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Monday, 23 September 2002
Page: 4620


Senator BOSWELL (Leader of the National Party of Australia in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Regional Services) (3:17 PM) —If there was ever anyone who was successful in rural Australia, whether it be in sugar, wheat or any other industry, you can bet your life that the Labor Party will attack them. Dick Honan is a great Australian. He provides a lot—


Senator Hutchins —And a coalition supporter.


Senator BOSWELL —I don't know who Mr Honan votes for, but I would be very surprised if he voted for the Labor Party. Very few people in rural Australia will vote for the Labor Party. That is why their vote out there has absolutely collapsed and they now have to go back to the fall-back position of propping up Independents and passing their preferences on to the Independents because they acknowledge that they are just not in the race in rural Australia. Some of the votes out there, that are as low as 18 per cent or 19 per cent, indicate and confirm that. But if there is anyone that ever sticks their head up as being a success in rural Australia you can bet the Labor Party will put the boot in. Dick Honan has a sugar plant and a refinery. He has very many industries in rural Australia that support rural production, farming and farmers— whether it be through sugar, starch or other commodities that he buys from farmers. So he should be congratulated on what he does for rural Australia.

I am not sure that Honan is the leader in ethanol production. I would have thought Power Alcohol was. Power Alcohol in Sarina has been there for 40 years and has huge productions of ethanol. Rocky Point also has an ethanol mill. The owner of that mill is not a mate of Mr Howard's, I can assure you; he is a mate of the National Party and been a member all of his life—and most people are.


Senator Forshaw —If you are a National, you are not a mate of the Prime Minister!


Senator BOSWELL —Most successful people in rural Australia have an association with a political party.


Senator Forshaw —You're smart!


Senator BOSWELL —But you guys just seem to think that, if someone supports the party, the coalition will bend around them. That is wrong. Of course, now there are a number of sugar mills that are putting ethanol plants in—and they have to be mates of the Prime Minister, too! There is no doubt about it, if there is a factual or conspiracy theory, then the Labor Party will always back the conspiracy theory. There are five or six ethanol plants that I just mentioned; there could be more around Australia. I think there is one going up in Dalby at the moment. I do not know whether the owner of that plant is a mate of Mr Howard's, too. But according to you guys, anyone that has an ethanol plant has to be a mate of the Prime Minister—that is absolute nonsense.

You can also bet on one thing in the Labor Party: if an industry is down on its knees, the Labor Party will come in and kick it hard. The government is trying to put together a proposition, a plan, a package to try to save the hard-pressed sugar industry that is down—not because of its own fault but because of high subsidies in America, the EC and Japan, where they are paying 21c to a farmer to produce sugar; whereas our farmers are getting 6c a pound on the world market—and the government is trying to support them. But you can bet your life that the opposition will come in and try and garrotte the plan that the government is putting forward.

There is $350 million going into the sugar industry. What does your spokesman for primary industry do? The same week that we put the plan in he gets up and says that the coalition has abandoned the sugar industry. That is an absolute nonsense. It shows that you do not understand rural industries; you do not understand how the bush works. The bush understands that you do not understand. You only have the old guys, the old battlers out there, who have always stuck to the Labor Party through loyalty; but they are a dying race out there. Your vote will be 18 per cent next year. You then fall back on the Independents and prop them up, because you cannot get a sufficient vote. It is really sad, because when the industry—


Senator Hutchins —What about Farrer?


Senator BOSWELL —In Maranoa, the Labor Party gets something like 20 per cent and the coalition gets about 80 per cent. It is really sad that, when a government tries to bend its back to try and help not only the farmers— (Time expired)