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Wednesday, 8 November 1967

Dr PATTERSON (Dawson) - Mr Chairman,I move:

At the end of the clause add: 'subject to the agreement being amended to provide for a nonrepayable grant of financial assistance of $13 million to the State of Queensland'. lt is obvious from the. remarks made by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) that he does not come from an electorate in a sugar producing area but represents a heavily populated part of Brisbane. I was very happy to hear his contribution to the second reading debate. 1 issue to him a cordial invitation to go north in the next few weeks and repeat the remarks that he has made in this chamber tonight. They will certainly assist the Australian Labor Party.

The Minister for Air (Mr Howson), as Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), asked: Why should the Government change the principle of payment? In other words, why should it revert from an interest bearing loan to a non-repayable grant? In the first instance, an interest bearing loan is completely discriminatory against the sugar industry. Last year, an interest bearing loan of $19m was made to assist the industry, and this will entail an interest payment of $6m. This season an interest bearing loan of up to $ 15m is to be made, and this also will entail the payment of a large sum in interest. Over the last 21 years, a total of $700.2m has been paid to the dairy, wheat, wool, meat and cotton industries in the form of non-repayable grants. Whether or not the dairy industry should have received $573m in that period by this means is irrelevant.

The point is that the sugar industry, over the same period, has received nothing in the form of non-repayable grants. Yet, when that industry is in trouble, as it certainly is now, the Government will provide it only with interest bearing loans, and these have to be repaid. The point that the Opposition is making is simply this: If it is good enough for non-repayable grants to be made to the dairy industry and to the wheat industry for stabilisation and research, to the wool industry for promotion and research, and to the cotton industry - in the form of a bounty - surely it is good enough for the sugar industry to be given a non-repayable grant when it is in trouble because of expansion of the industry on the one hand and a reduction in the residual world free price on the other.

Previously, only 20% of total production of the Australian sugar industry was sold at the residual world price. If peaks had remained at 1.6 million tons, the sugar industry would have been in a reasonably comfortable position. But 70% of its total exports now have to be sold on the residual free market, and this represents 50% of its present total production. This is the reason why the industry is in trouble and why, in proposing this amendment, we ask that the Government should follow with respect to the sugar industry the same practice as it has adopted for all other primary industries in the past - the payment of non-repayable grants. In the last 10 years, $43 3m has been allocated to other primary industries in the form of non-repayable grants, but the sugar industry has received nothing. These are the reasons why the Opposition has proposed this amendment. We seek for the sugar industry the adoption of exactly the same procedure as is adopted by this Government in relation to other primary industries.

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