May 3rd 2003

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Why Crean's departure won't rescue Labor

EDITORIAL: Slash and burn for Australian textile industry

AGRICULTURE: Murray Darling farmers could lose 30% of water allocations

Will Alston repeat Keating's mistakes on media ownership?

STRAWS IN THE WIND: The thieves of Baghdad ... and Melbourne / Veritas / Shadow of Khomeini

COMMENT: Allowing nature to take its course is not euthanasia

HEALTH: How 'safe sex' misinformation puts young lives at risk

LETTERS: Nationals policy wrong (letter)

FAMILY: Men and marriage: rising inequality linked to falling fertility

DOCUMENTATION: Ethanol benefits become important public health issue

BIOETHICS: Do No Harm's major role in stem cell debate

Queensland National Party moves to stop sugar deregulation

BOOKS: Power Politics, edited by John Spoehr

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Nationals policy wrong (letter)

by C.A. Arboit

News Weekly, May 3, 2003

I find it necessary to respond to the letter "Nationals Misrepresented", (News Weekly, April 19) from Mrs De-Anne Kelly, MP, Member for Dawson.

Mrs Kelly challenges referral to the reduced sales of cane harvesters as a measure of the effect of partial deregulation of the sugar industry in 1996. All of those employees who have lost their jobs at the Austoft factory at Bundaberg would not think much of her views.

Bad weather and wind borne spores causing expansive crop diseases are beyond anyone's control and the sugar industry has no gripe with the Government about any of those, but we do question the wisdom of what was done to our industry in 1996 under the umbrella of National Competition Policy when we lost our tariff on the importation of sugar and our ability to price our domestic sugar sales at import parity.

The sugar industry in Australia has gone downhill ever since, because governments, both Federal and State, have placed us in a position whereby we are totally exposed to the dumped prices for sugar set daily on the New York Coffee, Cocoa and Sugar Exchange, a point Mrs Kelly indirectly acknowledges in her letter.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the Federal and State governments last year undeniably identified the domestic pricing of sugar, collective bargaining and the regulated system of land used to grow cane in Queensland as three areas that impede efficiency.

On these key issues, Mrs Kelly says that the MOU "merely identifies some areas which appear to impede efficiency and commits the State Government to an investigation of them."

Mrs Kelly is wrong.

She reduces the nature of an MOU to that of a discussion paper between the Federal and Queensland governments. It is not a discussion paper, but a statement of agreed policy direction, as the words "memorandum of understanding" describe.

Notwithstanding the complete lack of knowledge of the workings of this industry by the writers of the three major reports dealing with the current situation in which we find ourselves, and their inability to provide any workable solutions to our problems due to the narrow tunnel vision of a great many economists and the three mainstream political parties within Australia, our industry is left dangling by the merest thread from financial collapse.

The National Party was once one that looked after the primary producers of the nation. The flow-on effect was that rural communities also enjoyed the benefits that came from the foresight of the great leaders of those days.

Unfortunately, the National Party does not appear to have leaders of that calibre and foresight any more. If the Party will not support an industry that has supported it well over the decades, it is quite likely that as primary industries and their communities suffer from the application of more recent policies, those affected will cease to support the Party.

Instead of Mrs Kelly trying to shift blame onto anyone and everyone else, she and her arty should take a look at themselves. I am sure this is the message Pat Byrne's article was trying to give the Nationals.

Kalamia Cane Growers Organisation Ltd, Qld

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