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Transcript of interview: Country Hour: 10 February 1993

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David Gee - The Coalition has been trying once again today to shore up its support base with canegrowers. The Coalition's industry spokesman, Ian McLachlan, has been meeting with sugar leaders in Brisbane today, apparently finalising details of the Coalition's much awaited sugar tariff policy. The pressure's on the Liberals and the Nationals to come up with the goods after a favourable industry reaction to the

Federal Government's decision last week to freeze proposed tariff cuts. An announcement of the Coalition policy was expected this week but it appears to have been delayed further while Ian McLachlan and Shadow Primary Industries Minister, Bruce Lloyd, hold further talks with industry. Well to find out the state of play after this morning's round of meetings, we're joined now by Ian McLachlan, and to speak to him, Canberra correspondent, Robyn McConchie.

McConchie - Thanks David and good afternoon Mr McLachlan. Have canegrowers convinced you that the Coalition policy of negligible tariffs by the year 2000 is electorally damaging for the Coalition.

McLachlan - I think it's true that the Government's had some success in that area but as I've said before, and Mr Lloyd's said, and other people have said, we're re-looking at that policy and we think that we will be able to put an attractive package together which will encourage canegrowers to support us.

McConchie - Well the Industries Commission has said the tariffs were worth about $2,700 to each Queensland canegrower and $8,000 to New South Wales growers, or 60 cents a tonne. I believe an analysis of Fightback shows that it's worth less than 60 cents a tonne to canegrowers. Would you be prepared to pay some sort of compensation in lieu of tariffs.

McLachlan - Let's just get back to that Fightback analysis. You are right that the analysis has been done by the canegrowers and I'm told that it will be released this week. I'm not sure that the figures are exactly as you say but by the very nature of any analysis of the benefits that we're providing through Fightback they have to be positive. I mean they couldn't possibly be anything but positive. And we'll have to wait, and I am assured that they will come out this week, because we've been asking for that for some time, I'm assured that they will do before the weekend. So there will be a great benefit, or certainly benefit to canegrowers as there was to the woolgrowers, the wheatgrowers and of course to the cattle growers in the analyses that have already been done, and the dairy farmers.

So I mean you can be sure that will be a benefit. But quite separate from that we are looking at all of the aspects, contrary to some of the things that have been said, we're looking at all of the aspects of the sugar industry, we're looking at the tariff, we're looking at the pooling arrangements, we're looking at the infrastructure difficulties, the re-financing of some of those problems



McLachlan - And we're looking at the most important thing probably of the whole lot and that is how to get confidence back in an industry that's had a terribly rough time and what measures can be taken to make sure that that comes to pass.

McConchie - Well you still obviously haven't decided what you're going to do about tariffs but it would seem that negligible tariffs by the year 2000 is still Coalition policy.

McLachlan - It is still Coalition policy and we've said that in the interests of consistency, it's across the whole of industry. And I mean in all these analyses that are done even for farming industries people have come up with the conclusions that

the reduction of the tariffs helps the farmers, I mean it's a benefit to them and it obviously helps other people as well in other industries. I mean it is a tax, it's a tax that goes to Government and is a cost. But that doesn't mean to say that the issue of tariffs is locked away in a cupboard and won't be addressed. I'm saying that all of these issues will be looked at and addressed, but when we address them we'll let you know.

McConchie - Well would you be determined to push for an end of acquisition and the pooling system, areas that the Government package has retained for at least the next few years in compensation for some deregulation of the assignment system.

McLachlan - The acquisition thing I think is a quite different issue, well it's obviously a different issue from the pooling system, but the acquisition of the crop which is legislated by the Queensland Government is really a matter for the Queensland Government and we don't think that from this point that it would be very easy to deal with the Queensland Government on that issue. It is not the major issue at the present time in regard to users and so forth, the tariff is probably the major issue. And the major issue in regard to whether or not the industry expands is probably the issue of pooling.

McConchie - Mr McLachlan you called for the Sugar Task Force to be publicly released. Why aren't you calling on the horticultural industry, the dried fruit growers, to release their Fightback analyses, or maybe you're just a bit too embarrassed that they won't prove good news for the Coalition.

McLachlan - Well I haven't heard what they are. I mean I'm quite happy for anybody to release, I'm saying that the Task Force, I mean the Task Force is a quite separate report from the analysis of Fightback. The Task Force report which Mr Courtice chaired and Mr Crean's got locked up in a bottom drawer somewhere, that's a separate report. I mean I have no idea why that's not been released unless there are some things in there that are embarrassing the Government. But in fact as I say, the other analysis which has been done by the canegrowers, which is the analysis of Fightback, will be released this week and I'm delighted.

McConchie - Thank you very much for your time. Ian McLachlan, Shadow Minister for Industry.