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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1537


Mr LINDSAY —Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of concern expressed by cane growers with respect to the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission's draft report on the sugar industry?


Mr KERIN —Cane growers in Queensland and New South Wales, but particularly in north Queensland, are concerned by the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission in its draft report on the sugar industry, as would be anyone who had some knowledge and understanding of the sugar industry and who had any sympathy with the plight of sugar growers in their present economic situation. But I am pleased to report to the House that cane growers are not concerned by the Government's attitude. The Government, from the Prime Minister down, has made its position very clear on this question. It was reinforced in Cairns at the weekend. The cane growers are most concerned by the Queensland National Party-and the National Party of Australia in general-and its distortions, misrepresentation, mistruths and gobbledegook and lack of knowledge of the industry. The tired old flabby Government that has Queensland and its economy in such a mess is spreading a lot of nonsense that indicates its great lack of knowledge of the sugar industry. This quite amazes the sugar growers. To coin a saying, if you look like a crow, fly like a crow and squawk like a crow, you will get shot like a crow. That is what will happen in northern Queensland in particular on 22 October.

Over the last couple of weeks I have spoken with the Queensland Cane Growers Council, the Australian Sugar Producers Association Ltd, CSR Ltd, the Proprietary Sugar Millers Association Pty Ltd and the Co-operative Sugar Millers Association Ltd. I have spoken with sugar producers in Mackay, Cairns, Herbert River in Ingham, Bundaberg and Ayr in company with my colleagues the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Gayler) and the honourable member for Herbert. They all know exactly what the Australian Government's attitude is on this question. They are not the least bit concerned about our stand at all. What they are concerned about is not just the nonsense and mistruths being spread by the Queensland National Party but the fact that there are indications that that Party does not understand what it is all about. Statements have been attributed to members of the opposite side which quite clearly indicate that they do not understand what is involved in the International Sugar Agreement-both the existing one and the one which we are trying to negotiate. They are very worried about some of the statements made by the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries. I will not go through the speech I made the other night during the adjournment debate. But just to give honourable members some flavour, I mention a Press release I have here from the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries. It states:

Mr Ahern, said . . . the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Bowen, the Minister for Minerals and Energy, Senator Walsh--

he was not really the Minister involved at all-

and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Hayden, all had indicated that the Government strongly supported a need to protectionism for Australia's primary industries.

'Three very senior Federal Government Ministers are advocating exactly what's contained in the IAC report,' Mr Ahern said.

There is no way one can read the recommendations in that IAC draft report and say that they allude in any way at all to protectionism. Quite the contrary; the report proposes deregulation. The Queensland National Party cannot read. It just does not understand what is in the report. The Queensland Minister also referred to a speech by the Foreign Minister. He said that the Foreign Minister had referred to what he called 'the over-protected geriatric insulation' applying to the primary industry sectors. First of all, the quotation is not accurate. Secondly, when the Minister was using words roughly of that nature he was referring to secondary industries. The Queensland Minister for Primary Industry has so taken the comments by my colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt out of context that the Queensland Minister's remarks are actionable, defamatory and-I know I am not allowed to use a certain word-very mistruthful.

I have sheaves of telexes here which clearly indicate that the Queensland National Party and the National Party in general do not understand the sugar industry. Cane growers are most worried about the latest bit of nonsense, that which came through this morning-a call by the Queensland Minister for the Federal Government to increase the domestic sugar price by $40. Again, he just does not seem to understand that there is a formula. The price was increased on 1 July of this year. When I told the Minister about three weeks before the increase was coming through that it was coming through, he immediately raced off and put out a Press release saying that there would be no increase. The main thing cane growers are worried about, of course, is what the honourable member for Dawson stated in an article published on page 6 of the Daily News on 2 August 1983. The article is headed 'New call for Ord sugar'. The cane growers are very worried about that. The honourable member for Dawson has sought to make an explanation. The cane growers are not quite sure what he said and are really worried about why he did not bother correcting it until we twitted him about it last week. Again, this is another indication that the National Party, even at the Federal level, does not understand the sugar industry.