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Notice given 21 August 2001

3843  Senator McLucas: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—

(1) Has the Commonwealth Government, via either the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and/or their respective offices and departments, received a submission from the Queensland Tobacco Marketing Co-operative Association Limited, titled ‘Queensland Tobacco Industry Restructuring Requirement’, after a request from the Federal Government to hire a consultant; if so: (a) when did the Commonwealth receive that submission; (b) what is the nature of the submission, and in particular what is requested of the Commonwealth by way of restructuring assistance; (c) has the Commonwealth responded to that submission; if so, what is the nature of the response; and (d) if the Commonwealth has not yet responded to that submission does it intend to do so; if so, when might that response be expected.

(2) Does the Minister acknowledge that the Queensland Government has spent over $45 million to assist in the restructuring of the Queensland tobacco industry in three separate adjustment schemes since 1987-88.

(3) Can the Minister advise how much the Commonwealth Government has spent to assist the restructuring of the Queensland tobacco industry over the same period, and can the details of that expenditure be provided in terms of financial year and specific projects.

(4) (a) How much did the Commonwealth raise by way of the excise on tobacco products in the 2000-01 financial year; (b) how much does the Commonwealth expect to raise by way of the excise on tobacco products in the 2001-02 financial year; and (c) are there any forward revenue projections in this area for the 2002-03 financial year.

(5) In view of the answer to (4), is the Commonwealth Government prepared to fund a restructuring scheme for the tobacco growing industry along the lines the Queensland Tobacco Marketing Co-operative Association Limited has proposed in its submission, from the revenue it receives from the tobacco products excise; if not, why not.

(6) With reference to a media release dated 24 July 2001, in which the Minister made the following statement, ‘Around $40 million has been provided for the tobacco industry adjustment on the Atherton Tablelands over the last 8 years…’: (a) is this Commonwealth Government or Queensland Government money that the Minister is referring to; and (b) if any part of it is Commonwealth money, can details of that expenditure be provided both in terms of financial year and specific projects.

(7) With reference to the announcement in the same media release that British American Tobacco Australia (BATA) is now prepared to offer to purchase a million kilograms of tobacco leaf from North Queensland in the 2002 season: (a) is that amount of leaf for one season only or has BATA given a commitment to purchasing that amount of leaf in subsequent seasons; (b) if the answer to (a) is that the purchase of leaf is for one season only, how does the Minister expect the industry to survive in subsequent years given previous announcements by BATA that it will cease purchasing leaf from North Queensland; and (c) what may have induced BATA to change its policy in regard to the purchase of leaf from North Queensland, given that BATA had announced on 21 June 2001 that it would not be purchasing leaf from North Queensland in future.

(8) Can the Minister advise whether there was any meeting or communication between 21 June 2001 and 24 July 2001, between either the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and/or the respective officers and departments, with BATA on the matter of tobacco leaf purchases from North Queensland; if so: (a) what was the nature of that communication; and (b) was any inducement or concession offered by the Commonwealth, or any of its representatives, to BATA to change its position from that expressed on 21 June 2001; if so, what was the nature of that inducement or concession.

(9) With regard to the offer by BATA to purchase up to one million kilograms of tobacco leaf from North Queensland: (a) is it true that this quantity, when added to the quantity already offered to the Queensland Tobacco Marketing Co-operative by the other tobacco manufacturer, Philip Morris Ltd, represents less than 35 per cent of the productive capacity of the existing tobacco growers in North Queensland; if so, can the Minister explain how any North Queensland grower is supposed to achieve viability from the growing of tobacco leaf this season; and (b) if the Minister does not agree with the 35 per cent figure quoted in (a), can he advise what he considers the actual figure to be and explain how he arrives at this figure.

(10) With reference to the media release dated 24 July 2001, which the Minister made the statement, ‘I assure tobacco growers and their communities that the Federal Government will continue to take all necessary steps to assist those in genuine need’: (a) what ‘necessary steps’ are being contemplated; (b) how much money is involved; (c) when can a public announcement be expected which sets out details of the Government’s plans; and (d) how does the Minister define ‘those in genuine need’.

(11) With reference to the media release dated 24 July 2001, which states that, ‘Mr Truss also noted the lack of any substantive support from State Governments for the tobacco growers during their recent difficulties’: how does the Minister reconcile this statement with the payments made by the Queensland Rural Adjustment Authority on behalf of the Queensland Government in the 2001-02 financial year to Queensland growers who participated under what are referred to as ‘Option 2’ and ‘Option 3’ of the Queensland Tobacco Assistance Package 1997.

(12) Would an increase of 5 cents a packet per year on total tobacco consumption over 3 years satisfy the restructure amount required by the North Queensland growers based on their submission noting that the Federal Government receives 20 cents per cigarette.

(13) Did Ministers Anderson and Truss instruct the North Queensland farmers to put in a submission to the Federal Government justifying the exit package, after negotiations between BATA, Philip Morris and the Federal Government broke down.