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S2004/01 - Sugar Industry and the US FTA

Senator BOSWELL (Queensland—Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (3.13 p.m.) —

I did make the statement that sugar, beef and dairy had to be included in a free trade agreement and that we could not walk away from the sugar industry. I made that statement and I reiterate it. The fact is that agriculture did very well out of the free trade agreement even though the sugar industry was very disappointed, as I was. We are not going to walk away from the sugar industry. We know that we have a commitment to the sugar industry, and that commitment will be carried out. But we were not prepared to sacrifice the beef industry, the lamb industry, the seafood industry, the horticultural industry, the cereal wheat industry, the packaged fruit industry, the wine industry, the wool industry, the peanut industry and the dairy industry for one component of agriculture.

We know that we have to stand shoulder to shoulder with the sugar industry. In the party room today everyone from the Prime Minister down—the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anderson, and all the people who represent the sugar seats—said that we will stand by the sugar industry. We certainly have done that, but we are not going to put all those other industries at risk because one industry did not get up. That would be penalising every other rural and regional industry for the sake of one industry, and that is not what we are about. You people think you have found something, like MacGyver, and you come in and attack. If you are prepared to say to the agricultural industries, `I'm sorry but you're all going to go down because we can't get an agreement for the sugar industry—you're all going to have to burn,' then you go out and tell them that. You go out and tell the wool industry and the wheat industry that.

Mark Vaile has done a magnificent job. He has got for our primary industries access to the world's biggest domestic market—the world's biggest market. He has done that and we are going to make about $4 billion. Just think of this. The sugar industry is in trouble—I acknowledge that—but it is in no more trouble than the dairy industry. That is in diabolical straits too. Another couple of hundred million dollars worth of access to the American market at high prices will assist it, and it needs assistance as much as the sugar industry. The lamb industry will have no tariffs. The wool industry will have no tariffs. There is an immediate reduction of five per cent in tariffs on beef within quota.

Those are the wins that we have had, but you want to drop them so that you can have mealy-mouthed access to attacking the National Party. I tell you this: we might not have done too well in the sugar seats but we won the five that we went into. We won them and we won them comfortably. The ALP vote was absolutely miserable in all of them. We had to climb over One Nation and the Katter independents, and we still won because your vote had completely collapsed. If you think you see any chance of ever winning a sugar seat, I can tell you that you are not in the race. We are going to struggle for and provide support to the sugar industry. We have to be innovators on ethanol and innovators on bioplastics and electricity generation. We just cannot allow the sugar industry to go down. Everyone in the National Party and the Liberal Party party rooms is supporting the industry. There will be a package and that package will not be to remove farmers; it will be a package to encourage them to stay.

We are not going to walk out or back out on the sugar industry. We are there to stay with it—we are going to support it and see it through its troubled times—but we are not going to abandon the dairy industry. Today I heard from someone in the fishing industry who rang up and said: `That is the best deal. We could not have got a better deal than we have in this free trade agreement with America.' All tariffs are off. That means access to the largest market. The fishing industry is probably our No. 5 export industry. Do not come in here and ask us to abandon five other industries in support of one. (Time expired)