Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (20:28): Two of the most significant agricultural industries that we have in Australia are, I am proud to say, mainly based in northern Australia. But I, like Senator O'Sullivan, was absolutely dumbfounded to hear today a senator, allegedly representing Queensland, attack two of these industries in some comments he made on a sugar tax and on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I do not think Senator Lazarus quite understands that he is supposed to be supporting Queenslanders and supporting Queensland industries.
The sugar industry is a vital industry to North Queensland. It employs some 16,000 people in the industry and is comprised of 4,400 mum-and-dad sugarcane farmers. Many of them are in my community of Burdekin, many are in Ingham and many are in Mackay—and many of them are in the Cairns region, where Senator Lazarus claims to have an office. Yet today, on The Drum TV program, he supported the idea of a sugar tax, which would create unquantifiable problems for the sugar industry in Queensland, for those cane farmers and cane farming entities who are supported by the industry, and for the 16,000 Queenslanders who work in that area.
The Queensland industry produces something like 30 million tonnes of sugar, and even Senator Lazarus's home state of New South Wales produces some 1.5 million tonnes of sugar.
Senator Canavan interjecting—
Senator IAN MACDONALD: Well, he played State of Origin for New South Wales. It must be where he hailed from. But not only has Senator Lazarus destroyed confidence in the Queensland sugar industry and all those supported by it with his support for a sugar tax; he is also supporting—as Senator O'Sullivan very correctly pointed out—the abolition of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership has done for the sugar industry what the free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and even China could not do—that is, opened up markets in those countries through the auspices of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. More importantly, it has given the sugar industry not everything it wanted but a toehold in the door to the sugar market in the United States. But it goes further: the Trans-Pacific Partnership was one of the best things that has happened to the beef industry in Queensland, an industry that is so vital to the Queensland economy and the Australian economy and that is such a big part of the plans we have for the further development of northern Australia. Yet that one free trade agreement—the Trans-Pacific Partnership—which is so good for beef and so good for sugar is something that a supposedly Queensland senator wants to get rid of.
I know Senator Lazarus wanders around the north telling everyone what a great Queenslander he is and how supportive he is of Queensland industries and mum-and-dad farming operators. But I will join Senator O'Sullivan—and I know my other Queensland Senate colleagues—in pointing out to Queenslanders that it would seem that one of their senators is totally bent on decimating the sugar industry and the beef industry by his support for a sugar tax and for getting rid of the TPP. Senator O'Sullivan is correct. There is another senator who has same goal in Queensland, and that is Senator Walters from the Greens. It seems that Senator Lazarus and Senator Walters are forming a partnership that will be so destructive to Queensland's industries.