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Monday, 9 December 2013
Page: 1926

Carbon Pricing

Mr CHRISTENSEN (DawsonThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (14:15): My question is to the Acting Prime Minister, and I remind the Acting Prime Minister that Mackay, Proserpine and the Burdekin, in my electorate of Dawson, are some of the biggest sugar growing areas in Australia. What impact will the abolition of the carbon tax have on the cost of producing sugar and how will this improve job prospects in North Queensland?

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (14:15): I thank the member for Dawson for his question. The sugar industry is certainly one of Australia's great agricultural industries. Last year, it exported about $1.4 billion worth of product to the world. We are the third largest exporter of sugar and, for that reason, the international competitiveness of the industry is absolutely critical. Australian sugar growers are the only ones in the world that are paying a carbon tax, the only ones in the world that have their cost base increased every day as a result of the carbon tax. Whether they are buying their water or their fuel, whether they are transporting their products to the market—whatever they do—there is a carbon tax built into the cost of their production. In spite of that load that the Labor Party has put on the industry, the industry has sought to grow its export markets around the world.

The news of the free trade agreement with Korea is particularly important to the Australian sugar industry. Korea is our No. 1 market for sugar exports. The lifting of that tariff immediately upon the implementation of that agreement will be a huge boost to the industry. But, as long as Labor defend their carbon tax, the industry will still have to bear a cost that its competitors anywhere else in the world do not have to bear. On top of that, unlike in other countries, the Labor government imposed the tax on the food-processing sector as well, and that includes, obviously, the crushing industry. It has to meet those sorts of costs as a result of Labor's carbon tax.

The sugar industry has done remarkably well, but it could do even better if Labor got out of the way and voted to get rid of the carbon tax. They have said they do not want it but they will not vote to take it out of the Australian equation. The best Christmas present that Labor could deliver to the sugar farmers of Australia would be to help to abolish the carbon tax and let them get on with building a profitable sugar industry.