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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2232

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Is the Minister aware that because of the extreme difficulties the sugar cane industry in Queensland is experiencing, with losses of up to $7,000 on an average crop of 3,500 tonnes, many of the 30 crushing mills in Queensland are in jeopardy of closing down, the majority being smaller producers, unable to survive the drastic losses? Will the Minister indicate whether the Government would give consideration to providing further financial assistance to this industry so as to avert what is looming as a national disaster?

Senator Grimes —Put the rail charges up.

Senator WALSH —I think the actions of the Queensland Government are bankrupting some coal producers, but as far as I know they are not bankrupting sugar producers. I will certainly pass the request on to Mr Kerin. It is a fact that last year very substantial loan funds-I think the maximum was up to $30m, although I do not guarantee that figure; it is only my recollection of it-were provided in loans to sugar mills because of the economic problems that then prevailed. Although I do not follow the situation very closely these days I think that those economic problems still persist. I am not sure of the source of the actual figure that Senator Bjelke-Petersen quoted, that there was a loss of $7,000 for a cane farm producing 3,500 tonnes of cane. I do not know how those figures have been derived and I can pass no comment upon their veracity. As far as I am aware no formal request has been received for additional assistance this year, but I will have that checked out with the Minister and an answer supplied.