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Thursday, 14 November 1985
Page: 2165

Senator JONES —Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the total breakdown of talks yesterday with industry leaders and the Queensland Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Turner, regarding the plight of the sugar industry? Is the Government aware that the Queensland Government decided in advance to abort the Commonwealth Government's offer of grants of up to $150m to assist the sugar industry? What protection can the Federal Government offer to the sections of the industry that are prepared to grasp the help being offered by Canberra and are being refused it because of the attitude of the Queensland Government?

Senator WALSH —Yes, I am aware of the breakdown yesterday of the talks about assistance to the sugar industry due to the intransigence and mean-mindedness of the Queensland Government. I am also aware of the fact that the Queensland Government decided in advance to abort the Commonwealth's rescue operation. I had first heard two or three days ago that that was going to happen. I am advised by the Minister that the protection that the Federal Government offers to the industry is still on the table. I do not know that it will remain there indefinitely but it is certainly there for the time being subject to the Queensland Government agreeing to accept its share-indeed, in my view, something less than its share-of the responsibility, and that is to match with one State Government dollar every $2 that the Commonwealth puts up. In my view, the Commonwealth is being more than generous in making that sort of an offer. Indeed, it would have been generous to make a fifty-fifty offer, let alone a two to one offer.

The Queensland Government was not prepared to accept matching on a one for two basis that Commonwealth offer of up to $150m over a three year period. It will probably be said, if it has not been said already, that the State Government does not have the financial resources. That, of course, is false. The Queensland Government has hollow logs stuffed full of money all over the place, a substantial amount of which-at least $20m or $30m-is in fact Commonwealth money lent to Queensland over a 20-year period for rural adjustment, on-lent to farmers and then recalled from the farmers by the Queensland Government in a period much shorter than the 20 years for which the money was advanced by the Commonwealth for the purposes of the on-lending. The Queensland Government has at least $20m, or $30m stuffed away in a hollow log from that source alone. It is quite untrue to say that the State Government could not afford to match the Commonwealth's offer.