubtedly like myself honourable senators are getting letters from areas of the various States where there is a lack of proper nutrition asking for that scheme to be reintroduced.

On 17 September 1973 there was an increase in the trading bank interest rate by 1.75 per cent as it affected rural producers. This Labor Government sought and obtained the withdrawal of the concessional levy which had applied in relation to interest rates on borrowed funds for exporters and rural producers. On 30 September 1973 the removal of the export incentive payment and the abolition of the market development allowance for the export of fresh, chilled or frozen meat occurred. Earlier this year, in February, it was announced that the superphosphate fertiliser bounty would expire on 30 December 1974. As at 20 November that picture still continues. There has been no statement by the Minister for Agriculture or by the Labor Party that it sees any wisdom in supporting that type of incentive for production, for efficiency and for lowering the cost of production to rural industry and, henceforth, to food consumers throughout Australia. The estimated cost to the rural sector is well in excess of $500m in any one year.

This figure does not include the imposition, as we understand has been announced in the most recent Budget, of what is proposed as an illdefined unearned income tax, whatever that may be, and of a capital gains tax, whatever that may be. The definition of that cannot be other than a newly imposed death tax which, it follows, will involve the community. There are many other impositions which I could mention such as the reduced educational allowance for taxation purposes and the increased postal charges which have flowed. If one were to add the cost of inflation, which I believe has been a definite aim and objective of this Government to debauch the Australian economy- which it is doing so successfullyit is clear that these will all have an effect on the rural people whom I have mentioned. All these matters have an application to the entire Australian community. Indeed, they will have an effect on those in the world who are seekers of nutrition. We are led to believe that there is such a wide area of the population throughout the world which requires that aid.

Devaluation of the Australian dollar by 12 per cent in September of this year compensated a little for the various earlier upward revaluations. But in the light of the increased inflation during that period this was very insignificant. The September 1974 Budget confirmed Labor's attitude to primary industry. The only significant guarantee in that Budget was that farm costs would increase as inflation worsened. We have seen a situation which the Government is not willing to announce but at least somebody has let it leak to the newspapers. The inflation rate in this community could be approaching 25 per cent to 30 per cent. That is devastating for the whole community. The November 1974 mini-Budget contained an 8-line reference to the important area of primary production in Australia and to an examination of representations seeking help for beef producers. There was no other reference to primary industry. That shows Labor's interest in the rural community.

The damage which has been done by the socialist Labor Government will have repercussions which will be adverse to all rural people for many years to come. Two things must be done. While Labor remains in office the Prime Minister, the Minister for Agriculture and the Government must be encouraged to change their attitudes towards country people and to productive industry. I plead with them to take advice other than that which they have sought in the past years. When things are bad they go to Mr Hawke and come back with an announced policy of what Labor will do. A demonstration of what they have done is the situation in which they find themselves today. While the Minister for Agriculture continues to laugh on the front bench- as he does at the moment- he acknowledges that he has little sympathy for primary producers and little intelligence in the application of what should be done in the interests of the economy at the present time. I say to the people of Australia that at the next election Labor must be removed, never to be given the right to rule this country again.







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