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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 383

Senator BOSWELL —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. He would no doubt be aware of the desperate plight of the sugar industry whereby thousands of people's livelihoods are threatened and the economy of many northern New South Wales and Queensland country towns is in danger of collapse. In view of the fact that the Minister is largely responsible for organising Federal Government assistance of $326m for the car and steel industries, I ask him whether he would be prepared to use his considerable influence in Cabinet to help secure a floor price of $240 a tonne for the sugar industry. As the situation in the sugar industry gets worse every day, will he explain when and how the meaningful assistance promised by Mr Hawke before the last election will be implemented?

Senator BUTTON —As Senator Boswell may or may not be aware, while the motor vehicle and steel industries are primarily within my responsibility, the sugar industry is not. Much of the responsibility for the current situation in the sugar industry rests with the Queensland Government. However, over a period the Government has given some consideration to the plight of the sugar industry. An official has just passed me a note which brings me up to date on the consideration which has been given to the problems of the sugar industry. In discussions with, amongst others, some Queensland Government politicians I have been aware of an appreciation of the reality and the causes of the crisis in the sugar industry. That appreciation is lacking in some of the wilder suggestions contained in Senator Boswell's question.

Senator Boswell —It was a very easy question.

Senator BUTTON —It was a very easy question, but I do not have a very easy answer because the problems of the sugar industry will not be resolved by producing a wad of notes such as the Opposition promised in the election campaign before last as the final solution for that industry's problems. I will not dwell on those problems at the moment. I will direct the question to the Minister for Primary Industry who is essentially responsible and provide Senator Boswell with an answer as soon as possible.