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Tuesday, 22 October 1974
Page: 1853

Senator WOOD (Queensland) - Senator Walshcast a reflection upon farmers in Queensland when he suggested that poverty stricken farmers in this country are Queensland farmers. As has been mentioned by a Government senator, a great number of Queensland farmers are employed in growing sugar cane. I say without fear of contradiction that the sugar cane farmers of Queensland are engaged in possibly the most efficient sugar industry in the world.

Senator Keeffe - They do not use superphosphate.

Senator WOOD - I am speaking of the reflection cast by Senator Walsh in referring to poverty stricken farmers in Queensland. It is very nice to have a crack at Queensland but I want to defend Queensland's farmers. Over a period of years they have developed the most efficient sugar industry in the world. Many people from sugar industries in other countries visit Queensland to find out just what is being achieved by the sugar industry there.

Senator Keeffe - It is good only because it was set up by Labor governments.

Senator Mulvihill - It was set up by Forgan Smith.

Senator WOOD - Forgan Smith did not set up the sugar industry. Forgan Smith was a Premier of Queensland.

Senator Mulvihill - He is the man who consolidated the industry.

Senator WOOD - He is not the man who consolidated the sugar industry. The sugar industry has been going for many years. Over a period of years the accumulation of knowledge, science and inventions has played a very great part in developing a very efficient industry. The result is that farmers, through scientific investigation, research, experimental stations and the finding of new types of cane, have produced an industry which gives a very great tonnage per acre. But, importantly, it is growing a type of cane which gives an excellent yield of sugar per ton of cane. As a result, some of its extraction methods are of world importance because of their great efficiency. It is efficiency not only in the field but also in milling that has made the Queensland sugar industry the most efficient in the world. The extraction of sugar per ton of cane and the crop grown per acre have produced an industry of which we as Australians should be very proud.

Senator McAuliffe - Do you not give any credit to the soil in the Burdekin Valley? - Senator WOOD- It is not just the Burdekin Valley that does all this. The conditions about which I speak prevail right over the State of Queensland. For the benefit of the honourable senator, my own district of Mackay is the largest sugar producing area in Australia. There is no argument about that. All parts of the State have played a very important part in developing this efficient industry. I defend the industry. When an honourable senator from another State casts aspersions on farmers in Queensland, people who are probably more in the grips of poverty than any other farmers in Australia, I just want to throw it back in his teeth and say that Queensland sugar farmers have produced the most efficient industry of its kind in the world. In addition, through their inventiveness on their farms they have developed sugar cane cutting machines in which factories have taken an interest. The industry has developed over the years from the days of hand cutting to the present time when practically all the cane is cut by machinery. Improvements have been made with more inventions.

Furthermore, the industry has brought about a greater degree of efficiency in the handling of its sugar. It has progressed from bagged sugar to bulk sugar. What would have taken 3 weeks to load into a ship at one time now takes one day. So the industry from the commencement of the production of crops has become, through experimental stations and developments in planting, growing, cutting and milling, an industry of which not only Queenslanders but Australians should be proud because within the State of

Queensland we have developed the finest and most efficient sugar industry in the world.

Senator WALSH(Western Australia)-Mr President, I seek leave to make an explanation.

The PRESIDENT -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.

Senator WALSH - In reply to Senator Wood, let me say that I believe what I said concerning farmers in Queensland. I believe that I said 2 things: Firstly, that there was a great number of low income farmers in Queensland and, secondly, that average net farm income in Queensland is lower than it is in Western Australia. I know the latter to be true. I believe the former to be true. I am open to correction on that. If the former is not true and there is not a number of low income farmers in Queensland, I do not know what they have been complaining about. Secondly, Senator Wood has inferred that I regard poverty as being some sort of moral offence. I want to make this perfectly clear: I regard poverty as being an economic and social disability, not as being a moral offence.

Senator WOOD(Queensland)-Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation.

The PRESIDENT - Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?

Senator WOOD - Yes. I did not say anything about poverty in the way that Senator Walsh just said.

Senator Cavanagh - You did.

Senator WOOD -I did not imply that at all.

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