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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 298

Senator BJELKE-PETERSEN(10.10) —When the debate on the Sugar Agreement Bill was adjourned yesterday, I was drawing the Senate's attention to a statement made on 18 January 1985 by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin). The Minister said that across the board assistance was shown to be overly expensive, undirected and largely ineffective in helping those growers in need.

However, Mr Kerin also said that farmers cannot necessarily expect special treatment and any aid that may be given would be based on the interests of the whole of society, not just sectional interests. So even though in times of high world prices for sugar the industry earned valuable export income and provided the nation's consumers with subsidised sugar, now the industry is in its current plight, it is told: 'That is just too bad'.

The sugar industry is presently asking for $80m which is far less than the money that has been made available to the steel industry, namely, $176m and also more than the $150m that has been given to prop up Australia's car assembly plants. A total of $326m was given to subsidise these industries in other States, while the plight of Queensland's sugar industry is largely being ignored. The industry is asking for $80m to secure its viability during this crisis. When one thinks of how so many people on the land-not only sugar producers-are not even able to meet costs of production, let alone make a profit, as I think I told someone yesterday, I think one could truly say that Australia's rural population is in danger of becoming the new poor in the 1980s. It seems to me that not too many Australians would like the idea of working from daylight to dark, in some cases seven days a week-this applies particularly to those in the dairying industry-to receive a return which in so many cases these days does not even meet costs.

Some 20,000 Australians are employed directly in the sugar industry with an indirect flow on to another 100,000 jobs, all of which are presently being affected detrimentally by the problems of the industry. Yesterday Senator Macklin in his speech said that the growers were encouraged by the Queensland Government to grow more sugar. As I understand it, it was the mills that encouraged the growers to grow more sugar. The plight of the industry is such that I am sure everybody realises great help is needed for it. Over the years it has provided so much in export earnings for Australia. I place on record my dissatisfaction with the way in which the Labor Government has dealt with the sugar industry and I urge the Minister to reconsider his position in this matter. I support the Opposition amendment.

Amendments (by Senator Jack Evans)-by leave-proposed:

(1) After 'the Hawke Government' in the words proposed to be added, insert: 'and the Bjelke-Petersen Queensland State Government'.

(2) Leave out 'its', insert 'their'.