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Tuesday, 20 September 1994
Page: 1005

Senator WOODLEY (5.20 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

Madam Acting Deputy President, I would like to speak very briefly on Industry Commission report No. 39 on the tobacco growing and manufacturing industry. As the Senate would know, the Australian Democrats would probably not be regarded as any great friend of the tobacco industry but I must say that after spending some days in north Queensland and talking to tobacco growers at their request, I had a much better understanding of the situation they face.

  Even though we do not resile from our opposition to the tobacco industry, we have been made aware of the problems facing those growers who, because of the recommendations of the Industry Commission and the actions of the government, are now facing a real problem with regard to their future. They need to make the change from tobacco growing but the question remains: what will they move into?

Senator Kemp —You plan to raise taxes. You plan to raise tobacco excise.

Senator WOODLEY —I have already indicated that. The government's policy, which is supported by the opposition, to reduce the obligation on Australian tobacco manufacturers to have 50 per cent Australian leaf content in cigarettes and other tobacco products manufactured in Australia will eventually force the complete closing down of the tobacco industry in Australia.

  The Australian Democrats are concerned for the future of those growers and their families who need to move into alternative products. We want to see the government making provision for them. In the press release of the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Senator Collins), which came out at the same time as this report, the minister said:

The impending termination of the current industry assistance arrangements together with 35 per cent reduction in marketing quotas over the past two years has introduced major adjustment pressures.

That is a rather nice way of saying that the tobacco-growing industry in Australia is closing down. I am concerned with seeing that we put in place enough time and sufficient support for tobacco growers in north Queensland and Victoria to switch to other crops.

  I want to place on record the fact that the Australian Democrats support those growers who want to shift. I also place on record my appreciation of the very thorough briefing I received from people in the north Queensland area—such as Remzi Muller, Chris Lewis, the mayor of the Shire of Mareeba, and Fred Cattarossi—who helped us to understand the pressures that they face. I also place on record our urging for the government to make such provision for these growers that would enable them to switch to the growing of other crops.