April 19th 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Iraq: winning the peace

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Foreign debt binge threatens economy

Ethanol a solution to air pollution caused lung cancers

Wider focus needed on Murray Darling water controversy

ENVIRONMENT: Federal bushfire inquiry's challenge

TRADE: Safeguarding our $800m wheat contracts

STRAWS IN THE WIND: Why shouldn't everyone have the bomb? / Strategic history / North Korean blackmail

MEDIA: Journalism becomes a commodity

LETTERS: Nationals misrepresented (letter)

BOOKS: Globalization and its Discontents, by Joseph Stiglitz

EDUCATION: Iraq: the view in the classroom

DRUGS: United Nations body slams Sydney injecting room

BOOKS: The Marriage Problem: How our Culture has Weakened Families, by James Q. Wilson

BOOKS: Tolkien's Christianity: J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth, by Bradley J. Birzer

FILM REVIEW: Ned Kelly (2003)

Books promotion page

Nationals misrepresented (letter)

by De-Anne Kelly BE MP

News Weekly, April 19, 2003

Pat Byrne's article "Deregulation and water could be a tragedy for Nationals" (News Weekly, March 22) contains inaccuracies which require correction, and assertions which reflect his political bias.

His selective use of harvester sales as a "key industry barometer", and his implied suggestion that the sales decline is the result of the partial deregulation that occurred in 1996, takes no account of other factors that impact on agricultural machinery sales for the sugar industry - low sugar prices, wet weather, crop disease and drought.

If his "barometer" is a true indication of the health of the sugar industry, then clearly the fact that 80% of harvester sales have occurred in New South Wales, which is wholly dependant on the domestic market, suggests that the corrupt world market remains the major problem - hardly a world-shattering revelation.

Mr Byrne misreads the Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth and the Queensland State government.

It does not, as he suggests, imply that the Minister or the Commonwealth has "strongly backed" deregulation. Rather it merely identifies some areas which appear to impede efficiency, and commits the State government to an investigation of them.

This, as Mr Byrne knows, resulted in the CIE report to the Beattie Government - a wholly biased, and now thoroughly discredited, document. The subsequent report by the Boston Consulting Group proved this beyond question.

At a State level, Marc Rowell, State National Party Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, last week introduced a Private Members' Bill that would provide flexibility through the Sugar Act to provide for the introduction of value adding and downstream processing, and the capacity to improve grower returns from the domestic market by removal of the Ministerial Directive.

The Bill leaves statutory bargaining regulations in place.

If the Beattie State government were genuine in their desires for meaningful reform, they would debate and pass this Bill.

At a Federal level, the Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson, has said publicly that he, the National Party, and by implication the Federal Government, will not support any measure that transferred market power from growers to millers, as total deregulation would clearly do.

Nothing could be clearer than that.

For reasons best known to themselves Messrs Beattie and Barton seem determined to do the bidding of the proprietary sugar millers, who are demanding total deregulation of the industry.

If Mr Byrne wishes to be an advocate for the industry I would be more impressed if he would take the Labor Party to task, both at a Federal and State level, for it is they who are pushing this agenda.

Whilst Mr Byrne may wish to promote the cause of independent Members of Parliament, he knows that only the National Party stands between cane farmers and deregulation, as do cane farmers and those who rely on the industry for their livelihood.

Enamoured as he obviously is of the Members for Calare and New England, he should be aware that they invariably vote with the Labor Party, which gives a very clear indication of their political allegiance.

Bob Katter, at least, remains true to his conservative roots.

The tragedy to which Mr Byrne refers is not one for the Nationals.

Rather it is one for the country constituents of these independents, who are denied an effective voice in the Parliament, as their Federal representatives remain ineffectual and give support to the Opposition.

De-Anne Kelly MP
Federal Member for Dawson
Mackay, Qld

Pat Byrne replies:

The National Civic Council and I are independent of political parties (and all Independents).

My expressed concern is that the National Party, the most socially conservative party in Australia, is doing itself considerable damage on the issue of sugar deregulation.

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