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Tuesday, 11 October 1983
Page: 1605

Question No. 63

Mr McVeigh asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 4 May 1983:

(1) Has the Government given consideration, as promised, to an industry loan to the (a) Queensland and (b) New South Wales sugar industries.

(2) If so, what are the details.

(3) If no consideration has been given, what is the reason and when will such consideration be given.

Mr Kerin —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1), (2) and (3) I announced on 7 June that in relation to the question of short term assistance to the sugar industry the Government will provide $10m to Queensland and $1m to New South Wales for dollar for dollar matching by these two States to permit the extension of $22m in carry-on loans to the sugar cane industry under Part B of the Rural Adjustment Scheme (RAS).

Prior to the March 1983 Federal election the Australian Labor Party undertook to give sympathetic consideration to a loan to the sugar industry or underwriting of the 1982 crop. It did not, as has been suggested by some, indicate it would adhere to the promises made to the sugar industry by the previous Government. The present Government gave careful and sympathetic consideration to the proposal for an industry-wide loan before coming to the decision that the proposition was unacceptable.

The expected size of the budget deficit in the current financial year has forced the Government to rigorously prune its expenditure and the industry request for a loan to No. 1 Pool, which at its minimum level reached $47m, was simply too great for the Budget to absorb. Also the loan proposal did not meet the Government's criterion that industry assistance should be directed to those most in need. Small growers would have received only around $2,400, while growers in the 12,000 tonne category would have received around $15,000. To provide meaningful assistance to smaller cane growers through an industry wide loan would have inflated the total sum required to even more untenable levels.

By providing money through the carry-on provisions of the RAS, canegrowers who have real prospects of returning to viability are able to be assisted with a higher level of carry-on funds. For growers needing debt reconstruction the Government has provided a substantial injection of funds into Part A of the RAS with around $5.5m available to Queensland and $8.6m available to New South Wales . For growers contemplating leaving the industry, RAS household support is also available. In addition, under National Disaster Relief arrangements some $30m would have been paid to Queensland by the Commonwealth for disbursement as flood and drought relief in the financial year just concluded. Many canegrowers, particularly in central and southern areas of Queensland have had access to this facility.