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Federal election: Coalition launches its primary industry policy

ELLEN FANNING: The Federal Coalition has launched its primary industries policy today, promising more tax breaks for farmers and the immediate introduction of laws giving loggers secure access to forests. And it's revealed its handed its Resource Security Bill to the Forest Industry Association which is recommending amendments. Well, which Minister would have responsibility for forests, on a coalition win, is still to be determined, and is the subject of a tussle between Mr Lloyd and his Leader, Tim Fischer. From today's launch in Brisbane, Andrew Sholl reports for P.M.

ANDREW SHOLL: Bruce Lloyd made a straight pitch to his own party's traditional constituency today. On top of the sugar package, which neutralises the Government's plans, the amount of money farmers put away for the hard times that attracts interest, will rise to 85 per cent. There's 20 million more to help sell off the wool stockpile, and a pledge not to raise the tax on growers. Then there's logging, and the confirmation from Mr Lloyd that the Coalition has accepted a page of amendments to its Resource Security Bill from the Forest Industries Association.

BRUCE LLOYD: And they're short of - what do you call them - drafting amendments rather than significant amendments. And they've got, Brazil does some work on it, Pat Brazil. There's no need to be, I don't think, any secret about this, because they have said to us: Look, how good are you with providing what we need to get this investment going? And we said: Look, we've put a Bill in, we sent it to you months ago and we said that's the basis of our policy, that's what we're going to legislate. Tell us what's wrong with it. So they have, and it's only in some detail where that happens, and I see no problem at all in having it ready for very early passage through Parliament after the election.

REPORTER: And the restrictions on woodchips which you're removing, does that mean no time limits and no volume limits?

BRUCE LLOYD: That's right. That has been the case. You see, you have some areas of Australia where there will never be enough volume to establish a mill. If you are to effectively utilise the waste material, which in turn also helps the regrowth in the forest by so doing, now obviously where you have got the ability to have a pulp mill, well presumably it will go to the pulp mill and not be exported because that's the sensible thing to do and there would be a higher return. But you do have to have that critical tonnage before.

Now, it would be silly to prevent a build up in that tonnage by saying you can't export because one day we might have a pulp mill. The best way is to get your developments going, including your private plantations, so that you get the tonnage up.

ANDREW SHOLL: The proposed restructure of the Ministries on a Coalition win demonstrates the importance the joint parties placed on development. Resources and Energy would combine with the Environment to form a super Ministry of Sustainable Development. Tim Fischer, as Deputy Prime Minister and Resources spokesperson, would take the senior job. The Environment Minister would be answerable to him. There's some confusion, however, about the place of the forestry industry. Bruce Lloyd wants it to remain in Primary Industries. Mr Fischer's office, however, says that's not to be decided till John Hewson and Tim Fischer sit down to decide the ministerial carve-up, based on the relative strengths of both parties should they win power.

And this time it's make or break for the Nationals. At this election they face a possible watering down of their vote in the bush, with a record number of traditional seats also being contested by the Liberals. But Bruce Lloyd today sidestepped the question.

BRUCE LLOYD: We have always been the party with the special responsibility, the special representation for rural and regional Australia, and the way we operate our priorities, the way we do get around at the ordinary level in those electorates I think is telling the story again and again, that that's still what we're on about and we are the best people to vote for in those areas.

ANDREW SHOLL: In some of those seats, though, there are high-profile Liberal candidates, particularly Bruce Francis, the former Test cricketer in Richmond, there are a lot of urban people moving into those electorates. What's to say they won't vote Liberal?

BRUCE LLOYD: We have some high-profile people. I don't think you can get any higher profile in the Richmond electorate than the Anthony name, and Larry is performing very, very well in Richmond, so we have our share of those sort of people as well. And remember that when people retire into a regional area they take on some of the values of that regional area, and that's where we come through again.