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Tuesday, 20 September 1994
Page: 1007

Senator O'CHEE (5.34 p.m.) —The problem for the tobacco industry is not a problem of its making. The problem faced by the tobacco industry is one made by the government. Many people in this chamber, and even more in the other chamber—they principally sit on the other side of the chamber—believe that governments create jobs and industries.

Senator Kemp —They create jobs for the boys.

Senator O'CHEE —It does create jobs for the boys, but that is about it. As far as the tobacco industry is concerned, it is destroying jobs and it is destroying jobs because of a deliberate policy initiative of this Labor government.

Senator Burns —What about lives?

Senator O'CHEE —What about lives? I will tell Senator Burns about lives. I will tell him about the lives of young men in rural areas which are being wasted by suicide through the despair which is caused by this despicable government. That is what I will tell him about lives in rural areas. I am concerned about a group of people who have, through their industry and through the efforts of their industry, contributed billions of dollars to this government's coffers. Yet when it comes time for this government to do something decent in relation to the tobacco industry what does it do? It does absolutely nothing. In fact, it does quite the contrary. This government has systematically set out to destroy the tobacco industry in this country.

  The Industry Commission report, as my friend and colleague Mr Katter in the other chamber said, is just about the death knell to 6,000 jobs because that is what is at stake. Yet those opposite fail to understand that real people and real jobs are affected. This government clearly has absolutely no understanding of what it is like to try to keep an industry together in rural Australia.

Senator Burns —You wouldn't.

Senator O'CHEE —Yes. I do know what it is like to try to keep an industry together because I have been protecting rural industries from the onslaught of this Labor government for the entire four years that I have been in parliament. Senator Burns might be disturbed to know it, but I intend to keep protecting rural industries against the onslaught of the Labor government. We can see the rural industries that this Labor government has destroyed. It just about single-handedly destroyed the wool industry and, through its penny-pinching attitude, it is about to destroy the beef industry in this country because it will not provide adequate drought relief. So the Australian herd will be decimated as people sell their stock because they cannot keep it going. That is another rural industry it has destroyed.

  I fought this government all the way on the sugar industry. The sugar industry has what it does because of the work of the National Party, so that is, again, where Senator Burns shows his ignorance of what it is like to try to keep the rural industry together. Yes, I do know what it is like, but unfortunately I wish I did not have to say all these things. I wish I did not have to say I know what it is like to try to keep rural industry alive because I would have hoped that this government would want to keep rural industry alive.

  We have a very simple choice in this country. People are going to smoke. The choice is: whose tobacco are they going to smoke? Are they going to smoke tobacco grown in this country and create jobs for Australians or are they going to smoke tobacco which is brought in from overseas? That is the simple choice. It is as simple as that. This whole matter of the tariff on sugar and market regulation has absolutely nothing to do with the health debate. Nobody can show, and nor is it intended that anybody could be able to show, a demonstrable difference to the health of this country through changing the market regulation of tobacco.

  If people believe that tobacco costs lives, then yes, there are ways to address that. What I am concerned about is the livelihood of people in rural Australia in my home state and just up the road from where I live in Mareeba because they are good people who have paid their taxes, and now the government wants to destroy their industry. All they are saying is, `Just give us back the tiniest fragment of what you have ripped out of our industry.' What will the government do? It will do absolutely nothing. All we are going to get is silly interjections from those opposite. We will not get any help or any assistance. It will be on their hands when this industry dies and when Australia's economy suffers.