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Sugar industry.

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AFFA03/240WT - 10 September 2003

Sugar industry

The sugar industry will be disappointed that the Beattie State Government has decided to walk away from the industry in these difficult times, Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today.

Mr Truss said the Beattie State Government has always claimed that it strongly believed deregulation and legislative reform is essential for the future survival of the sugar industry.

"All the legislation regulating the sugar industry is Queensland Government legislation, and I have always stressed that any changes to the Queensland Act are ultimately a matter for the Queensland Government to determine," Mr Truss said.

"The Beattie Government does not require Australian Government approval to pass its legislation. It does not need the Australian Government to hold its hand to push legislation through a State parliament in which Labor has a record majority.

"The Federal Government recognises the need for industry reform, but we have always had concerns about the radical deregulation plans proposed by the Beattie Government.

"While the State Government has subsequently been prepared to make some concessions, long delays have occurred because of the unwillingness of Queensland Government Ministers to engage the industry in order to achieve an agreed reform program.

"The budget-strapped Beattie State Government seems to be looking for any excuse to walk away from its financial commitment to the sugar industry.

"The Federal Government has demonstrated its good will to the industry by getting on with its share of the responsibilities under the Sugar Industry Reform Package.

"The Coalition Government has already paid $17.4 million in assistance to farmers and harvesters as income support and interest rate subsidies.

"The Industry Guidance Group has delivered its blueprint for the future to the Federal Government, and six Commonwealth-funded Sugar Executive Officers are in place in the sugar belt to work with industry at a regional level on a range of reform measures.

"It is still not too late for the Beattie Government to introduce its reforms from 1 January 2004 in time for the next harvest beginning in mid-2004, but the State Government will need to hold prompt discussions with

industry and make appropriate amendments to its flawed legislation."

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433