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Tuesday, 20 September 1994
Page: 1009

Senator MICHAEL BAUME (5.40 p.m.) —I was not going to enter this debate, but I have just heard such nonsense that it needs a response. I am totally opposed to tobacco smoking; I do not smoke and I agree that it does a great deal of damage. That is not the issue before the chamber. The issue is whether those opposite want foreign tobacco to be killing people or locally produced tobacco to be killing people. That is the issue here.

  This government would rather import tobacco to kill people than have it grown here. That is the simple, uncomplicated issue. As I said, I am opposed to smoking, but I think it is incredible that someone like Senator Burns, who represents, allegedly, the state in which he is destroying the livelihood of these people, should get up and talk such nonsense. Bringing in this business about wanting to stop the consumption of tobacco, therefore we should destroy the livelihood of hard working Australian farmers, is simply a non sequitur. That means it is stupid. The simple issue is whether we are going to have a continuation of a government that is determined to destroy primary producers in Australia—

Senator Burns —Save lives.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —It has nothing to do with saving lives.

Senator Burns —Yes, it has.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —Senator Burns obviously has great difficulty understanding a simple proposition. By destroying the tobacco growers in Australia we do not reduce by one leaf of tobacco the amount of tobacco consumption in Australia. Senator Burns cannot grasp the fact that the vacuum is to be filled by imports. The only reason the Australian industry has been able to survive against imports is as a result of some governmental assistance. The government is now going to take that assistance away. The government wants to replace that domestically produced tobacco—which has benefits, as Senator O'Chee has pointed out—with imported leaf which will not benefit anyone but will involve a drain on our foreign exchange.

  I would expect Senator Burns to be totally in favour of that. In that muddled mind of his he is thinking that if he stops people producing tobacco in Australia they will not import it. He is wrong. It is cheaper to import it. Let us have some rationality in this debate instead of the nonsense we have heard from those opposite. It probably underlines why so many members of the government are so keen to destroy Australian primary industry. They simply do not understand.