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Tuesday, 13 September 1983
Page: 656

Mr GAYLER —What assurances can the Prime Minister give the sugar producers of North Queensland that the Federal Government will not accept the recommendations of the draft Industries Assistance Commission report on the sugar industry?

Mr HAWKE —I can assure the honourable member for Leichhardt that the Government has no intention whatsoever of implementing the re- commendations of the draft report.

Mr McVeigh —It is only a draft report.

Mr Anthony —Is this the final report?

Mr HAWKE —I can understand the consternation on the other side. My colleague the Minister for Primary Industry has already stated quite clearly that these recommendations would be utterly disastrous for the sugar industry. Their acceptance could destroy all that has been built up in the last 70 years. No responsible government could possibly allow that to happen. To the credit of the honourable member for Leichhardt and, indeed, the honourable member for Herbert, they impressed on the Government very forcefully the full implications of the recommendations in this draft report. The simple fact is-this is relevant to the previous question and answer-no industry can be totally deregulated overnight. The pace of change must reflect the economic and social environment in which those industries operate.

I point out that the sugar industry has already suffered grievously in the last few years. In 1981 production in the Innisfail, Herbert River and Babinda regions was cut by floods. In 1982 production in all areas was cut by drought. On top of all that, between November 1980 and October 1982 world sugar prices collapsed by a factor of five. It is only in recent months that the prices in this industry have begun to pick up. It is remarkable in this situation that the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries, Mr Ahearn, described the Industries Assistance Commission as 'a propaganda servant of the incumbent Federal Government'. Provoked by that absolutely inane comment, I remind this House that the previous Government commissioned the IAC report. The reference was sent on 12 November 1982 by the much remembered and fondly remembered former Minister for Administrative Services, the honourable member for Bass, Mr Newman. Prominent in the Cabinet when that reference was sent to the IAC were the former Treasurer and the former Minister for Industry and Commerce. So the present Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were well and truly in the plot to send this recommendation. I hope that the honourable member for Leichhardt and the honourable member for Herbert remember and will remind others that the reference which these people sent to the IAC begins 'whether assistance should be provided to the Australian sugar industry'. In other words, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition-people who purport to have some care for the interests of Queensland, particularly north Queensland-were the ones who gave the IAC its riding instructions, and the IAC dutifully carried them out. But when the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition sent that reference to the IAC on 12 November questioning whether assistance should be provided to the industry, they did not realise that the report would be received by the present Labor Government-a government which is totally committed to the great Australian sugar industry. I remind the House that one of our very first actions was to provide a $11m carry- on loan to help keep in the industry producers who might otherwise have been forced out.

I conclude by saying that the IAC report is totally unacceptable to this Government. This Government will continue in the future, as it has in the six months it has been in office, to prove itself to be a very good friend to the sugar industry of Queensland.