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Transcript of doorstop interview: Brisbane: 5 March 2004: sugar industry.



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PRIME MINISTER

5 March 2004

TRANSCRIPT OF THE PRIME MINISTER THE HON JOHN HOWARD MP DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, BRISBANE

Subjects: Sugar industry.

E&OE…………………………………………………………………………………….

JOURNALIST:

Prime Minister, any advance there tonight sir?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, the purpose of tonight was for me to hear from a representative group of millers and canegrowers about their concerns. I’ve indicated that the Government will provide further assistance. I want to hear more from people tomorrow in both Cairns and Mackay. I’ll be meeting a large group in Mackay to hear, on the ground, from growers and their families about the challenges they face. We’re going to bring commonsense principles to this. We want to help a group of people who are in a predicament largely through the behaviour of others and through corrupted world markets, but we also have an obligation to use the taxpayers’ money wisely and we have to find a fair balance between those two considerations. We want to help the industry and we know how heavily dependent so many communities in north Queensland are in particular, and in Queensland generally, and they’re in a situation that’s largely not of their own making. But we do have to see further reform and restructure, so we’re going to try and put all of that together. And after I’ve talked more to the people on the ground, we’ll go back and mull it over and try and come up with something that’s sensible.

JOURNALIST:

Have you got a timeframe…

PRIME MINISTER:

Oh, look, I’m not going to commit myself to any days or weeks, except to say that we’ll respond as soon as reasonably possible.

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JOURNALIST:

When you visit north Queensland, do you expect to see the same kind of (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, I don’t really mind. I mean, people can express their views. This is a democracy. I don’t mind if people want to hold a placard up and people want to give me a bit of advice. That’s part of the robust Australian democracy. I’ve never feared that and I’ll listen to people

and I’ll try and hear their concerns, I will hear their concerns. It’s a difficult situation. A lot of communities are doing it tough. It’s not their fault, largely. It’s the rotten corrupted character of the world market in sugar that’s caused this problem and I feel for them. But equally, we’re not going to send money down the drain. We’ve got obligations to taxpayers

as well.

JOURNALIST:

Have you got any comments on Sir Joh at all?

PRIME MINISTER:

I beg your pardon?

JOURNALIST:

Any comments on Sir Joh?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well, I think everybody would feel for his family at a time like this and send their prayers to them. Thank you.

[ends]