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Thursday, 6 October 1983
Page: 1416

Mr BRAITHWAITE —I claim to have been misrepresented.

Mr SPEAKER —If the honourable member is seeking to make a personal explanation, he may proceed.

MR BRAITHWAITE —Early in August, statements appeared in the Cairns Post under the name of the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Gayler) and another appeared in the Townsville Daily Bulletin under the name of the honourable member for Herbert (Mr Lindsay) asserting that when in Western Australia, I had urged the Western Australian Government to apply for an export licence for sugar production on the Ord and inferred my full support for a sugar industry on the Ord. These assertions, or perhaps misrepresentations, I denied by releasing a public statement of my own at that time.

On Monday of this week on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program Morning Extra and again on Tuesday over radio 4TO Townsville, the Queensland Opposition Leader, Mr Wright, made the same statement. This statement is a deliberate misrepresentation. I have not, at any time, urged the Western Australian Government to apply for that licence. Again, in a Press release of the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin) of yesterday's date, the same deliberate lie is repeated even though I was only a Parliament phone call away to explain the proper position to him.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I think the honourable member ought to reflect on the use of the term 'deliberate lie'. I ask him to withdraw it and use a parliamentary term .

Mr BRAITHWAITE —Mr Speaker, I will use the word 'misrepresentation'.

Mr SPEAKER —I thank the honourable member.

Mr BRAITHWAITE —The same deliberate misrepresentation is repeated even though I was only a parliamentary phone call away to explain the proper position. The misrepresentation has been calculated to raise doubts about my credibility both within the electorate of Dawson, which I represent, and in the State of Queensland where sugar producing is an important industry. I wish to refer to certain things that appear in the Minister's statement; I will refer to them one at a time.

First, as shadow Minister for northern development I was reported to have said that sugar can successfully be grown on the Ord. This is true. Sugar cane- incidentally, not sugar-is being grown and has been grown in the Ord River region for the last seven years. This is a fact. Secondly, the Press release stated that I urged growers to get an export licence. In fact, I never spoke to any member of the Western Australian Government or any growers during that visit . I did not and have not urged anyone to apply for an export licence. Thirdly, I am reported as saying:

If an export licence is not granted (for Western Australia sugar), Ord sugar would flood the domestic market at possibly reduced prices.

I said that, if the Western Australian Government was determined to grow sugar on the Ord, it would do so irrespective of what the Commonwealth felt. If Western Australia subsidised sugar to the extent of the millions of dollars that would be necessary then, if denied an export licence and, with the same determination of the Western Australian Government to subsidise sugar production further, sugar could be sold on the Australian domestic market at considerably reduced prices under section 92 of the Constitution. Quoting these statements out of context, as the Minister did, amounts to a very shabby attempt to separate the edited comment from the truth and honesty of my full statement. The Minister's statement goes on:

Does Mr Braithwaite not realise that Australia is party to the International Sugar Agreement, that we are presently trying to negotiate a new international sugar agreement and that any move to put additional sugar on the export market would prejudice our chances of negotiating that agreement and would result in existing sugar producers exporting less.

What I have said in my statement in no way prejudices the International Sugar Agreement talks because I gave no support to the Ord sugar industry. I pointed out to Western Australians that a coalition government in Canberra would not help fund an industry on the Ord. I pointed out also that the major problem in the sugar industry was the world oversupply of sugar and the fact that the world is holding excessive stocks. The Minister, in his Press statement, asked for an explanation. I ask for an apology.