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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1552

Senator VIGOR(5.07) —The Australian Wheat Board began the year with a record carry-over of 19.5 million tonnes, a large proportion of which is still in temporary storage in New South Wales, some of it rapidly deteriorating. Although 14 million tonnes were shipped in 1983-84, the likelihood of more harvests over 20 million tonnes makes the storage situation in New South Wales particularly critical. Since the export expansion grants scheme was abolished in 1983 because it was seen to be contrary to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Australian wheat exports have been at an increasing disadvantage on world markets due to various subsidies, overt and covert, which are operating in foreign countries. For example, I read in the report that under the United States regulations, Public Law 480 includes long term loans of up to 40 years and periods of grace of up to 10 years, with interest of 2 to 3 per cent. It is no wonder that in 1983-84 United States wheat exports increased to 12.8 million tonnes from the 3.9 million tonnes exported in the previous year. This is because of unfair credit terms. As the Australian Wheat Board points out in its report, Australia, in its ability to match credit terms offered by its creditors, is at a distinct disadvantage.

In view of all this, it would seem that now is the time to enable the Board to take advantage of the low value of the Australian dollar, while giving the Australian export sector the opportunity to help service our massive foreign debt. It might also be a suitable opportunity to inject some sorely needed confidence into the Australian farming community. We must be prepared to support Australian exports and match the credit facilities offered by our competitors. In a market place which chooses to ignore gentlemen's agreements, Australia can no longer afford to be pure. The GATT is okay if all the countries signatory to it are adhering to it. We must ask: When is exporting really dumping? I believe that similar remarks can be made about other industries under threat, such as the dairy export sector, which faces the same disadvantages on world markets. I bring those aspects of the report to the notice of the Senate, and I hope that the Government will be able to take some action to improve the condition of exporters to help handle the foreign debt problems the Government has got us into.